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Color Coding: A Solution To New Audio Format Consumer Confusion Print E-mail
Thursday, 14 November 2002
This Saturday, I stopped by my local Tower Records on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood to do a little Christmas shopping for myself with the hopes of coming home with some new SACD and DVD-Audio titles. More depressing than the weak selection of SACD and DVD-Audio titles was the reaction I got from the manager when I politely pointed out to him that there were DVD-Video titles in the DVD-Audio section. After a laborious and highly technical explanation of the differences between the two formats and why the DVD-Video titles would be better displayed separately or in the music oriented DVD-Video section – he responded “if it plays in a DVD player then it is DVD-Audio.” That scared me. While someone more up the food chain at Tower seemingly knows the difference between the new audio formats – the staff at my Tower certainly didn’t nor did they care. Now if the staff isn’t willing to understand the difference how are mainstream music consumers supposed to figure out the difference between the titles? A recent addition to my local Tower and Virgin high resolution audio display was printed brochures. I guess that helps a bit but confusion still abounds at the high-res music racks.

I propose a simple solution for music retailers looking to actually sell these new formats to non-audiophile clients. Color code the discs with big stickers right on the front of the record. Orange perhaps for stereo single layer SACDs, red for multi-channel single layer SACDs, yellow for hybrid stereo SACDs, blue for hybrid multichannel SACDs (that will play in CD and SACD players). DVD-Audio discs could get another color such as purple. Then put a simple chart in the high resolution or audiophile section so people can figure out what they are buying. It costs practically nothing and would help clear things up for confused consumers looking to get back into buying lots of music.

With various sized jewel cases and larger DVD-Video packaging sometimes used for music – the size of the music packaging is not enough for consumers looking to try DVD-Audio and SACD for the first time. With poorly educated and even less motivated staff on board to help, things get even worse for the music enthusiasts and ultimately for the music retailer. Because the more simple solution for the savvy DVD-Audio and or SACD customer is to simply order them neatly and easily on-line. Just type DVD-Audio into Amazon and you get the titles without a purple haired wanna-be Marylyn Manson giving you attitude.

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