Audio News for June 10, 2008

by | Jun 10, 2008 | Audio News | 0 comments

Blu-ray Audio-Only Demo Disc – The Grammy-nominated Norwegian classical SACD label 2L has released the first and so far only audio-only Blu-ray disc. It features the superb string orchestra The Trondheim Soloists, in a program of four works for strings by Britten, Bartok, Bacewicz and Bjorklund.  The title is Divertimenti. Recording in a reverberant church, 2L uses the DXD master format, with incredibly high sound sampling, and then offers  eight different consumer versions on two discs for comparison. The Blu-ray disc contains both of the new hi-res lossless surround formats from DTS and Dolby, along with a 5.1 192K PCM option, plus standard Dolby Surround.  The Blu-ray is fully compatible with Sony’s Playstation 3. The second disc is a three-layer SACD, offering 5.1 surround, stereo and a standard CD option for playing on any CD player or computer. Here is our review and comparison of the two discs.

Toshiba Profits Sink – Toshiba is suffering greatly from having lost out with the failed HD DVD hi-def disc format. They once announced over 26 billion Yen in profits and are now down to 1.25 billion.  They also had losses from the prices of the flash memory  they make falling greatly.  However, they haven’t given up, and later this year plan to introduce a new DVD player that they claim will deliver the same hi-def quality as Blu-ray, but from ordinary DVDs. Standard DVDs currently play back content at about 350,000-pixel resolution, and Blu-ray is six times greater, or about 2 million pixels. Many players and displays now upsample the standard DVD or TV images to display them at 1080p, but Toshiba claims it has a new technology using a large integrated circuit to convert standard def images to hi-res – producing images comparable to Blu-ray from standard DVDs. (It sounds like pie-in-the-sky to us but we’ll see.) Toshiba says the new players will be up to 25% cheaper than Blu-ray players and are expected to go on sale by the end of this year.

Big Budgets at the Met – It has been an exciting and expensive year for the Metropolitan Opera under its general manager Peter Gelb, now in his second season. The live HDTV transmissions to movie theaters worldwide have been a tremendous success and next season again eight complete operas will be telecast. They reached over 900,000 people – more than the total number who attended live performances.  The Met has a lively channel going on Sirius satellite radio 24/7, and in spite of the recession, their box-office figures have gone up. The Met’s operating budget has grown over 21% in two years.  Last year it had a break-even budget and expects the same next year. 88% of house was sold this season, and 58% of the performances sold out – up 10% from the previous year. There were a total of 28 separate productions, with the orchestra under the leadership of James Levine and with a new chorus master, Donald Palumbo.

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