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Compromises Made in CD/DVD-Audio Dual Disc The Inside Story Print E-mail
Wednesday, 04 February 2004
The big hold-up with the new CD/DVD-Audio dual discs has been the physical thickness of the actual discs. In order to make the new CD compatible discs work in many older car audio CD decks, compromises have been made on the disc that are not true of individual DVD-Audio or CD discs. For example, because of the bonding process, the CD layer of the dual disc can now supposedly play only 60 minutes of content, as opposed to 74 minutes on a traditional red book CD. The DVD layer of the disc is what record industry technology geeks call a “DVD 5,” which is a single-layer DVD that is not capable of storing as much music and aftermarket goodies as a “DVD 9,” which is a dual disc DVD. Record industry execs guess that certain content decisions will need to be made on song edits to make long albums fit on the shorter CD side of the new flip disc. Tougher decisions will have to be made on the DVD 5 side of the disc, because if a disc is authored with 5.1 channels of 24/96 MLP surround sound (the best sound you can get, which can still only be played back on a DVD-Audio player), then other goodies will need to be left off or down-converted to lower resolutions. Possible compromises include omitting a lot of video clips or photo galleries. If space is really tight, 24/96 or 24/192 stereo tracks may be eliminated completely with the CD side being the only stereo version of the album.

One possible solution to the storage space problem posed by longer albums or discs with lots of supplemental information is the idea of shipping records with two physical discs. Supplemental materials, much like a DVD-Video movie, can be offered on a CD or additional DVD 5 disc. The raw cost to the label could be as much as $1 per disc, which would be reflected in the cost of the overall disc packages, which are being test-marketed this month in Seattle and Boston at $18.99. At these prices, the discs should come with a second disc because they still will struggle to complete with blockbuster feature films on DVD-Video that cost only a few dollars more. Consumers should expect to see the prices of the CD/DVD-Audio dual discs drop to closer to $14 as the discs become more popular. At $18.99 per disc for albums like Back In Black on CD/DVD dual disc (the Sony Music dual discs are CD on one side and stereo music on the DVD 5 side during the test marketing), it is hard to hold the sales numbers to very tough scrutiny, as you can go to a Best Buy and pick up the CD-only version of the album for as much as 40 percent less. If the new discs are to become popular with mainstream audiences, they need offer much more content and added values, as well as competitive pricing. During this test marketing, they got the pricing all wrong.

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