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A Blueprint For the Future of High-Resolution, 5.1 Music Print E-mail
Monday, 13 August 2007
Article Index
A Blueprint For the Future of High-Resolution, 5.1 Music
Page 2
Buried in the rubble of an audio disc format war, with no winner, lie the remains of two high-resolution audio formats, SACD and DVD-Audio. These formats held tremendous potential in their day and have left the audiophile and music enthusiast communities desperate for a high-resolution answer to their audio questions. A deeper casualty from the high-resolution audio format war has been the death of the concept of the album and the near death of music mixed specifically for surround sound. While Hollywood movies in the theater and on various disc formats, HD video game titles, and even Las Vegas shows like Love and Blue Man Group are designed to wow audiences with high-resolution audio in at least 5.1 channels, today’s music is increasingly being sold the easiest way possible – through low-resolution downloads for easy consumption on iPods and computers alike. The question at hand is – do consumers actually care about the high-end audio experience? The quick answer is absolutely “yes”, however there are certain caveats. The idea of re-purchasing an entire collection of music is something consumers are actually willing to do as they proved the 1980s, as people migrated from LPs to Compact Discs, but when faced with an intolerable value proposition that involves investing in a $1,000 new player, a new receiver and as many as nine cables to connect the system, it is enough of a barrier to leave the masses sticking with less resolved CDs. Additionally, in order for consumers to be tempted to buy their music collection over again, labels need to offer enough compelling software. Anybody with a 5.1 sound system can blow their neighbors away with a demo of "Dark Side of the Moon" in 5.1 on SACD, but with none of the other Pink Floyd records released in surround sound or high-resolution audio, that $1,000 plus investment in surround sound equipment is just not that tempting, even for affluent consumers.

With over 50,000,000 surround sound systems already installed, most of which are centered around a DVD player, the obvious question is: how could major and indy labels miss the opportunity to resell their music in surround sound and high-resolution to this audience? Especially when the cost to create the music is already pretty much paid for. First, record labels are inherently lazy. They take the path of least resistance, and right now that is selling music by the download, which is currently a $3,000,000,000 business yearly and growing. However, that sales number is nothing compared the reduction in overall music sales from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s. Any label executive when presented with this fact will immediately jump to blaming Napster and peer-to-peer file sharing for their precipitous drop in sales, but really the sales have been lost more to video gaming and home video sales on DVD. Components that can easily connect to your TV with one or two cables, and cost no more than a few hundred dollars, provide a stunning audio and video experience. A CD sold by a major label is an audio only experience that consumers are willing to dilute en route to their MP3 player. With no high-resolution or surround sound solution: who can blame them?


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