Audio News for March 7, 2008

by | Mar 7, 2008 | Audio News | 0 comments

Disc Copyright Protection News – The long-running patents owned by Sony and Philips on the Red Book CD format have expired, leaving open all companies – not just CD’s originators – to experiment in the area of DRM (digital rights management) copy protection.  Such tinkering in the past has made some discs unplayable on some players, and Sony had an even worse problem with software that damaged users’ computers when the discs were played therein.  Sony is now working on a proposal to bury Radio Frequency Identity chips in the pressed CDs, which will carry copy-protection codes and work in concert with software in players which will refuse to play a burned disc which does not have the chip.

Macrovision has designed systems to obstruct copying discs using multiple “sessions” – a process that grows out of the process of adding additional data to a write-once disc that is not yet full. Their newest system is very complex and probably doesn’t have 100% compatibility for proper legal playback.  Warner Bros. has filed a DRM patent to get around the fact that some shoplifters are now opening the supposedly-protected jewel box packaging and shaking the actual CDs free. They plan a disc with two lead-in areas. The first one fails to go to the music; it can only be skipped when the cashier has flashed it – disabling it by turned it opaque. All these efforts are bound to cause problems in some of the millions of CD players out there, but it appears the corporations now see that challenge as an inevitable part of their copy protection efforts. SACD has no provision for any DRM, because there is no easy way to copy the basic DSD data and no way to burn a SACD.

Blu-ray for Audio-Only Recordings?
– Now that the absurd HD format war is finally over, one of our fellow online AV publications is urging the major labels to begin issuing surround sound audio-only Blu-ray DVDs of top music performers. (This is also one of the publications constantly referring to the “failure” of SACD – in spite of over 4000 releases  and new labels coming out regularly.)  Their idea is that those with Blu-ray players wouldn’t need six-channel analog connections but could use the single digital bitstream output  for either Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD hi-res lossless surround sound. The hope is to see the best SACD and DVD-A albums reissued again on audio-only Blu-ray discs, followed by new audio-only surround releases.

We couldn’t be more supportive of video music programs on Blu-ray.  Just as adding 16:9 widescreen and surround sound made concerts on DVD so much more involving and exciting, having the images in 1080 HD and the audio in lossless surround or uncompressed PCM surround can make any genre of music performance a breathtaking experience.  At the beginning of the laserdisc era many wonderful music concert programs were issued, but with the saturation of that format being so small they didn’t sell well and labels held off until recently doing the same with DVD. We hope to see lots more pop, jazz, classical and dance video concerts on Blu-ray.  See some of our Blu-ray DVD music reviews for our opinions on how much the format heightens enjoyment of the material. Being able to discern all the details in long shots of ballet and opera is just one of the HD advantages.

But audio-only Blu-rays?  Furgetaboutit.  Just as with most DVD-As – one of the big cons with that format – Blu-ray players as well as the programming on the actual discs demand that the player be hooked up to a video display in order to navigate the disc.  The PS3, which now constitutes a large portion of Blu-ray penetration, has no direct play/stop/fast wind/pause buttons. All Blu-ray players take a very long time to load a disc (compared to SACD & CD players) before you can access it. The Blu-ray software makes you have to sit thru all the FBI warnings, no-copying clip, and on most movie discs endless previews, before you ever finally get to the movie. Want to deal with all that when you can slip in a SACD and hear your music instantly?  Why use Blu-ray for something it wasn’t designed for when we have a near-perfect format for pure-music-only in HD surround = SACD?  Plus it’s compatible for CD playback anywhere as well; Blu-ray discs don’t offer standard DVD playback – many Blu-ray players don’t even play standard CDs.


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