SACD, DVD Audio etc. (bit long, sorry!)

Ian_S

Distinguished Member
I'm in the midst of a serious bout of upgraditis, the subject of which currently is merging a stereo and home cinema setup. What's driven this? Surround sound audio, which IMO if done properly sounds phenomenal, or at least shows serious potential.

Anyway, back to the point. surround sound formats are getting somewhat stupid it seems. We have at least four types to somehow try and accomodate. These are to my knowledge DVD Audio, SACD and then two flavours of DVD Video, Dolby Digital and DTS. (DTS then has two subtypes, normal 5.1 DTS and DTS 24/96, compressed but otherwise the same rate as multichannel DVD-A.)

I don't particularly care about the subtle technical differences between DVD-A and SACD which may or may not give one the edge over the other. What I do care about is being able to hear source material at potentially much higher quality than CD, which both have more than enough potential to achieve.

I understand why Arcam have decided not to implement SACD on their DVD players. My own thinking behind judging that decision is based on looking at what's happened on PC's. PC's have had DVD drives for some time, and none initially came out of the box with DVD Audio support. However, clearly the ability to read a DVD audio discs doesn't require additional hardware. My PC was suddenly enabled for DVD audio by a DVD player software upgrade. So, I can see why DVD-A might be a lot easier to add into existing DVD player design as the hardware and data path to get the info off the disc doesn't seem to need to change.

Sticking with the PC analogy, let's switch to SACD. I may be wrong but I don't think there's a single PC drive that can read SACD's... Certainly NONE of the existing DVD players/recorders in PC's can suddenly see SACD's with a simple upgrade in any kind of media player software. If it were possible I can't imagine for one second that someone would not have done it. So, to read a SACD you need a new drive transport and no doubt new associated transport chipset to output the new DSD datastream to whatever is chosen to decode it into something more recognisable... not exactly a modular thing as if you change the transport chipset, this will almost certainly have downstream consequences.

So we're seemingly stuck. Enter Dolby and DTS. In an effort to enable people without dedicated DVD-A players to enjoy the surround mix and broaden the scope for people wanting it, we get hybrid discs with either a DD or DTS 5.1 track that just about any DVD video player can understand. DTS take it a little further by inventing the DTS 24/96 format to inch quality that little bit further towards DVD-A.

It gets worse, we now have hybrid SACD's (CD layer one side, SACD the other) and what seems to a be the rather awful DualDisc (which Linn say may even damage your CD transport due to the increased thickness of the disc) containg CD one side and DVD the other... And unbelievably on the horizon are yet more combinations with Blu-ray and DVD-HD where both Dolby and DTS are planning HD formats with increased sound fidelity...

Aaaaaargghhhh!!!!!!!!! Has the industry (Both recording and hardware) taken leave of it's senses?? What we, the customer (Hello!!:hiya: Remember us??) want is a format that gives us higher quality 2 channel, and surround sound capability that can be played with the convenience of a CD... We don't necessarily want that with video, but sometimes for concerts for example it can be nice!!

Now I know ARCAM are a small company without infinite R&D resources, but it seems to me that they do have the potential to actually start a trend here. Most people seem to assume that the SACD support should go into the DVD player along the lines of Denon/Pioneer et al. I think that's wrong, as described above with PC's, it's not straight forward as a retrofit and a a complete re-design is expensive.

However, on the CD player front it might make more sense. Arcam already use Sony and Philips transports (so I believe), and given that these two are the main proponents of SACD, I'd be stunned if there were not transport mechanisms available from them that did just CD and SACD extraction, no DVD. Arcam then presumably have a choice, include in the CD player the SACD decoding and then a 5.1 pre-out, or perhaps more cheaply, only include a digital-out for the DSD stream. I personally would prefer the latter, why? Well none of the current Arcam AV processors have more than one set of analogue 5.1 inputs, so connecting both a DVD audio player and a SACD player isn't possible, which in itself is quite frustrating!!:mad: Now Arcam could do what some of the Japanese players have done and hijack digital interfaces such as firewire or create their own Denon link, but why bother? The newer HDMI standard will cater for SACD DSD streams so for SACD support simply add a DSD capable HDMI out on the CD player and a normal Arcam analogue stereo out for CD reproduction... Then on the higher end AV processors and I'm thinking AVP700, AV8/9, produce an upgrade board that takes an HDMI DSD stream and decodes it to a 5.1 analogue signal internally and finds its way to the pre-outs...

