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Tears For Fears gets the multichannel treatment
Less then 5 months ago, UMG's Japanese branch reissues Tears For Fears' Songs from the Big Chair on SHM-SACD (available on import via Amazon but not part of UMG Japan's upcoming re-reissue program for November.) Now fans who may not have ordered that edition yet are faced with a dilemma, like with the recent Yes reissues: go with the high-resolution but stereo-only SACD or choose the multi-channel mix on a different format, though based on ones personal preferences and playback capabilities that might be easy to solve.
Anyway, after fans of (mostly seventies) Progressive Rock have been treated royally in recent years by a long string of 5.1 remixes by Steven Wilson, now fans of decent eighties pop/rock get a chance to enjoy what he can do with multi-track originals: He's remixed Tears For Fears' second album, and it'll be coming out on DVD-Audio and 'High-Fidelity Pure Audio' Blu-ray Disc (HFPA BD) next month. Steven Wilson writes the following about his latest work (apparently his first for Universal Music Group):
The album reissue will be available on various formats in the following five configurations:
The 2-disc Deluxe edition consists of two CDs (the main CD and the 'edits') so if you're mainly after the 5.1 mix you have to go either with the 6-disc box set which includes the DVD-Audio (it's particularly attracticely priced at Amazon UK: £37.99) or with the Blu-ray Disc, which will be available as a stand-alone product (as isn't even included in the Superdeluxe Edition), at least in some European markets: Germany and France. This Deluxe edition should not be confused with the 2006 2-CD Deluxe edition, which you can rcognize by its familiar semi-transparent outer sleeve used on many other Universal deluxe editions:
Neil Wilkes, who did the authoring of the DVD-Audio, DVD-Video and the HFPA Blu-ray Disc, adds the following:
The HFPA contains Steven's excellent stereo & 5.1 mixes. Stereo is 24/96 LPCM, 5.1 is defaulted to DTS-HD but does have an LPCM stream as well.
Streams are switchable on the fly using the coloured buttons on the remote and the disc will run completely headlessly (defaults to 2014 mixes) as the bonus stream - the Original Mix - can be accessed from the remote too as well as the individual tracks from the remote numbers, just like regular CD.
I have no knowledge of release date on the standalone HFPA but can assure you that there are 3 mixes included.
Video presentation is what it is, so before anybody complains that a couple of the films are smaller than they might be, please remember these were letterboxed in a 4:3 frame & there is sod all I can do about it unless budgets start to run to printing a film from U-matic tape sources (AKA "Pro VHS" if that's not an oxymoron) and then scanning in that negative then blowing up digitally would be the only option & that would look substantially worse, believe me. Most are in 4:3 full frame and will be pillarboxed on a 16:9 display so the "Danny DeVito Effect" is not possible. Audio content is 24/48 LPCM for these films.
Also included are a stack of BBC-TV appearances too - mainly TOTP but also a couple from the old "Wogan" show (trivia guide - the old BBC theatre, where that show was filmed, is now the Shepherds Bush Empire) and these are in 16/48 as we had run out of space on the DVD by this time and 24-bit did not fit.
According to Amazon, release dates of the various editions vary between November 3 and November 11 – nicely in time for this year's holiday season...
100 SHM-SACD reissues reissued
Yes, these albums may be decades old and have been reissued very recently on SHM-SACD but since they're limited edition, many of them were already out-of-print and unavailable again, so due to popular demand UMG Japan reissues them once more. Here are 100 titles, to be rereleased November 26 this year at a price of ¥3,500.
Soul (CD Japan lists it as 'Dance')
100 SHM-SACDs reissues reissued
Yes, these albums may be decades old and have been reissued very recently on SHM-SACD but since they're limited edition, many of them were already out-of-print and unavailable again, so due to popular demand UMG Japan reissues them once more. Here are 100 titles, to be rereleased November 26 this year at a price of ¥3,500.
Soul (CD Japan lists it as 'Dance')
Free SHM-SACD in August + more U.K. SHM-SACDs in September, and another Steely Dan
In July, UMG Japan issued some Free SHM-SACDs and in August another one followed. No, you will need to pay for them (¥ 4,286 each) but if you like Free music this'll be good news. If you like U.K. – another U.K. band (actually a progresive rock supergroup) – you'll be pleased to see three of their albums including their self-titled debut album released on SHM-SACD. And then there's another Steely Dan album finally out on (SHM) SACD for the first time.
Here are last month's and this month's releases:
August 27, 2014
September 24, 2014
It looks like there will be no new SHM-SACDs in October but in November UMG Japan will reissue 100 earlier, out-of-print SHM-SACDs. Yes, reissues of reissues if you will, but great news for collectors. A complete list will follow on this page in the coming days. In the meantie you can take a look here.
At the same time, CD Japan runs a special promotion offering 10% extra points on all SHM-SACDs. There are also promotion on regular SHM-CDs and on Blu-Spec CDs. Check the website for more details.
SHM-SACDs due in June and July
UMG has announced a new range of pop/rock SHM-SACDs for this month and next month.
Due June 25:
Due July 30:
Then there is a set of classical SHM-SACDs, all six of them with works by Richard Strauss performed by the Berliner Philharmoniker. For some odd reason these albums are priced ¥4300 instead of the usual ¥4286. Whence the 14-yen difference? Release date June 25.
SHM-SACDs for the month of May
It's great to see that Universal Music Japan is releasing pop/rock SHM-SACDs on a monthly basis again. For the 28th of this month, they've announced these titles:
All come in Cardboard Sleeve 'mini LP' (Limited edition release). Price: ¥4286 (¥4629 incl. tax in Japan).
Amused to Death in Surround
It's been well over a year since the reiusse of Roger Waters' album Amused to Death on SACD was announced by Analogue Productions, and we still need to wait until September 23, 2014, but great news has surfaced in the meantime: the album will be released on hybrid multichannel SACD. Acoustic Sounds writes: "Amused to Death was mixed by Pink Floyd's producer/engineer James Guthrie, and now, using those same analog tapes, he's mastering the album for multichannel SACD."
The album can be pre-ordered here.
Pop/rock SHM-SACDs for April
Not a large batch of 'new' albums slated for reissue on SHM-SACD in April but for sure of great interest to some, because they include five artists who have had few or no albums on SACD so far, including some seventies Prog Rock – a genre that so far has been better represented on DVD-Audio.
Summary: all these titles are stereo-only non-hybrid SHM-SACDs and limited edition releases in 'mini LP' carton sleeves, released by UMG Japan, priced ¥4,286 and scheduled for April 23rd.
More HFPA Blu-rays
Universal Music Group is continuing to reissue back catalog albums in all genres on High-Fidelity Pure Audio Blu-ray Disc. Here's an update of newly released titles (since late October) including some that were announced but not yet listed back then:
All of these can be found here.
In the meantime, Universal Music France has released quite a few more HFPA BDs, mostly by the same artists as the earlier titles: Johnny Hallyday, Jacques Brel, Noir Désir, Zazie, Eddy Mitchell, Alain Bashung. One new artist: Vanessa Paradis. These French releases can be found here.
New batch of SHM-SACD pop titles in March
Asia - Alpha (SHM-CD pictured)
All are scheduled for March 26, 2013, priced 4286 Yen, designated as "Limited Release" and reissuesd in "mini LP" cardboard sleeve. And the fact they're SHM-SACDs means they're single-layer stereo-only SACDs.
CES 2014: Continued SACD support in Sony BDP range
For the fifth year in a row, Sony uses the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to launch a range of Blu-ray Disc players to support Super Audio CD. Also, Sony Europe announced this year's line-up of BD players and Home Cinema Systems. The 2014 range looks as follows:
It appears Sony Electronics North America has not announced any new Home Theater System products for 2014, at least not in the sense of Blu-ray Disc players integrated with AV receivers and bundled with multi-channel speaker packages – only some wireless (2.1ch) audio products.
Sony BDP-S6200 SACD/DVD/BD player
For the Home Theatre Systems, not all specs are clear in detail. Disc playback is not specified here. They do support high-resolution audio of up to 192kHz/24-bit in a range of formats including WAV, AIFF, FLAC, ALAC (Apple Lossless), Linear PCM, MP3, WMA and AAC-LC2. They also feature new surround modes such as Cinema Studio 9.1ch. No mention of DSD support here however. That's limited to Sony's High-Resolution Audio products, already announced at IFA and CEDIA 2013.
Hardly a range of SACD players then, but continued SACD support.
The BDP-Sx200 models are the successors to the 2013 BDP-Sx100 series. You can find previous ranges here:
Top 20 bestsellers of 2013
A very different looking chart of best-selling titles at PS3SACD.com this year. Ok, the number one is the same but a lot of new titles have entered the top 20, especially albums by Stevie Ray Vaughan.
All are SACDs except where noted. No more Dark Side of the Moon? Sold out? Or does everybody own a copy by now of what is probably the best-selling SACD of all time? Not quite yet – it landed on #21 in 2013.
The hardware top 5 looks as follows:
The Sony models all play SACD; the Panasonic one plays DVD-Audio; the Oppo model supports both.
SACD-compatible, of course.
BD-Audio catalog grows, but not quite like SACD
2013 has finally seen a serious effort to establish Blu-ray Disc as an audio-only effort. Some 40-odd titles have been released, multiplying the total catalog that so far consisted of literally just a handful of titles. Although there appears to be no central source keeping track of the exact BD-A numbers it's quite clear the number of releases per year as well as the total catalog size are still far outstripped by SACD's: Despite a minor decline compared to 2012, with 692 new titles in 2013 the SACD catalog has grown to over 9,000 titles.
As new options for distribution of high-quality become available in the form of BD-Audio, high-resolution PCM, FLAC and DSD downloads become available, SACD steadily marches on.
Numbers: credit sa-cd.net
DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 for PS4
As reported below, PlayStation 4 has been designed from the start to deliver Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. This in contrast to PlayStation 3, which only obtained these features in its fourth hardware iteration in 2009, with the launch of PS3 Slim. These features were never added to the earlier PS3 models in a firmware upgrade because the constraint was in the HDMI chips used. PS4's HDMI chips may also have limitations that we'll learn about in the future (already it seems HDMI 2.0 with full 1080p 3D isn't supported) but for audio there seems to be less reason to worry. Already it's announced that now PS4 is launched, it will not 'just' have DTS-HD Master Audio but the 7.1-channel version of it, and it'll be the first product to support this. The logo on the consoles coming out of the factory already show the alternate logo, with the HD letters skewed and "7.1" added.
Probably the standard offers flexibility to handle any of the above.
It's nice to see that while PS4 has little or no true audiophile aspirations like PS3 originally did, high-quality multichannel sound does apparently play an important role.
PlayStation 4: No audio support?
For many, 2013 will be the year of (the run-up to) PlayStation 4 launch. On January 31, SCEI announced an event for February 20, titled 'PlayStation 2013' where, like expected, PS4 was officially announced. The design was not yet revealed at that event – that only happened June 10.
In the days following, more detailed, high-resolution images of the console surfaced, which seemed to confirm our expectations PS4 (essentially based on a PC architecture) would not support Super Audio CD. Unsurprising, as Sony must have realized early on during the lifetime of PS3 that the overlap between gamers and audiophiles is probably rather narrow.
DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby True HD are supported from launch (as opposed to PS3, which only introduced output of these streaming formats via HDMI with the fourth-generation console design, the PS3 Slim, in 2009). Sony hasn't bothered to include DVD and CD logos.
Now, with the publication of the official 'PlayStation 4 Ultimate FAQ', it occurs that PS4 does not support plain Red Book Audio CD playback. For DVD-Video and even Blu-ray Disc playback, apparently an upgrade to launch firmware v1.50 is needed. PAL territories can contact SCEE Consumer Services to request a Blu-ray activation disc by mail. Other reports indicate that also MP3, Blu-ray 3D and DLNA support are lacking, even in FW1.50. The HDD capacity should not exceed 160 GB.
This is in stark contrast with previous Sony consoles, which have always been position as omni-potent true multi-media players. This started with PlayStation 1, which has often been hailed as a very capable Audio CD player; then was expanded with PlayStation 2, which featured DVD-Video playback from launch. PlayStation 3 has raised the bar way further with support for SACD (initially), Blu-ray Disc and a wide range of online video services.
It's unlikely then that SCEI will have thought of DSD support, in spite of Sony's recent Hi-Res Audio initiative. More about that and the DSD products Sony's announced within that in a separate article soon.
For now: No CD-DA, SACD, DSD, MP3, 3D BD or DLNA on PS4.
Update: President of Sony's Worldwide Studios Shuhei Yoshida has announced that they (the system people in Japan, that is) are working on CD and MP3 support for PS4, and that the omission was not some ploy for forcing people to use the Music Unlimited streaming service. He did not announce when the features would become available and did not mention DLNA.
UMG resumes pop/rock reissues on SHM-SACD
After the good news that UMG Japan resumed the release of SHM-SACD titles this fall, even greater news comes in the form of new pop/rock albums. Normally, they'd be released the last Wednesday of the month but because inb December this year that's on Christmas day, we get the following titles on December 18, all of them in 'Mini LP' cardboard sleeves:
They are available at ¥ 4,286 through CD Japan.
SHM-SACD program continued, apparently
A few months ago it seemed Universal Music Japan has stopped issuing SHM-SACD discs altogether. No new titles had been announced since December. Fortunately, it seems the hiatus was only temporary: for October and November, ten new titles have been announced – not classical this time, but all jazz.
