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AUDIOPHILE AUDITION - web magazine for music, audio & home theater

July 28, 2004

New Formats in the News...

DVD Achieves Majority, VHS on Way Out - Over half of U.S. homes are now watching DVDs instead of VHS videotapes and a quarter of those homes have more than one player. A surprising number of homes who have only a computer DVD-ROM player actually do watch feature films on their PC screens, and Sony Playstation 2 owners are very likely to put a movie DVD into their game consoles. Players are now available in the U.S. for under $60, and many users considering their first or second DVD players are attracted to increasingly-reasonable DVD recorders, to be used for time-shifting TV programming.

Meanwhile Blockbuster, Best Buy and Circuit City have all eliminated new VHS sales. With demand for VHS rapidly reducing, it will become a specialty product only. With the introduction of Hi-Def DVD soon, it appears that the JVC and Marantz-supported D-VHS “D-Theater” Hi-Def tape format is destined to be a very short-lived one, with only 70 movies so far released in the 1080i format. And well before a final decision from Hollywood’s brass on which HD format will be the U.S. standard, both China and Taiwan have introduced and are already producing hi-res optical video hardware and software with their own developed formats: EVD and FVD.

DualDisc Approved - The DVD Forum, supported by the five major record labels, has approved the new hybrid disc with DVD Video and/or DVD-Audio on one side and standard CD on the other side. Pricing will be lower than the $19 seen during test marketing in Seattle and Boston earlier this year, and the launch is hoped for either just before or after this Christmas. The DualDisc provides video content of music artists for the general audience, CD playback for the masses, and hi-res surround sound for music-in-surround fans. It will lower the pricing of many current music releases which provide separate DVDs and CDs in the same package.

High-Efficiency AAC Codec for DVD-Audio - The DVD Forum has also selected Coding Technologies’ HE AAC as the mandatory codec format for the new Compressed Audio Zone in DVD-A discs. Known in the market as MPEG-4 aacPlus, HE AAC allows inclusion of a pre-compressed audio option on DVD-A discs. This feature recognizes the download market as an additional convenience market - not a replacement for hi-res home listening. The enhancement to the DVD-A format makes it possible for users to more easily load music from their DVD-As (and DualDiscs) into their iPods and other low-res portable devices. aacPlus is also being used by XM Satellite Radio, Internet audio (AOL uses a V2 version of it) and WiFi applications. It claims to retain “CD quality” stereo (hah!) while requiring half the storage space of standard MP3 via a bandwidth extension technique called SBR (Spectral Band Replication).

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