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The death of music surround & DVDA / SACD?

Discussion in 'Movie Forum' started by Popester, Mar 20, 2001.

  1. Popester

    Popester
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    DVDA/SACD/ Music Surround

    This week I’m going to a series of lectures and demonstrations at Abbey Road Studios with topic titles such as ‘Does the consumer want surround sound’, ‘Using Surround Sound’, ‘Recording for Surround’, ‘making the most of old stereo assets’, ‘CD/DVDA/SACD’ etc etc.

    It’s important to note here that these are aimed at MUSIC people and about music not surround in film, and it’s got me thinking. My conclusion is that DVD-Audio / SACD & surround in music is destined to fail or at best become either a pure (expensive) audiophile hobby or an additional ‘extra take it or leave it feature’ on top end players like the various surround effects you can currently get on amps. Here’s why:-

    Firstly let’s look at Surround in Music generally:

    Do we actually want this? What are we actually looking for from this? Do you want to here a band mixed in 5.1 with a bass guitar coming out of one rear, guitar front left, and vocalist centre speaker. How would this sound? Surely the idea of stereo was to try and actually present a sound stage via panning and delay of you sitting in front of a band. If that is the case then are we not only asking that surround sound should be used less as an instrument mixing tool but just a method of adding extra ambience? This would in particular suit live recordings and music such as jazz or classical, possibly rock, but definitely not pop or dance. In dance music’s case it would not work in clubs due to the nature of speaker systems and of course the non-central positioning of the listeners. Likewise in general pop use discrete formats would be useless as they could not be played via radio without some sort of ability to be matrixed down to stereo which brings us back to what we have now.

    In order to appreciate say discrete 5.1 music would we not need a completely new type of music or is it therefore purely a nice addition to live recordings and certain genres? Roll on those old ambience settings on the amps......

    Do we need SACD or DVD Audio?

    For any format to be successful I would suggest that we need a large proportion of the general consumers to pick up on it, as with CD, VHS, and now DVD. I don’t believe this will happen with the above formats. Each of the above when it came out added something totally new that we had never had before: CD brought the ‘perfect sound quality’, VHS the ability to finally record TV and watch films at home, and DVD ‘perfect picture quality’ and home cinema. What do SACD and DVD Audio bring?

    Better quality sound? For the last 20 years the consumer was told that CD was as near perfect as it was going to get are we now telling him/her it isn’t and that they now have to throw away all there old CDs and players? People are still happy with the quality of vinyl, cassettes, MP3, and MD. Many people listen to music on the radio, in the car, on a boombox, or with a £150 Alba all-in-one hi-fi with the speakers on top of each other in the corner of the room. Does this person really care? I certainly doubt they will add an extra box to their set up at £500+. So who is this aimed at? I would suggest that it will solely remain for the few genuine audiophiles left with expensive set ups in specialist listening rooms for their favourite recordings of Celine Dion, The Eagles, and Beethoven’s Fifth. I believe that record companies will be resigned to releasing DVDAudio discs solely as premium priced products on a limited line aimed at such people.

    Why is it being foisted upon us? One might suggest several reasons. Firstly manufacturers want to sell more equipment and what better than to come up with a new format (witness DVD). Secondly, Record companies have seen how seen film studio’s catalogues revitalised through DVD and want to sell the catalogues to us all over again - though didn’t they do that to us with CD? Finally, many music mastering and recording studios invested heavily in expensive surround processing equipment some years back and need to find a way to recoup investment. Once again I emphasise the word ‘music’. I have heard ‘security’ as a passing issue with the extra bandwidth allowing the possibility of non-interferring encoding or watermarking but that alone is not a good enough reason.

    For me MP3 and, ironically, home cinema are the killers of surround in music and new formats. MP3 is important because it allows new players the size of a CD Walkman to store 100Hours+ of music - an entire CD collection for some - that can be used in the car, in the home, or personally. CDs will be ripped and stuck in the loft, music stored on hard drive and downloaded on to MD, MP3 players, piped around the house, or onto your car stereos ‘memory stick’ and off you go. No? It’s happening already. In a few years time (not yet) the main means of purchasing music, like software is also becoming, will be via broadband in one form or another. CD will still be around as a storage or transport medium as new CD/DVD players will also decode MP3 CD disks. The consumer will be happy with this, will he trash it all for a new box? Can the average consumer really tell the audio difference, does he care?