October 23, 2013:
November 27, 2013:
To celebrate the occasion, CD Japan is offering a special bonus points promotion on SHM-SACDs (and SHM-CDs) starting this month and running until January 31, 2014.
More and more DSD download services
Now we have:
Plus various individual recordings listed on this page which lately has become a lot harder to maintain for very positive reasons.
Universal Music launches High-Fidelity Pure Audio Blu-ray Disc program
Universal Music Group (UMG), after doing initial market testing in France, now launches High Fidelity Pure Audio (HFPA), a roster of albums reissued on Pure Audio Blu-Ray – presumably, though none of the articles refer to this, with the Pure Audio Blu-ray format of msm Studios reported about on various previous occasions. UMG does specifically mention there is no video on these discs. Let's hope they adopted the technique that lets you play and navigate such discs without having to use the screen.
All discs will contain audio in PCM, Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio. Minimum sampling rate and frequency is 24-bit 96 kHz. 192 kHz appears to be optional. At least the BD format supports that. It's not entirely clear what the position of multichannel audio is but also that seems to be an option, though not a mandatory track.
All of this means HFPA discs are no or not much better than DVD-Audio, but the new format has the benefit of a huge installed base of compatible hardware, namely all Blu-ray Disc players, of course including all PlayStation 3 consoles. That's a far larger base than SACD or DVD-Audio ever could achieve.
What's also not entirely clear is what other record labels besides Universal Music Group participate in the HFPA Group – or how. What HiFi mentions backing from Warner Music Group, Bose, Bang & Olufsen, Dolby, DTS but all except UMG and WMG are hardware or technology licensing companies. DTS could reissue many multichannel albums but their only involvement thus far is use of their audio codec and Warner's contribution seems non-existent.
The initial release slate contains some three dozen titles, a mixture of pop/rock, jazz/blues and classical, some of which have been issued on SACD before – notably Verver artists such as Diana Krall, John Coltrane and Stan Getz, whose collaboration with João Gilberto has already seen four (!) SACD issues – some on DVD-Audio while quite a few others appear to be entirely new, such as Ascenseur pour l'échafaud that we've been asking for since years.
A statement on the HFPA Facebook page explains a sort of 'digital copy' concept:
To confirm, every High Fidelity Pure Audio product will contain a download code which will enable you to one-time-download an MP3 version of the album you purchased. That way you can enjoy the Blu-ray version with your home equipment, but also not lose out on the portability of having an MP3 album. This is available in Europe, Asia, Australia/NZ, Africa and South America.
Why everywhere but North America? Rights issues probably, but how come the record company that holds all these IP rights cannot sort this out? Or are HFPA discs actually not available in the US? The CE Daily article stated so (in addition to UK, France, Germany and Japan) but no mention is made on UMG's US site and almost no titles can be found on Amazon.com. The fact that the lauch took place at Dolby EMEA's office at Soho Square in London may be significant. There is a UK store and you can find a handful of titles on Amazon.co.uk plus many more on Amazon France. What doesn't help is that there is no clear category or tag used to search for. CD Japan also lists a number of titles.
UMG's UK webstore lists a couple of additional titles not yet found on Amazon:
Listed elsewhere is a new reissue of Queen's A Night at the Opera.
Of course, with physical media sales declining since many years and SACD and DVD-Audio having remained niche formars the new carrier has no shortage of skeptics, judging by coverage by Engadget, Forbes and TNT-Audio. Considering the wavering support for earlier premium audio formats by UMG as well as other record labels our recommendation is: Grab 'em while you can. This effort may be over before you know it.
MSM Studios in the meantime does list a fair number of new Pure Audio Blu-ray titles, including many by Norwegian label 2L (for instance Hommage a Grieg vol 3 and Fartein Valen String Quartets), plus another album for Hong Kong artist Hok-E (Bondy Chiu): Chanteur.
Complete Yes on SACD, and CttE in 5.1
After Yes' albums Close to the Edge and Going for the One became available on SACD earlier this year, now all 13 studio albums of Yes are issued on stereo SACD – in Japan. The albums are not sold separately but as a box set titled High Vibration. The set includes a bonus disc with remixes and alternate takes.
If you care more for multichannel than (high-resolution) stereo, you may be more interested in the 5.1 remix/remaster of Close to the Edge. It's not out on SACD but on DVD-Audio and Blu-ray Disc, both bundled with a CD. The remastering and remixing was done by Steven Wilson, like so many other Prog Rock reissues, also including XTC's Nonsuch, again on CD+DVDA and CD+BD. Of course, the Blu-ray Discs will play on PS3.
UMG offers crowdfunding service... for vinyl
Several sources including Billboard, Spin and Mashable that Universal Music Group is setting up Uvinyl, a "crowd-funded vinyl service" that will release limited-edition records of old, 'deleted' albums if there's enough demand. The Vinyl Project will re-press deleted and rare records into vinyl, and release them with digital downloads and personalized art prints.
If all this is feasible, could Universal please catch up with the times and offer such a service for SACD?
On a different note, another vinyl-related fun development is the possibility to create records using 3D printing. As this article explains, the result is truly low-fidelity, equating to a sampling rate of about 11 kHz and a resolution of 5-6 bits. That is probably not overestimated.
New Universal Players by Cambridge Audio and Pioneer
Cambridge Audio has announced a successor to its 2011 model 751BD: the Azur 752BD. It's equipped with five 24-bit/192kHz Wolfson audio DACs. Their third-generation Universal BD Player is available here.
All SACD-compatible BD players and home theater systems will be included in our overview shortly.
Rush and Vangelis reissues on SACD
A fair number of progessive rock albums have been remixed and remastered in 5.1 lately, mostly thanks to Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree fame, and all of them have been released on DVD-Audio, including Rush's Moving Pictures and 2112. It comes as quite a surprise then that, a few years after earlier plans had been abandoned, we're getting a Rush reissue on SACD. It's not in multichannel, but Kevin Gray of Cohearent Audio has remastered Hemispheres and Counterparts for Audio Fidelity.
Other AF reissues include Touch by Sarah McLachlan, America's eponymous album, Welcome to the Club by Nat King Cole, King Creole by Elvis Presley, Calypso by Harry Belafonte, Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits Vol.II, Pickin' up the pieces by Poco.
DSD playback with Oppo Universal Players
Oppo Digital, whose Universal Blu-ray/DVD/SACD/CD players we've covered many times here, has now made DSD playback a lot more affordable, at least to owners of their latest generation of universal disc players – types BDP-103 and BDP-105.
The company has issued a Public Beta Test Release Firmware that adds support for AIFF, exFAT USB drives and, most importantly, DSD of both DFF and DSF flavors. Not only stereo but also multichannel DSD is supported. Kal Rubinson has all the details here.
DSD downloads from Opus 3 and M∙A
Swedish audiophile record label Opus 3, known from many (mostly classical and jazz) SACDs dating back to the earliest days of the format, has opened up a DSD download store, DSDfile. Some of the titles are available in standard DSD64 (2.8MHz) as well as DSD128 (5.6 MHz).
Meanwhile, audiophile record label from neighboring Norway 2L and M.A Recordings have made their high-resolution music available through Japan's e-onkyo music service. Again, some of it in double-rate DSD.
Note that besides plain vanilla 64fs DSD and 128fs DSD studios now also have the option to work with 256fs DSD (11.2 MHz) or 'Quad DSD' thanks to Merging Technologies' new Horus Digital Audio Workstation.
Roger Waters' Amused to Death on SACD
The reissue, cut from the master tapes, will be overseen by engineer James Guthrie who was there for the original release. The Q Sound spatial enhancement effects are on the master tape so get ready for stuff appearing in the mix at your next door neighbor's house.
That's despite this SACD likely being stereo only.
SHM-SACD program ended, apparently
A few months after they stopped issuing pop/rock SHM-SACDs, it appears Universal Music Japan has stopped issuing discs in the audiophile format altogether. No new titles have been announced for January or February. Remarkable, as you'de think with such high prices and relatively modest production and replication cost (no multichannel mixing and mastering, no hybrid disc) margins must have been great.
Sony SACD/BD range 2013
At CES 2013, Sony has revealed its fourth consecutive range of SACD-compatible Blu-ray Disc players. This time, not quite all models got equipped with SACD support – only the higher-end models did. Here's an overview of the new BD players and home theater systems. The BDP-Sx100 models are the successors to the 2012 BDP-Sx90 series and the BDP-Sx80 and BDP-Sx70 before that.
Sony BDP-S5100 SACD/DVD/BD player
Sony BDV-9100W SACD/DVD/BD Home Theater System
Similarly, home cinema systems (in this case BD players with integrated AV receivers and typically bundled with surround sound speaker packages) BDV-N9100W and BDV-N7100W will properly play SACDs while BDV-E6100, BDV-E4100, BDV-E3100, BDV-E2100 and BDV-EF1100 will not. Note that most of these systems are not released in North America and that availability in Europe may vary from country to country.
We'll update our overview of SACD-compatible BD players with the 'BDP-Sx100' models shortly.
Top 20 bestsellers of 2012
Better late than never, here are the music discs that shifted most copies through this site in the past year. Sincere thanks to all visitors who've purchased stuff this way. The number 1 album has changed compared to 2011 but the band hasn't:
The best-selling SACD players, universal and otherwise, were these:
All of these play BD. The Oppo and Pioneer are universal (also play DVD-Audio), the Sonys lack this format. Runner-up was a universal DVD player: Pioneer DV-610.
The best-selling AV Receiver here was the Onkyo TX-NR509 5.1 Channel Network A/V Receiver.
Natually, all games consoles sold were PS3s. In order of popularity they were:
Note that the Super Slim models do not play SACD.
For a visual overview of 2012, click here.
SACD release rate stable in 2012
No further uptick this past year (like the two years before) but the number of SACD titles released in 2012 – 740 – is pretty much in line with the annual average across the past nine years: 728.
Numbers are based on the database of sa-cd.net. In the course of 2012 the site switched from a system entirely run by the admin to one where users need to submit all details for new entries but this does not seem to have affected the numbers. A positive sign: in the past month, December, the number of new entries reached an all-time high: 146.
If SACD releases continue at the current rate, by the end of next year the total catalog will approach 10,000 titles.
Oppo BDP-103 and BDP-105 available
In September, we announced two new universal Blu-ray Disc players from Oppo Digital: the BDP-103 and BDP-105 – successors to the popular BDP-93 and BDP-95. Again, the model with the higher type number is the audiophile edition of the other, the difference only being relevant if you use the analog audio outputs.
New or enhanced features shared by BDP-103/105:
New BDP-105 Only Features:
Sony marries DSD audio to 4K video
Four years ago, in December 2008, the Berlin Philharmonic announced the Digital Concert Hall – an AV streaming service for watching the orchestra's performances across the web. This summer, at the 2012 Berlin IFA, Sony announced a co-operation with the Berlin Philharmoniker that should lead to new, high-quality audio products. The first product we've seen linked to this program is the SS-AR speaker series, the brochure of which so beautifully refers to DSD, SACD and Gus Skinas of the Super Audio Center in Boulder, Colorado and shows a Sonoma digital audio workstation (DAW).
* except BDP-S185
Now this November, Sony presented a new concept where they're capturing the BP's performances for the Digital Concert Hall in 4K Ultra-HD resolution video and multi-channel DSD (likely not compressed, not even losslessly like DST Direct Stream Transfer). What a nice new A/V standard that is, we reckon. Such a worthy successor to Blu-ray Disc. We never quite understood why Sony did not include DSD as one of the audio formats on Blu-ray Disc, not even specified it as an optional one. Sony together with Philips introduced the DSD audio format to the market with the Super Audio CD format in 1999. For some reason we don't fully get it has taken until 2012 for DSD to suddenly become a lot more popular with an endless flow of DSD-capable devices such as stand-alone DACs announced (new DSD hardware coverage here, here and here; more coming up soon – in the meantime follow this Twitter feed).
Anyway, there's no mention in the press release of any new optical disc format here (though plenty of legacy products) so it's likely meant for 'digital' delivery (streaming and downloading) only, although it's perfectly well imaginable to store such an AV stream on a high-capacity optical disc like a future read-only version of the existing 128 GB BD-XL format. We'll do the exact math at a later moment but a back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests it's realistic: BDXL provides up to 128 GB capacity but even the 'basic' version offers 100 GB – twice that of a dual-layer regular Blu-ray Disc. 4K resolution contains four times the amount of pixels of 'Full HD' 1080p video but if a switch to HEVC (High-Efficiency Video Codec, also referred to as H.265) improves coding efficiency by 50% like reported then twice the capacity of a regular Blu-ray Disc would do – not just for the 74-80 minutes typically needed for music albums but even for full-length feature films.
That is, if the frame rate can stay the same. Some suggest motion blur will be more visible at higher resolutions so the frame rate may need to be doubled, in turn doubling the bandwidth required.
Of course, DSD may require more bits per second than standard fare audio, especially multichannel DSD, but not necessarily much more than formats like DTS-HD Master Audio and even at these quality levels the capacity needed for audio is relatively small compared to the video. More details about these numbers in a future post.
