February 01, 2005

Prediction: non-hybrid SACD and DVD Audio will fail


SuperAudio CD (SACD) and DVD Audio were supposed to be the next big thing in audio distribution. I recently got a new DVD player that has SACD and DVD Audio support builtin, so I decided to buy some music in the new formats. I got Steely Dan's Gaucho, Muddy Waters - Folk Singer, Dr Chesky's Magnificent Fabulous Absurd & Insane Musical, to name a few.

The sound quality of most of them is really good, and the surround sound experience for the regular music is excellent. I really liked Dr. Chesky's experiment with surround sound for example.

One thing I didn't realize until I got the CDs is that you cannot rip them on a computer. The SACDs use a different layer in the CD to encode the information, which is not readable by normal CD players or computer drives. Even if it was, it appears that layer is encrypted and cannot be decrypted (nobody has done it AFAIK). The so-called hybrid SACD are a compromise, they have both the regular CD layer and the SACD layer, so you can rip them for enjoyment on your iPod or favorite MP3 player.

DVD Audio uses the regular DVD format, which can be played in any DVD players, and provide the same surround sound experience as SACD. However they cannot be ripped by regular applications, like iTunes, since they're not seen as CDs. A quick search on google shows that ripping DVD Audios is difficult and differs from disk to disk.

This is so disappointing. The music industry has made it hard for regular people to copy their music and store it in a different format. You cannot even back-up your music anymore, since there are no recorders that write SACDs (I guess with DVD Audio you can still copy them - I didn't try).

My prediction is that non-hybrid SACDs and DVD Audio will slowly die as formats, unless there's a way to rip their music and put it on an mp3 player. Listening to music at home only, on an expensive player, with no portable device available to play them, is a major inconvenient. Personally if I am to choose between different versions of the same music release, I'll buy either the hybrid SACD or the plain CD version. I don't want to be stuck with a CD that I cannot listen to on my iPod as well.

Posted by ovidiu at February 01, 2005 08:58 PM |

You hardly ever find non-hybrid SACDs any more, only in old-new stock from discs mastered in the very early days. DualDisc adds hybrid support to DVD-Audio, but as SACD seems to have a clear lead in classical music (which is probably the only genre whose listeners really care about high-resolution or multi-channel audio), I suspect DualDisc will be stillborn, and SACD just limp along, sort of like DTS support in DVDs - it's there, but few releases offer it.

Posted by: Fazal Majid on February 1, 2005 10:20 PM
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