To me, that way SACD is sorted period, without needing to worry about what on earth the new high definition video discs get up to. It also means people can continue to enjoy their existing high quality Arcam DVD players while we wait to see who wins the format war... Perhaps for the top end FMJ line, Arcam could even provide built in SACD 5.1 decoding with 5.1 analogue outs on the CD player...

In the meantime everyone is losing business. There's no way I'm buying a new DVD video player until they sort out HD. I'd love an Arcam DVD player that does DVD Audio, but if I do that I can't have SACD as I only have one set of Analogue 5.1 inputs, so once I've sorted out the amplification end (for which the AVP700 is looking highly likely after demoing at home this weekend) then I'm knackered. On top of hardware, because I'm not totally happy with how to get the best multi-channel source, I'm less likely to buy as many DVD-A's or SACDs. I'm thoroughly frustrated with this whole mess. It's almost enough to make you wish that the only thing you needed was an iPod and that the quality it gave was enough. Anyne would think that people don't want our hard earned money. You couldn't make things more difficult if you tried!!!:confused:

Rant over......... if you fell asleep :boring: you can wake up now!!

Ian.
 

boksbox

Active Member
I bought a universal player, a Pioneer, recently dead.., a few years ago, I only bought a few SACD and DVD-A titles, they do sound good but I've not bought any for two years now, so unless you intend on buying a lot of back catalogue stuff I wouldn't worry about it, neither format took off in my view.
 
N

NiallAikman

Guest
That was a bit of a long rant, obviously been bottling that up for a while!!! :D

I'm also a fan of multi-channel audio, and think that, when correctly implemented/engineered, the end result can be pretty impressive. I had a Sony DVD/SACD player in the past, which was pretty impressive for the money, and now have an Arcam and therefore DVD-Audio.

However, when it comes to shelling out any money, research what is available. The number of decent DVD-Audio or SACD titles available is pretty limited, and after a few years now, I only have a couple of SACDs and about 4 or 5 DVD-Audio titles.

To be honest, and not wanting to sound like any sort of backward-looking hi-fi purist, I think I prefer plain old stereo for a lot of my music. Certain things are great multi-channel (Tubular Bells, Jean MIchel Jarre, and the like) but I've not heard any particularly well done pop/rock music. Money is probably better spent getting good stereo sound IMHO. As I read somewhere before, you only have 2 ears, how many speakers do you need!!??

Must agree on format batles, though. DTS/DD isn't that great an issue, as most players decode both. But the upcoming HD/Blu-ray battle will just make me stick with good 'old' DVD for the next few years!
 

tvh3ad

Active Member
I have a few dts discs and also a handful of DVD-A discs: the dts discs aren't really in the same ballpark. I'm not sure if this is because the dts format is compressed or because the particular dts titles I have were just badly engineered. (Either way, the DVD-A stuff is definitely better.) I also want to echo NiallAikman...the surround sound is nifty, but ultimately I enjoy stereo just as much if not more, plus most of what I buy isn't available on either DVD-A or SACD. Interestingly, the local Tower Records recently dismantled their high-rez section and spread what remained of it throughout the store. I'm not sure why they did this and nobody working there seemed to know.

I tend to buy gear and then hang on to it for years. I sprung this past year for a modern receiver with separate CD and DVD players for several reasons:

- We are spending a lot of time at home right now watching movies and listening to music because we have two small children;
- We have a still-growing collection of CDs and wasn't satisfied with DVD-player playback quality;
- The DVD format is widely adopted and likely to remain extant for at least several more years. (Stateside, most people still don't even own a decent TV!)

