SACD/DVD-A: why didn't they just market vanilla DVDs as multi-channel audio discs?

Discussion in 'Music' started by andrew markworthy, Sep 8, 2008.

  1. andrew markworthy

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    This is purely a matter of curiosity. When DVDs first appeared, it was apparent that they had a perfectly acceptable audio output for the vast majority of consumers. Having persuaded consumers to buy home theatre systems, why didn't the companies simply release re-mixed multi-channel albums on ordinary DVDs? In that way, nobody needed to buy SACD or DVD-A compatible players, people were dealing with a familiar technology, and the sound was perfectly okay. Instead, we had all this fuss over SACD and DVD-A, which, as we've seen, has meant that neither format has exactly prospered. And as a result, multi-channel audio remains a niche market.

    Now before anyone points out that both SACD and VDD-A have better sound quality - yes, I know they have. But even on a good system, the different isn't that big a leap from DVD, and on the average consumer's system, I seriously doubt if they'd notice a difference in the normal run of things. So why on earth didn't companies just stick with DVD?
     
  2. Marc Colella

    Marc Colella Cinematographer

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    There were some Digital Audio Discs (HDAD) on the market. The were basically DVDs that held music in either 24/96 or 24/192. Classic Records and Chesky released some titles under this format.

    Obviously it never took off. With CD slowly dying in favor of MP3, a high resolution format of any kind never really had a chance of taking off anyways.
     
  3. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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    Classic has done very well with the DAD discs and now has HDADs at 24/192. There are many for sale at themusic.com. The Everest series is especially good as are the Blue Note titles done by Bernie Grundman and Chris Bellman. Fairly straight transfers from the master tapes.
     
  4. PaulDA

    PaulDA Cinematographer

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    But those do not address the OP's question regarding MCH audio. DTS CDs were the closest to his scenario, but the issue facing those and DVD-A/SACD were the same in terms of cost of remixing/getting approval/etc. The problem was, and remains, the dichotomy between those who want MCH audio and those who want highest resolution 2 channel audio. New classical (and some jazz and pop) releases in MCH are relatively easy--everyone is present all the way through. But catalogue releases in MCH pose problems (why has it taken so long for the early Genesis stuff to be released? Gabriel wants a word), so we're getting a lot more catalogue stuff in 2 channel.

    As DSPs become more sophisticated, the point may become moot. But for now, I prefer discrete MCH mixes to those my DSP "creates". And, of course, audiophiles want nothing to do with DSP of any kind and are, for the most part, lukewarm, at best, about MCH mixes.
     
  5. andrew markworthy

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    I'm not sure I stated my original question clearly enough - it's not the relative merits of each format, but why folks didn't simply market audio-only 'conventional' DVDs as the new musical medium rather than try to offer DVD-A or SACD.

    Given that the success of mp3, clearly folks will take convenience over the last word in audio fidelity. So why wouldn't they accept ordinary DVDs? I can see two obvious marketing formats that could have sold the idea to the public:

    (1) multichannel and original stereo mixes of same album on same DVD disc with lyrics, background info, artwork, etc, included
    (2) multiple albums in their original stereo or mono on the same DVD (imagine the convenience of having e.g. the entire Beatle's output on 1 or 2 discs).

    Both of these disc types could be played on existing DVD players without having to fuss about getting yet another specialist player. So Joe Six Pack, having got his home theater system, would now find that he could play his favourite music on the same system in new and (to his ears) improved forms.

    But introducing DVD-A and SACD after DVD had established a foothold seems to be like trying to introduce Betamax after VHS already dominated the market. It doesn't matter how superior the new system is, nobody wants to double dip for hardware like this.
     
  6. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

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    Were DVD-As and SACDs ever really marketed to the mainstream? There are a number of CDs that include MCH mixes on DVD as a bonus, as well as those "MVI" discs.
     
  7. WillG

    WillG Producer

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    With my purchase of a legacy PS3, I have begun to take advantage of MCH SACDs of some rock artists that I enjoy (and are available in the format). I have enjoyed them and all the MCH SACDs I have feature the albums in regular stereo as well. I have enjoyed hearing MCH mixes of these albums and it's somewhat frustrating why it hasn't taken off. For example take DVD. Multichannel audio mixes are so demanded that it's really just luck if DVD of an older film includes the original theatrical audio. I know there is confusion over the SACD and DVD-A formats that has kept people out of the game, but have wondered why they just don't issue albums on standard DVD that can be played on any existing player. This could allow for an album to have a MCH, Stereo and Mono (if applicable) on one disc and any video extras they want to include. From a record company standpoint it seems like a good idea as well to get people to start buying discs again, or they could just release on line in the form of .iso downloads.