As it turns out, Sony has for the time being Sony has actually chosen for distribution of 4K content on physical media – on Hard Disks. According to their blog, buyers of Sony's XBR-84X900 4K LED television will get a special 4K Ultra HD Video Player on loan, that contains a Hard Disk Drive with ten recent Hollywood movies plus a gallery of other 4K content including some shorts pre-loaded.
For now however it appears that Sony has taken the capture to the next level but the delivery and reproduction isn't quite following yet. Displays are there and speakers are never the bottleneck but the only 4K-capable BD player, the current flagship model BDP-S790, can output this resolution by upscaling regular HD content. However, whether it (or PS3, or any of the other devices listed above) can handle 4K video streaming is unclear.
In less than a month there will be the 2013 CES where Sony will no doubt introduce its new range of BD Players. Likely, many of these will feature this year's top-of-the-range spec point, 4K output. By the way, BD-XL support doesn't appear to be there either. We're curious what Sony will come up with. We've pretty much given up hope (after four years) for a new real ES series component that would be a successor to the BDP-S5000ES and SCD-XA5400ES in one, although such a model would fit very nicely with the ambitions Sony pronounced when they engaged with the BPO. We'll keep you posted.
Rush 5.1 reissue program: 2112
Spring last year, Rush' album Moving Pictures was reissued after it had been remastered in stereo and 5.1. It got released on CD + BD-Audio and also CD + DVD-Audio. Now, one and a half year later, their album 2112 gets the same treatment. Not quite in a rush, one might say, but good news for fans of some symphonic rock.
The CD/DVD gets packed in the same type of packaging as the previous reissue – a gatefold digipack in a sort of plastic slipcase like Universal Music has used for so many reissues in recent years. The CD/BD-A version however is part of a deluxe collector's edition box set. Note: The DVD-Audio cannot be played fully on PS3, but the Blu-ray audio disc can.
Let's hope more Rush albums (as well as other artists') get this treatment, and that it will not take until the year 2112 to complete.
Philips returns to SACD
Six years after Sony Computer Entertainment, four years after Oppo, three years after Marantz, two and a half years after Sony's Home A/V division and one year after Pioneer, Philips – together with Sony inventor of the SACD format – has finally made a Blu-ray Disc player that plays SACD. It's Philips first SACD-capable player in about six years. Already announced at IFA 2012 but with such little fanfare that we had missed it entirely, the BDP9700 is Philips' new flagship BD player.
There's only little mention of SACD in the user manual but apparently DSD output is supported via HDMI. The player also has analog multichannel outputs on the back. Probably this player is based on the same new Mediatek platform that the latest Oppo players are built on – a successor to the one earlier Oppos, Cambridge Audio and Primare players were constructed from.
It's difficult to find information about the product. Although it's offered in the staff shop in the Netherlands, the product information page redirects to the national homepage. The same is the case in other countries like Germany. The 'directions for use' can be downloaded (here). The fact they're in English, Chinese, Tamil and Malay – Singapore's four official languages – suggests that the product is released at least in Singapore and possibly some other Asian territories. This wouldn't be the first flagship Philips product that's eventually skipped by most of the national sales organisations. The only Amazon where we could find the product is the German one. Note: BDP9700/12 denotes the (continental) Europe version; /98 the Asia-Pacific 'slash version'.
Notable features include Qdeo video processing; video upscaling to 'Quad Full HD' i.e. 4K; DivX Plus HD; BD-3D; 'Smart TV Plus' to connect to all sorts of online video services; Philips 'SimplyShare' streaming connectivity; TI Burr-Brown 24-bit/192kHz DACs (which ones exactly isn't specifies) and a separate linear power supply with a toroidal transformer. For more details you can download the 'product spec sheet' leaflet here.
We've added the Philips as the 12th brand in our survey of SACD-compatible Blu-ray Disc players. One important last note: Like the Sony players but unlike all the other players in that list, the Philips – for 'political' reasons – does not support DVD-Audio, so it's not a truly universal disc player.
DSD update: new software, content, and especially hardware
Since 2010, we're seeing a lot of asynchronous D/A converters with USB ports come to market, usually in the form of a compact box that serves as a headphone amp. Since this year all of a sudden however we're not just seeing high-resolution PCM DACs but a large number of DSD DACs, some even with DXD support. Two months ago (August 5 and 11) we already reported on a lot of these products. Here's an overview of what has been announced since.
The exaSound Audio Design e20 USB DAC handles DSD as well as DXD.
This Fidelix Caprice box seems to be able to handle DSD (via HDMI, also double rate DSD) after an optional upgrade.
The new Benchmark Media DAC2 announced at Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2012 does native DSD conversion and has an asynchronous USB audio interface. It's available now via Amazon. Its not cheap though -- $1,995!
Not shown there but listed on Love Harmony's website: this AX-WD DAC. A software update will upgrade it from regular DSD64 (2.8MHz) to double-rate DSD128 (5.6MHz), according to the manufacturer.
TEAC just announced they'll issue HR Audio Player software on Windows and MacOS for use with USB DACs like their own above-mentioned UD-501. It supports MP3, FLAC, high-resolution PCM, DXD, and DSD64 as well as DSD128 via DoP.
Lastly, regarding DSD content, Channel Classics is now offering a free trial download package with track in four different qualities including DSD. And Japanese music label Wataridori Records offers recordings (The Coronoa Shine) on DVD-R with audio in 5.6Mhz double-rate DSD (￥3,000). Note that PS3 does not support this DSD flavor.
Released November 28:
Released December 26:
The 2012 DSD masters are all based on DG's original analog tapes. SHM-SACDs are single-layer stereo only. Price: ¥4,286/¥4,500 excluding/including sales tax.
SCE has issued PlayStation 3 System Software version 4.30. Life with PlayStation and Folding@home are phased out. Published improvements are only in the area of trophies.
New hi-res audio standard: NextCD
A group of Japanese companies including Memory-Tech, krypton, Q-tec and Camerata Tokyo, calling themselves Promotion Group of Blu-ray Disc for High Resolution Audio, has announced a new standard: NextCD. The most interesting thing is: It's not a CD – it's a BD i.e. a Blu-ray Disc. It contains primarily audio (and optionally some video); audio in high resolution: 24-bit 96kHz or 192kHz uncompressed linear PCM in 2-channel i.e. stereo. A single-layer BD can hold up to 500 minutes of such music. We'd rather not consider what the selling price of a disc with that much content would be but according to the group, pricing will be "similar to SACD", in the "mid-3000-yen" range. That's cheaper than SHM-SACDs.
We'll call this a new standard rather than a new format because the discs are simply fully compliant to the BD standard: all content plays on any BD player (including PS3, one of which was used in the demo presentation). That's great because it ensures an enormous installed base.
The name for the new standard has not been finalized yet. Besides NextCD, BD Music is one of the names considered. Whether multichannel audio is considered an option (or even a mandatory aspect) of the new standard is not clear from the website or the article. Of course, it's perfectly well allowed in the BD format.
The title line-up is not as amibitious as with, for instance, the recent Blu-spec CD2 introduction, which came with 111 titles. Here, about 10 titles are announced. Interestingly, the Naxos Pure Audio BD albums we recently covered were also shown as examples.
Let's hope that with a concerted effort this could stimulate the market for high-quality sound carriers rather than add to the consumer and industry confusion about such standards.
A long, long overdue update on Blu-ray Audio music. A number of other titles have been announced, mostly in the classical area.
Then some non-classical news: The album Modern Cool by Patricia Barber, already available on stereo hybrid SACD and other media for a long time, has been re-mastered for Pure Audio BD in DTS 5.1 Master Audio (96/24) and 24/192 stereo by its original recording engineer, Jim Anderson.
On the website of MSM Studios, the company that conceived the Blu-ray Audio concept, which lets you navigate an audio-only Blu-ray Disc without the need for a TV screen, we find the following other recent titles:
Latter title is a 17-disc Deluxe edition from the Decca label, consisting of Wagner's complete Ring cycle on some 14 CDs, a DVD and one audio-only Blu-ray Disc with the complete Ring presented as 24-bit files. It's available on Amazon where you'll also find more details.
We've updated our Blu-ray Audio store with as many titles as we could find – still a relatively small number compared to the amount of SACDs available, but it's growing steadily.
And lastly some SACD news:
In Japan, Sony Music has compiled a collector's box of Glenn Gould, The Goldberg Variations 30th anniversary Edition that consists of 3 Hybrid SACDs, 2 DVDs and 7 Blu-spec CDs; a limited edition that's already sold out at HMV but still available from CD Japan.
Sony Music launches Blu-spec CD2 standard
Four years ago, Sony Music (yes, the record label – not the electronics company) introduced the Blu-spec CD standard. As we reported then, it's basically a Red Book CD of which the physical master disc has been prepared with a blue laser instead of a red laser, thus creating more accurate 'pits' – a marginal improvement, but one that apparently strikes a chord with many audiophiles in the Japanese market, the only market at which this and many similar innovations (see article referenced above) are targeted.
According to many reviews, Blu-spec CDs sound really good but we are convinced this is only because great attention to detail has been paid in the audio mastering process, not so much because of the physical characteristics of the disc.
Back then, we wrote we hoped Sony would one day rather launch a standard with a real sound quality improvement over RBCD, ideally a 'Blu-spec SACD'. That still hasn't happened. What do we get instead? Blu-spec CD2.
With the original Blu-spec CD, the innovations were the use of a blue laser (likely 405 nm) and a special type of polycarbonate substrate. With 'BSCD2', we get:
Sony calls this 'Phase Transition Mastering'. But it's still an RBCD.
The new standard (it's not a new format) will be launched with a roster of 111 titles, ranging from classical to Jimi Hendrikx. You can find them in this Japanese press release [PDF]. The technical details are explained (in Japanese) on this new website (via AV Watch).
All we'll say (once more) is: Sony, please give us Blu-spec SACDs, just like Universal Music Japan gave us SHM-SACDs after SHM-CDs.
Update: If you're interested in Blu-spec CD2 discs, you can now browse the collection (at least 100 titles) at CD Japan (in English).
Two new universal Marantz players: UD-5007, UD-7007
Hot on the heels of the new universal disc players by Oppo, Pioneer and Denon, Denon's sister brand Marantz launches another one. And then there's one we overlooked this summer. They are:
Supported disc types include BD Video, Blu-ray 3D, BD-Live/Bonusview, BD-R/RE, SACD, CD-DA, CD-R/RW, DVD-Audio, DVD-Video, DVD±R/RW, AVCHD, AVCREC. Media formats supported for playback from USB include MP3, WMA, AAC, WAV, FLAC, MPEG, WMV, AVI, DivX (also DivX PLUS HD) and still images of PNG and JPEG flavor.
Main changes of the UD7007 over the UD7006 are the inclusion of balanced XLR outputs and playback of WAV/FLAC files of up to 24bit/192kHz, though the DAC (Burr-Brown PCM1795, if our source get its right) supports up to 32bit/192kHz PCM, and DSD. Start-up time and disc read time have been reduced by 40% and 20% respectively.
There are double HDMI outputs for separate audio and video connections. A Pure Direct mode lets you switch off the video circuitry. A 'Marantz Remote' app for iPhone, iPod Touch and Android phones lets you operate the set as well as (new, 2012) Marantz AV Receivers with network features. Regarding networking, the player supports DLNA Digital Media Player (DMP) v1.5 and DTCP-IP.
It appears the two players are available in black in North America but also in silver in Europe. You'll find them in our ever-growing list of SACD-compatible BD players. One product you will not find there is Denon's latest SACD/CD player, the DCD-1650RE -- it's not BD-compatibe.
New, slimmer PlayStation 3 design is here
As predicted, SCE presented the PS3 CECH-4000 series at the 2012 Tokyo Games Show. The new console design is about the same width, a little slimmer and a lot less deep than the previous 'slim' models. The specs however are the same, except for the power consumption: that has been lowered from 200W to 190W, so apparently the main chips have not gone through a shrink or integration step. The weight has been reduced from 2.6 to 2.1 kg. Of course, as was to be expected, the new type does not support SACD. It will support DSD Disc playback though. We've updated our FAQ accordingly.
Quadrophenia on Criterion Blu-ray Disc
Six months ago we reported The Who's Quadrophenia had become available in a multichannel mix, but only on a DVD-Audio that was exclusively sold as part of a multi-disc deluxe edition collector's box. That wrong has now been righted, sort of. Not with a standalone DVD-A, an SACD or even an audio-only BD but a Criterion Collection Blu-ray Disc.
The movie already existed on BD, even in a Special Edition with DTS sound, but the picture and sound have now been restored by Criterion. The reissue features a lossless stereo track and a specially created 5.1-channel track in DTS Master Audio. The movie may not contain all of the music from the album but it's a welcome piece for any fan.
SHM-SACD: No more pop, rock, jazz or blues?
The fear we expressed last month when the SHM-SACD titles for release in September were announced appears to be founded: Also in October (street date October 31) we see only classical titles and no more pop/rock, jazz, blues or any other genre. The three titles are:
Would Universal Music have run out of suitable source material? We doubt that. Would it be bad business? It's difficult to see how, because the production cost is pretty low (SHM-SACDs are always stereo only so no mixing to multichannel is required), the replication cost is modest (SHM-SACDs are always single-layer, a lot like a plain DVD, i.e. no hybrid disc manufacture is required) and the discs are sold at a premium price. And lastly, the discs were released as limited editions into the Japanese retail market but found their way to global audiences via export/import.