I'm very happy with DVDs (and the occasional DVD-A session) over the DV27A, CDs over the CD36, and sound in general over the AVR300. By the time I'm ready to replace them, I'm sure everything will have changed, but in the meantime we're enjoying the stable formats for serious listening/watching.
 
G

ginaandlee

Guest
I do have a few DVD-A discs but for me at least, playing a regular CD on my DV89 and using the neo6 music option on my AVR300 provides a very similar experience, especially for the kind of music i like (mainly rock and metal).

With HD discs around the corner i think SACD and DVD-A are dead unless the music companies really start marketing it properly (which they never did). I agree dual discs are terrible too - most of them dont play at all on the CD side in my DV89 and im surprised there hasnt been some kind of litigation seeing as they dont conform to red book standards.
 

Ian_S

Distinguished Member
Hi all,

I do think it's a shame that the industry as a whole has made so much of a mess of the better audio formats. CD has matured quite nicely over the last 20 years, it may have taken too many re-mastering efforts but, using my trusty Alpha 6 CD player and a decently produced CD I get for me what are excellent results. (And it sounds stonking through the AVP700 and my Rotel power amps...) So, this latest upgrade has been very worthwhile as it's brought my stereo listening to a new and very enjoyable level...

However, Queen's The Game DVD-Audio (with DTS 24/96) in my opinion really raises the bar quite some way over CD... They took quite a bit of care with this album (more ironically than was taken over A Night At The Opera), for details go to BrianMay.com and instead of using whizz bang surround fades here there and everywhere, they've instead given the music a huge boost in open-ness and soundstage. It blew me away.

Now clearly no-one's going to take that much care over most back catalogue material, but there might be a case for record companies to re-issue more stuff using a high quality stereo re-master as that doesn't necessarily require expensive reconstuction and re-mixing from multi-track tapes as Queen have done.

I agree wholeheartedly though that much depends on the surround mix as to whether it sounds better. War of the Worlds on SACD seems a bit too gimmicky at first listen to me, and also the Alpha 6 does a much meatier job with the CD than my Sony DVD player does with the SACD layer... But going back to The Game, it's just awesome.

I just wish there was a way I could actually upgrade my sources without shooting myself in the foot in the process. Without spending stupid amounts of money that I don't have on a high end universal player (think Linn), if I go that route I'll probably end up with worse CD performance than I have now. If I upgrade my DVD player for say DVD Audio, I lose SACD... Do the Denon's et al really match the Arcam's for DVD audio? Would the SACD be any better than the Sony? Is a cheap universal player going to show a marked improvement with DVD audio analogue outs over what I'm hearing now through DTS 24/96?? Pants it all is, as a small green thing might say.

And I don't really see the looming HD wars fixing this either. We'll just have even more combinations. You'd have thought the record companies would be quite keen to sell this, after all I think they exhausted how many times they can remaster an album on CD quite some time ago... I have at least 8 different versions of a Night at The Opera! :suicide:

I want an Arcam CD/SACD player!! :lease:

Ian
 

Carcrashboy

Standard Member
Hi all, I'm a long time lurker on the these forums but this is my first post.

Either I am missing something or will not the brave new world of downloadable music (yes I did get an IPOD for Xmas) and the advent of media servers/engines (hard disc boxes holding all your digital media) see Chord http://www.chordelectronics.co.uk/products_detail.asp?id=41
remove the compatability issues this thread is discussing. Presumably the issues then will be around the AV processors' capabilities.

I don't know, even as I write this I am beginnings to doubt myself.

I would imagine Arcam are working on a media engine, that marketplace will be a big growth area this. The world really is going digital!
 