    I guess one of the issues could be that at this point such albums wouldn't be readilly portable in the same sense as a CD. You could always make the disc double sided with a CD layer or a hybrid. But, for example, with my SACDs, there's only one room in the house where I can enjoy them (not counting the standard CD layer) and then at only certain times because my wife will want to watch TV.

    However, if they can start getting Killer apps for the format, that could certainly generate interest. Like if they released the Beatles catalog in the format with MCH, Stereo and Mono options, I know I'd be right in line.
     
  8. Alon Goldberg

    Alon Goldberg Screenwriter

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    Actually on the topic of the Beatles, I recently did an A-B comparison of the Beatles Love CD on my Naim CD5x vs DVD-Audio in my Oppo 983, both using analogue connections to my two-channel stereo system. Needless to say, I could only handle a few minutes with the Oppo, it sounded thin and weak, very tinny, lacked musicality, no presence or soul... I heard absolutely no added detail with DVD-Audio.

    I know this is hardly a fair comparison as the Naim CD Player costs over 10x the Oppo... But no question in my mind that a quality CD player can hold its own against a mass-market DVD-Audio player, and beat it handily via analogue.

    But even though I see no merit in SACD or DVD-Audio, I agree with the OP that they should have just stuck with DVD as a high resolution medium, allowing consumers to use existing players which are good enough on most systems. But its too late now as mp3 has won the audio war. Thankfully some artists (Nine Inch Nails for instance) are releasing 24/96 lossless downloads, so we can stream high resolution audio to our hifi systems, rendering the player obsolete.
     
  9. gene c

    gene c Producer

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    I used to think dvd's could replace cd's altogether. If they had aggressively marketed in-dash dvd players (that also played cd's, and maybe SACD/DVD-A in higher end models) to the car stereo crowd from the get-go this may have had a chance.

    As for the OP's main question, I bought my first 10-12 DVD-A discs, as well as a few DTS discs, before I bought my first universal player so I could listen to the mc mixes.

    Maybe someone could loan you one of those $20,000 Meridian DVD-A players to make the comparison a little more even [​IMG] .
     
  10. Dennis Nicholls

    Dennis Nicholls Lead Actor

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    I'm always amazed that they didn't just use the order-of-magnitude increase in data capacity of a DVD-9 over a CD to either (1) give higher bitrate/resolution PCM audio or (2) give about 10 hours of redbook audio.

    (1) wouldn't have required a "format war" between two proprietary codecs (MLC vs. DSD). I'm pretty sure any PCM audio patents have long since expired.

    (2) would give classical music collectors a way to get their shelves back. Can you imagine all of Beethoven's symphonies on a single disc? Right now my "complete JS Bach" set requires over 180 CDs - can you imagine getting that count down to a couple of dozen?
     
  11. Blair G

    Blair G Second Unit

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    This doesn't surprise me. No matter how great a value the Oppo's are, there has to be a limit to what they can do at that price.
    That's why, despite the vigourous protestations of all my Oppo owning friends, I spent a lot more and got a semi decent universal for hi-rez playback. Maybe they can't hear the difference (or don't care) but I can.
    Do not regret spending the money one bit, and it does a great job on DVD's too [​IMG]
     
  12. WillG

    WillG Producer

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    Speak of the devil. Saw this is the Beatles Reissue thread. Obviously, it's nothing definate

     
  13. Philip Hamm

    Philip Hamm Lead Actor

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    (1) happened. The Classic Records DADs are DVD-Videos with 96/24 uncompressed PCM audio. The ones I have sound incredible.

    Bottom line: All the companies wanted to collect loyalties on a multichannel format, they didn't want to pay Dolby or DTS, they wanted to come up with their own format (Panasonic/DVD Forum: DVD-A / Sony : SACD) so they could get the kind of long term loyalty payouts that Sony and Philips have enjoyed from the Compact Disc. It looked like a good business decision. Problem is that there are so many formats and things that the consumer (99.99% of which would never had more than a passing interest in multichannel music) is bewildered at best.

    DTS CD or DTS on DVD is all that was ever needed to reproduce excellent quality multichannel music. Yes, I've heard SACD, DVD-A extensively, and yes, on paper they have better "specs", being lossless. In reality the "quality" difference is negligible.

    DVD-Video at 96/24 is all that was ever needed to reprodice excellent quality stereo music, even for the most discerning listener. I have a few of the 96/24 DADs and they sound breathtaking.