    Finally Home Cinema as a killer. Confused? Well think about it. Sure many people have DVD boxes now but what do they do with them? Do they connect them up to a super duper AVCA1X with £5k speaker systems and play CDs as well as films through their system? Or does their home entertainment environment consist of a hi-fi in one corner for music and the DVD player sitting on top or next to the VCR plugged directly into the TV? I would plump for the later. In fact there has been a trend in TV manufacturers to include surround of one form or another in their TV sets so most people will not have a separate audio system for films. Surely though they can put a CD into their DVD player and listen to music through the TV though right? Yeah, on your planet maybe!

    In conclusion.....let’s discuss.


     
  2. eros

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    I agree with what you say above, the sales of hardware must be slowing down. Since everyone in the world must have a cd player by now. With modern day reliability the hardware manufacturers aren't shifting enough units. Hence lets release a new format, con the public into thinking it sounds better than what they already have, and make a load of cash!
     
  3. Gary Palmer

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    Popester,

    I don't want to regurgitate what I've already posted on multi-channel music.

    I love multichannel music. Live shows and what little studio recorded stuff there is. BUT only if it was recorded that way (just bought a Lexicon DC1 and using the surround modes on 2 channel stereo is still horrible even with the much praised Logic7)

    I seriously doubt that it will ever be more than a niche market otherwise Prologic music on CDs and cassette would have taken off by now.

    Radio One pioneered a few radio 'plays' in Dolby Surround that you could buy on cassette (including a truly horrendous "UK" sequel to Independance Day). This looked promising for 5 minutes but died.

    Mr P. Ublic just isn't interested.
     
  4. Popester

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    Gary

    Saw your post on the other board a day after I had posted mine, spooky huh, homestly hadn't seen it. But here's something interesting for you. I recently found out that the Radio Authority recently did a sound quality test on the general public in order to see what bit rate digital radio could be broadcast at, hence the lower acceptability would mean more bandwidth for more stations.

    They started with CD quality and it was until they got to what we would consider 'worse than AM Radio quality' that anyone could actually tell the difference!!!!

    SACD / DVD Audio anyone? My foot!
     
  5. Rachael Bitchlist

    Rachael Bitchlist
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    DVD-A vs. SACD

    Suppose they gave a format war and nobody came. The only reason these formats have been created is because there are no digital recorders for consumers to record them with. That's about as obvious as the sun rising in the east! One of my DVD players supports DVD-A. I have bought two DVD-A discs so far.

    The first cut on Aron Neville's DEVOTION has the guitar in the centre channel and the vocals in the left and right, ugh. Aron and his clone do a beautiful duet accompanying that guitar. To be fair most of the rest of the album sounds better.

    My other DVD-A, Buena Vista Social Club sounds more natural, generally. It also has a featurette with full-motion video. It seemed like about ten minutes and the video quality seemed reduced from DVD-V standard. Video gives DVD-A a big plus if the format war materializes.

    What I really want to see though is, I want to see the 192 hz indicator light on my player light up. This 5.1 stuff has a lower bit-rate and doesn't seem to sound any better than DTS CDs. For me, 192 hz stereo seems appealing. But, stille, why would I support DVD-A in a big way. I like compiling my favourite stuff off records and CDs onto MDs. DVD-A throws a big monkey wrench into the works.

    Sony sez, we will sell mostly plastic SACD players for $399. But what chance does SACD have at their inflated software prices. I nearly bought their 9000 ES DVD/SACD playe but decided against it because of the chroma bug. Progressive scan will have to be more perfected before I lay down that kind of jack for one. If I had bought it, I suppose I'd buy 2 or 3 of their over-priced discs to play with. Hey, I have Herbie Hancock's HEADHUNTERS in every other format it ever came in, what the heck!

    I think DVD-A has a better chance than SACD if it's included on more relatively inexpensive DVD players, but that's not saying much.... Best wishes cats!

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    Rachael, the big disc cat!

    Mandrake, have you ever seen a commie drink water...
     
  6. Ars longa, vita brevis

    Ars longa, vita brevis
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    racheal
    good god you're back and even reared your head on the laserlist although i was unable to join in conversations about the ultimate laserdisc player as my computer is still out of action.

    back to the subject i don't know of the market for such products. God i hope we dont have to download music broadband in the futrure as the mp3 quality aint great and you dont get a box or the ability to look at your music collection on the shelf.

    Are the new DVD singles containing the videos 5.1, these are perhaps a better idea than multi channel only as they offer somethin the average user cannot (yet) download, should they not be after audio superiority. Should the music industry wish to retain profitability from the singles market.



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  7. smiller

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    OK, great topic and one which always brings out some interesting answers. With regards to downloading music this is pretty much a non-starter for a while yet. MP3 is fine if you don't mind about the quality. Sure you can download at a high rate but the cost of doing this defeats the purpose of MP3. So why is it a non-starter ?

