This post was prompted by a post in the Hi-Definition TV forum, alerting us to the existence of a stunning new development in DVD technology, Superbit! The forum member excitedly described Superbit as the nearest well get to Hi-Def DVD, etc, and even posted a link to Sonys Superbit website to alert us to this "new" technical innovation. Let me make it clear that the above is not a dig at the person who posted it weve all been newbies to the AV game at some point and many have been taken in by the claims of Sony for Superbit. If anything this is a criticism of Sonys deliberate marketing of Superbit in an attempt to bamboozle consumers -particularly the inexperienced newcomer to AV- into believing that this is some kind of technical upgrade of the DVD standard and better in terms of quality than everything else out there. First and foremost Superbit is a brand name owned by Sony/Columbia, nothing more. It is certainly not a technical standard like HD-DVD or Blu-Ray. It falls within all normal technical DVD Forum parameters for a normal DVD and is inherently capable of no better quality than any standard release from other DVD companies. Superbit even in its early days was very publicly blown out of the water and shown up for the marketing scam that it so clearly is. A few years ago in a technical test of 20 Superbit titles, DVD Review concluded that 19 of the 20 had inferior or at best equal picture quality when compared to standard releases from other companies. In addition the much vaunted strength of Superbit, namely utilizing the disc space in order to maximize the bit-rate for picture and sound quality by leaving off extras, commentaries, etc, was shown to be totally bogus by this test. Only one Superbit title out of the 20 tested displayed a higher than average bit rate than all of the non-Superbit tiles, and even then by just a decimal point or so. In addition most came nowhere near maximizing the available disc space in order to improve sound and picture quality. One of several non-Superbit titles in the test that came out as a top performer and trounced the Superbit competition was Moulin Rouge, a disc that managed to include both DTS and Dolby Digital soundtracks as well as extras such as an interactive behind the scenes feature, audio commentaries and multiple language tracks. All of these on the same disc as the movie and the disc displayed a higher than average bit rate than most of the Superbit titles. The technical analysis showed that this disc, as well as titles from other companies, showed objectively superior picture quality and a higher bit-rate than the Superbit titles and yet all still managed to include a range of extras. As I stated above, this was exposed several years ago, yet people have continued to buy into the scam. Superbit is quite simply a pretty insidious marketing ploy by Sony. They deliberately hold back on the picture and sound quality on their initial releases that all other companies give us as standard. Then they charge us an extra premium if we want the better quality sound and vision that other companies give us as a matter of course. Technical tests of many of Sony/Columbia's standard releases have shown that they are utilising less than half the available space of a DVD9 disc to accommodate their movies. Less than half. If proof were needed that they are deliberately compromising the quality of standard releases, this is it. Their rationale is blatantly transparent. If you're a fan of the movie, you'll want the version with all the extras, but if you want the best picture and sound quality you have to buy a Superbit copy as well. Even by the standards of the major distributors, this is a cynical and exploitative marketing ploy. We live with the fact (albeit reluctantly) that companies will bring out director's cuts and expanded multiple disc sets to try and tempt us to double-dip. But what is truly despicable is Sony/Columbia deliberately manufacturing inferior quality DVD product in order to market a Superbit version of the same disc a few months later. Round about this point in the debate someone usually weighs in with a post along the lines of Well Ive got 10 Superbit titles, and every one is superior in quality to the standard releases! No one is disputing that this is indeed the case. There's no doubt that most Superbit versions of Sony/Columbia releases are better than the standard issue versions. But the only reason for this is that Sony/Columbia deliberately hold back on the quality of their non-Superbit releases, precisely because they want to sell a Superbit version a few months later in the hope that we will double dip. Is the penny dropping Superbit fans? Superbit is not in itself "better", it's just better than the deliberately sub-standard product they issue first time around. But occasionally Sony/Columbia has been caught with their corporate pants down, most famously when they withdrew the Gladiator Superbit from sale. The reason? This Superbit title was withdrawn from sale when it transpired that the company had inadvertently used the same video master for both the Superbit and standard release. They are exactly the same. Except of course for a better soundtrack and a disc full of extras on the standard release Other manufacturers manage equivalent and quite often superior picture quality to Sony's Superbits on their standard releases, and include lots of extras without feeling the need to dress them up with a new brand name like Superbit and forcing you to buy the same movie twice if you want the best quality and the extras. How clearer does it have to be stated people? Superbit is not a technically superior standard. It's a marketing scam, and a scam that results in reduced product quality for those of us that refuse to be ripped off by Sony and swallow the Superbit line. It is a plain, bog standard DVD, inherently no different or superior to non-Superbit titles from other companies - end of story. When I posted on this topic before I was admonished and told that if people want to spend their money on Superbit titles then its none of my business. I often hear a similar argument from smokers, and my answer is the same. It is my business because what you are doing affects me. So long as some people continue to support this shoddy marketing exercise, Sony will continue to screw you for every last penny, and meanwhile the rest of us who refuse to buy into the Superbit scam will have to put up with inferior quality product in the form of this companys standard releases. All that it takes is for people to stop buying Superbit titles for six months or so and send an e-mail to let Sony know why. Then perhaps they'll start giving us the picture and sound quality (along with the extras) that other distributors give us on their standard releases. Otherwise they continue to shaft us all.