of you who read Home Cinema and Hi-Fi magazines on a regular basis
will probably be aware of yet another sound format that is about to
reach the UK, known as DVD-Audio, or DVD-A. The format used the increased
capacity of the current DVD discs to provide high-quality audio reproduction
that improves on what we currently get from Compact Disc today. DVD-A
is capable of multichannel surround sound, together with text or limited
video extras, such as songwords and artist biographies. It has been
dubbed as the replacement to CD.
the same time, another audio format is also in the frame to become
the successor to Compact Disc, known as Super Audio Compact Digital,
or SACD. This format uses a much-improved version of Compact Disc
to increase the sound quality when played through an SACD player.
main worry highlighted in the press has been one of uncertainty as
to which format will 'win' the battle to replace CD - both formats
have the potential to produce enhanced sound quality with suitable
players, but neither is compatible with the other (so separate players
are needed to hear both SACD and DVD-A), and while SACD can play today's
Compact Discs, DVD-A can only be played through a dedicated DVD-A
player. Most hi-fi enthusiasts will remember the format war between
Sony's Minidisc and the Philips developed Digital Compact Cassette
(DCC) as each claimed to be the best replacement to the analogue casette
for home recording, and the thought of another war between DVD-A and
SACD as the replacement to CD is not entirely appealing.
when you look more closely, it appears that there is a real opportunity
for BOTH formats to co-exist side-by-side, rather than one format
conquering the other into submission. Let me explain...
CD achieved the huge success throughout the world, vinyl records were
produced in ever decreasing numbers. This did not go down well with
the huge number of vinyl enthusiasts who claimed, with good reason,
that the sound quality of CD suffered when compared to analogue vinyl
- the data compression and limited frequencies of CD sometimes 'discarded'
some of the less-used sound information that made vinyl sound uniquely
'warm' and 'real'. SACD allows this previously lost information to
be retained, and is therefore much more suited to a replacement to
vinyl that CD ever was.
on the other hand, has the potential to improve on CD in a similar
way, by allowing more information to be included, processed by faster
and more 'detailed' digital / analogue converters, plus the added
advantage of multichannel surround sound and video extras.
that DVD-A is likely to be added to future generations of DVD-Video
players, it makes sense for home cinema and DVD users to embrace DVD-A
as the replacement to CD, bearing in mind that today's Compact Discs
can be played on any DVD-Video player anyway. SACD, on the other hand,
is likely to become the choice of existing hi-fi enthusiasts who value
pure audiophile quality over home cinema surround sound. Existing
CD collections can be replayed on an SACD player, and some industry
tests appear to conclude that the improved SACD processing can also
add a degree of quality above that of a standard CD player.
why can't both formats 'win' the battle? Both offer advantages over
CD in terms of sound quality and features, both can play existing
CD collections, and each is suited to either hi-fi or home cinema
based systems. And reading reports from technology shows around the
world in the recent past, it appears that some manufacturers anr already
proposing combined players that can handle SACD, DVD-A and maybe DVD-Video,
all in the same box. Covering all the bases or a sign of confidence
in both formats? Time will tell...