Sadly this is a bit DeJa Vu for some as these golden eared listeners have may have already bought into DVD-Audio and SACD formats that were launched at the turn of the century. SACD remains popular in Japan and some titles remain in print such as Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.
Both these formats required specific enhanced hardware for playback (though many SACD releases were dual format and allowed playback on standard CD players as well as revealing extra detail in appropriate players). Out of print releases from these formats now fetch daft prices.
Now the industry is pegging a tail on the musical donkey once more with Blu Ray audio. The official launch date for Europe is September/October. Some classical pieces and a selection of rock releases can already be ordered many of which are taking advantage of the greater capacity of Blu Ray to allow complete composer collections on one disc. Each Blu Ray audio disc with be able to hold uncompressed PCM, DTS HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD at a higher sampling and bitrate than CD which will often allow the inclusion of a surround sound version. A voucher code with each disc will entitle purchasers to download an MP3 or FLAC encoded download version too.
Maybe it’ll catch on as the cost of Blu Ray players continue to fall and at least they’ll play on all players and existing owners don’t need to buy new hardware. On the other hand it’s a streaming download world and the number of punters who sit down to immerse themselves in very high fidelity music via a decent HiFi system are niche numbers these days.
The success or failure of yet another HD audio format will come down to a good catalogue, appropriate mastering (none of that loudness war bastardisation that has tainted the fidelity of CD’s please) and visible promotion with clear explanations of the advantages and above all easy availability of product.
Anyway here’s to yet another ride on the physical music format merry go round. The discs alone might be an investment if this format goes the way of the pear.