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Warner Reportedly Tells Retailers “Dual Disc” DVD-Audio/CD Will Be Shipping In 12/03 Print E-mail
Wednesday, 03 September 2003
A source inside a large record label tells AudioRevolution.com that WEA (Warner Brothers, Elektra and Atlantic Records) consultant David Dorn recently met with independent record retailers in New York to talk about the future of prerecorded media. According to sources, Dorn is purported to have told the group of retailers that WEA plans to ship a significant number of DVD-Audio only titles this fall with working “Dual Disc” CD-DVD-Audio discs being widely available as soon as December 2003. Dorn repeatedly refused to either confirm or deny the story Wednesday when he was reached during a business trip to New York. Other WEA executives were contacted, but they have not returned phone calls prior to publication. At the meeting with the indy retailers, Dorn, according to sources, supposedly went on to say that the “Dual Discs” would be supported by all five of the major labels. This is ironic to some in the industry considering the amount of effort that Sony has put into its competing SACD format. A Sony consultant, denied parts of the rumor but like most all other music industry executives interviewed, said that ALL labels are looking at the compelling possibilities of a DVD-Audio/CD disc. While the audio quality differences between a pure DSD recording on SACD and an MLP encoded DVD-Audio title can be left for the audiophiles to discuss, the fact that DVD-Audio offers high resolution audio (stereo, high-res surround and default surround) as well as limited video playback on a growing number of DVD-Video, DVD-Audio and video game machines (Xbox and PSII) is a marketing advantage that the major labels might be seeking to use to resuscitate the sales of prerecorded music on a physical disc.

When the CD was invented it was a vastly better value and far more convenient that an LP. DVD-Audio and SACD have had a much harder time in the marketplace versus the most powerful AV format of all time - DVD-Video. Consumers have voted with their wallets saying that they will more often than not spend a few more dollars than the price of a CD in order to get a full feature, surround sound movie or feature concert on DVD-Video. WEA is betting big that if they up the ante for what a consumer gets for his or her $15 at Tower, Amazon.com or indy music retailer, that consumers will consider buying physically prerecorded (AKA: non-downloaded) music again. Another advantage is that consumers will develop, by default, their own collection of music on DVD-Audio with every “Dual Disc” sold. When more and more car makers add surround sound DVD-Audio systems (like Acura) to their models and more people get 5.1 home theaters installed into their homes, these consumer collections of high resolution surround sound music will be of even more value.

What is yet to be seen is whether WEA has actually figured out a way to make the flip disc work so that it can be called an actual “DVD.” As of a few months ago, their attempts at a flip disc had high failure rates mainly because the discs are physically too thick to fit in car audio players. Much effort has been going into finding a way to make these discs work. One sample disc acquired by AudioRevolution.com this summer worked on some, but not all of the systems we tested. An executive at a major label interviewed for this story says he has in his possession a more modern disc and it works everywhere he tested.

The simple fact is, WEA really could use their disc to be approved by the DVD Forum so it can in fact be an official DVD. That news has yet to be announced which makes December sound like a potentially unrealistic estimate for when these discs will be in the stores from all five labels. Another element that would make December an unlikely date for a full launch is the manufacturing changes that would need to be completed in order to make millions of these new discs.

That brings us to Sony who has been loosely rumored to be looking at DVD-Audio for some time however Sony doesn’t give up easily with formats that they are involved with. Their policy hurt them with their support of Beta decades ago and was of limited success more recently with Mini Disc (especially in Japan).

If the speculation is true and WEA can get their Dual Disc approved and all of the other majors jump on board with significant support for the Dual Disc, Sony could jump aboard too, albeit reluctantly. For now they are understandably laying low like the rest of the labels however it wouldn’t be impossible to remaster their DSD versions of hundreds of records into PCM stereo and surround titles. In fact, if Sony jumped on board, they might be the biggest label for the discs with converted titles.

With downloaded music picking up steam with the Gen Y and more price conscious customers, the music industry needs a high resolution physical disc to sell badly. If a feature laden DVD-Audio flip is the answer, people will consider buying music on a format that is based more on 21 century technology. One thing that record execs and consumers agree on is the fact that the CD, at $16 per disc, is at the end of a very successful run and that something needs to replace it.

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