    I read a thread on the Stereophile site recently (www.stereophile.com) where a rather interesting point was posted. Basically, the big 5 (record companies) want as much control over their distribution channels as possible, hence the Napster scenario at the moment and lack of digital outs on new DVD-A and SACD equipment. One of the only places you can purchase fully fledged music on download (can't remember it's name) basically gives you the music but the software can only be played on that PC and cannot be burned onto a CD unless you make an analogue copy via some interconnects and your soundcard. What if you buy a new PC or hard drive ? How can you archive your purchase in case of fire ? The Big 5 are sh*t scared about piracy. And look at the mess they've made with DVD-A watermarking. They've spent thousands on it and have now decided that it's not the way to proceed after being told on numerous occasions that adding an analogue protection system would have an audible effect on the software. Who pays ? That would be the consumer then.

    SACD is a different kettle of fish though. First up I will admit that I am a fan of SACD but do not own any SACD equipment and I'm not a big fan of Sony either. So why SACD ? It's probably what CD should have been in the first place. Why is it better (in my opinion) than DVD-A ? Technically it's MUCH more simple and even more simple than CD. Basically it doesn't use compression and doesn't have to deal with 'brick wall' digital filters. It just decodes it and plays. I have also listened to various set-ups consisting of budget and VERY expensive DVD-A and SACD equipment. Let's just say that the expensive rigs could be valued at at least £250,000 each. SACD is VERY obviously much better and through both systems. But hey, Joe Public doesn't buy that kind of gear - correct. Joe Public wants something that's easy to set up, turn on and forget about. It's going to sound good anyway 'cause it's digital, right ? (If only they knew.)

    Which will succeed ?

    DVD-A has the benefit of the DVD title. People love DVD - it's a buzz word and it says 'quality' to people. But look at your DVD-V collection and I bet you'll find some shoddy transfers in there somewhere. DVD-A is going to have the same problem. SACD will have it too. Christ, CD has it at the moment. It's taken 20 years now to get original releases to have great production but we still have awful pop CD's that are just horribly put together. The advent of CD was scary for most record producers and they made mincemeat out of recordings. Re-masters were crap and some still are but in general they are a hell of a lot better these days. You still have to re-buy the buggers though. New and improved. New and improved. You have that with DVD-V's at the moment ! (Criterion, New DTS track......blah, blah, blah.) SACD's and DVD-A will have multiple remixes and formats. 192 stereo and 96 multi. But if these are badly done they will be even worse than the CD's their meant to supersede. I have a couple of DTS music discs (Sting and Marvin Gaye) and I'm sorry but they are pants. Give me the resolution on the front and not some badly steered effects at the back. Use the centre channel by all means but please realise that some people have delays and different db levels on their rear channels. (In case you didn't know, the transgression from Mono to Stereo was actually meant to include a 3rd channel to remove the perceived ghosting in the centre but it never happened. )

    Sony have the benefit of their back catalogue ; Columbia, Sony records, Epic......etc.
    Those behind DVD-A have spent so long moaning about copyright protection that your lucky if there are 20 titles that you WANT to buy. A valid point was raised though : If you've got the technology - you'll buy the software. And to me that's a bit sad. I want great music to sound great. I want to be able to pop in the disc and let it spin (in any room in my apartment and on any equipment). Please note you have to have your TV hooked up for DVD-A. That's a bit of a stupid. Who cares about the silly video extras ? If you want those buy the DVD-V. I prefer to enjoy the artwork and the production notes in the form of the little booklets you have with the box.

    So I've mumbled on and probably contradicted myself about 12 times. So I best finish with these points :

    1. We've had CD for over 20 years. Maybe a change isn't soooooooo bad.
    2. There ARE people who want better sound quality and their not just Audiophiles.
    3. It's also about software availability - not just hardware.
    4. The hardware has to be within reach of the average Joe.
    5. The technology has to be presented in a way which is not just a blinding of science. (Sony has done this to some extent I must reinforce.)
    6. I wish I new which would succeed cause it's p*ssing me off !

    Over to you guys.

    Steven


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  8. Popester

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    Question is....

    what does the average user actually want?
     
  9. Rachael Bitchlist

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    Howdy Hank,
    I've bounced back over this way. The laserlist hasn't arrived in a week or so. It was coming around more regularly. I have been busy breaking down the genetic sequences of LD players, of course!

    I don't know of DVD singles for the U.S. or Japan. They've tried singles on VCD here before, in stereo. That went nowhere because the LD players that played them didn't have near enough market penetration. Are DVD singles a European thang? I've heard nary a word of it, till yours.