We hope UMG (and other record companies) resume the issuing of pop/rock albums on SACD soon. If it’s really the company’s decision to focus completely on classical we'll regret that deeply.
New universal BD players: Pioneer, Denon, Oppo
Pioneer Japan announced a new BD/DVD-Video/DVD-Audio/SACD/CD player the other week: the BDP-450, successor to last year’s BDP-440. Like the 440 model which was released in Europe too this one's been announced there too, ahead of IFA even. It can be pre-ordered from Amazon UK, Germany and France.
Not a universal player but a dedicated CD/SACD/DSD-Disc player is the PD-70, which rounds off the range they started a few months ago with the PD-10, PD-30 and PD-50. It doesn't play DVD-Video or DVD-Audio discs but will read DVD-R/RW discs with DSD. It's got a 32-bit 192kHz DAC. It's got a perfect timeless Pioneer high-end audio design with a solid construction and makes a nice combination with the new, somewhat retro-looking A-70 amplifier (a style that's gotten very fahionable lately, judging by Yamaha's latest CD/SACD player and amplifier, the CD-S3000 and A-S3000 shown at IFA 2012; picture courtesy of AV Watch). Note that both these Pioneer components are purely stereo devices.
Denon meanwhile has launched the DBT-3313UD 'Universal Audio/Video Player Disc Transport' (called 'Universal Disc Transport' on some of their sites) in Japan, the US and Europe; available in silver (in Europe at least) as well as black and already on Amazon.com and Amazon Germany. Its connections are about as different from the above player as they could be -- where the Pioneer has analog stereo and digital stereo outputs in optical and coaxial formats, the Denon appear to lack any optical or coaxial digital output. Instead it features dual HDMI outputs, Denon Link HD, an ethernet network port, RS-232C control port and mini-jacks for Remote Control loopthrough on the rear panel. Well, and analog stereo outputs for Multi-Zone use. On the front there's a USB input.
The new player makes a nice combination with the similarly named AVR-3313CI (covered and reviewed by AV Watch, in Japanese), or with Denon's new flaghsip AV Receiver, the AVR-4520 announced yesterday/last week.
Lastly, at CEDIA Oppo Digital has shown two new universal disc players, the BDP-103 and BDP-105 that will replace the BDP-93 and BDP-95. Like these two current models they'll be priced $499 and $999 (¥100,000 and ¥200,000 in Japan) respectively, and should appear this fall and this winter. One of the new features (for both probably) is upscaling to '4K2K'. We assume the difference between the two will again be in the area of digital-to-analog audio conversion, which means only if you'll only use analog out the higher-end of the two types offers extra value.
More about the new Oppo players when they reach the market.
In the meantime you can find the new Pioneer, Denon and Oppo players in our survey of available SACD-compatible Blu-ray Disc players, along with the recent Denon DBT-1713UD.
Teac Reference 501 Series: CD Player with DSD playback
It’s that last component that drew our attention: The CD player offers DSD playback but no SACD playback. What could that mean? Does the laser only read CDs (780nm wavelength) and no high-density optical discs of the 4.7GB type (635-650nm wavelength) that DVD and SACD employ? In that case it will also not be able to read DSD Discs, which are based on recordable or rewritable DVDs. Would the player support DSD playback from CDs? That’s an unpractical solution because DSD requires a higher data rate than CD can handle at normal speeds, and even if the drive spins faster and the electronics beyond it sustain higher data rates you’d be left with a very short playing time. Or could it be the device does play DSD from DVD but SACD support is omitted because of the requirements that the copy protection imposes on the digital output, which in this case seems to be USB instead of HDMI (with HDCP) or i.LINK (with DTCP), or a proprietary interface like Denon link. We suspect the latter. Perhaps it’s time to apply DTCP to the high-speed USB interface? Why not use the XLR connection that SACD transports like the TEAC K-07 uses?
In other DSD-related news, Onkyo has just shown a new 2.1-channel amplifier with USB port through which it can handle input of DSD, 24-bit 192-kHz FLAC and ALAC (Apple Lossless), the NR-365 Network AV Receiver. It comes bundled with a subwoofer (BASE-SW50) or with a 2.1 speaker package bundled (BASE-V50).
Firmware v4.25 out
SCE has issued System Software version 4.25 for PlayStation 3. The most eminent feature is the expansion of online storage space for game save data of PlayStation Plus members from 150MB to 1GB.
Sony: CEDIA news
CEDIA 2012 has just closed. Hot on the heels of the STR-DA5800ES and the STR-DN1030 announced at IFA a week earlier Sony has bowed two more ES series AV receivers: the STR-DA2800ES and STR-DA1800ES. New features these devices share include Control4 home control system compatibility, which will be of interest especially to the custom installers that make up the CEDIA organization, and apps for both iOS and Android. The 2800ES, like the 5800ES, offers Faroudja 4K upconversion.
A nice detail in the press release is the mention of DSD decoding, although its mentioned just as an example of innovations by the ES series -- not as a feature of any of these AVRs. Probably it's included but it's not clear.
No new ES series SACD or BD player to succeed the SCD-XA5400ES and BDP-S5000ES but that was actually to be expected: If it didn’t show up after three years it’s probably not going to happen any more after four years or ever after. Still remarkable that the main proponent of the Blu-ray Disc format and also the SACD format has not shown more innovation in its flagship AV product range that the ES series (Elevated Standard) forms, which meanwhile continues.
Other new products in its line-up include high-end projectors. You can find Sony's whole CEDIA press kit here.
Sony: IFA news
The Internationale Funkausstellung (IFA) 2012 is currently taking place in Berlin. Sony's press conference took place last Wednesday. In Kazuo Hirai's speech and in the press kit's set of press releases and the list of new products shown there was no mention of any new BD or SACD players. The majority of these are introduced every year at the CES which always takes place in January, but usually Sony still has one or two new models announced at IFA. This year perhaps they're saving those for CEDIA, which starts two days from now. More about that later this week.
Sony did announce at least one new ES series component: the 9.2-channel STR-DA5800ES AV receiver, the successor to last year's STR-DA5700ES with a similar cascade design. Its most outstanding feature is the ability to upscale video to 4K resolution. Among the features listed is FLAC 5.1-channel. DSD wasn't mentioned but may be supported anyway. We'll know as soon as it comes to market.
Also new in the ES series: these speakers. In related news, Sony announced a cooperation with the Berliner Philharmoniker. And while such a thing may make you think of SACD instantly, the intent seems to have more to do with acoustics, possibly leading to better loudspeakers and headphones.
According to Hirai, Sony's strategy to revitalize the electronics business will focus on Mobile, Digital Imaging and Gaming. While that seems to de-emphasize traditional A/V products like receivers and TV displays -- unless the latter are grouped under 'digital imaging' but we think that category means photo cameras and camcorders -- a large part of the presentation centered on 4K, including an 84-inch LCD TV with this resolution.
Indeed, while last year, the year before (also at CES) and in 2009 the main highlight was 3D, it seems that this innovation has not set the CE world afire as much as Sony and others had hoped, and now the company sees high resolution beyond 'HDTV' as the new target. This started with the introduction of the 4K upconverting BDP-S790 SACD/BD player at the 2012 CES. On a side note: also PlayStation 3 can output 4K resolution, but only for still pictures apparently. It works with PlayMemories - 4K edition. For 4K movies and games rendering you'll probably need to wait for PlayStation 4...
Sony did have at least one new 3D product though: the HMZ-T2 Personal 3D Viewer, successor to the HMZ-T1 we got at the 2011 IFA. It's got lighter (from half a kilo to one third) and lets you use headphones (or earbuds) of your choice.
Update: As was to be expected (though perhaps not this soon): Here's the Japanese 'equivalent' of the STR-DA5800ES (and successor to the TA-DA5700ES), predictably named TA-DA5800ES and equipped with two remote controls.
More high-end DSD gear: dCS
British company dCS (short for Data Conversion Systems and not be confused with various other firms named DCS Ltd.), manufacturer of high-end audiophile equipment, has -- after several generations of CD/SACD transports -- launched a new system that will play SACDs as well as DSD bitstreams. In dCS' tradition, it's named after a famous Italian classical composer; in this case Vivaldi.
The system is not yet listed on the corporate website but other sites such as AVguide have already posted interesting pictures of exterior as well as interior. The system consists of the following components:
The D-to-D upconvertor is there to handle input from other sources than the transport. It will upsample digital signals to DSD or even DXD resolution. If we understand it correctly, an ampifier is not part of the offer.
More DSD hardware news
Just days ago we reported about a lot of new DSD-compatible electronics that had come to market in recent weeks and already three new products have been announced.
First of all a couple of receivers. The Pioneer SC-LX86 and LX76 can play (2-channel) DSD files of the DSDIFF flavor from devices connected to the USB port. Whether they also support DSD input through the HDMI port the article doesn't mention but it seems likely that it does. Many audio formats are supported via DLNA, although DSD appears not to be among these. Could it be because of a lack of copy protection on DLNA connections? That doesn't seem to hinder DSD over USB. Please drop in if you understand this. Furthermore, the DSP will enhance 24-bit 192kHz signals to 32-bit depth.
Onkyo's launching a new AV receiver too: the Integra DTR-70.4. Like the LX86, it's a 9-channel AVR. It supports DSD, Apple Lossless Audio Codec and many more formats. Processing features that let you use up to nine channels include Audyssey DSX and Dolby Pro Logic IIz.
Our last product for today is the Asus Xonar Essence One USB DAC. This D/A Converter may not accept DSD but it does great tricks with PCM. It takes input up to 176.4/192 kHz and upsamples the signal to double the resolution. Coming from 24-bit 176.4 kHz like PS3 and recent Sony SACD/Blu-ray Disc players provide (when playing SACD and converting the DSD to PCM) you'll get to 352.8 kHz i.e. DXD resolution. The 38kHz signal even exceeds that. Too bad then the device doesn't have an HDMI input but USB (type B), Tos-link (optical) and coaxial digital input only. Still, interesting developments.
DSD hardware news
Asynchronous D/A Converters with their USB ports are all the rage at the moment and while the vast majority of them only do PCM (even if up to 192 kHz) a precious few also decode DSD.
First of all there's Chord Electronics, a British maker of audiophile equipment. They've released two USB DACs capable of handling DSD-over-USB: the QuteHD and the Qute QBD76HDSD. (QBD is short for Quarter Back DAC. While HDSD is no common acronym, in this context it made us think this might support double-rate DSD, also known as DSD128, but that appears not to be the case.) Follow the links above for product information sheets, user manuals, a manual explaining how to set them up for DSD, and drivers for Windows XP, Win 7 and Mac. AV Watch covered the two DACs in Japanese here and here, respectively, and also did a review.
TEAC, the Japanese high-end audio company, has added a very fancy D/A Converter to their appropriately branded Esoteric range, which will go nicely with some of their SACD players and transports: the D-07X. This unit does also has a USB port (type A) but it seems DSD is carried from the SACD source to the DAC via XLR, using some surely proprietary method. AV Watch coverage here.
Earlier this year, TEAC entered into an alliance with Onkyo. That company in the meantime also came up with some interestign DSD gear: their CR-N755 Network CD Receiver and CR-N555 CD Receiver announced last week feature a USB input that can handle DSD, FLAC and ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Coding).
More variants shown here. These models may be available only in Japan.
Ayre has developed another quite unique product: a DSD A/D Converter (ADC), the QA-9. Ideal for those who want to transfer their analog recordings into the highest quality digital signal. The QA-9 Pro version can be linked to a master clock in a recording studio environment.
Then there's the Sforzato stuff. Contrary to what the name may suggest, this is Japanese. The name, an italian word, is actually a music term for a type of accent (which in musical notation is represented by the sƒz of the company's logo). Anyway, back to the electronics. The DSP-01 is a 'Digital Stream Player' that lets you play high-resolution music from a NAS (Network-Attached Storage). The DSP-01 is still a prototype (shown at the 2012 Hi-End Show in Tokyo) but it plays DSD, in addition to a host of other audio formats such as AIFF, WAV, FLAC, ALAC (Apple Lossless), WMA Lossless and plain PCM of up to 192 kHz. The DSP-01 then appears to be a sophisticated version of the current DST-01 (Digital Stream Transport; PDF leaflet here, in Japanese), which by the way comes with this separate power supply pictured below. Also in development reportedly: a DAC named DSR-01 (Digital Stream Renderer). Apparently, a DAC is not built-in to the DST-01. So what exactly does it do then? Networking and feeding the signal to the output with a very-low-jitter clock. Surely, that must be the main difference between DST-01 and DSP-01 then. After all, the DAC is what sets an (SA)CD player apart from a transport.
It's taken a while, but in 2012 a lot of DSD-compatible equipment is suddenly coming to market. That's fantastic news for audiophiles, we conclude. Time to update our overview of DSD resources, perhaps.
Couting Crows debut on SACD
More popular rock music is coming to SACD, thanks to Analogue Productions. The 1993 debut album of Counting Crows, August and Everything After, produced by T-Bone Burnett and recorded to analog tape, has been remastered by Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound for reissue on SACD and audiophile vinyl.
More information over at Acoustic Sounds.
SHM-SACDs September: Mahler only
The batch of SHM-SACDs newly announced for the month of September (Wednesday 26th) consists of just three classical titles (plus the last two Queen albums, postponed from August). We're hoping this is not a new trend or policy, and that UMG Japan will continue to issue pop/rock as well as jazz and blues on the super format.