W

WRG

Guest
I really don't have any answers. I originally bought my DV29 with the thinking that if it played CD's well enough I could eliminate another purchase of a stand alone Cd player and keep things simple. The CD play on the DV29 was rather good but I couldn't help thinking that "IF" I don't try a stand-alone CDP I'd never know the difference...hence the CD33. Ok, so now I'm really satisfied that I went with the CD33 for spinning discs, now...I wonder, whats all the hype about multi-channel music :cool: Again, if I don't at least try it I wouldn't know what I'd be missin'...so again, I buy a few DVD-As to try with the DV29...whoaaaa:eek: Interesting I think....So again, I'm thinking, how do I know these are the best recorded DVD-As? So I find a website that allows the web to do the footwork and buy and review various DVD-As and make thier comments known about the disc and the quality of the multi-channel recording...This site records the amount of reviewers and their comments so I can make a semi-accurate judgement of the discs that I want to buy based on this info. What I have found is some very,very good recorded DVD-As to really make an educated opinion on DVD-As with my DV29, AVR300, and Paradigm Signature speakers, in my sonically challenged home and guess what:eek: I bought many more of these fine recordings based on the reviews and my tastes and I really love them all. Really opens up a new avenue of music listening for me. Don't get me wrong, I love good 2ch music, and enjoy it regularly but, I found that good quality multi-channel music can be at times spellbinding too with the right audio chemistry. So, in conclusion I say to give a DVD-A/SACD a fair chance, try it on some good equipment and find a recommended good quality disc to try out...I really don't think you'll be disappointed. However, on the down side, and as others have mentioned, multi-channel is on the decline in some retail outlets...I buy mine online from various good outlets based on the reviews I've read and have acquired a small collection of some of my favorites and haven't looked back :hiya:
 

barn

Active Member
I think carcrashboy is on the mark - The days of cd's do have an end in sight.

The music that I listen to is nearly all off beat, unusual stuff and will never be released on multichannel cd's so I spend my money on quality stereo gear and buy nad or denon stuff for the multichannel, seems like a good compromise to me.
As for formats - well as someone once said " the only constant is change", so if you like it, want it and can afford it then jump in and dont wait. life is short.

As I write this I'm listening to the long awaited new "boards of canada" cd - "The campfire headphase " which I just purchased. I love it immediatly- great stereo music that I'm 99% sure will not be released on multichannel.
 
T

TheAndrian

Guest
I have to agree with you barn, the future does seem to be some form of a media centre where media is stored on very large storage devices like a NAS or streamed from the internet. I've just bought a Pinnacle SC200 to dabble with and a Buffalo Terastation NAS.

Would be nice to see Arcam make a snazzy Network Media Player (NMP) which is a proper upnp server device cutting out having to use a PC. Mind you waiting and trying to predict and invest in a future proof format is becoming more difficult these days with technology advancing at a fast pace - it is a bit of a mine field at the moment; so I'm just dabbling at the moment - not a luxury many people can afford to do.
 

RonW

Member
Almost a year ago Arcam already announced the FMJ MS250. A MusicServer with network/internet connectivity and a 250 GB harddisk. I am using a Cambridge Audio 640H musicserver now for some time. The quality of playback from the internal (or external USB) harddisk(s) is identical to the CD playback of the same machine (digital link to my AV8/P7). So you get a kind of Mediaplayer functionality (searching, playlists, etc.), but with a lot better sound than a PC can deliver. I am very curious about the MS250 in comparison.

On multi channel sources, I agree with most: It depends very much on the mixing, much more than the mixing influences the quality of a CD. And apparantly we are not the only ones in doubt, because the sales of DVD-A sources and players and not very high. So you get the usual circle: content providers say: "there are not enough players sold, so we do not produce content" and customers say: "there is not enough content so why invest in a player". So I would stick to the 2CH material (preferable uncompressed on a really good musicserver (MS250?)) and wait to see whether there wil be a really widely accepted altenative.
 

barn

Active Member
I have tried to listen to new music on the net but can not seem to find anywhere that you can listen before buying? Maybe you have to join first ?

I guess that I'm used to going to a CD shop and spending an hour or two listening to CD's and then buying a few. I don't know about elsewhere but around Adelaide, South Australia CD shops are becoming harder to find and stocking less. They will not order unusual CD's in for you unless you buy them. So to find new music it's a case of hear it from someone that you know, fluke finding it on the CD shelves or on the radio.

The decline of music CD's has started. DVD's seem to be multiplying like rabits on viagra.
 

