A Cautionary Tale – Digital Interface for DVD-Audio

The news of a digital interface for DVD-Audio has generated much excitement amongst home theatre enthusiasts, but the release of the DVD Forum’s guidelines for the use of an IEEE 1394 (Firewire) interface should be treated with caution.

It is important to note that the September 2001 document – available from the DVD-Forum web site – is a v0.9 draft (as is clearly indicated on the first page) and not finalised specifications, as some have misinterpreted it to represent.

The DVD Forum draft indicates a set of protocols and system decoder implementation that is likely to be used to transmit both digital video and audio from player to decoder, external DAC or display device – see previous news story for more specifics. However, although the basics are unlikely to change greatly when the digital interface is finalised, the time-scale involved may not please those of us who have been eagerly awaiting suitably equipped hardware and an alternative to six analogue interconnects.

Meridian’s Robert Stuart, DVD-Audio proponent and developer of Meridian Lossless Packing (MLP), the loss-less system used to encode multi-channel audio upon DVD-Audio discs, informed High Fidelity Review that in his opinion, it would be “some time” before a final, universally accepted standard is agreed upon.

Also, while the interface specifics may be nearing completion, the copy protection issue remains as confused as ever (see previous news report regarding the legal fight between Verance and Digimarc) which explains the vague references to copy protection within the DVD Forum’s document.

Robert Stuart commented “…the DVD Forum does not deal with copy protection. That technology will be chosen from a totally separate and independent entity. I don’t envy that group its task since they will have to negotiate with both the music industry and Hollywood!

Once again it appears advances in technology will be stifled by the paranoia of software producers. For an interesting take on this issue from HFR reader Martin Fendt, see: ‘Copy ‘Protection’ Sense’ in our letters section.