Our great pal Ed Driscoll wrote the other day asking what I thought about the DVD-Audio and SACD formats. If I could come up with something he would quote me in a story he was writing and Blogcritics would get a nice plug. Very thoughtful – Ed’s like that. But I had to reply, rather sheepishly, that I know basically nothing about either. Although I did get some of the Dylan reissues on SACD-hybrid, I don’t have a SACD player, so that doesn’t help much.
Guess I’m not the only one:
- The appeal to consumers was supposed to be better and more lifelike sound quality. The appeal to music companies was supposed to be a new digital format that consumers couldn’t Napster-ize or cheaply copy so it could be sent across the Internet to all their friends.
But instead, two newish audio media formats, DVD-Audio and SACD (short for “super audio compact disc”), seem to be stuck at the starting gate. Rather than replacing the enormously successful CD, these two formats are starting to look like two Next Big Things that may never find a place in tomorrow’s all-digital, relentlessly networked living room.
….Both have been available since 2000 and cost about the same as a CD — while the machines needed to play each disc cost only about $200, slightly more than traditional CD gear. Yet for both, sales have been negligible.
During the six-month period ending in June 2003, only 100,000 DVD-Audio discs were sold, compared with 245 million CDs, the Recording Industry Association of America reports. Even traditional vinyl records outsold DVD-Audio — by a factor of six to one.
Rather than growing, sales of DVD-Audio discs are actually down from the same period a year ago. The RIAA does not track SACD sales.
….”It’s fair to say neither format has set the world alight to date,” said analyst Jim Bottoms, president of Understanding & Solutions, an English firm that specializes in entertainment media research.
To keep users from easily copying songs featured on DVD-Audio discs and SACDs into MP3 files, both formats use encryption technology, which is supposed to keep the digital information in those song files locked away and unreadable except by authorized DVD-Audio or SACD players.
Since consumers have proved reluctant to buy a format they can’t play in their car, SACD backers are offering “hybrid” discs which also feature unprotected (or copy-able) CD layers. A hybrid DVD-Audio is also in the works. Since the CD format was not designed with such security in mind, users can still copy song files off of discs that have this CD layer. [Washington Post]
People just aren’t digging the restrictions and haven’t heard the difference is big enough to bother with. I’d say it’s that simple.