Ian_S

Distinguished Member
I generally refuse to download music. Why? Digital Rights Management, or how the music industry sees infinite ways to make you pay more for less... Take iTunes, the quality of the download is worse than CD, the price isn't much different and you are restricted to what you can do with it. If you lose your iTunes database then all your precious downloads are rendered unplayable, because you've lost your license key, and you can't re-download. Windows Media player is just as bad. The big advantage to CD's? You get an instant backup. You get a better quality copy of the music to start with and there's NO DRM. Lose your PC? Just re-rip and carry on. No restrictions either on what you can play it on. I'm not that keen on the idea of a multi-terabyte hard disc installation whirring away in the background. The hard disc in my Sky+ box already annoys me spinning up randomly as it does. :)

I have a Pinnacle ShowCenter and it's not that good for music. I use it for displaying photos easily (ish) on the TV. But guess what, it won't support iTunes as Apple won't licence their DRM technology easily... Nothing yet including the Chord referenced supports the high res audio formats. Sony have locked down SACD so tight I doubt it ever will....:rolleyes: I'm not yet convinced that this is the way to go, in the home at least. Yet more electricity just to keep the stuff available, my CD's cost nothing else once I've paid for them, DVD's too, to sit there ready and waiting.:)

On the multichannel front, don't get me wrong I can play SACD's and DVD-Audio (as long as the latter has a DTS track) and I really like what I've heard so far, but the route is painful. I don't mind that ARCAM have chosen to not do SACD yet, but it is a huge pain that I have to choose between DVD-A or SACD because you can only connect 1 to the amplifier...

At an absolute minimum, I'd like to see Arcam add the ability for two 5.1 audio sources to their recievers/processors as at least we could then source a SACD player elsewhere, and still use an ARCAM DVD player for DVD-A. After all the latter are recognised as being amongst the best there are. Strikes me that the potentially easy way to do that is to add an HDMI connection that supports the RAW bitstream transport (not multichannel PCM) to the amp, and then either add that to the next gen DVD player so DVD-Audio can go over that link, or maybe go one further and add SACD to CD player with both HDMI and analogue outs...

The hardware manufacturers have to start making it easier for us to use both types of surround music, if they do that then it makes it less of a risk for us to buy both which in turn will surely drive up sales of the formats. It's no wonder sales are poor when it's so hard to actually use them without either spending a fortune, going for one of the lesser universal players or having to gamble on one format. Let's be honest here, we're talking about the audiophile market here at the moment, and we're notorious for not wanting to compromise!:D

Ian.
 

NonPayingMember

Previously Liam @ Prog AV
I'm thinking where do DTS-HD and Dolby Digital True HD fit in? At least on multi-channel from what I read on the web they can match sampling rates of DVD-A and SACD, I don't really know for 2-channel (like how DVD-A will do 192kHz sampling rate over 2-channels). But the point is common sense (which unfortunately this industry doesn't have a great amount of) would say that multi-channel music might just as well be mastered to one (or both) of the new HD disc formats which will be infiltrating our homes one way or another over the next few years. By default these would be compatible with both DD and DTS HD-audio standards so there would be no need to specifically buy a universal deck. And with backward compatibility to downsample to regualr DTS/DD for older receivers/processors, many more people will be able to get some kind of multi-channel audio into their without having to resort to hybrid technologies or a special deck that supports some other disc format. Any regular HD-DVD or BluRay player will give you high resolution, multi-channel audio already.

This would be how I would want Arcam to set a new trend, by bringing together latest technologies rather than doing what everyone else does and just throw in half-arsed support for everything that's out there. Dolby Digital True HD for example can be tweaked to support 13.1 channels if the transmission medium will support the bandwidth!! I wonder if it would be as simple as dropping the HD video stream and just bunging in a load of extra audio channels in the leftover space

This would of course need record labels to embrace HD discs for multi-channel audio (although by not being a seperate disc technology market infiltration should be easier by simply piggy backing HD-DVD or BluRay). But if HD audio can be used in a way to match/beat SACD and DVD-A performance then there's no point clutching onto the older technology. This is a solution for years to come rather than the next product cycle, but I think it's where high resolution, multi-channel audio would be better steered. Would be nice if the industry just gave in and supported HD-DVD and BluRay with cheaper licensing for both but it ain't gonna happen!!!! But the thing I dread the most is looking at a kit rack with CD/SACD deck, DVD/DVD-A deck, Blu-Ray deck and HD-DVD deck! 6 different types of disc technology and mass confusion for everyone else in my house! Ok so it would look kinda cool to have all that gear but you get my point.
 