For those interested in seeing (yet more) Mahler on SACD: In February, we got No. 2 and later this month we'll get No. 5, by Sir Georg Solti. Not quite a cycle, with all these different conductors and orchestras. All great names though.
Queen catalog complete on SHM-SACD
By the end of September, all of Queen's fifteen studio albums as well as their first two compilation albums will have been reissued, on the SHM-SACD format, fullfulling (with a little delay) a promise Universal Music made on 8 November 2010.
For a complete visual overview, click here.
Well done, Universal, good job. We've got most Dire Straits and all Queen albums now. Thanks. Which artist is up next?
New Denon Universal BD Player
Denon's just added a new SACD/DVDA-compatible Blu-ray Disc player to their range - the DBT-1713UD, pictured here with an AVR-1713 A/V Receiver. This AVR, by the way, will not handle DSD input via HDMI. The top-of-the-range AVR-3313CI however will. The universal BD player you'll find in our list of more such products.
The back side of the player features no multichannel analog outputs, just stereo out and HDMI for multichannel digital out. After all, any current AVR will handle digital multichannel input via HDMI, even if only in PCM format in some cases. Perhaps Denon considers this unit more as a transport than as a player, hence the change from 'DBP' to 'DBT' typenumber prefix?
This contrasts with the Primare BD32 universal Blu-ray Disc player we wrote about earlier this year (and which apparently is available in black, too). New pictures we came across show plenty of connection options on the rear panel, including analog multichannel and stereo out, XLR balaced outputs, optical and coaxial digital out, YCbCr component video, 2x HDMI, USB, e-SATA, RS-232C and LAN (ethernet port).
And this is what it looks like inside:
Norah Jones catalog issued on SACD
Analogue Productions have just announced they will reissue all of Norah Jones' albums on audiophile vinyl and SACD between July and September of this year. As the blurb writes: "LP and SACD editions of the five albums - 2002's Come Away With Me, 2004's Feels Like Home, 2007's Not Too Late, 2009's The Fall and the new album Little Broken Hearts - have all been re-mastered from the original sources by Kevin Gray."
"In addition to the individual releases, Analogue and Blue Note will produce limited edition vinyl and SACD box sets comprising all five titles plus an exclusive bonus album entitled Covers. Only available as part of these sets, Covers includes ten rare unreleased interpretations of classics recorded throughout Norah's career. Artists covered include Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Tom Waits, Horace Siler, Wilco and more."
According to Acoustic Sounds' Norah Jones page, all the SACDs will be hybrid stereo except Come Away With Me which will be hybrid multichannel. This is the only album that has previously been released on SACD.
The album New York City by The Peter Malick Group featuring Norah Jones, also previously out on hybrid stereo SACD – and quite hard to get by now – is not part of this reissue project.
Firmware v4.20 adds Virtual Surround Sound
We've written about Virtual Surround Sound before. Until now, you needed to use special headphones to achieve this, or at least a pair with a surround processor, such as these, or this PlayStation-branded headset Sony introduced last year, or the Pulse 'Elite Edition' one -- or an AV Receiver or some other device to do the audio processing. From today on, PS3 can perform these algorithms itself, so you can use any headset for it: It's one of the new features of system software upgrade v4.20 that Sony just announced.
Eric Lempel writes: "For those of you who use the Wireless Stereo Headset to watch Blu-ray or DVD movies on your PS3, this system software update will also enable virtual surround sound functionality, giving you a superior audio experience." The post does not specify whether VSS also works with Super Audio CD, or any of the other surround sound formats PS3 handles, like MP3 Surround.
One of the other new/improved features also concerns audio, but only for gaming. More details about the enhancements on SCE's blog.
August SHM-SACD releases complete the Queen collection
UMG Japan's August batch is a modest one with two pop/rock titles and three classical ones:
Queen's collection of SHM-SACDs was already complete with all of their studio albums released on this format but with these two compilation albums there's also something for those who are only interested in the highlights.
The five titles will be released August 29.
July SHM-SACD batch includes Black Sabbath and Bill Evans
SHM-SACDs are always release by UMG Japan on the last Wednesday of the month. July's delivery (street date July 25) will count the following nine titles:
The Ozawa title is a Japanese original release. It's a live recording of the performance at Saito Kinen Festival Matsumoto in 2011. It was issued on SHM-CD before but not elsewhere. The other two classical albums are 2012 DSD masters based on the Deutsche Grammophon's original analog tapes.
By the way, you'd be forgiven to think the above album is a Stan Getz one -- it shares the abstract artwork by Olga Albizu with many of the jazz samba/bossa nova albums, the collaborations with Joćo Gilberto, Charlie Byrd, Luiz Bonfa and others; also on Verve. Two of those have been reissued on SACD thus far (though one of them multiple times).
There are several new SACD players coming to market in the months ahead. None play PS3 games, some play BD and DVD but the ones we'll start with are dedicated SACD/CD players. First of all there's a new Marantz: a sucessor to the SA-11S2. It's called... SA-11S3. Marantz hasn't published any official pictures yet but they've shown the device at the High End show in Munich. You can find many pictures on the web that show it looks a lot like its predecessor. The most notable difference is probably the USB port on the front. That's a type-A USB input for playback from iPod, USB flash stick or HDD. There's also a type-B USB input for using the SA11S3's DAC as a high-quality 192kHz/24-bit soundcard. The new player will be priced at about €4,000 and be available in black, silver and gold.
Second up is Pioneer with some equally high-end looking players: the PD-10 and PD-30, available from July, and the PD-50, available from September this year.
Pioneer's press release is here. It seems to indicate these are stereo-only players. That and the fact that these are dedicated SACD/CD players only makes them successors to the earlier audiophile PD-D6 and PD-D9 players only with a more straightforward design, even more so than, say, the (universal) DV-AX10 or DV800AV; rather reminiscent of Sony models like the SCX-940XB, SCX-XB9, DVP-NS3100ES, DVP-NS900V (QS series) -- a very nice, clean design, highly appropriate for SACD. Less is more.
Lastly, there's Pioneer's BDP-150, we suppose the successor to last year's slim and very affordable BDP-140 universal Blu-ray Disc/DVD-Video/DVD-Audio/Super Audio CD player. The only announcement we've seen so far was from Japan but we expect that, like the 140, we'll get to see this model in the west, too.
Another Pioneer BD player just announced in Japan, the very slim BDP-3110, does not support SACD but their latest home theater system, HTZ-626BD, does (in addition to BD and a host of other formats). Its main attraction according to Pioneer is vitual 11.1-channel surround sound from 5.1 speakers.
Note that's its predecessors HTZ-606BD and HTZ-616BD were not SACD-compatible.
In other hardware 'news', some products we wrote about earlier that weren't available from Amazon at the time are listed in the meantime, such as: Pioneer's BDP-140 (also available from Amazon in Europe; see our list) and Elite BDP-52FD; Sony's 2012 ES series AV Receivers: STR-DA3700ES and STR-DA5700ES (coverage here); SCE's second-generation 'AV remote' for PS3, CECH-ZRC1 (coverage here).
DSD on the go
For those wishing to listen to DSD rather than MP3, WMA, AAC or even FLAC/ALAC on the go, Japanese company Hibino has developed a 'Reference High Definition music Player', the iBasso Audio HDP-R10. It supports a pretty wide range of audio formats: DSD (DSF), FLAC, ALAC, AIFF, AAC, WAV, WMA, OGG, APE, MP3 and PCM up to 24-bit/192kHz. It's based on ESS Technology's 32-bit SABRE32 Reference audio DAC ES9018. It features a USB port, an SDHC-compatible micro SD card slot as well as 64GB flash memory built-in, both 6.3 and 3.5mm headphone jacks and runs on Android OS.
AV Watch writes the player will (after some delay) be released this summer. No price is mentioned.
SHM-SACD June titles
The next batch of SHM-SACDs, scheduled for release 27 June, will be a small one. One title, The Who Live At Leeds, has shifted from May to June and there will be only three other titles, all classical. No pop, rock, jazz or blues that month. Also, all three are Decca label reissue based on 2012 remasters using the original analog Decca master tapes. Here's the list:
Note that the Who album is a 2-disc set priced 33% higher than other SHM-SACDs: 5,714 Yen ex tax.
Amazon Instant Video lands on PS3
PlayStation 3 just became the first console to offer Amazon Instant Video -- the Video On Demand service available to Amazon Prime members in the US. There are more than 120,000 movies and epiodes of TV series on catalog. When you install the app, you'll see this icon in your XMB Cross Media Bar:
If you're quick you can still use this special introduction offer: during the first week (started April 3) the first episode of more than 100 TV series are free.
You can read more over at the PlayStation blog or in Time Techland. No information for now as to whether this service might become available in some other way than through Amazon Prime or, as PS3 owners outside of the US may wonder, anywhere else in the world.
May SHM-SACD batch: The Who again
Universal Music Japan's batches of SHM-SACDs (issued monthly) are dutifully announced two months ahead of their release. The next one (scheduled for May 30) includes two rock, three jazz and three classical titles:
Both remasters of albums by The Who "use the 2012 DSD master based on UK original analog tape." The classical albums are not reissues but original releases, as least in Japan, or so the blurb claims. "Uses the 2012 DSD master based on Deutsche Grammophon's original analog tape."
2L news: more SACD/BDs and DSD downloads
Label 2L from Norway has issued another recording of the TrondheimSolistene: Souvenir part 1, a performance of Tchaikovsky's Souvenir de Florence and his Serenade for Strings. The DXD recording is available on 180g audiophile grade vinyl and in various high-resolution formats to download and on Blu-ray Disc. The wordwide BD (region A/B/C) contains DTS HD MA 192kHz/24 bit 5.1 DTS HD MA 96kHz/24 bit 7.1, LPCM 192kHz/24 bit STEREO, FLAC 96kHz and MP3. A complete track of the album is available for free in DXD and DSD resolution in their test bench.
Here's a schematic of the 7.1-channel microphone set-up and the orchestra configuation used for this performance.
While 2L continues to release SACDs, this particular album does not appear on SACD. It's not a Super Audio CD/Blu-ray Disc combination, like the orchestra's two previous albums. One album that did get this treatment is Himmelkvad (available on Amazon) of Norwegian composer Lasse Thoresen, performed by vocal ensemble Nordic Voices and folk singer Berit Opheim Versto -- 2L's 12th 'SABD'.
More details about available formats, the microphone set-up and the artwork available on 2L's site.
New Universal BD player: Primare
Audiophile brand Primare has joined the ranks of manufacturers who offer universal Blu-ray Disc players, i.e. supporting SACD and DVD-Audio besides BD and DVD-Video. Like the Oppo and Cambridge Audio, it's based on the MediaTek platform. It's called BD32 and is available globally.
We don't have more details such as its price but you'll find the universal player in our list of SACD-compatible BD players.
Mastered for PS3?
Read our plea for high-resolution/multi-channel music downloads through SEN in our editorial section.
Cybele Records joins the DSD downloads bandwagon
German classical music label Cybele Records have joined 2L, Blue Coast Records and Channel Classics in offering high-resolution and multichannel music downloads. On offer are DSD and FLAC in 5.0/5.1 Low-quality options like MP3 are excluded. You can choose between individual tracks and entire albums. There's a 20-second sample for each download, as well as a product-related gallery and artist profile.
The website is originally in German but (machine) translations in English and many other languages can be selected.
More DSD downloads here.
Channel Classics start DSD downloads
Classic music label Channel Classics from the Netherlands, known for instance for the various SACDs of Iván Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra, have embarked on a project to release certain DSD recordings for downloading. A free sample of Stravinsky's Firebird Suite by aforementioned artists is available here.
11 albums are listed so far (up from 8 yesterday, so it's going fast). Like with 2L, the DSD tracks are all in DFF format -- not the DSF flavor that PS3 will play. There's conversion software available (we've written about Korg AudioGate before) but perhaps it's time we write a guide on how to convert DFF into DSF and then create a DSD Disc format-compliant disc for easy playback on PlayStation 3. Hopefully more about that soon.
Note that while the SACDs (also this one) are stereo + multichannel, the downloads are stereo only -- in DSD, 24/192, 24/96 FLAC (PCM), Red Book audio or MP3.
Because of the quickly rising number of available albums, for now we've added a single entry for Channel Classics on our DSD downloads page rather than listing each individual album.
April SHM-SACD batch: The Who, Queen
SHM-SACDs are stereo-only, singe layer SACDs. Although we would consider multichannel SACDs more interesting, these are still the best 'high-spec CD' variant by a Japanese company aiming at stereo audiophiles we've seen so far. They're priced priced ¥4,286 net (¥4,500 including tax), issued by Universal Music Japan in monthly batches and available from sites such as CD Japan. The latest ones (release date April 25) are:
Live at Leeds is a 2-disc album priced ¥5,714. Tommy is also available on hybrid multichannel SACD.
Several new Sony BD/SACD players
At this year's CES in Las Vegas, Sony has launched it's line-up for this year including a range of Blu-ray Disc players: the BDP-S390, BDP-S590, BDP-S790, plus integrated Home Theater Systems BDV-E390, BDV-N790W, BDV-N890W. At the same time, Sony Europe has announced its range which, as usual, includes some additional models: player BDP-S490 and Home Cinema System BDV-E190, BDV-E290, BDV-E490, BDV-E690, BDV-N590, BDV-N990W.
