Big SACD News from 112th AES Conference

Sony and Philips, developers of the Super Audio Compact Disc (SACD) system made some big announcements at the 112th AES Conference.

Over 1 Million SACD Players Sold to Date
Sony Europe officials announced at the AES Conference that over 1 Million SACD players have been sold to consumers to date. David Walstra, General Manager, Sony Super Audio CD Business Center Europe believes that with more than one million consumer players in use, the format is entering a critical phase.

“Super Audio CD has the potential to revitalise the audio industry in Europe,” he says. “For recording studios, DSD is the service differentiator that can secure a new customer; for record companies Super Audio CD offers a secure distribution media. And for the artists it provides a new standard in audio recording transparency and faithfulness to the original source in both stereo and multi-channel. On top of this consumers are attracted by the new format – for example in the Netherlands some retail chains report Super Audio CD player sales to have outgrown CD with consumers stating that this is far better sound quality at very little extra cost.”

This is good news for the SACD proponents as they had predicted last year that the 1 Million SACD players sold mark would be hit by the end of 2002. Apparently SACD player sales are ahead of that schedule.

More Record Company Support
At AES, Sony and Philips announced that the BMG Group of Record Labels (RCA Victor, J Records, Arista, etc.) would soon be releasing their first SACD discs outside the Hong Kong market. (See our previous story on BMG RCA Hong Kong’s first 4 SACD releases).

To date, over 650 SACD discs have been released worldwide. Super Audio CD is now supported by four of the major record companies (Sony, Universal, EMI and BMG), as well as Zomba, the world’s leading independent record company, and a host of other independent and audiophile labels.

Jos Bruins, Marketing Director at Philips Intellectual Property & Standards, senses that Super Audio CD is very close to gaining its critical mass as a viable recording format. “Does Super Audio CD pay the bills yet? No, but it might well do so before the end of this year,” explained Bruins. “This introduction is following a similar pattern to CD except the timescales are compressed. Why is this? Simply because it addresses all the recording industry needs – it is a viable business model and offers artists and consumers truly outstanding audio quality both in stereo and multi-channel.”

Growing Support by European Recording Studios
A major development in the last 12 months is the increasing number of recording studios in Europe that are actively working with DSD production tools on the creation of Super Audio CD titles. Some of these studios include:

  • Abbey Road studios (UK)
  • Cutting Room (Sweden)
  • Fine Splice (UK)
  • Galaxy (Belgium)
  • Le Roy (Netherlands)
  • Lyrinx (France)
  • Metropolis (UK)
  • MSM Studios (Germany)
  • Nucleus (Germany)
  • Peppermint Studios (Germany)
  • Polyhymnia International (Netherlands)
  • Sanctuary (UK)
  • SARM studios (UK)
  • Sony Music Studios London (UK)
  • Strongroom studios (UK)
  • Tritonus Musikproduktion (Germany)
  • Waters Edge Studios (Germany)
  • Wisseloord (Netherlands)

    New Tools for Recording Studios
    Also announced at AES were a series of new DSD and SACD technologies and tools that will make it easier for record companies and recording studios to produce SACDs.

    Philips came to the AES Convention with news about the development of the Direct Stream Digital Interchange File Format (DSDIFF) and DST coding technology. While DSDIFF has been established as the standard file format for the interchange of DSD and DST (Direct Stream Transfer: encoded DSD) data, DST encoding is now available as a fast software process using standard PC configurations on Windows platforms and an intuitive user interface.

    Sony exhibited “D-MAP” – a new system of compact DSD signal processing modules, which provides digital audio system designers with easy access to top-quality DSD audio processing for functions such as gain, EQ, dynamics and metering. The first D-MAP modules to be introduced by Sony Oxford include MixEQ, a powerful and flexible array of programmable mix and EQ elements for DSD; and MAC-DSD, a DSD multi-channel audio connection comprising a 24-channel, bi-directional DSD interconnection. Nicknamed “DSD-in-a-box,” a new development board kit comprises all the enabling technology for designers to engineer their own DSD audio processing system.

    Many studios are looking at the possibility of standardising on DSD as a recording and mastering medium for all their work, including Super Audio CD and CD production. Using Philips Format Converters or Super Bit Mapping Direct and DSD Creation from Sony, this is possible. Super Bit Mapping Direct is a new means of creating a very accurate PCM version of DSD source material for CD and hybrid Super Audio CD manufacture. DSD Creation takes PCM source material and creates high frequency data to produce DSD output: a function which significantly improves the quality of Super Audio CD’s produced from PCM masters.

    Among the other manufacturers that exhibited DSD production tools at AES were SADiE, Merging Technologies, Genex, dCS, Tascam and Sonic Solutions.