Ian_S

Distinguished Member
Liam, I see what you're saying and maybe this is part of the reason people are confused or are not aware. People generally associate DVD with video inspite of the V not standing for video... Even if the new HD versions of DD and DTS render DVD-Audio obselete, I can't see the new players removing the need for a separate CD player (without all that video jiggery pokery circuitry stuff) to get the best out of normal CD's.

As much as I dislike Sony at the moment (and I've bought a lot of their stuff) for their recent digital copy protection antics, at least they've made a decent fist of making SACD hybrid discs that only have one side, look like CD's and even play in a CD player. Add to that the lack of video in SACD and it's attractions grow as a music medium to compliment CD...

I don't want six boxes either, I'm happy with the prospect of two, a CD player (perhaps with SACD as well), and a DVD player. The latter needs to play SD DVD's (video and audio) and *ALL* HD formats before I'll part with any money on new formats.

For video to be honest I don't really see what difference the new DD and DTS formats will make, movie sound is pretty good already, and I can't see the addition of two disc formats each with two sound encoding options, and 3 speaker number combinations helping record companies suddenly decide to release high quality audio on any of them in 2, 5.1, 6.1 or 7.1 channels.

No end in sight I fear...

Ian.
 

NonPayingMember

Previously Liam @ Prog AV
I didn't mean to suggest a universal player for all sources, while it does do some well enough for enthusiasts a seperate CD deck is of course a must. It's an interesting debate though, and I just hope the manufacturers are discussing much the same as we are. I would like to see SACD and DVD-A better implemented but if multi-channel, high resolution audio is going to get serious in the long term future, I think launching on the backbone of HD is quite a good idea. The new formats are gonna have to penetrate the market anyway, this would give it a second selling point almost.

However I think we're too attached to technologies we already have, buying habits will mean CD will stick around a lot longer than could be considered natural. The general trend being you should have a dedicated audio deck, and then a video disc player. If high res audio is going to happen in the long term future then it should be replacing your CD deck entirely (excepting for playback of existing media of course).

I think the new DTS and DD formats are worthwhile. Backwards compatible with what will then be legacy equipment (!) means there is no need for people with no interest to go out upgrading. But it gives those labels that are interested, a chance to send higher detailed audio than before, potentially converging multi-channel audio and HD video. For movies reference setups will gain extra detail, legacy setups will not lose anything. An almost everybody wins situation. And as for music, I'm thinking you go into a record store and buy an album on Blu-Ray - you get all tracks in high resolution 2ch, or multi-channel if mastered as such, and potentially labels could include full music videos or live performances, even in HD! There's so much storage on these things it's all very possible.

A pipedream I know. Unfortunately all I can do is sit back and watch the industry make a right pigs ear of it. Again. Even if the manufacturers support excellent audio capabilities on their HD disc players, it still takes the record labels to fork out to use it. And of course for some there will be the fear that they could be selling two boxes but are now only selling one. And Catch 22 being that there needs to be media in the first place for Joe Public to want to go out and buy the thing :(
 

Ian_S

Distinguished Member
chl said:
Maybe this article is interesting.......

http://sound.westhost.com/cd-sacd-dvda.htm

I don't know about interesting, scary more like!! :eek:

Unfortunately it goes way beyond my understanding, so I don't know if its bending the figures the way it wants to or not. If it is true then it's quite stunning. I'd love to know whether the people at Arcam who would know what they're on about think of the article...

As for HD DD and DTS, I don't know. Will we really notice a substantial difference between what we have now and these new formats?? We'll definitely see the difference in picture between SD and HD, but on most kit I'm sceptical that there will be anything like such an improvement for movie sound... we'll see eventually I guess!

Ian.
 

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