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Hybrid Discs Will Be The X-Factor For Mainstream Support of SACD and DVD-Audio Print E-mail
Friday, 07 February 2003
The topic of hybrid discs is a hot one in the music business all of a sudden. Hybrid SACD discs which are currently available on a limited number of releases (Rolling Stones Titles for example) allow a level of backwards compatibility with over 500,000,000 existing Compact Disc players. The DVD-Audio camp is now hot on the trail with a hybrid discs of their own and according to online publication highfideillityreview.com Sona Press (a company owned by BMG) now has a working model of the hybrid DVD disc.

The significance of both the SACD and DVD-Audio hybrid projects is that they appeal to a mainstream audience because of their backwards compatibility. Record labels have become quickly interested in hybrid discs because of their ability to better protect their copywritten material on a consumer music format that also offers more performance and value than the aging and easily bootlegged CD. The real driving force behind a large scale hybrid movement is going to be the music retailers. No matter how large a retail store is physically, they are always limited in terms of display space. With entire inventories of CD, DVD-Video movies and video games, DVD-Audio and SACD fight for attention at even the biggest chain record stores. Normally they are banished to the “high resolution” bin at the back of the store. If high resolution discs can playback on a standard CD player, music retailers might find inspiration to put new SACD releases of The Rolling Stones and or possibly the Peter Gabriel catalog into the Rock/Pop section as opposed to the “high resolution” bin.

With added value materials like interviews, surround sound mixes, rare photo and more on the new discs, the $18 investment in a disc would mean more to the consumer even if he or she couldn’t enjoy some of the high resolution features until they upgraded their systems with a new DVD-Audio/SACD combo player and perhaps a new receiver. DVD-Audio has some backwards compatibility for DVD-Video players with its default surround modes but ask a bolt-nosed, purple haired 19 year old clerk at a record store to explain how a DVD-Audio disc can play on a DVD-Audio player and you are guaranteed to be disappointed.

Hybrid layers that make SACDs and DVD-Audio discs backwards compatible to 500 million CD players is the type of move that might inspire labels to start re-releasing large portions of their catalogs in the new formats. 500 million customers is a big audience and if you can add value to the discs and slow down piracy, the labels are likely to jump on. Some of the hurdles in the way of the immediate adoption of hybrid discs include having enough pressing plants to actually make enough discs which is a problem now. Another problem with DVD-Audio hybrid is whether it will play on every DVD-Video player. That is yet to be determined but the upside of stopping piracy and adding value to disc could be too tempting to resist for consumers, retailers and labels alike.

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