DVD-Audio Disc and Super Audio CD
Guide to High Definition Audio Formats
The DVD-Audio disc (DVD-A) and its Super Audio CD (SACD) counterpart, are both capable of delivering higher quality multi-channel sound for 'audio-only' music listening, than that possible with an Audio CD.
Both of these high definition formats use lossless encoding techniques, yet DVD-Audio and SACD are fundamentally different. More in this guide...
A 3D Blu-ray disc player capable of excellent AV performance. It comes with an impressive feature list - including SACD/DVD-A playback, 4K upscaling, 2D-3D conversion, DLNA networking, and wireless Internet streaming.
High Definition Audio for Music Listening
You may think that audio CDs (CD-DA) provide the perfect sound but...
Many audiophiles would soon tell you that in comparison to high quality analog audio recordings on LPs, CD sound is relatively cold and harsh especially when handling the upper most frequencies.
Partly, the popularity of the CD-DA format arises out of its ease of use. This explains the incredible large market that this 20-year old medium still holds today despite the availability of alternative storage media capable of better quality sound.
Yet CD-DA has substantial limitations, with the most important being the occasional frequency clipping, a limited dynamic range, and its spectrum limitations.
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But things are changing fast...
CD audio is definitely not the name of the game for music lovers. But the development of new storage media, playback devices, and digital interconnects capable of supporting the transfer of high definition multi-channel audio and video in digital form among devices in the playback chain, is leading to a shift among music lovers towards DVD-Audio discs and SACDs.
At the same time, one has to acknowledge the fact that though the Super Audio CD and the DVD-Audio disc have been around since 1999 and 2000 respectively, yet the shift towards these two high definition audio formats has been slow - especially in the first few years of their existence.
The reason was that universal players capable of playing both formats were initially selling at around $1,000 - too expensive for these formats to gain popularity. In fact, it was not before 2003 that we started to see the first combined DVD-Audio disc / SACD players at under the $200 price tag. It was also at around this same time that DVD-Audio discs and SACDs were being priced at CD levels.
Today, you can get a good quality universal DVD player capable of handling DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, SACD, and CD, for around $100.
A case in point is the Pioneer DV 610AV-K (featured here); this is an up-converting region-free universal DVD player that supports both SACD and DVD-A playback.
Pioneer DV 610AV-K
Region-free Universal DVD-player
with SACD and DVD-A playback
Despite its low price tag, this Pioneer universal DVD player is capable of very good image and audio performance. It is also one of the best-rated DVD players on the amazon.com site - with an average user rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars in more than 20 reviews. OK, you would not get Blu-ray support, network and 3D compatibility or internet streaming at this lower price bracket. But for the price, the Pioneer DV 610AV-K region-free universal disc player offers a lot in terms of performance, features and supported audio formats.
Unfortunately, if you are after a quality universal Blu-ray disc player with the latest network and 3D features, you have to spend a lot more. The latest OPPO player featured above costs close to $500; but you will get everything, from the latest Internet streaming, to support for high definition Dolby and DTS audio formats, 4K upscaling, 3D conversion, and SACD/DVD-Audio support.
DVD-Audio, SACD and other High Definition Formats
DVD-Audio discs and SACDs are capable of delivering up to six full-range channels of high resolution audio. These are not the only high definition audio formats; both Dolby and DTS have a full lineup of high definition formats that are capable of delivering high resolution multi-channel sound using either lossy or lossless encoding techniques.
But these Dolby and DTS formats are mainly audio-for-video formats, thus supporting full motion video in addition to the high quality audio on the same optical disc. In contrast, DVD-Audio and SACD are music-delivery formats, and though both support 'limited' visual content, neither is intended for movie viewing.
DVD-Audio Discs and SACD - a format war?
It is an undeniable fact that the main players behind DVD-Audio discs and SACD have been in a 'cold' war with each other since the very beginning. Yet it is our opinion that the availability of inexpensive universal media players like the Pioneer referred to above, and with optical media selling at rock bottom prices, will not only guarantee the co-existence of both formats, it will even render this format dispute between these two major players, more transparent than ever to the end user.
This is being stated as DVD-Audio discs and Super Audio CDs are both capable of delivering practically the same level of high fidelity audio, where the end quality is mainly dependent on the playback setup rather than the audio format. And this despite the fact that as we will soon see in this series of articles, DVD-Audio and SACD use fundamentally different processes to achieve the same end result.
Detailed section Index
This is a rather lengthy but easy-to-follow article that takes a look at the various aspects from DVD-Audio disc specs to sound quality, backward compatibility, content protection, playback setup, and even DVD-Audio discs and DualDisc releases.
Part 1: The DVD-Audio Disc - an Overview
Part 2: DVD-Audio Player Connectivity Requirements
Part 3: DVD-Audio Releases, CD/DVD packages and the DualDisc
Another detailed article - this time covering the Super Audio CD and the Hybrid SACD. Issues discussed include format specs, Direct Stream Digital, playback requirements and SACD Music releases.
Part 1: The Super Audio CD - An Introduction
Part 2: Direct Stream Digital - the Technology behind SACD
Part 3: SACD Playback Requirements
Part 4: SACD Music Releases