Crest National Issues Statement on SACDs With Cracks

Crest National has issued a statement regarding the reports of cracks in seven SACD discs made at their plant. Earlier today I spoke with an official from the Hollywood, California-based company. HFR readers will recall that our initial story on this matter (see link below) revealed that the affected SACDs included some copies of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, three SACDs from DMP Records (Grace, Gently and Amelia’s Song), two SACDs from Groove Note Records (Soular Energy and Just Friends) and one SACD from Varese Sarabande Records (Star Trek: Nemesis). All but the Star Trek: Nemesis SACD had been previously discussed on several Internet audio discussion groups the prior weekend.

In talks with Crest National as well as several firms that sell SACDs on the web (Acoustic Sounds, Elusive Disc and Music Direct), it was clear that none of these companies had heard of or were aware of this issue until they received my email inquiries on the topic this weekend.

Statement From Crest National
This afternoon, Crest National issued a statement on the cracked SACDs. Their statement is as follows:

“Recently there have been Web discussions about SACDs manufactured by Crest National having visible cracks around the center hole of the disc. The issue appears to be limited to a very small number of discs of which we have only been able to obtain a few samples exhibiting such cracks. We have examined the samples in our possession and the cracks are minute in size, and purely cosmetic.

We have performed accelerated aging tests on the cracked discs and verified that the cracks do not affect the life expectancy or playability of the discs. While this issue is purely cosmetic and appears to affect only a limited number of discs, we have taken immediate steps to modify our process to effectively eliminate this issue for all discs produced going forward. We will be monitoring this closely to insure that our corrective actions are effective.”

Interview With Crest National
After receiving the statement from Crest National, I contacted plant officials and held a phone interview with Bob Freedman who is Senior Vice President, Technical Operations, Optical Media at the company. Here are some highlights from that discussion:

When Did Crest First Learn of the Problem?
According to Freedman, Crest first learned of the cracked SACD issue on Monday. They reviewed the Internet audio discussions on the matter that had been referred to them.

Crest staff members then went to record stores in the area and bought 10 copies of Dark Side of the Moon to see if they could find affected discs. All 10 of the SACDs they purchased on Monday were fine. (This confirms the comments we saw over the weekend on the Internet that some Crest copies of Dark Side of the Moon are impacted and others are not).

Next, Crest set out to obtain copies of some of the SACDs that were cracked. As I noted earlier, the affected discs found were from the 7 SACD titles noted above. Once samples of the impacted SACDs were obtained, they were examined and tested.

What Kind of Tests Did Crest Perform on the Cracked SACDs?
Crest’s staff performed visual inspection of the cracked SACDs under magnification. What they learned is that the cracks are present only on layer 1 (label side) and that the cracks extend to the binding resin “lacquer line” but no further. Their conclusion is that the cracks are cosmetic in nature and the SACDs remain playable.

Next, accelerated aging and deterioration tests were conducted on SACDs of Dark Side of the Moon and Star Trek: Nemesis that had cracks present. The purpose of the tests was to see if the discs would remain playable over time and if cracking would increase and worsen upon extensive use. The results of the tests were that the discs remain playable (see statement).

Has Crest Already Implemented The Manufacturing Changes Mentioned In The Statement?
Yes. Freedman indicated that changes have been made in how Hybrid SACDs are replicated at the plant which should eliminate the issue for all future SACDs produced at the plant. He assured me that the resulting SACDs would be monitored very closely to be sure that is indeed the case.

What Options Do Consumers Have That Own SACDs With Cracks?
Crest produces optical discs for record companies under contract and they are Crest’s customers. Crest says that consumers that have the SACDs with cracks should be able to return them to the record retailer where they purchased the SACD and get a replacement copy if they wish to replace the disc.

Comments From More SACD Web Outlets
In my initial story, I carried a statement from Elusive Disc President Bob Bantz on the cracked SACD disc situation. In a nutshell, Bantz said Elusive Disc would provide return authorization instructions and would replace cracked SACDs purchased at their web store if customers so desired (see web link below). My discussions revealed similar policies at both Acoustic Sounds and Music Direct as well.

According to officials at Acoustic Sounds, my email inquries on the SACD cracking question were the first they had heard of it, despite selling “hundreds of copies” of this SACD title. Marc Sheforgen at Acoustic Sounds told me: “We’ve yet to have a single complaint regarding a cracked Dark Side SACD. Should we receive such a complaint, we’ll refund that customer’s money or replace the disc.” Acoustic Sounds noted that their Analogue Productions labels which issue SACDs use the Sonopress Hybrid SACD plant so they would not be affected by any issues at the Crest National plant.

At Music Direct, the story was the same. Rob Gillis told me Music Direct has sold “hundreds” of copies of Dark Side of the Moon and had received no consumer comments or concerns about the SACD disc. In short, the issue was news to them. He asked me to forward information on the problem and a scan of an affected SACD for review which I did.

While Music Direct didn’t prepare a formal statement, they indicated that they would replace defective SACDs purchased from their firm, noting that such a practice is “industry standard” in their experience. Gillis also noted that the Hybrid SACDs from the company’s Mobile Fidelity label are all pressed at Sonopress in Germany so they are presumably not affected by this matter.

Dark Side of the Moon Copies Pressed by Sony Japan
During the preparation of this follow-up story, I learned that several store chains that carry the Dark Side of the Moon SACD received restock this week on the disc after their initial stock sold out. At both Best Buy and Amoeba Music stores here in the San Francisco Bay Area, the replacement copies were made at Sony Japan’s Hybrid SACD plant – not Crest National.

You can tell these copies from the Crest National copies by looking at the album packaging. The Sony Japan pressed copies do not have the “-US” catalog number extension on the spine of the SACD (the Crest pressing is numbered CDP 7243-5-82136-2-1-US while the Sony Japan pressing is numbered CDP 7243-5-82136-2-1 on the spine).

A second difference is the copies pressed at Sony Japan have the following statement in the copyright block in the lower left hand corner of the back of the disc: “Except Disc Manufactured in Japan for Capitol Records, Inc.”

So customers of these record stores (and perhaps others) may find this an opportune time to exchange their copies of the Dark Side of the Moon SACD if it is from the Crest National batch with the cracks.