At the recent Tonmeistertagung 2002 show in Hanover, Germany, top recording and mastering engineers from around the world gathered to discuss the latest recording and mastering products and techniques. At this event, engineers from several key studios participated in a panel that focused on DSD and SACD and officials from Sony and Philips Europe provided an update on the format’s progress in Europe, information provided in a joint Sony/Philips press release:
Update on SACD in Europe
“With more than 1 million Super Audio CD players sold in Europe, we are experiencing unprecedented demand from every sector. The European recording industry is responding by gearing up for Super Audio CD production and we are investing heavily in new disc manufacturing facilities in every territory. 2003 is set to be a very exciting year for Super Audio CD,” said David Walstra, Director, Sony Super Audio CD Business Centre, Europe at the start of Tonmeistertagung 2002.
According to Sony and Philips officials: “Four years ago, at Tonmeistertagung 1998 in Karlsruhe, Super Audio CD was an emerging technology that offered huge potential to the global music recording industry. Today, that potential is being realised through large scale commitments from many of the world’s leading record companies, including Sony Music, Universal Music Group, EMI, Virgin, Zomba and a host of leading independents.”
Sony and Philips report that there are more than 850 Super Audio CD titles available worldwide. This total includes “increasing numbers of multi-channel releases and hybrid discs”.
Sony and Philips also feel that “…another strong benefit of Super Audio CD is the strong defence it offers against music piracy. With five independent forms of protection, Phillips and Sony believe that this format offers unrivalled protection for record companies and artists.”
“Format security is a critical element of the Super Audio CD format,” says Jos Bruins, Marketing Director DVD and Super Audio CD at Phillips Standards & Intellectual Property, “…as well as its stereo and multi-channel sound quality.”
Roundtable on SACD and DSD Production
During Tonmeistertagung 2002, organizers offered a special roundtable entitled Postproduction for Super Audio CD to discuss production techniques in the Direct Stream Digital (DSD) format. According to information supplied to High Fidelity Review by Sony and Phillips, the roundtable was to be chaired by Zenon Schoepe from the UK and include Bob Ludwig from Gateway Mastering in Portland, Maine, US; Ronald Prent from Galaxy Studios in Mol, Belgium; Andreas Neubrunner from Tritonus Musikproduktion in Stuttgart, Germany; Stefan Bock from MSM Studios in Munich, Germany; and Simon Heyworth, founder of the new Super Audio Mastering (SAM) facility in Exeter, England.
The information supplied to us then went on to quote both Bob Ludwig and Ronald Prent, as did our original version of this story, but it has since come to our attention that neither were in attendance. Bob Ludwig contacted High Fidelity Review to draw our attention to this and explain that his absence was due to unforeseen travel difficulties. We’d therefore like to apologize for re-publishing what could be construed as misleading information provided by Sony and Phillips, although understandably, we did so in good faith. Both Ludwig and Prent’s “quotes” have been removed from this page.
In addition to roundtable on SACD and DSD production, Tonmeistertagung 2002 also had several exhibits of DSD studio equipment. Among the companies exhibiting DSD and Super Audio CD production tools at the show were dCS, Genex, Merging Technologies, Sadie and Sonic Studio. (For more information on these DSD products, check our earlier reports on the 113th AES Convention, linked below).
European Studios Working with DSD
At Tonmeistertagung 2002, Sony and Philips announced an increased number of recording studios in Europe that are “actively working with DSD production tools” to create Super Audio CD titles. Some of these studios include:
Recording Studios Comment on SACD and DSD Production
Two years after the launch of Europe’s first Super Audio CD consumer players, a number of major recording studios around Europe have evaluated and now use Direct Stream Digital (DSD) production systems. Here are some comments from the key players at these studios, interviewed prior to the event:
Real World Studios, Box, UK
Mike Large, Director of Operations at Real World Studios says “We’ve always put performance before technology. Basically, we aim to provide a place that encourages great performances, where technology is a slave to the creative and not the other way around.”
Large says the team at Real World are pleased at how straightforward it is to master for DSD. “I would be hard pushed to identify any differences from working for CD, except that the end product is closer to the recorded master,” according to Large.
Mike Large also reports that adopting DSD and Super Audio CD has been straightforward. “As a mixing and editing system it’s very easy to use. The biggest issues are in working in 5.1. It’s much more experimental than stereo and that’s exciting – there are no rules.”
Metropolis Group, London
Mike Gillespie, business development manager and creative director at Metropolis believes that for Super Audio CD to secure its future as a delivery format it needed to offer multi-channel options and it does this very effectively. “With regard to our future strategy, Super Audio CD fits in just fine! We’ve been investing in multi-channel since before there was a commercial delivery format. DVD-Video was the best starting point for multi-channel that we could ever have hoped for.”
“There’s no doubting the enhanced audio quality of DSD and Super Audio CD from our point of view. If the consumer likes it, then it will bring a great deal of value to our business. Being able to offer this service so early in Super Audio CD’s commercial life is also of key strategic importance to us.”
“That a Super Audio CD player will support CD, CD-R, DVD-Video and Super Audio CD takes away the hard sell to the consumer.”
“Early adopters care a great deal about the audio quality associated with Super Audio CD. But with less savvy consumers, issues such as how it integrates within their current HiFi system and music collection are important. It’s not really up to the industry, it’s up to the consumer.”
Sony Music Studios, London
Bob Whitney, 5.1 mastering engineer at Sony Music Studios, London says that “In the future, I think that all new material will be recorded and mixed in DSD.”
“More and more often artists are planning their next albums as 5.1 projects, and with Super Audio CD we can offer them the purest sounding format as well. A client recently came to us with a project they wanted to release on Super Audio CD 5.1, Super Audio CD Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital Stereo and 16 bit, 44.1kHz. By mixing and mastering at the highest possible resolution, DSD, we could guarantee quality and consistency down through all the different formats.”
“We are now seeing more and more clients focusing their attention not only on the advantages of surround work but also on the sonic benefits they are afforded by DSD technology. Having this technology enables us to offer our clients a vastly improved sonic quality, image of sound and a warmth not previously available in the digital age,” according to Nick Kadrnka, studio director at Sony Music Studios, London.
“Once we couple this with the exciting multi-dimensional attributes of surround, most of our clients are amazed by what can be achieved and increasingly request that we do projects in this way. Our reputation as a leading recording/mixing and mastering studio has been vastly enriched by these new developments and we are fast becoming the leading users of both for a wide variety of clients and projects.”
“Our strategy is to offer the complete DSD / Super Audio CD production chain right up to final disc image on a variety of products,” says Rob Buckler, managing director of Strongroom. “It’s vital for us to keep abreast of new developing technologies as Strongroom is regarded by clients as a current technology information centre. Clients look to us for advice on what they should do and how they should present their product. This ties in with our core philosophy: not just with regard to professional equipment but also what the consumer market is doing.”
“We see DSD developing into a coherent mastering tool, changing the way people master a mix in the studio. Over a period of time, multi-track tools will become available as data storage and processing power become less important issues.”