Sony BDP-S790 SACD/BD player
The big question of course is whether these units support Super Audio CD, like the 2010 and 2011 range do. Unlike the previous two years, this year's press release and product fact sheet don't mention it but that doesn't mean much: only the most important and new features are specified. Thanks to product leaflets of Sony Germany we know that at least the following models play SACD: BDP-S490, BDV-N790W, BDV-N990W.
Sony BDP-S590 SACD/BD player
Following the inevitable line logic we can conclude the BDP-S590, BDP-S790 and BDV-N890W will also be SACD-compatible. It could even be that the BDP-S390 and BDV-E390 are based on the same platform and hence also support the format but especially the former looks a lot like the BDP-S185 Sony introduced in Europe at the 2011 IFA which does not play SACD. Probably that's also the case for the Google TV-powered NSZ-GP9 BD player and the portable NSZ-GP9, both of which likely are based on different platforms. Note how also the 2011 BDP-S280 lacks SACD playback. That feature started from the BDP-S380 up.
Sony BDP-S390 BD player
New features include upscaling of video content to 4K resolution on the BDP-S790. All models, when online, can connect to the Sony Entertainment Network (providing the Video Unlimited and Music Unlimited streaming services) and services from Netflix, Pandora, HuluPlus, Amazon Video on Demand, YouTube, Slacker Internet Radio, Crackle and others. They also offer Sony's social viewing application, Socialize, to let you share your media experiences with friends and followers on Twitter and Facebook. All of this will be provided through a new user interface.
Sony BDV-N790W with Blu-ray Disc and SACD playback.
Update: Sony Europe has confirmed: "all new 2012 BD players should play SA-CD." We take it that applies to all European models (including Home Cinema Systems, we assume) and any US models with equivalent or higher type numbers, so all listed in the above table, not necessarily the portable or Google TV models. It may also extend to the new European Home Cinema Systems BDV-EF220, BDV-EF420 BDV-NF620 and BDV-NF720.
March SHM-SACD batch: Queen, Black Sabbath
Universal Music Japan's March batch of SHM-SACDs includes three more Queen albums (the fourth such set) and two Black Sabbath ones. Besides rock music there will also be several reissues in blues, jazz and classical genres:
Consistently, all of these are stereo-only single-layer SACDs, priced ¥4,286 excluding or ¥4,500 including tax. They are scheduled for March 28.
DSotM again best-selling SACD in 2011
Now that 2011 is over, it's time to make up the balance so here are some statistics we like to share. Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, as far as we know the best-selling SACD of all time (selling nearly a million units in the US alone soon after its release in 2003) is again the most popular title in the past year as far as this site is concerned. The next Pink Floyd SACD, Wish You Were Here, which we've written about extensively, is not found in this chart because it's available on Amazon only from January 10, 2012.
Runners-up were: King Crimson's In the Court of the Crimson King (Deluxe) [DVD-Audio], Steely Dan's Gaucho [Hybrid SACD], Peter Gabriel's New Blood - Live in London 3D [Blu-Ray / DVD], Nine Inch Nails' Pretty Hate Machine (2010 Remaster) [CD] and Mark Knopfler's Shangri-La [Hybrid SACD].
The most popular A/V hardware sold through this site in the year past was:
Items # 1, 4 ,5, 7, 9 and 10 are SACD-compatible BD players.
Gaming gear purchased through us ranks as follows:
SACD title release rate picking up speed
According to authoritive website SA-CD.net, the number of SACDs released in 2011 amounted to 773, significantly more than the year before and in fact more than any of the preceding 5 years. It represents a 22% rise over the previous year, when the rise was 8%, so the speed is apparently accelerating.
The only sideline remark we could make is that a series of SACDs by The Absolute Sound from previous years (2004-2010) was included in 2011 that should have been added in earlier years but even when adjusting for this correction, the numbers show a healthy and impressive increase by all accounts.
A few more statistics: The CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of the number of titles per year 2004-2011 is just -2% while the CAGR of the cumulative number of titles 2004-2011 stands at +16%.
We wish you a great 2012 with lots of new interesting SACDs.
February SHM-SACD batch: more Queen, Dire Straits and Mike Oldfield
Universal Music Japan's SHM-SACD roster for February includes lots of albums that will appear on SACD for the first time:
These titles are slated for February 22, 2012. We'd almost forget to mention the albums listed for January 25, 2012:
None of the above albums are listed on CD Japan yet but we'll let you know as soon as they are.
MoFi to reissue Bob Dylan on SACD
All are labeled as 'Numbered Limited Edition'. Availability through Music Direct is 'TBA'.
Another Side Of Bob Dylan, Blonde On Blonde, Blood On The Tracks and Bringing It All Back Home are already available on multichannel hybrid SACD, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan on hybrid stereo SACD. (Blonde on Blonde has even been issued early on single-layer stereo SACD). Only The Basement Tapes will be out on SACD for the first time.
There's a new system software version update out: version 4.00. As SCEA writes, it enables PS3 to service as a content management device but this function appears to be meant squarely for PS Vita the next-generation PlayStation Portable. More details here.
Wish You Were Here now available on Amazon.com
Available for pre-order, that is. It's come a long way, via two years of mere rumors, to an official announcement, to exclusive availability through Analog Productions, to availability on European Amazon sites, to eventual listing on US Amazon.com today. The second hybrid SACD of Pink Floyd will be out there January 12, 2012.
In all sorts of gamer forums we've often read about PS3 owners who own just a single SACD -- Dark Side of the Moon. No wonder, it's probably the best-selling SACD in history thus far. Some who've heard the new 5.1 mix of WYWH say it even beats DSotM. We'd say: if you own just one SACD and it's DSotM, this is your next must-have title on multichannel hybrid SACD.
Wish list suggestions
It's almost Thanksgiving in the US, the official start of the holiday season, so this looks like a good time for our preliminary bestseller list. In music, the top 10 year-to-date looks as follows:
Runner-up is King Crimson's In the Court of the Crimson King (Deluxe) [CD + DVD-Audio].
Best-selling AV hardware this year thus far is the OPPO BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player. Outside of that, the list is too mixed up to draft any meaningful chart.
For gaming gear, the top 5 looks as follows:
The above chart is based purely on Amazon.com sales. The UK and other sales could alter positions slightly. For CD Japan sales, the picture looks very different. More about that soon.
If you want to thank someone or us, why not order them or yourself a gift? Other gift ideas you may find here:
DSD over USB
We reported a number of times lately about a couple of recent DSD DACs such as the Mytek Digital and Fostex HP-A8. Like all asynchronous DACs, these come equipped with USB ports. So far, however, there was no standard for DSD on USB. Now dCS, the company behind audiophiles DACs and SACD transports carrying names like Scarlatti, Paganini, Puccini and Debussy, in cooperation with Amarra and Pure Music has proposed an open standard for this, Audiobeat reports.
Confusingly, the same publication in another blog entry suggests the format somehow magically lets PCM DACs handle the signal but that's not the case. Reading the white paper, we can see the cause of the confusion, but a PCM DAC will not decode the DSD signal correctly. The stream is merely created such that PCM DACs will not blast your speakers while interpreting DSD as PCM but instead produce the typical noise at a strongly muted level -- it really does need a DSD DAC to decode it properly. The format basically describes a way for packaging a pure DSD signal inside a PCM stream.
Is this relevant for PS3 owners? Not immediately. Where i.LINK/FireWire/IEEE1394 has '5C' DTCP and HDMI has HDCP there is no copy protection defined for DSD over USB, so it cannot be used for SACD playback. Playback of DSD discs via USB might be a nice feature to support but surely this isn't high on SCE's priorities. Of course a hack could change matters but given the fact that PS3s are technically unable to pass DSD through HDMI one can wonder whether it's feasible at all to do so via the USB ports. It is an interesting development however for audiophiles using an external DSD DAC for playback of DSD downloads on for instance a PC.
Wish You Were Here lands at Amazon... Germany
The multichannel SACD of Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here which finally came out recently is now available for the first time at Amazon, but thus far only at German daughter Amazon.de (at 42 euro). We're expecting other European daughters to follow suit soon but are not quite sure when the US site will. We'll keep you posted about any developments though.
Other multichannel options for this same album are available in the Immersion Box Set.
Second trio of Queen SHM-SACDs now also listed
The Doors on SACD
Several years ago, Warner released a number of Doors albums on DVD-Audio. As part of Warner Japan's effort to reissue these on multichannel SACD, at least one of them recently became available on SACD. More are now coming as part of a reissue program by Analogue Productions:
Why The Soft Parade and Morrison Hotel in this program are issued on vinyl but not on SACD is a small mystery to us.
The blurb that AP put out states:
Cut from the original masters by Doug Sax, with the exception of The Doors, which was made from the best tape copy. Sax and Doors producer/engineer Bruce Botnick went through a meticulous setup to guarantee a positively stunning reissues series.
This is an all-tubes process. These masters were recorded on tube equipment and the tape machine used for transfer for these releases is a tube machine, as is the cutting system. Tubes, baby! A truly authentic reissue project.
Like Wish You Were Here (but unlike most SACDs from Analogue Productions) these will be multichannel SACDs!
First Hong Kong BD-Audio title
Canto-pop artist Bondy Hok-Yee Chiu (趙學而), Hok-E for short, has released an album, Trinity, that's made its way onto Pure Audio Blu-ray Disc (and HQCD), msm-studios write in their latest newsletter.
It's available here but don't be shocked by the $350 price tag -- those are Hong Kong dollars. HKD 350 equates to USD 45. More about the album and the artist on the blog of Design w Sound (in Chinese).
There seems to be no mention of 5.1/multichannel/surround sound so we suspect that, like so many audiophile SACDs from Hong Kong, this album is stereo only.
The disc is made with msm's mShuttle functionality, which makes additional files available online, in this case including DSD, 24/96 FLAC & AIFF and 320-kbps MP3 files plus album cover, booklet and bonus images. We're surprised to see 1-bit/5.6-MHz DSD -- that's double the regular sampling rate i.e. 128 times that of CD, also known as DSD128. Not every DSD DAC or DSD-capable receiver may be able to handle that.
DSD DAC with USB and FireWire input
We're getting closer to what we've been waiting for. No HDMI input yet (and no DXD either) but New York-based Mytek Digital has developed a range of PCM/DSD DACs with a host of inputs, including USB 2.0 and FireWire/i.LINK/IEEE1394. They accept DSD through this, so there's no limitation like with the Fostex HP-A8 that only will playback DSD from SD card. The DAC handles stereo PCM of up to 32-bit/192 kHz.
There is also a more minimalist looking version intended for audiophiles rather then recording professionals.
Headphone Amp with DSD DAC
Headphone amplifiers with asynchronous Digital-to-Analog Converters, usually with USB input, are all the rage lately, especially in Japan. From that country comes the first such product with a DSD DAC: The Fostex HP-A8 (datasheet here).
The D/A Converter inside is the AK4399, a 32-bit/192 kHz DAC (datasheet here) by Asahi Kasei Microdevices (AKM). It supports 32/192 PCM and 1-bit 2.8 MHz DSD in DSF flavor -- both just in stereo, naturally.
Many recent SACD players (such as these) will output DSD or high-resolution PCM (88.2 or 176.6 kHz) depending on what the sink device can handle. PS3 only will output the latter. This amp, decoding all of these streams, would be a great peripheral for either -- if it had HDMI input. As far as we can see however it only has optical and coaxial digital input and a high-speed USB port; no HDMI (or even i.LINK/FireWire). To use this for playing SACDs you would first need to rip them, then play the files back on a PC. (Sure, PS3 has USB ports too but it will not output SACD audio through them.) Of course, what you can use it for is playing DSD Discs and DSD downloads.
If you're interested in a DSD DAC, you may also be interested in a DXD DAC like the M2Tech 'Young' discussed here. For now, we will wait for a manufacturer to launch a headphone amp that supports DSD input via HDMI, and perhaps even DXD.
Update: We've been informed about some apparent restrictions. Not only does the Fostex HP-A8 lack HDMI and FireWire, it may not even play DSD via USB. The Japanese leaflet seems to indicate it will only play DSD from SD cards -- much like the Korg DSD recorders.
Many new multichannel options with Pink Floyd
Dark Side of the Moon is out on SACD since 2003 and is probably the best-selling SACD ever, so far. It contains a 5.1 mix by James Guthrie made newly for this 30th Anniversary Edition.
Like we reported in May, in 2009 he also remixed Wish You Were Here in 5.1 and EMI has finally issued this mix on SACD this year. We're still waiting for it to show up on Amazon and CD Japan, which should happen any time soon now, but in the meantime there are various other options to explore, all part of the Why Pink Floyd? 2011 reissue program.
First of all, the DSotM Immersion Box Set, out since September 27, contains six discs plus many other goodies. One of them is an audio-only DVD (but not a DVD-Audio disc) with the following contents:
That 448 kbit/second track is simply Dolby Digital. We're not sure about the 640 kbps track, referred to by some sites as 'high resolution'. It's not DTS (which on DVD-Video uses 755 or 1510 kbps) so it's probably higher-bitrate Dolby Digital -- not conforming to the DVD-Video standard but still decodable by just about any (current) AV Receiver. The quad mix was never officially issued on SACD or DVD but has been circulating as a DVD-Audio download in the online bootleg circuit.
