A Hybrid CD/DVD Video Disc and SACD From David Bowie ?

Earlier this week a report posted on the David Bowie web site caused some puzzled reactions on Internet discussion groups. The report indicated that Sony Music’s Columbia Records label intended to release the “Reality” album by Bowie in a “brand new Sony hybrid disc format in North America on November 25th”.

The article also claimed that this release was “part of an industry wide campaign which features approximately fifteen titles by other artists.” Questions were asked about whether this was referring to Sony Music’s plans for a November release of “Reality” as a Hybrid Surround Sound SACD or on some new format such as the rumored “SACD II” or some form of CD/DVD Video “flipper” disc which would have CD Audio on one side and DVD Video on the other.

SACD Version of Reality Album Still On Track
Digging deeper into the story, I learned that Sony Music still plans to release a 5.1 Hybrid Surround Sound SACD of the “Reality” album by David Bowie. The latest word on that version of the album is still November 4th. A check of the Sony Music New Release list on the Internet this morning confirmed the SACD release date.

The Scoop on the CD/DVD Flipper Version of Reality
As for the reports of Bowie’s “Reality” album appearing on a new CD/DVD Video flipper disc which would have CD audio on one side and DVD Video material including a 5.1 Surround Sound track on the other side, playable when flipped over, more light was shed on those comments in this morning’s edition of Consumer Electronics Daily (CED). CED is a daily industry publication that has been tracking the status of the various CD/DVD hybrid and CD/DVD flipper discs very closely over the past few months.

According to the report in Consumer Electronics Daily entitled “Another Setback for DVD/CD Hybrid Flipper Disc”, Warner Music is working on a CD/DVD flipper disc format known as “New Disc”. This is apparently the format that the “Reality” album by David Bowie would have been released on in November along with several other albums from some of the major record labels – in addition to the Hybrid Layer Surround Sound SACD – as mentioned on the Bowie web site.

CED quotes a source from Sony Music as saying that there are concerns about disc playback compatibility, playability in “slot loading players” (such as car audio players), disc thickness and “laser focusing problems” that has led the major record labels studying the new format to delay any plans for releases on this proposed new format (such as “Reality” and the approximately 15 titles mentioned by the Bowie web site) until next Spring at the earliest. (More details on the proposal and the disc compatibility concerns can be found in the Consumer Electronics Daily article).

Earlier Reports on CD/DVD Hybrid and Flipper Discs
As I noted earlier, this is not the first time CED has discussed the status of the various CD/DVD hybrid and CD/DVD flipper discs. In their March 31st issue, CED broke the story that the DVD Forum had “killed” proposals for a dual layer CD/DVD Hybrid disc. High Fidelity Review readers will recall that this news was confirmed by an official at Dolby Labs during their DVD-A Media Event held in June during the Home Entertainment 2003 show in San Francisco (see web link below).

They followed that report up last month on September 29th with the news that disagreements about testing methods and issues such as disc thickness, lack of CD Audio content on test discs and legal concerns raised by the JVC legal staff had put tests of a proposed CD/DVD flipper disc on the back burner.

The Bottom Line
So it appears that David Bowie fans will have to be content with the separate CD, Surround SACD and DVD Video releases of his music for now. We’ll certainly keep an eye on this story as it continues to develop in the months ahead.