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State Of Format Evolution

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State Of Format Evolution

The Sony SACD was the most viable audiophile format to have come along, and among a sleuth of well-conceived characteristics that defined its prominence, such as a backward compatible layer, progressively affordable new disc players, and even active support of labels worldwide in the following years, it was the advent of the Direct Stream Digital mastering process that separated the SACD from everything else, and managed to engage even hardcore vinylphiles who had always reminisced over the eras of vinyl and reel-to-reel.

Hence my dismay upon learning that the very purveyor of the hi-rez audio format itselt had moved on to the multimedia format of Blu-ray, leaving the manufacturing of SACD’s to other pressing plants.

In a response to an SACD order from First Impression Music dated July 27, 2007, Sony DADC (formerly known as Digital Audio Disc Corp.), a worldwide CD/DVD manufacturing/press corporation with 13 facilities in Asia, Australia, Europe, South American and North America, speaks of a bright future for “higher density optical products such as Blu-ray”, and that “CD and DVD business is on the decline.” Hence: “With significant investment and expansion, Sony DADC is poised to transition to a ‘high density’ future.”

The Sony letter goes on to say that “continued ‘right-sizing’ of our CD/DVD business is required. Declining market, increased competition and rising raw material costs have all negatively impacted our profitability. Based on the drastic drop in CD prices over the past several years, accompanied by increased material costs, it is now necessary to make a change to our customer base. As of August 13, 2007, Sony DADC will no longer be able to continue servicing your CD/DVD business needs …..”

The letter goes on to refer a Portland, Oregon pressing facility, Cravedog, Inc., to FIM for its disc-pressing needs. In a telephone interview, Cravedog spokesman, Michael Fitzerald, confirmed the transition taking place in Sony, and commented that SACD orders remain steady at his company.

Whether this will mark the end of the hi-rez format will have to be determined by hindsight from the future, what with the format now being supported only by considerably smaller labels and more specialized pressing facilities.

With Sony DADC’s official position in transitioning its production capacity in favor of the Blu-ray multimedia format, audiophiles are faced with the prospect of converging their audio and video systems into one, centered around a possibly SACD sonics-equivalent Blu-ray-based system, in order to continue enjoying high-resolution audio playback – unless Sony also intends for the Blu-ray format to include 2-channel only reprints of classics, again.

Of course, that is already plenty of wishful-thinking on our part, as there has yet to be an SACD-compatible Blu-ray player from any of the manufacturers, especially one from Sony itself.

Perhaps it will serve as consolation that earlier this year, Victor Company of Japan (JVC) had announced the successful development of a new, pinnacle XRCD breakthrough, and had begun to offer the service of remastering of audiophile-caliber discs to other labels in this new standard at the FLAIR Studio, JVC’s own in-house, professional studio. This new JVC XRCD standard is called K2 HD. Follow this link to read Dagogo’s world premiere review of the first K2 HD disc released in United States.

My sincerest thanks to Mr. Winston Ma of First Impression Music for sharing the Sony letter with me.

State Of Forum Resolution

Lately, I have been logging-on to Audiogon’s Forum page in the mornings while checking my emails. Spending an hour or two in the Forum boosted my mental energy level, as I find the discussions quite thought-provoking, and the spirit in which the Audiogoners conduct themselves quite moderate and civil, hence the resultant experience invigorating.

Yet, in every open-discussion forum, there is opinion expressed that is not based on first-hand accounts but hearsay, and the fragility of human psyche is thus preyed upon unnecessarily. While the posting of a positive comment of such variety on a product can generate interest on that product, the posting of a negative comment based on hearsay more than just hurts the product’s prospect of success; it puts a warning sign and a negative foregone impression in a reader’s mind, which can often hamper the possible development of future interest.

The above is an often-recurring phenomenon in audiophile circles, at times leading to jump in sales, or a sudden drop of it. For myself, I have become accustomed to seeing comments that tell negatively of a product’s performance “from what I’ve been told”, or the like. Therefore, whenever I see someone mentioning the performance of a product not based on his own first-hand account experience, I automatically interject his comment with the following words behind it: invalid opinion. Retrospectively, I value the opinion of those others who take a step back and plan to audition the product themselves and share their personal experiences with fellow Audiogoners.

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