Sonopress and Crest National Increase Hybrid SACD Production

As the number of record labels releasing Super Audio CDs increases, so too does the demand for the production of these discs.

To date, all but one of the SACD titles from Sony Music (“Pop Condition” by Spitball) has been issued as a Single Layer SACD which offers a Stereo SACD and an optional Multichannel SACD track that is playable only on SACD players. The Sony Single Layer SACDs are manufactured by Sony at three of their plants (one each in the US, Japan and Europe).

Interestingly, most of the other record labels offering SACD discs have chosen to release Hybrid Layer SACDs. Hybrid SACDs feature two layers: the aforementioned SACD layer with a Stereo SACD and optional Multichannel SACD track as well as a conventional CD layer. The advantage of Hybrid SACD discs is that they can be played back on any SACD player as well as standard CD players.

However, most of the Hybrid SACDs come from the Sonopress pressing plant in Germany. This has led to some production backlogs as the number of SACD disc titles has increased. To address the need for more Hybrid SACD production, Sonopress and Crest National are working to bring more Hybrid SACD production on line in both Europe and the United States.

Sonopress Increases Hybrid SACD Production in Two Stages
Hybrid SACD production from Sonopress has been ongoing since early 2000. The original Hybrid SACD pressing line was developed by Sonopress with technology provided by the Philips Optical Disc Technology Centre (ODTC) and Toolex.

Starting in 2000, Sonopress has been running one production line that was capable of producing 6,000 Hybrid SACD discs per day. To increase capacity, Sonopress has moved to a new process to press Hybrid SACDs.

The new process is said to significantly increase the efficiency and flexibility of the current production line for Hybrid SACD discs. This will give Sonopress the capacity to respond to increased demand for Hybrid SACD discs. The new process started running on the existing Hybrid SACD production line in June and increased the daily Hybrid SACD production capacity at the plant from 6,000 Hybrid SACD discs per day to over 12,000 Hybrid SACD discs per day.

Also under way at Sonopress is the installation of a second Hybrid SACD production line. Like the current production line, the new line will also be capable of producing over 12,000 Hybrid SACD discs per day. When the second line is operational in September, Sonopress says they will be capable of producing a total of almost 25,000 Hybrid SACD discs per day.

“This new production line represents an important step forward in the worldwide adoption of Super Audio as the next-generation CD standard for high quality sound reproduction”, said Jos Bruins, Philips’ Marketing Director for the Super Audio format. “We are expecting popular, high volume Super Audio releases to be produced in the very near future, and we are happy with the increased capacity that Sonopress’ facility is providing”.

“By offering an end-to-end service to record labels we will speed and facilitate their entry into the Super Audio market with both new titles as well as special SACD reissues of their existing assets”, said Hermann Heemeyer, Senior Vice President Sales and Marketing Sonopress Europe. “We expect demand for SACD product to increase rapidly as the penetration of SACD-capable audio systems spreads into the broadly based consumer marketplace, and the facilities that we offer will make it easy and cost-effective for record labels to address those emerging opportunities.”

Crest National and Philips to Bring Hybrid SACD Production to the US
While the work at Sonopress will expand Hybrid SACD disc production, it still leaves the US without a Hybrid SACD pressing plant. To change that situation, at the Home Entertainment 2002 show in New York, Philips and Crest National announced plans to develop a Super Audio CD (SACD) hybrid disc production line to be installed in Crest National’s replication facilities in Hollywood, California. This Hybrid SACD production line is scheduled to be installed this summer, with full production by autumn of this year. When operational, the first line will have a production capacity of 3 million SACD hybrid discs a year.

Crest National and Philips say that they plan to add more Hybrid SACD production lines to the Crest National plant in Hollywood after the first line is operational.

“Philips is pleased that SACD hybrid disc production will now be installed by one of the leading disc replicators and post production facilities in the world,” says Jos Bruins, Philips’ Marketing Director for the Super Audio CD format. “This is an important part of the next phase of the roll out of SACD into the mass market.”

“Crest National is pleased to be taking a leading role in SACD hybrid disc manufacturing,” says Ronald E. Stein, President, Crest National. “We welcome the opportunity to partner with Philips to bring this exiting new medium to North America. It is a further reflection of Crest’s experience and expertise in implementing new technologies and bringing high quality products to the world’s most demanding customers.”