Classic Records have begun releasing a series of 192kHz 24-bit ‘HDAD’ discs, the titles use both DVD-Audio and DVD-Video technologies to their fullest to deliver two-channel high-resolution versions of renown performances from artists such as Alan Parsons, the Utah Symphony Orchestra and Netania Davrath.
Classic Records’ ‘DAD’ titles were first introduced six years ago using DVD-Video technology, the discs employed two-channel 96kHz 24-bit PCM, at the time an unprecedented resolution for a consumer delivery format. The new dual-sided ‘HDAD’ discs feature the same DVD-Video compatible 96/24 content, but on the reverse, now also include a DVD-Audio alternative that enables the company to re-release existing titles and extend their portfolio using a 192kHz 24-bit delivery medium.
Talking to High Fidelity Review, Michael Hobson, President of Classic Records, detailed some of the advantages he believes are afforded by the dual-sided ‘HDAD’ approach.
Although experiments were conducted with DVD-9 discs (dual-layer), it was found that DVD-Audio players were often inconsistent when it came to the default audio track selection when two stereo mixes were present, therefore even those with DVD-A compatible hardware could unwittingly find themselves listening to the 96kHz version. By using a dual-sided disc, there is no mistaking which track is being played – the DVD-Audio content is on one side, indicated by a red “DVD-Audio This Side Up” label, while on the other can be found the DVD-Video track, indicated by a blue label.
I asked Michael why Classic aren’t describing the discs as straightforward DVD-Audio titles, since double-sided discs (DVD-Video on one and DVD-Audio on the other) aren’t unusual, labels such as AIX and even Warner Music Group have produced such titles. “The DVD-A logo implies restrictions,” he said, citing the need for a specific type of packaging etc., all of which can be avoided by using the ‘HDAD’ name. It’s important to note however, that new hardware is not required to enjoy a ‘HDAD’ title, all one needs is a DVD-Video or DVD-Audio player.
The three initial releases contain standard PCM data, Meridian Lossless Packing has not been used on the DVD-Audio side because it simply wasn’t required, the datarate of two-channel 192kHz 24-bit (alone in the DVD multiplex) falls within the maximum data transfer ceiling of DVD and disc space was not at a premium. Michael does not have any technical or subjective objections to MLP however, and it will be employed if the need arises for lossless compression on any future titles.
Enthusiasts will be delighted to learn that the Classic Records discs do not use any form of copy protection, so if the replay hardware allows it, even the DVD-Audio 192kHz 24-bit content can be transmitted digitally to an external DAC or processor. Likewise the DVD-Video 96kHz stream, an option more widely supported by DVD players and processors. Most music companies are extremely paranoid about allowing free access to such high resolution material, so I wondered why this wasn’t the case at Classic Records. Simply put, Michael didn’t really consider the move as one that would give a free reign to pirate activities, after all, just sixty seconds of two-channel 192kHz 24-bit PCM weighs in at almost 66Mb, so even with today’s high speed connections it just isn’t practical to share such high resolution audio via the Internet.
The first three titles on the Classic Records ‘HDAD’ roster are Mahler’s 8th Symphony (HDAD-2001), ‘Songs of the Auvergne’ (HDAD-2002) and ‘I Robot’ (HDAD-2003). All three are available from the Classic Records web site priced at $30. Box ‘comparison’ sets, which include a 200gm QUIEX Super Vinyl Profile LP can also be ordered, priced at $54. Classic describe the three discs as follows:
“Mahler’s famous Symphony of a Thousand performed by the Utah Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Maurice Abravanel is a firm favourite. Transferred on an all-tube cutting system from the original master tapes at Bernie Grundman Mastering. ‘Songs of the Auvergne’ was made famous by Harry Pearson of the Absolute Sound for its lifelike qualities and the alluring vocals by Netania Davrath. The package combines the original volumes one and two into a two-disc set. The man behind the recording of ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ is none other than Alan Parsons. If you want to hear what is his definitive recording and a bit of the Dark Side then this is it. ‘I Robot’ was produced and engineered by Alan at Abbey Road Studios and is an audiophile’s dream recording. It was transferred on an all-tube cutting system from the original ј” analogue master tapes at Bernie Grundman Mastering.”
Asked about the imminent future of ‘HDAD’, Michael Hobson revealed that he is planning “nine or ten” additional releases during the remainder of the year, and that they would be “mainly new” titles to the Classic Records catalogue. Fans of DVD-Audio and high-resolution stereo material will undoubtedly be delighted.