November 6, 2020 | With the introduction of DVD-Audio,
consumers are once again left to question the shrewdness of buying
yet another stereo component. And since many just stepped up to
DVD-Video, in part because of its backward compatibility with
audio CDs, users might consider it too soon to add a DVD-Audio
player to the mix. But the new technology is certainly tempting,
as it carries the possibility of taking advantage of DVD's higher-density
data capacity and alignment with sonically superior surround encoding.
While it's gratifying to find that a DVD player makes an easy
transition from a CD player with its audio CD compatibility, golden-eared
users may find it a bit unsatisfying that the CDs they play in
it are still just plain old CDs.
Somewhere between that mild dissatisfaction and the onus of
making a second major playback hardware purchase in a year or
two-which is inevitably what "upgrading" to DVD-Audio will mean
to those who bought DVD-V-there has got to be a happier medium,
an extension of the CD format that gives it some sort of DVD "edge."
And how is the industry to satisfy those audiophiles who've steered
clear of DVD to date, waiting for an implementation more suited
to them, but are not yet convinced by the tentative market entries
of DVD-Audio and SACD that either is the one they've been waiting
for? Sonopress Germany (http://www.sonopress.de) offers one escape
route from this audio limbo: a new hybrid disc that might make
DVD-Video player owners and even those who've not yet taken the
plunge a little happier while they ponder their next component
purchase. Sonopress has launched DVDplus, a format that grafts
CD and DVD features onto the same disc.
The company has bonded a normal CD-Audio to one side of a DVD-5,
which means that a whole concert can be stored as a video recording
on the DVD side, while the same concert is available as an audio
recording on the CD side. Consumers who don't have a DVD player
can listen to the CD, and later on reap the benefits of the DVD
when they purchase a player, the company says.
Thus far, the implementation of the format is not quite clear.
To date, the company has released three DVDplus titles, which
are all live concerts including one from Emerson, Lake and Palmer.
By November, other major projects are expected to ship to various
countries including the U.S., Italy, the U.K., and Australia.
Order sizes will range from 35,000 to 100,000 discs, according
to Sonopress marketing manager Simone Schmitt.
Manufacturing a DVDplus does present new challenges. "What are
used as stampers are the negatives of the actual information layer.
We need one stamper per information layer. As is the case when
producing a DVD-10, both information layers of the DVDplus are
molded, metallized, and bonded. The major difference in producing
a DVDplus is the thickness of the disc, which is 0.6mm greater
than a DVD or CD (i.e., twice as thick). "Therefore we need special
tools, which Sonopress has created itself," Schmitt explanied.
The thickness differential has no effect on playability, according
to the company, although opinions seem to vary among members of
the DVD community who have experimented with the format.
Zuma Digital creative and technical director Blain Graboyes
has experimented with DVDPlus and another type of half-DVD/half-CD
disc. "With both discs I have found that the DVD-V portion plays
great on most every player," he said, "but that the Audio CD portion
will not play on any regular CD-Audio player, though it does play
fine in most PCs."
Mark Waldrep, CEO of AIX Media Group had similar results. "I
have had one of these discs in my possession manufactured in Germany
by Sonopress," he said. "The brief check that I made of its playability
was a disappointment. It would only play the DVD side on my portable
and made some sounds that weren't encouraging."
Both Graboyes and Waldrep felt that the thickness of the discs
was problematic. As Waldrep put it, "I believe that the thickness
of these non-standard discs prohibits them from being the `hybrid'
product that some in the music industry think is necessary."
However, the idea itself is still appealing to Graboyes, he
said. "I think the concept of the format is something of a Holy
Grail. We have many clients who would release DVD content if it
provided some compatibility with CD formats."
Sonopress is confident that the discs will play well, application-wise,
in the audio and DVD markets, and has also addressed the issue
of how they will look as they jockey for their share of retail
shelf space. While only a limited amount of printing space is
available on the DVDplus, for exterior packaging, Sonopress recommends
Super Jewel Boxes with the DVDplus logos stamped on them.
Costs of producing a DVDplus are similar to those incurred in
producing a DVD-9, Schmitt says, and the company has not yet formulated
a suggested retail price. However the pricing ultimately shakes
out, Sonopress believes DVDplus promotes the advantages of DVD
technology while providing the music industry with an opportunity
to significantly increase sales.