    The new MVI DVDs are very promising. I have the Donald Fagan set and very highly recommend it. Completely within the DVD-Video spec, high resolution lossless stereo tracks, DTS multichannel tracks, videos, included MP3s, etc. They are what the market could have borne had they come out before all the ensuing confusion of all the formats.
     
  14. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

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    By including the MP3s, they solve the problem of the DVDs not being so portable.

    Are there a lot of MVIs out there yet? I only know of a few.
     
  15. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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    My bad for not directly answering the OP question. [​IMG]

    I think with Blu-Ray catching on, that may be the best bet for niche but wider hirez audio format as the audio can ride the video improvement wave.
     
  16. townsend

    townsend Agent

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    I think that is the key. Sony and Philips, among others, wanted to replace the CD because royalty payments were expiring. Therefore, they were out to create a new proprietary format (SACD; the DVD-A consortium was backing DVD-A), not use an existing technology, DVD, which you have well argued, was sufficient to present both 1) hi-rez audio; and 2) multi-channel audio. And with an existing hardware base of DVD players already in place, yes, the use of DVD for hi-rez, multichannel audio, with capacity for video, was a no brainer.

    A second reason for creating a new hi-rez format might have to do with copy protection. IIRC, SACD is much harder to hack/copy than CD.

    The end result is the same . . . these new high def formats were not designed to benefit consumers. They were motivated by greed--this is the only way I know to explain irrational business decisions. Yes, I own a few DVD-As and a dozen SACDs, some sound great, some sound not so great. A well remastered RBCD is still a thing of beauty and highly desired (look at what OOP DCC and MFSL CDs sell for).
     
  17. Dennis Nicholls

    Dennis Nicholls Lead Actor

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    I'm not sure how many "royalty payments" have really been collected.

    I'm a (retired) patent attorney. In most cases, patent enforcement works out like this. Company A sends a dunning letter to company B stating that B is infringing patent #X. B responds with a letter stating "by an amazing coincidence, YOU are infringing our patent #Y". This is known in general parlance as a "Mexican standoff". [​IMG] After paying the patent attorneys lots of money [​IMG] , A and B sign a "cross-licence" agreement wherein both can use each other's patents with NO money changing hands.

    It's only when upstart company C enters the field that the stuff hits the fan. With no patents of their own, both A and B come down like a load of bricks on C.
     
  18. Phil A

    Phil A Producer
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    As far as the capacity of standard DVDs, I saw this somewhere:

    “The maximum data rate for audio on DVD-Video is specified as 6.144 Mbps. It can be sampled at 48 or 96 kHz with 16, 20, or 24 bits/sample. There can be from 1 to 8 channels. So there are actually lots of options for uncompressed surround-sound:
    8 channels of 48/16 = 6.144 Mbps
    6 channels of 48/20 = 5.760 Mbps
    5 channels of 48/24 = 5.760 Mbps
    4 channels of 96/16 = 6.144 Mbps
    3 channels of 96/20 = 5.760 Mbps
    2 channels of 96/24 = 4.608 Mbps
    It's not quite as good as DVD-A offered by including MLP, but it would have been better to have a format that actually survived instead of a pipedream.


    With regard to royalties, Sony/Philips were making around $1,000,000,000 per year on CD royalties before the patents expired, and most of that was from software.
     
  19. Dennis Nicholls

    Dennis Nicholls Lead Actor

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    Do you have a citation for that claim? [​IMG] I was a contract patent attorney for Sony back then and I never saw a figure like that before.
     
  20. Phil A

    Phil A Producer
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    There are lots of estimates on how much it was worth.

    DVD Benchmark

    “As the patents and royalties expire for the original Compact Disc, Sony/Philips, co-inventors of the wildly successful Compact Disc format, were looking for an alternative to continue to provide the lucrative money stream that the original CD provided.”


    I have seen these numbers all over the place:

    “The same went for CDs. Philips got about 1.8 cents per CD disc while Sony got about 1.2 cents per disc, according to analysts estimates.”


    The amounts per disc probably derive from Wall St. analysts to try to figure out how much of a hit the bottom line would take.

    Here is an article about CD sales numbers:


    CD sales in downward spiral | New York Times Upfront | Find Articles at BNET

    “CD album sales have also fallen sharply, down from 943 million units sold in 2000 to 803 million units in 2002--a fall of 140 million.”

    The larger number in the previous post was from another source I saw somewhere. I saw another source that put the loss to Philips at only $42M which would probably make Sony's around $30M or a total of about $72M.

    I've seen lots of estimates. Obviously (the loss) it was large enough to try to invent new formats to capture a new revenue stream for what they were losing. There would be no other reason to put money into R&D, marketing, production costs, etc. if it was a small number.
     

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