DVD Audio Considerations

Daryl O. ([email protected])

I've found an article in TWICE magazine mentioning the recording industry's favouring a 5" DVD-Audio standard. It doesn't state that the industry is ardently opposed to a 3" disc (as I had thought), but I do seem to recall it being phrased similarly somewhere else. Anyway, this is what I've found:

From TWICE, October 28, 1996, ``Progress Seen In Negotiations On Standards For DVD Audio'' (by Joseph Palenchar):

``[...] For its part, the music industry continues to favor CD-size discs rather than develop optional 3 discs that could be used in portable DVD-audio players. But [an] executive [familiar with the talks] said the 3" proposal might still end up as an option in the specs `because they [hardware suppliers] want it.' ''

``[David] Leibowitz [executive director of the Recording Industry Association of America] noted that a 3" option may be in the specs, and although availability in the U.S. doesn't seem likely, it could show up in other countries.''

``Pioneer and other [DVD] consortium members have lobbied for 3" and CD-size discs that would utilize two channels of PCM audio up to 24 bits in resolution and with a sampling rate up to 96kHz. The PCM channels are already permitted as an option under the DVD video specs, and all DVD video players are required to play back the PCM channels.''

A 3" DVD audio player, if manufactured, would probably be sold only in those areas where 3" CD portables are already sold, namely Europe and Japan (?), where 3" CD singles are popular. Again, I don't see a 3" DVD posing a threat to MD.

In addition to recommending that DVD-Audio discs be 12 cm in diameter, rather than 80 mm, the industry is insisting on forward compatibility, so that DVD-Audio discs may be playable on standard CD players. Their hybrid-disc proposal calls for two tracks of standard (Red Book) CD audio along with DVD audio. Because of the extra manufacturing steps involved, they would cost more to make than a standard audio CD. A source in the music industry has implied that these costs would be passed on to all buyers even if they didn't own a DVD player.

There are also technical problems involved in creating such a disc. Since data are encoded at a depth of 0.6mm from the surface of each side of a DVD disc, as opposed to 1.2mm from a CD's surface, accommodations would have to be made in order to possibly invert the second layer of a double-sided DVD disc. The studios' dual-layer proposal would necessitate that "engineers [...] develop a "semitransparent" bonding layer between the two sides of a dual-sided DVD disc so that a CD player's laser could poke through to the audio CD data at a 1.2mm depth, [Toshiba's Koji] Hase told TWICE [in its June 10, 1996 issue]. "And the bounced-back signal must be reasonably strong," he noted." ("Music Industry Causing Delay Of Audio DVD," Joseph Palenchar, TWICE, June 10, 1996)

These demands and technical considerations can significantly delay the introduction of the Audio DVD, as attested in the June 24, 1996 issue of TWICE magazine:

``It could be years [...] before retailers and consumers hear the first DVD audio discs. For one thing, the music industry's demand for forward compatibility could slow the standards-setting process, but as [one] music industry executive said, `Why not spend more time to do it right as long as we move in the right direction?' '' (``Question: Will DVDs Replace Audio CDs? Answer: Yes, but when is anyone's guess,'' Joseph Palenchar, TWICE, June 24, 1996)

This `more time to do it right' may give MD just enough time to catch on.

``Even assuming that it will take six months to a year before a DVD audio disc standard is completed,'' Mr. Palenchar continues, ``it will take at least another year for the necessary recording equipment to reach the studio level in significant numbers, [an] official [in the recording industry] said. And not all studios might get on board quickly.''

Exactly. In contrast, MD is here already, and prices are coming down. DVD-Audio therefore has an upscale battle in winning the loyalty of consumers, whereas MD already has the upper hand....

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