Sony Electronics Issues Warning About Dual Disc Compatibility With Sony Disc Players

Late today, Sony confirmed to High Fidelity Review that it has sent out a bulletin to Sony Dealers from Stan Glasgow of Sony Electronics regarding incompatibilities with the new Dual Disc music format and some Sony Disc players. The bulletin which is dated November 2, 2004 appeared on a number of Internet Discussion Groups and Web Sites that discuss music and video earlier today.

It is yet another bit of bad news for the Dual Disc format which has only been on the market since October 26th. High Fidelity Review readers will recall that the Dual Disc format is a “flipper disc” invented by Warner Music which features CD Audio content on one side and DVD Audio and/or DVD Video content on the other side.

Dual Disc was announced in June 2003 by Dolby Labs and touted as a likely candidate to replace the CD Audio disc in the years ahead. Dual Disc is similar to the DVD Plus or One Disc flipper disc format that is patented in Europe by Dieter Dierks of DVD International.

Last week, Warner Music released two titles on Dual Disc. This week the Silverline label was slated to follow with Dual Disc editions of a number of albums they had previously released in the DVD Audio format. On November 23rd, Universal Music plans to release five Dual Disc titles and this will be followed by Dual Disc releases from EMI, BMG and Sony in “Early 2005”.

A Notice from Sony Electronics
In the email to Sony Authorized Dealers, Stan Glasgow, who is the Head of Consumer Product Sales at Sony Electronics of America says that “As you are no doubt aware, the music industry is on the verge of launching a new two sided media product called Dual Disc similar in size to a DVD and CD. This Dual Disc mates DVD recorded material on one side with digital audio material on the other side. However, the audio side of this new media does not meet the technical specifications to be called an “Audio Compact Disc”.

The DVD video content on the DVD side of the Dual Disc should play on, and be compatible with, Sony DVD players and DVD drives. However, Sony DVD players and drives do not support DVD Audio and these devices will not play the DVD Audio formatted content offered on the DVD side of a Dual Disc but should play all other audio content offered on the DVD side. In addition, since the audio side of the Dual Disc does not comply with Audio Compact Disc specifications, it may not be read by Sony DVD and CD players and drives.

In an effort to inform consumers, Sony Electronics will be placing stickers on some of our products in the future alerting consumers to these potential compatibility issues. We will also advise consumers about this issue by our placement of inserts into our products as well as placing information (FAQs) on the website. We trust that you will communicate this information to your employees so that they may properly educate consumers on this issue in order to minimize the risk of returns relating to compatibility between hardware products and Dual Discs.”

Dual Disc Compatibility Issues With Some Players
Readers of High Fidelity Review know that we have been following the Dual Disc story since it was first announced last year. Just prior to the format’s launch, it was discussed at the Surround 2004 Conference in Hollywood in early September.

At that time, the five major record labels backing the Dual Disc format acknowledged the disc would not play in some CD, DVD, SACD, Car Stereo and Computer Disc players. However, they did not believe the percentage of existing players that would have problems with the Dual Discs would be a barrier to the format’s ultimate success. They also announced their plans to label every Dual Disc released with a disclaimer that the disc “may not play on a limited number of models”.

To date, the reaction to Dual Disc has been mostly positive with the Dual Discs playing acceptably on most players. However, there have been reports on several Internet web sites of problems playing the disc with a number of consumer products including some PC Disc drives, Apple Mac Disc drives, some Car Stereo players, some boom box models and some CD, DVD and SACD player models. In the latter group, players consumers have cited as having problems with Dual Disc playback include the Denon 3800 DVD Video & Audio player, the Pioneer 563A DVD Video, DVD Audio & SACD player, the Toshiba SD-9200 DVD Video & Audio player and the Sony XA777ES and Sony C333ES SACD players.

Sony’s Three Part Involvement In The Format
Today’s report from Sony Electronics also highlights the unusual spot the company has with the Dual Disc format.

  • The company’s U.S. Music Division, Sony Music U.S., is one of the format’s supporters and plans to release a handful of titles in the Dual Disc format in “early 2005” following their participation in the format’s test marketing earlier this year.
  • Then there is Sony Electronics of America which markets Super Audio CD/CD players and DVD Video/CD players, but not DVD Audio players. Now that two of their models have been cited as being among the group with Dual Disc compatibility issues, this week’s statement can be viewed as responding to these early reports.
  • Finally, we have Sony Digital Audio Disc Corporation (Sony DADC) which makes the Dual Discs for Sony Music U.S. This is unlike the other labels participating in the Dual Disc format who have their discs made by Cinram, the company which bought out Warner Music’s disc manufacturing group last year. It also explains why the Sony Music Dual Discs have slightly different specs than the ones made by Cinram according to industry insiders who have closely examined and tested the Dual Discs released during the Dual Disc test program earlier this year.

    The View from Warner Music
    At last weekend’s AES Convention in San Francisco, the topic of the Dual Disc was raised during a panel discussion of Surround Sound and its impact on the music business.

    During that panel, Robin Hurley from Warner Music discussed the promise of the Dual Disc and offered his view that the Dual Disc was the logical successor to the DVD Audio format. He also noted that last week’s recall of the Dual Disc by the rock group The Donnas was due to a mastering error on the CD Side of the Dual Disc that resulted in track 11 ending prematurely.

    Hurley also offered what some might view as Warner Music’s “Plan B” when it comes to Dual Disc. During the panel, Hurley said that Warner Music strongly believed in the concept of offering DVD content along with a Music CD. Hurley went on to say that while many artist’s releases with both types of content would come out as Dual Discs in the months ahead, he also said that some artists had asked that their releases appear instead as packages with both CD Audio and DVD discs in the same box.

    Hurley told the audience that a “tech saavy” group like the Talking Heads had asked for their upcoming Surround Sound releases to be issued as Dual Discs (which will sell for $18.98 each) while R.E.M. asked that their upcoming Surround Sound releases be issued instead as packages with separate CD and DVD discs in the package (which Hurley said will sell for $24.98 each).

    Looking Ahead
    Given the ongoing concerns about Dual Disc compatibility with some existing DVD, CD, SACD, Car and Computer Disc players, several questions arise.

  • What level of compatibility with existing products is necessary for the format to succeed in the marketplace?
  • Will future players carry stickers that they are – or are not – Dual Disc compatible?
  • Is the approach of issuing albums with separate CD and DVD discs in one package a better way to go when both types of content are to be sold vs. the Dual Disc?

    Interesting questions – and ones I’m sure we’ll all be asking in the weeks ahead as the Dual Disc launch continues.

    Gold Medal by The Donnas - One of the first two Dual Discs Issued by Warner MusicGold Medal by The Donnas – One of the first two Dual Discs Issued by Warner Music