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DVD-Audio Hybrid Discs Still Vaporware Print E-mail
Friday, 18 July 2003
A growing number of SACD’s playback on the nearly 1 billion existing CD players already in the market and the DVD-Audio community badly wants to make their format do the same. SACD’s back wards compatibility comes at a price (the CD layer is easy to rip to a hard drive or CDR) that is considered to be too steep by many high powered record execs who have in the first few years become completely freaked out over illegal file sharing. DVD-Audio’s hybrid disc promises better copy protection, backwards compatibility to both CD and DVD-Video as well as more consumer added values (movies, photo clips etc…) than SACD. The problem is the DVD-Audio hybrid doesn’t work yet. The most prominent version of a hybrid DVD-Audio disc currently under development is a flip disc where one side of a disc plays like a CD and the other like a DVD-Audio disc. The problem is that the disc is too thick to play in many car audio players – a huge market of mainstream music customers. Just like the invasive copy protection that was tested on CDs a few years back, consumers have proven they will not tolerate discs that won’t play back the way they want them to and record labels know that therefore they are anxiously holding out for a better solution.

With 4 of the big 5 labels pledging their support (but EMI and BMG have yet to release many titles) to DVD-Audio, you can bet the farm the DVD-Audio camp is doing everything they can to make DVD-Audio hybrid discs work. If a CD compatible, copy protected, high resolution surround sound disc can be sold to consumers there is hope that retailers would dedicate the needed prime shelf space to such titles to replace the slumping and overpriced CD. Prerecorded music discs that offer higher resolution, surround sound and other goodies at a fair price (perhaps below the $16.99 retail of most discs) would tempt consumers to invest discretionary purchases in music over DVD-Video and video games.

Don’t count Sony and the SACD camp out. Respected executives inside a major record label talk of the possibility of “SACD II” – a format that addresses many of SACD’s formatic problems. Sony representatives strongly denies SACD II exists or is in development.

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