Another disc is a Blu-ray Disc which besides several films (some in 24/48 5.1!) contains the following audio tracks:
and a Blu-ray Disc with several films/clips and this audio track:
Yes, we've got Apple news today but it doesn't involve any iPhone, iPad or iOS. It's about Korg's AudioGate DSD playback/recording/conversion software. The latest version, Korg AudioGate v2.2, now also works on Apple Mac OS X Lion. You can download it for free from Korg.
First 3 Queen SHM-SACDs now listed
Integra: high-end AVR with DSD
Onkyo has introduced an AV Receiver with DSD input via HDMI under its high-end home theater brand, Integra. That may not be of use with PS3 but it is with many recent SACD players. Perhaps it's surprising then that there is no SACD-compatible BD player in the Integra range at this moment. In the past, the brand has had several universal players supporting SACD, DVD-Audio and DVD-Video such as the DPS-8.3, DPS-6.7 and DPS-6.5.The current DPS-6.9 is the last one in that series. The Integra DBS-50.3 Blu-ray Disc player however supports neither SACD nor DVD-A.
Anyway, the new AVR is called Integra DTR-70.3 and it's got 9.2-channel output. It's available in Japan as well as the US. The US has also got a more advanced model, the Integra DTR-80.3 with somewhat more output power and 192kHz/32-bit DACs instead of 192/24-bit.
In other news, Sony has introduced the TA-DA5700ES AV Receiver -- the Japanese sibling of the STR-DA5700ES. One apparent difference to the western model, as with all of its predecessors, is the dual remote controls bundled. It's ¥27,300.
SHM-SACD: November/December batches to include Queen
Universal Music Japan has got the following albums lined up for re-issue on SHM-SACD:
As per UMG's definition, SHM-SACDs are strictly stereo-only single layer. For Tubular Bells therefore we must recommend the earlier SACD edition, which contains a transfer of the original quadrophonic mix. It's a 4.0-channel hybrid disc.
Oh, and yes, also for October a batch of SHM-SACDs has been announced but only classical titles so we skipped reporting on those. For completeness' sake, here the are. Due date: October 19/26.
As usual, the net price is ¥4,286. Including 'Consumption Tax' (CT, as VAT or Sales Tax is called in Japan) of 5% that's ¥4,500.
JVC's latest RBCD technique
We've previously written about attempts to let RBCDs sound better. Our coverage of Blu-spec CD lists a number of approaches, each aimed at different parts of the production chain. Some of those have since been combined, others imitated. JVC, who's behind the XRCD and K2 HD mastering system has now launched a new feature that we think emulates Sony's Blu-spec idea: a more precise cutting of the physical disc master. JVC calls it: HR Cutting.
We must insist: We wish all of these techniques were applied to media like Super Audio CD that inherently provide higher fidelity through greater resolution, sampling rate, accuracy in the timing domain, etc.
More Asian models
By today, Tokyo Games Show 2011 is over. We didn't see any booth babes posing with good-looking PS3 consoles, even though quite a few new variants were launched:
While searching the web however we did come across some pictures we missed earlier, when we reported on Korean and Japanese models. Here then is a picture of PS3's 2009 launch in Malaysia, thanks to blogger 1mytomyam. More pictures on his blog.
Seeing and hearing in 3D
IFA and CEDIA 2011 are over. Sony's announced some 3D vizors and headsets. So many different types in fact, we're still working to make sense of it all. Here's a quick rundown:
1. The MDR-DS7500 - a pair of (virtual) 7.1-channel headphones. These could be regarded the successor to the MDR-DS7100 (rather than to the DR-GA500 headset which has got a microphone and is aimed squarely at gaming). They come with a pair of 3D glasses, it seems from this article in AV watch (Japanese). As it turns out however the goggles are sold separately. There's even no mention of them in Sony's related press release.
Sony MDR-DS7500 7.1ch headphones -- 3D glasses not included
2. The HMZ-T1 Personal 3D Viewer - a virtual 150" 3D HDTV with simulated 5.1-channel surround sound. It's a head-mounted display (HMD) containing two 1280x720 resolution OLED panels, 0.7"/18mm each. More details in the press release.
Sony HMZ-T1 Personal 3D Viewer
It reminds us -- and not only us, also AV Watch -- of the Virtual Reality (VR) headset prototype Sony presented at this year's CES, although we thought that one (looking quite different but seemingly based on the same technology) had motion sensors that you need for an immersive, interactive VR experience. That would be for gaming application though, not for passive 3D movie watching like this commercial Home Cinema product.
Sony VR HMD prototype at CES 2011
We're not surprised to see VR technology making a comeback. It failed to live up to overhyped expectations in the nineties mainly for four reasons: (1) Too heavy headsets, causing discomfort and the constant need to adjust the HMD on one's head. (2) Too low resolution. (3) Too high latency, causing a sense of nausea or 'VR sickness'. (4) Too high cost. In all four areas, substantial progress has been made in the past twenty years. We expect a directionally-sensitive version of the Sony HMD in the near future, still within the lifespan of PlayStation 3. Clearly, such a device fits very well with Sony's current emphasis on 3D.
3. The CECH-ZEx1J, if we may use this wildcard -- a combination of the CECH-ZED1J dual view/3D display and associated CECH-ZEG1J glasses. These products are actually launched by Sony Computer Entertainment and targeted specifically at PS3 users, hence the PlayStation logos on them.
More details here (Japanese).
4. The Full HD 3D Glasses standard. Sony, Panasonic and Samsung have agreed upon a standardized technology and interface for glasses you can use for viewing high-definition three-dimensional screens at home. Toshiba, Sharp, Philips and TCL have joined this initiative, announced at IFA. It's not clear however to what extent the 3D glasses above conform to this new standard.
What's happened to Sony's ES range?
Also on offer: a range of ES-branded front projectors -- do rear projectors still exist actually? -- including the 4K/3D SXRD VPL-VW1000ES. Nice stuff. But it's been exactly three years since the company introduced the last ES Series Blu-ray Disc and SACD player, BDP-5000ES and SCD-XA5400ES. Sure, these are great products and in this segment products don't need to be replaced every 6 months or even 12 months but aren't they due for an update? Aren't Blu-ray Disc and Super Audio CD technology worthy of an up-to-date ES Series component?
Oh sure, there's the 2011 BDP-S1700ES, the top-of-the-range BD/DVD/SACD player in Sony's mid-range segment that some US marketing manager slammed an ES Series designation onto but like its predecessors BDP-S1000ES and BDP-S2000ES it's not a real ES Series product, with a 'cascade design' solid die-cast brushed aluminium front panel, a ridid frame-and-beam chassis and all the other characteristics that made these components so great.
With virtually all Sony's 2010 and 2011 BD players supporting SACD a new ES Series BD player can't stay behind. We understand it can be daunting to design and develop a single device that does both of these formats (and many others) justice -- especially if the financial situation is less than desirable -- but even in this segment of the market three years is a tad long. Sony, what's keeping you? Why make video and audiophiles wait this long?
Update: The Pioneer BDP-140 will also be out in Japan later this month. No price was anounced but it's surely going to be affordable.
Pioneer Elite Universal BD Players
Like we predicted last week, Pioneer has used CEDIA to launch an Elite-branded universal Blu-ray Disc player. Two in fact: the BDP-52FD and BDP-53FD, in addition to basic BDP-140. All three players support SACD while the two Elite models also play DVD-Audio. We suspect the BDP-52FD and 53FD pretty much match the European BDP-440 and BDP-LX55 in terms of specifications but unfortunately both links in the press release don't work.
Suggested retail prices for the three models in the US market are $499, $399 and $199.
You'll find all five new models in our overview of SACD-compatible Blu-ray Disc players.
Pioneer is back with universal players
Surprise! The greatest SACD hardware news at IFA is not about Sony, Oppo, Denon or Marantz -- it's about Pioneer. In the DVD era, Pioneer has been a purveyor of universal DVD-Video/DVD-Audio/SACD players about as long as these formats have been around. As recently as last year, Pioneer has launched universal DVD players and home theater systems, but so far their Blu-ray Disc player range had been completely disjointed from this compatibility, offering only DVD-V, CD-DA, VCD and such. This year that has finally been corrected. At the 2011 IFA, Pioneer has announced three SACD-compatible BD players:
All three will play Blu-ray 3D, DVD-Video, SACD, CD and more formats. Only the more expensive two also feature DVD-Audio playback. Other new features include FLAC support, PQLS and double HDMI ports on the BDP-LX55. Also available is free iControl AV2 app to control each of these players.
SACD playback via HDMI can be done as DSD 1-bit stream or transcoded to high-resolution PCM at 88.2kHz/24-bit or 176.4kHz/24-bit.
Aside from one-time supporters of SACD like Sharp, Toshiba and Samsung of all the original SACD supporters the only firm not yet offering a (semi)universal BD player is Philips.
US citizens: expect similar announcements including an Elite model next week at CEDIA.
New DSD-compatible Yamaha receiver
Yamaha's got a trio of new AV Receivers, the Aventage RX-A3010, RX-A2010 and RX-A1010. All are a good match for a PlayStation 3 or Yamaha's recent universal BD/DVD-Video/DVD-Audio/SACD/CD player BD-A1010 but the first one in particular since it supports DSD input.
Ordering from CD Japan
There appears to be an impression with some of our visitors that ordering items such as SHM-SACDs or regular SACDs or from CDJapan.co.jp to countries outside of Japan is impossible or prohibitively expensive. We can be short about that: It is neither.
If on any page on the site you click on shipping methods and shipping charges you'll see all continents are served, and airmail to North America or Europe is 750 yen (about USD 9.80 or EUR 6.80 at current exchange rates) for a single disc.
Some titles may be more expensive than average. The SHM-SACDs carry a retail price of ¥4500 ($59 or €40) including tax but that's merely due to Universal Music Japan's audiophile premium positioning for this product. Warner Music Japan's recent reissues on multichannel hybrid SACD of earlier DVD-Audio 5.1 albums are priced ¥3200 (about $41 or €29) including tax. This is a normal price for an SACD in Japan. If it seems expensive that's rather because of the relative weakness of the US dollar and the Euro at this moment.
Four years of PS3SACD.com
Today marks this site's fourth birthday and the past year has been quite a dynamic one. SACD may not have played a major role in PS3's past year but PS3 has definitely featured prominently in SACD's developments with the final cracking (after more than ten years) of the SACD format, made possible on PS3 by the various hacks of the console. It's too early to tell what impact this will have.
Also, the number of SACD releases has seen a resurgence, with the success of UMG's SHM-SACD program in Japan apparently inspiring Warner Music to reissue former 5.1 DVD-Audio titles on multichannel hybrid SACD in that same market and EMI to finally release, at least two years after its creation, Pink Floyd's second SACD, Wish You Were Here.
Businesswise, this site has become an affiliate of CD Japan and it looks like orders from them will soon eclipse orders from Amazon.com. To all our visitors: thanks for coming back and helping this niche special interest site the nice place it is.
Next two King Crimson albums in 5.1
Both contain new stereo and 5.1 multichannel remasters by Steven Wilson and the stereo masters from the earlier 30th anniversary editions in 24/96 resolution. All content is in MLP Lossless, DTS and 24-bit LPCM. There is no Dolby Digital here. The 2.0 PCM and 5.1 DTS tracks you can play on PS3. For the other tracks you'll need a player with DVD-Audio support.
In addition, Discipline has a plethora of extras, including the original rough mixes in the originally planned running order, plus a selection of out-takes, alternate versions and some footage from the BBC's "Old Grey Whistle Test". Bonus content on Starless and Bible Black includes live tracks recorded in Zurich 1973 and an assortment of alternate takes, rarities and promotional material.
The albums are scheduled for October 11 but are available for pre-order from Amazon now.
Firmware v3.70 out
SCE has issued system software update v3.70. Some of the improvements deal with automatic updating/synchronizing of game saves and trophies, others with recommendation functions.
Media playback changes have to do with 3D digital still pictures and Blu-ray 3D movies: DTS-HD MA and DTS-HD HR decoding/bit stream output (or lossless audio) is now supported with these.
Furthermore, TV/Video Services Netflix, Hulu Plus and Vudu have got their own XMB category.
More details on SCE's blog.
New Yamaha Universal Player
Yamaha has just introduced the Aventage BD-A1010, the successor to last year's BD-A1000. It supports all the desired optical disc formats including Blu-ray Disc, DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, Super Audio CD and CD; online video distribution formats like Divx Plus HD and streaming formats such as Netflix, Blockbuster On Demand, FilmFresh and YouTube Leanback. It features a host of connections including RS-323, and USB both on front and back.
Second Blue Coast Collection coming soon to SACD and as DSD download
About two years ago, audiophile label Blue Coast Records recorded and issued an SACD titled Blue Coast Collection: The E.S.E. Sessions to very favorable reviews. Last year they made these recordings available as DSD Download. Now there's a sequel: Blue Coast Collection 2.
The album is already available for download (in DSD and high-resolution PCM), as individual tracks or as a complete album. For now, we see them in DFF (DSDIFF) only, which means you may need a Korg DSD Recorder to play it back. We've asked BCR whether a DSD Disc image for easy playback on PS3 can be expected. We're waiting for their response.
