Paul Boutin addressed the shortcomings of the newest audio formats (DVD-Audio and Super Audio CD) over at Slate yesterday; depressingly, the biggest problems he noted are the compromises that were made by companies who will produce readers for the music discs. No hardware that can be installed in computers? No digital outputs on any hardware? What good is all that improved digital clarity and detail when it’s trapped behind analog converters? It’s such an amazing crock, and at a certain point, it gets hard to take any of this seriously.


Something’s not adding up here.

First, it was my understanding that DVD-Audio is simply a DVD, but without the video. The whole point of the format is so it can be played on the millions of DVD players out there. Most, if not all, of these players have a digital audio output.

Second, isn’t multi-channel audio the whole point of these new formats? How can you do that without a digital output? An analog RCA output for each channel? Nevermind the loss in quality, most receivers simply can’t accomodate such a device.

• Posted by: Dan on Jan 7, 2003, 11:48 AM

Amazon lists a Philips SACD/DVD player, with both optical and coaxial digital audio outputs.

• Posted by: Dan on Jan 7, 2003, 11:55 AM

Hmmmm… interesting. I wonder what the real story is, then. In looking at Philips’ spec page for that player, I don’t recognize the names of the ports that provide the digital output, but one has to *assume* that there are digital recorders that have the same inputs, which makes all of this moot.

I wonder if Philips is breaking spec, or if the article is just plain incorrect. Maybe it’s like the old region-free DVD players, which now seem harder and harder to find due to the work of the specmakers…

• Posted by: Jason on Jan 7, 2003, 3:22 PM

The article is most definitely incorrect. I have a Sony DVD player capable of playing DVD-Audio discs. It has an optical digital audio output. I was contemplating buying an SACD-capable player at the time, and I’m almost positive it had one as well. (This was just last month.)

Now, whether it requires some sort of encoding-based copy protection, a la macrovision, is another issue entirely. I doubt it.

• Posted by: Dan on Jan 7, 2003, 5:10 PM

(and the SACD format was co-authored by both Philips and Sony, so it’s unlikely they’re breaking spec.)

• Posted by: Dan on Jan 7, 2003, 5:12 PM

Dan is half correct. DVD-Audio uses the same file system format as DVD-Video. However, DVD-Audio can’t be read on all DVD-Video players. DVD-Audio contains significantly better audio than regular DVD-Video. Of course, these days it would be a bit silly to buy a DVD player that didn’t support DVD-Audio. (I have a first-generation DVD player. It not read DVD-Audio, and it can’t read CD-R CDs, CD-RW CDs, or CDs with MP3s)

Dan is also correct in saying that DVD-Audio and SACD players have digital outputs. The article is simply wrong. Besides the Philips player, Sony also has a nice player with progressive scan:

(Crutchfield is a great site for audio equipment because they have really good photos. They cost a little bit more than amazon, but they are really reliable and have very good phone support.)

On the other hand, if you really want better audio quality with your existing CDs, you are better off spending any extra money on speakers. :-)


• Posted by: Sam Greenfield on Jan 9, 2003, 11:43 AM
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