Philips to Produce DVD-Audio Capable ‘Universal’ Disc Module

Exclusive: Philips are to introduce an SACD and DVD-Audio solution to market in the form of the SD5.2, an integrated transport and decoder that supports all current DVD and CD-based audio and video formats.

Earlier this year, High Fidelity Review learnt that Philips Electronics N.V. had become an official DVD-Audio licensee, despite the company’s intense support of the rival Super Audio CD format, but the reason for this was unclear. After some investigation, the possibility of Philips producing a ‘universal’ solution for the OEM market was suggested, but obtaining evidence to back this up proved to be particularly difficult…

Philips Semiconductors’ Redhill development centre seemed to be the obvious place to start, but their spokespeople were “unaware” of the company’s DVD-Audio plans and passed us to Tina Withington, Media Relations, Philips Consumer Electronics. In a nutshell, Tina denied all knowledge of a DVD-Audio compatible product from Philips and stated the company’s firm commitment to SACD, making it patently clear that she (and by association Philips) considered DVD-Audio to be an abomination, a format that would never sully the Philips name. Admittedly this reaction was to be expected, a marketing department busily pushing the SACD format was unlikely to admit that their company was also about to start practically supporting its rival, but it was important to follow the usual politically-correct press enquiry route all the same.

Yet the faint smell intrigue still hung in the air, remember, High Fidelity Review was already aware that Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V. had become an MLP and DVD-Audio licensee, so the next person we wrote to was Gerd Götz, Head of Global Media Relations. However, it seems Mr. Götz has an interesting approach to media enquiries… he simply ignores them, so up next was Gareth Kelly, Senior Account Manager at the Hoffman Agency, who proactively contacted High Fidelity Review via a referral from Philips Semiconductors’ Jeannet Harpe in an attempt to assist the cause.

The exact opposite of the unhelpful Mr. Götz, Gareth did his level best to squeeze some information out of various Philips departments across the globe for which we extend our thanks, but in the end his efforts proved fruitless aside from a brief official response (of sorts):

“Philips Semiconductors cannot confirm nor deny or really comment on the whole issue. They do not disclose information regarding OEM customers and as a result are unable to help you further.”

Note, Philips would not confirm or deny the existence of a universal DVD-Audio/SACD transport, so our investigation continued… until today that is, when High Fidelity Review was able to obtain documented proof from an undisclosed source that a Philips universal disc transport really does exist:

A printed data sheet announces the arrival of the Philips SD5.2 Module, a multiple audio playback solution, designed specifically for use in DVD, SACD, DVD-Audio players and combination products. Formats supported are listed as: SACD, DVD-Audio, MP3, DTS, HDCD, Picture CD, CD-Text and MP3-Text. Multi-channel audio decoding is provided by way of eight individual outputs, there are

“comprehensive post-processing options” and the incorporated circuitry also includes a “high-precision video output” with progressive scan that uses 54MHz DACs and a digital video output. The user interface features I2C slave control and is described as “flexible and configurable”.

Detailed specifications as follows:

Disc Types:
• 12cm and 8cm

• DVD-Video (SL, DL, SS, DS)
• SACD (SL, DL, Hybrid)
(CD Audio/DSD)
• DVD-Audio
• Video-CD
• Super VCD (Chaoji VCD)
• MP3 (ISO9660, Joliet)
• Picture CD

Video Outputs:
• Digital YUV (ITU-601)
• RGB or YUV

Audio Outputs:
• SACD DSD (1-bit sampling using LLD)
• I2S Audio
• SPDIF Audio Output

Audio Electrical Inputs:
• Karaoke

Software Communication Protocols:
• I2C (Master/Slave mode)

Software Upgrades:
• Via disc downloading

User Interface:
• Customisable

Operating Temperature Range:
• 5C~55C (operating)
• 30C~70C (storage)

Operating Humidity:
• 8%~80% RH

Power Supply:
• +3v3 DC, +5v DC, +12v DC

Mechanical Specifications:
Loader and PCB side-by-side:
• W153mm × L205mm × H36mm (loader)
• W130mm × L170mm × H13mm (PCB)

Loader with PCB mounted underneath:
• W153mm × L205mm × H46mm

According to the data sheet, manufacturers wanting to obtain more information about the SD5.2 can contact Chong Siew Tan at Philips Consumer Electronics in the Netherlands ([email protected]) or Shinichi Sawaumi of BCT AV Systems in Japan ([email protected]).

Does the introduction of SD5.2 Module indicate that Philips has become a traitor to the Super Audio CD cause by embracing the rival PCM-based DVD-Audio format or simply an indication of the company reflecting the market’s need for more ‘universal’ solutions, a sector currently dominated by Pioneer?

One thing is certainly clear from Philips’ marketing and publicity departments’ reaction to a even whispered mention of the SD5.2 Module; they would rather it not existed at all. These are the people who have tirelessly promoted SACD and lambasted DVD-Audio at every available opportunity, so how do they now perform a complete about-face and embrace both high-resolution formats without appearing hypocritical?

The SD5.2 Module might be Philip’s ‘dirty little secret’, but they’re not alone, Sony, the other half of SACD’s axis of power has a close involvement in Linn’s Silver Disc Engine, an OEM solution that also supports DVD-Audio. High Fidelity Review has learnt that many of the Linn’s components may be sourced directly from Sony Engineering in an agreement that sees Linn act as an OEM go-between for a deliberately restricted high-end market.

Clandestine corporate relationships are commonplace within the world of audio and video, but where DVD-Audio and SACD are concerned, products such as the SD5.2 quickly become political dynamite. The DVD-Audio camp will see the SD5.1 as a partial capitulation by Philips and another step forward for the increasing hardware domination of DVD-Audio.

Whatever your format allegiance, remember the next time you attend a high-resolution audio promotion that while the vocal, omnipresent representatives from Philips and Sony extend the hand of SACD friendship, they hide behind their backs the dagger that is DVD-Audio.