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DVD-Audio Firewire Standard Approved Print E-mail
Friday, 13 December 2002
One of the biggest hurdles in the development of DVD-Audio was overcome in September, when the DVD Forum adopted FireWire as the digital transmission method for the DVD-Audio format. Gone, in principle, is the need for the six analog outputs from a DVD-Audio player and/or the need for six analog inputs on your AV preamp when connecting a DVD-Audio player. But your problems aren’t completely solved yet. In order to take advantage of these breakthroughs, you need both a DVD-Audio player with a FireWire output and an AV preamp or an AV receiver with a FireWire input. Pioneer, which successfully shepherded the FireWire project with the DVD Forum, has DVD players with FireWire outputs on the market now. Other AV companies like Denon and Meridian have created proprietary digital output formats for DVD-Audio and they are likely to switch over to the new standard and/or add FireWire as an output. Other Japanese AV companies, which have historically operated on a nine- to 12-month product cycle, are likely to get varying models of DVD-Audio machines with FireWire outputs into stores before the high-end companies do.

High-end manufacturers are also scurrying to get into the game after most of them took a wait-and-see approach during the first two years of DVD-Audio’s development. Madrigal has been patiently waiting for the DVD-Audio Forum to adopt a standard while they were busy designing their flagship Mark Levinson No. 40 and Proceed AVP2 AV preamps. Both will be upgradeable to accept a FireWire input – which is important, especially considering that Madrigal doesn’t have a DVD-Audio player slated for release for more than one year. Sunfire and Anthem have provisions for FireWire inputs as well. Transparent is working on higher-performance FireWire cables.

Advantages abound with the new FireWire standard. Security is what scares the record labels away from any real support of the DVD-Audio format and now security issues should be less worrisome. Overall consumer confusion and sheer system complexity is a major factor as to why mainstream consumers don’t use DVD-Audio in any large numbers to date. Try explaining to a typical Best Buy customer why he or she needs eight cables to connect a new DVD player, which will require an outlay of another $150 for more cables. It can be a deal breaker. Now one of the millions of people who will be buying a DVD player in the next year can hope to connect the audio with one cable, as easy as installing the hard drive on an Apple iMac. On the Mac, it is literally plug and play. DVD-Audio players should be the same.

DVD-Audio has some renewed hope as “the next format” despite its sputtering during this Christmas season. It will take the mainstream Asian electronics manufacturers to make all of their receivers and DVD players compliant to the new format so that tens of millions of players are installed in homes over the next year or two. Add on real title support from the labels – most specifically Universal and ultimately Sony – and there is a chance the format will catch on. For now, CD sales continue to slide as people either download their stereo music in low-resolution MP3 formats or spend their entertainment dollars on value-packed DVD-Video discs that cost only a few dollars more than a retail-priced CD.

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