    We've had single CDs here with CD-ROM content, which makes little sense now that DVD is flying high.

    My progresive scan DVD player suppourts DVD-A. So, I've dabbled with this new format. I bought the DVD player for progresive scan, not DVD-A. But, I'm going to buy 5 DVD-A discs. I wonder, actually doubt, that my suppourt will extend any farther if they don't release 192 hz stereo. Too much of the 5.1 stuff is gimmicky mixing, little else.

    I hope you get your computer back online soon. Have you checked the phase inducers? The flow regulators? Have you solicted the aid of the Binars?

    Hank, I had trouble landing on this site at times this winter. I'm not sure why. Maybe they were upgradeing it? Who knows, maybe it was the reverse polarity of the backdraft from a timewarp? Best wishes from Laserland!

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    Rachael, the big disc cat!

    Mandrake, have you ever seen a commie drink water...
     
  10. Black 5

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    Most of us have known for a long time that the mastering of a CD can make a big difference to the way it sounds. I have a small number of 'audiophile' discs and in some cases copies of the bog standard and there is a significant difference in quality, but only if it's played on decent equipment. In a car, on the Alba, etc and it won't sound any different.

    Let's face it, Average Jo has cloth ears and that's a fact. Just take a look at what Average Jo actually listens to for evidence [​IMG]

    IMO super digital media (DVDA or SACD) are doomed. The discs even look the same as cds so where's the cool in that? - at least cds looked different to everything else when they were introduced.

    In any event I believe there is still mileage in producing better cd players if improved sound quality is what you want (i've just upgraded from some excellent kit and have been amazed by the real improvement), but the equipment will count for nothing if the quality of the software isn't up to it. Will we ever see a 24/192 disc? Not likely.

    Trouble is, if say DVDA players become the 'next thing' to have we'll end up in a similar pickle as the PS2 situation - everyone getting so carried away with the hardware they don't realise the software is garbage.

    Rather than being exciting developments, I find the future of all this is rather depressing - I'll find decently mastered cds harder than ever to source and run the risk of getting left behind in the technology rollercoaster - I need a drink [​IMG]
     
  11. HT Dude

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    Just wanted to pick up on this point.
    I disagree. I pay £40 a month for ADSL and I'm connected while I'm awake.
    It costs nothing extra to d/l higher bitrate MP3s (I prefer at least 160 - ideally 192).
    Whole albums can be down in a few minutes.

    And I've bought more albums *because* of MP3 being downloadable than despite it.

     
  12. Rachael Bitchlist

    Rachael Bitchlist
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    Actually, there is a 192 hz recording coming out. There is a DVD-A two disc set of Beethoven coming out that will have one side at 192 hz stereo. I wonder when any pop-ular music might appear? I like jazz, blues, and R & B the most. I'm not holding my breath. The record companies really fear losing their lisence to price gouge.

    Smiller, I have three DTS CDs, one's a sampler. I bought Edgar Winter's JASMINE NIGHTSONGS because you can't get it on regular CD. Thank God, my pre will downconvert it to stereo! I never thought the gutarist should stand back in the audience. I bought Boyz 2 Men on DTS CD on a lark one day. I rather fancy it. The vocals that are in the sides sometimes seem clever. I more than tolerate it. I doubt I'll buy anymore DTS CDs though. It would be a title driven thang. Somethin' you can't get in the proper format. If Edgar's comes to garden variety CD I'd snap it up though. DTS CDs are an intresting novelty, that's all.

    Best wishes mi compadres!

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    Rachael, the big disc cat!

    Mandrake, have you ever seen a commie drink water...
     
  13. Popester

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    Anyone remember DCC????

    'Nuff Said......
     
  14. Rachael Bitchlist

    Rachael Bitchlist
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    Si senor! They sold DCC players for years on end at J & R Music World for $199. They may stille have some. Best wishes!

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    Rachael, the big disc cat!

    Mandrake, have you ever seen a commie drink water...
     
  15. Ars longa, vita brevis

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    As for DVD (video) singles, I should have one by tomorrow, along with the CD single to compare as 'Ash' are releasing 'Burn Baby Burn' on both formats. Unfortunately ther seems to be no plans to release the single on 7" single so i won't be able to compare that. I don't know if the DVD will be in AC3 or just plain surround, maybe even dts... i wish. As i said, mor einfo tomorrow or wednesday.

    Unless omeone has a DVD single and info on comparison.

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    member formerly known as hank hill, then Jesus H
     

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