113th AES: Genex and Sony Lead New SACD Pro Products

While much of the talk about the SACD format from the recent AES Convention in Los Angeles was about the SACD Industry Update and the preview of tracks from several upcoming SACD discs, there was significant news on the SACD Pro Hardware front as well. As we reported earlier, the folks at SADiE jumped the gun by announcing the upcoming release of their new 8 Channel DSD Mastering System the day before the AES Conference opened (see link below).

Once the show doors open, there were several more new DSD and SACD pro hardware products on display for show attendees to check out. Here’s a look at some of the more interesting of these products.

Sony “D-Map” DSD Modular Audio Processing Modules
Earlier this year at the 112th AES Convention in Europe, Sony unveiled their new DSD Modular Audio Processing Modules known as “D-Map”. Designed by the Sony Broadcast and Professional Audio Group based in Oxford UK, these modules provide DSD processing and interfaces to audio equipment designers. This enables third party companies to add DSD features and to develop and market DSD products using DSD technology Sony has already developed.

The D-Map MixEQ module provides DSD mixing and equalization to DSD audio. According to the Sony Oxford staff, the D-Map MixEQ module “contains all the basic building blocks required to mix and add equalization to DSD audio streams and products.” Applications that they envision for this module include building true DSD EQ and tone controls, building DSD mixers and surround panners, DSD faders, high quality surround mixers/workstations/recorders, high end SACD digital preamps and players and standalone DSD effects units.

The D-Map MAC-DSD module uses a Category 5 Ethernet cable with an RJ45 connector on either side to carry 24 channels of bidirectional DSD audio plus a high quality DSD sample clock on a single cable. MAC-DSD is designed to combine Ethernet physical layer technology with Sony’s DSD systems to create a “high bandwidth, low latency audio interconnection.” Several MAC-DSD modules can be synchronized together in equipment that runs in parallel for applications where the hardware manufacturer wishes to utilitize 48 channels or more of DSD audio.

In addition to MixEQ and MAC-DSD, the Sony Oxford group is also offering a D-MAP Development Board and a DSD Development Kit which carries the nickname of “DSD-In-A-Box”. The Oxford staff told me that some of their technology is being used in the upcoming SADiE 8 Channel DSD Mastering product as well as several other DSD products that will be coming to market in the months ahead. The application of these modules to the pro market should prove very interesting indeed.

Genex Introduces New 8 Channel and 48 Channel DSD Recorders
UK based Genex brought a key piece of the puzzle to the DSD pro market in May 2001 with the introduction of the first commercially available DSD recorder, the Genex GX-8500. The GX-8500 is a multichannel hard disk recorder that offers the ability to record 8 channels of either DSD audio or 24 bit, 192kHZ PCM audio. Since that product was introduced it has shown up in many applications where a high quality DSD recorder is needed.

At the AES Convention, Genex introduced attendees to their next generation DSD and PCM recorders – the GX-9000 and the GX-9048. These products offer either 8 channels (GX-9000) or 48 channels (GX-9048) of high quality DSD or 24 bit, 192kHZ PCM recording. Other features of these two new Genex recorders include twin removable bays, single wire 24 bit/192kHz PCM recording, seamless punch in and out in DSD mode, bidirectional PCM (any sample rate) to DSD conversion, support of the AES31, Genex linear and DSD IFF file formats, high speed SCSI and Firewire storage interfaces, RAID disk mirroring, USB 2.0 control interfaces. Options for the new recorders include an Optical MADI interface for DSD or PCM data, an Analog/DSD/AES3id interface card, a DSD/AES3id interface card, an AES3/AES3id interface card, a discrete BNC termination panel, an mLan interface and an optional 48 channel metering system for the GX-9048.

The new GX-9000 (8 channel recorder) has a base price of $3,200 and will be available in January. The GX-9048 (48 channel recorder) has a base price of $17,000 and will be available in March.

Mytek Introduces Stereo DSD Master Recorder
Aiming for a different market than Genex, Mytek Digital used the AES Convention to introduce their new D-Master DSD.

The D-Master DSD is a Stereo DSD Digital Master Recorder. Mytek Digital sees the D-Master DSD as having several uses including a high quality stereo field recorder and a “digital audiophile alternative” to traditional stereo master recorders like the 1/2″ 30ips Studer.

According to Mytek,

“the D-Master DSD utilizes the breakthrough DSD technology developed by Sony and Philips. This technology is the only digital format that sounds like analog. DSD’s stunning performance has been confirmed by every engineer who has had the opportunity to work with the format. The D-Master DSD is targeted to replace 1/2″ master tape recorders and to provide the ultimate conversion for album mixing, mastering and archiving.”

Other features of the D-Master DSD include an internal 2 channel AD/DA DSD converter, DSD SDIF-2 and SDIF-3 digital inputs and outputs, an optional 44.1 to 192kHz PCM daughterboard for downconverting DSD audio to PCM audio, the ability to gang multiple units to accomodate more than 2 channel DSD recording, programmable features through software downloads from the Internet, an audiophile quality headphone amp and volume control, support for the DSD IFF file format and an optional 1U disc bay enclosure for IDE Hard Disk and DVD-R/DVD-RAM storage.

The Mytek Digital D-Master DSD recorder is scheduled to be available during the 1st Quarter of 2003 at a suggested list price of $5,995.

Sonic Studio to Add 8 Channel DSD Option to Sonic Studio HD
Sonic Studio LLC, a spin off company of Sonic Solutions introduced a DSD Option for their popular Sonic Studio HD product at the AES Convention. The current version of SonicStudio HD incorporates advanced HDSP and RISC technology. It offers a complete, one-stop audio production solution that supports multichannel sampling rates up to 192kHz with integrated surround sound mixing and editing interface.

The SonicStudio HD DSD/SACD option will feature complete Scarlet Book authoring integrated with Sonic Studio’s popular HD authoring and editing system. Operating inside the familiar SonicStudio HD editing environment, the new DSD/SACD option will have full authoring capabilities complete with an integrated DST encoder. DST (Direct Stream Transfer) encoding is a lossless packing method that may be applied to the DSD-encoded audio data stream where it exceeds the 4.7 Gigabyte native capacity of the disc.

All-new hardware supporting the new DSD/SACD option for SonicStudio HD includes eight inputs and eight outputs via the SDIF-3 professional interface. The system also supports 16 x 8-channel DSD mixing internally, offering eight-channel playback with crossfades.

Sonic Studio’s DSD/SACD option for the SonicStudio HD environment is projected to be available for shipping in March 2003. Pricing for the DSD/SACD options will be announced at that time.

“DSD technology not only delivers the best quality sonic experience currently available but it also offers a secure method by which ultra-high-resolution audio may be delivered to consumers,” commented Jeff Wilson, CEO and Director of Development for Sonic Studio. “With the addition of this new DSD/SACD option, Sonic Studio’s workstations, which are already used for the preparation of over 65 percent of commercially-released CDs worldwide, will offer our customers in the music recording industry the complete range of authoring tools.”

Prism Sound Enters the DSD Converter Market
Prism Sound, a UK based maker of A/D and D/A PCM converters announced that they are planning to enter the DSD converter market. The upcoming DSD Converter from Prism will be based on their ADA-8 multichannel converter. The ADA-8 currently offers eight channels of 24-bit, 96kHz conversion – both A-D and D-A. It also has an optional interface to the high-definition version of Pro Tools which Prism says has proved quite popular.

The price of the upcoming Prism DSD Converter will be in the neighborhood of $10,000 – $12,000. The converter is scheduled for release in the 1st Quarter of 2003.