Letter: Comment on an older article about DVD-audio

Below is a response to a story we ran back in October of 2000 on the potential of DVD-audio as a Napster clone competitor (as opposed to killer). The jist of the article was that because DVD-audio is superior to standard CD or MP3 audio, it offers compelling reason to purchase music in this format even if you already acquired the same music for free in MP3. Better sound gives the format a competitive advantage over digital downloads by expanding the quality gap between what we buy and what we trade. Add to that security and bandwidth issues and this gives the record industry a tool to compete against the potential for file trading to canabalize sales (we think the promotion ablility of digital downloads offset lost sales, but that is another matter for a heated discussion).

Andrew Rondeau makes an interesting counter argument that the DVD-audio market and the MP3 market are distinct consumer spheres with minimal overlap. When it comes to quality, except for audiophiles "Most people will never notice the difference, nor will they care". He's not off the mark, because of convenience quite a few people spend more time listening to their CDs through cheap headphones on their work PCs than through superior home stereo systems. But as we mentioned in the original article, if consumers only "perceive" something is of better quality, that may be enough to compel them to buy into it even if they don't necessarily take advantage of the improved difference. Thank you Andrew for the updated info. As we were trying to prognosticate the future back then, the arguments certainly can use a post-Napster viewpoint.--editor.

Hi. I just came across an older article about DVD-audio:


Robert Menta portrays DVD-Audio as a means for the record company to squash Mp3. Are you sure that he knows what he's writing about? Ever since the 1960s, there has been a clamor for multi-channel sound. (Do a little research into the history of quadraphonics.) Ever since the original audio CD came out, there has been a clamor for higher sampling rates and higher bit densities. DVD-Audio is primarily aimed at audiophiles. (They are the people who can hear the difference between an mp3 and the original CD.)

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DVD-Audio is simply answering consumer demand. This demand has existed since the early-to-mid eighties.

As far as a ripper for DVD-audio? That's a whole different can of worms, so to speak.

Dolby Digital and DTS are the lossy formats of choice for a lower-bandwidth version of DVD-audio. (They are used to compress the soundtrack on a DVD movie. Both support 6-channel audio at 48khz/20bit. DVD-Audio is typically 6-channel, 96khz/24bit) DTS fits into a CD, that is, 1 minute of DVD-Audio quality sound, compressed with DTS, will take up the same space as 1 minute of CD sound, uncompressed. Dolby Digital takes up half the space as DTS, although many people notice a slight increase in quality with DTS.

Even better, in order to be compatible with current DVD-video players, many DVD-Audio discs come with the program already compressed into Dolby Digital! All you have to do is use your favorite DVD ripper to extract the audio information, and then save the soundtrack!

As far as the mp3 market? What use are they going to have for anything comparable to DVD-Audio? Most people listen to mp3s on their computers. Most people have awful computer speakers... The mp3 market simply will not care. Chances are, any DVD-Audio rips on napster will be off of the stereo version of the disk, reduced in resolution to 16bit/48khz. That will be a slight increase in quality over current mp3s, which are 16bit/44khz, and a slight increase in file size. Most people will never notice the difference, nor will they care.

Those who can afford to play back 6-channel DVD-Audio rips, (because the speakers will be more expensive,) will also be able to afford the expanded bandwidth needed for the larger files.

Andrew Rondeau


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