The hybrid SACD of this album is planned for fall 2011. Be aware: some of the tracks included have already been released elsewhere.
Also available for download in DSD format (again DFF) are the performances from the 2011 California Audio Show. These are free. Note: it seems the Blue Coast World and Blue Coast Records sites require separate registrations.
Update: Cookie Marenco and Patrick O'Connor of Blue Coast Records have informed us DSF files of the Blue Coast Collection 2 are delayed but on the way. In fact they prefer DSF over DFF because it supports better metadata. They've decided upon DSF as their standard format for releasing DSD Audio. Eventually the entire Blue Coast catalog will become available in DSF.
They're not sure if they'll continue to distribute ISO disc images but with free DSD processing software that conversion should be easy enough.
More Steven Wilson 5.1 material
Steven Wilson of Purcupine Tree must have been quite busy lately doing 5.1 remixes of ProgRock bands such as Caravan and Anathema yet he's managed to record a new solo album and of course he'll release it in 5.1, on Blu-ray Disc in this case. It's not going to be a pure audio-only disc but will contain visuals and videos for each track. The title is 'Grace for Drowning'. More news at the official site and the StarsDie fan site.
More Warner albums coming to SACD 5.1
Warner Music Japan will continue its program of reissuing earlier DVD-Audio pop/rock titles on hybrid multichannel SACD. Here's the next batch, due September 14:
SHM-SACDs for September 2011
Universal Music Japan has announced nine new SHM-SACDs for release on September 28, quite evenly split between the genres rock/pop, jazz/blues, and classical, if you allow us to group these.
Like all SHM-SACDs these are single-layer stereo-only SACDs.
More SACDs and SABDs from 2L
Norwegian label 2L plan to issue many more stand-alone SACDs and SACD/BD combinations this year and next year, according to their 2011/2012 release plan.
The first new 'SABD', their 11th one is this: Edvard Grieg's Veslemøy Synsk by Marianne Beate Kielland & Nils Anders Mortensen.
At 125 minutes, this album (recorded in 352kHz/24bit DXD in 5.1 and stereo) actually spans two SACDs. It does fit on a single Blu-ray Audio disc though.
You can let 2L know which format you prefer: The label has put up a poll on their Facebook page that lets you vote. Multiple choices are possible. At the time of writing, Blu-ray Disc is favored, followed by vinyl and SACD. Various download formats rank lower.
Update July 1: It seems we have confused some people, including those at MusicTAP. Just to clarify: There is no new format here. 'SABD' is just the prefix 2L uses for their SACD/Blu-ray Disc combo packs. Most or all so far contained 1 SACD + 1 BD, with the same music but in different encoding formats: Red Book PCM and DSD for the hybrid multichannel SACD, Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio (and others) for the Blu-ray Disc. The only difference with this title is it contains two SACDs + one BD. So again, this is not DSD on BD (or even DXD, the format in which it was recorded).
K2 HD combined with HQCD
JVC's K2 HD CD mastering technique (employing 24-bit 192 kHz resolution and sample rate) is now applied RBCDs replicated using Memory-Tech's HQCD technology which employs a type of polycarbonate substrate that's used in LCD panels and a special reflective film with better heat resistance and durability than the conventional aluminum alloy used in regular CDs.
The article also makes mention of the combination of K2 HD mastering with 'Crystal Disc' high-quality glass CD technology we reported about earlier. We're not quite sure what to make of this article as the HQCD and Crystal Disc approach are mutually exclusive. Interestingly, the presentation includes a chart comparing SHM-CD, HQCD and Blu-spec CD -- three competing alternatives for high-quality optical disc compositions.
While there's no harm in trying to improve the materials CDs are made of we favor approaches involving real improvements, notably SACD. We'll wait for K2HD-HQ-SACD, or something equally good.
Warner to reissue pop/rock albums on 5.1 SACD in Japan
Universal Music Japan seems to have a strict policy of releasing (SHM) SACDs as stereo-only single-layer discs. Warner Music, whose Japanese daughter has recently committed to SACD by reissuing a number of classic jazz albums on the format, is now following up with a batch of classic pop/rock albums on hybrid multichannel SACD:
Most if not all of these have appeared on 5.1 DVD-Audio before but it's great to finally have them on 5.1 SACD for playback on PS3. All are due 17 August 2011 at ¥3,048, at CD Japan at least.
Deep Purple's Machine Head has even appeared on SACD before but now sells at preposterous prices so a reissue is very welcome.
Update: discussion here.
SHM-SACDs for August 2011
We're not sure if this is going to be the entire batch for the month but the following titles are slated for August 24 at ¥4,286:
Pet Sounds on SACD
The Beach Boys' famous Pet Sounds album, ranking #2 in Rolling Stone's Top 500 albums of all time -- we recall it being elected #1 in a similar chart -- is coming to SACD, 40 years after its original release. A numbered limited-edition hybrid SACD in fact. Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs (MoFi/MFSL) is doing the remastering. It will be available through Music Direct at $29.99. Date yet TBD.
The SACD will be stereo only. A multichannel mix does exist however. It was issued eight years ago on DVD-Audio and while the 'advanced resolution surround sound' (24/96 PCM 5.1) is not PS3-compatible, the DTS 5.1 track is.
Jazz reissues on Analogue Productions
Analogue Productions (APO Records) has since the beginning of this year reissued a number of classic jazz and blues albums from Blue Note and Impulse on SACD:
More will follow, including various Verve titles.
New free DSD Downloads from Blue Coast Records
We retweeted Blue Coast Records' tweet but posting the news here almost slipped indefinitely. Anyway, BCR's got similar news today so here it goes: You can download free DSD files from their site. They're aimed at users of Korg's AudioGate software which, as we reported earlier, is now also available for free. Songs freely downloadable (after registering) include:
There's also a range of paid DSD downloads by other artists at $2.00 to $2.50 a track. All these tracks are in DSDIFF format so it's most practical to play them using AudioGate.
If you're looking for DSD downloads in DSD Disc format, which you can easily put on a DVD and play directly on PS3, Blue Coast Records have also got those.
SACD ripping claimed to be possible with PS3
It may not be Sony's biggest security concern at this moment but SACD 'ripping' is now claimed to be possible -- on PlayStation 3, of all platforms. It seems you'll need an SACD-compatible PS3 with firmware 3.55 or lower. See this post.
The SACD Ripper software still in alpha stage. Don't forget distributing copyrighted content is illegal and not condoned by this site. Making back-ups may be another matter, depending on your view and laws in whichever country you live.
SHM-SACD summer roster
We haven't updated you on this last month but the last SHM-SACDs we reported are only coming to market next Wednesday so we're still pretty well in time for the June and July release lists. First of all, to be expected next month (June 22) are the following titles:
Plus, in the classical section, several more of Furtwangler with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra:
An earlier SHM-CD release of Love Over Gold
The month after (July 20) we can look forward to the following SHM-SACDs:
Plus several classical titles by Karl Bohm with the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra:
Finally we'll be able to enjoy Private Investigations in DSD.
All of these SHM-SACDs are available for pre-ordering from CD Japan.
Wish You Were Here finally there
No more rumour aggregation. In the end the rumours have proven true: EMI has finally announced today a new SACD by Pink Floyd. Wish You Were Here which was remixed in 5.1 by James Guthrie in 2009 will eventually be released on SACD and distributed by Acoustic Sounds, we gather from the press release. It's part of a much broader remastering program starting September 26, 2011 that will see all fourteen studio albums reissued. More details including pictures of the items over at Floydian Slip.
There will also be Blu-ray Discs, which we read will include the same surround mix in 96kHz 24-bit audio as well as the original 1975 stereo mix in the same high resolution.
If any plans surface to issue the other studio albums on SACD we'll let you know.
Second DSD EP by Wheatus
It's almost two years ago that Wheatus released a freely downloadable mini-album, recorded in DSD and actually downloadable in DSD too: Pop, Songs & Death Vol. 1: The Lightning EP. The follow-up Pop, Songs & Death Vol. 2: The Jupiter EP, already released in other formats late last year, is now ready for downloading in DSD, the high-resolution audio format used on SACD, singer Brandon Brown of the Northport, New York rock group informs us.
The 6-song EP can be downloaded in high-quaility 320kbps MP3, in CD-quality AIFF format or in DSD and is also available for pre-order on physical media. All downloads are 100% DRM-free. For PlayStation3 owners, the most convenient option is The Jupiter EP Disc 4 PlayStation 3 which is a DSD Disc format disc image download. If you put that on a blank DVD it will play in any PS3, even on ones that don't support SACD.
You can choose how much you pay: something or nothing at all. If you donate $5 or more you also get new acoustic recordings of songs Pretty Girl and Freak On (only in AIFF) and a PDF file containing the Bridges to Jupiter comic book. Those who donate $25 or more get a limited-edition CD/DVD set consisting of:
This set is limited to 500 copies worldwide. You'll also receive the deluxe download immediately, because the (free worldwide) shipping may take a few weeks.
SHM-SACD roster for May: More Steely Dan
Two months from now we'll see the following SHM-SACDs released in Japan by UMG:
Electric Warrior has appeared earlier on hybrid multichannel SACD but the other four pop/rock titles are new to SACD. They have just been reissued on SHM-CD.
All will ship on May 25 and can already be pre-ordered from CD Japan at „4286.
The Rolling Stones SACDs to be reissued?
Between 2002 and 2004, ABCKO Records remastered some twenty Rolling Stones albums in DSD and released them on hybrid (stereo) SACD. They did it perhaps too subtle. Afraid to deter anyone unfamiliar with SACD, the label decided not to brand them prominently as SACDs. Only a tiny SACD logo told so.
A few years later, they issued the same albums again as Red Book CDs, technically 'DSD CDs' if you will. That's all fine and dandy but they did the stupidest thing possible: They used the same product codes, causing eternal confusion in the marketplace. Countless people have ordered the SACDs and received RBCDs. The vendors likely weren't even aware they were doing something wrong so they hardly can be blamed.
The SACDs are out of print and out of stock since a couple of years now and very much sought after. If you have been late to the party, there is hope. This CNN article from this month quotes Jody Klein (the record company's CEO since the death of his father Allen in 2009) as saying ABKCO is considering producing another batch.
In the meantime, they're releasing the albums in high-res downloadable form at HDTracks.com. Resolution is 24-bit, sampling frequencies available are 176.kHz and 88.2 kHz. Encoding format is PCM.
Note: the 'Universal Compatibility' claimed does not apply to PS3 unfortunately.
ELO's Out of the Blue coming to SACD
Electric Light Orchestra's 1977 album Out of the Blue is in the process of getting mastered for SACD.
Thus people involved at the Super Audio Center report. The album will not be given the multichannel treatment: the SACD is a (hybrid) stereo-only affair. No date has been announced yet but the album is part of Mobile Fidelity's 2011 reissue roster. Product code: MoFi UDSACD2069.
The source indicates there are also multichannel SACD projects in the works -- not for MFSL but for other labels.
SCE will issue PS3 system software version 3.60 today. The main novelty: cloud-based services for PlayStation Plus subscribers, namely online save-game storage. Other features/improvements of the update include a time-out setting for idle wireless controllers. Not mentioned by SCE but elsewhere is a drastic security patch.
Pink Floyd's album Wish You Were Here will come to SACD after all, fan site A Fleeting Glimpse reports.
"We have received hundreds of emails over the years (Since 2005 in fact when we first broke the story of the possibility the WYWH SACD after having dinner with Pink Floyd's then Manager, who told AFG that at that time it was a 'very low priority'). Time has passed and we have been keeping a very careful ear to the ground about this release and can now tell you that it's finally on it's way. No date as yet, but be prepared for a BIG surprise when it finally does surface."
Great news but until we hear a date -- or better, the album itself -- we can't do much with this information. It may be true but it may also be another case of rumour aggregation.
SACD playback on VAIO PC?
As you may have read, some Sony VAIO PCs are equipped with specific hardware and software that lets them play DSD. The hardware is a DSD decoder chip called Sound Reality, the software is called DSD Direct Player. Together, they can also upconvert PCM and WAV to DSD. There's an explanation of the DSD Direct Player on the global VAIO website that states the following:
This sophisticated software works in tandem with Sound Reality to give you professional playback and recording capabilities. Not only can you listen to SA-CDs and enjoy their superior sound quality, but you can also record your own DSD discs. Playback is made possible by real-time conversion of PCM to DSD and WAV to DSF. CD ripping includes Gracenote MusicID support.
This text in this context might lead one to conclude that these PCs can play SACDs. It had us confused for a while. We inquired with Sony, and as it turns out you have to interpret the statement about listening to SACD and enjoying its superior sound quality in a general sense, not pertaining to the VAIO PC.
To be sure, there are no DVD-ROM or other optical disc drives for PCs that can play SACD (except for the CD layer of hybrid discs).
Update, March 6, 2011: Since our inquiry, Sony has redacted the confusing text in a rigorous way: by deleting the entire section. The link no longer works. When going in through the main page it's easy to find a similar page with the same description, such as this one (with an added visual) which hopefully will be adjusted soon.
It triggers memories of the episode with the VAIO JS1-series 'all-in-one' lifestyle PC in 2008, which initially also was described as playing SACD, an assertion quickly withdrawn after we inquired. Apparently this thing called SACD continues to confuse folks at Sony's VAIO PC division.
PS: The question to what extent it is possible to enhance the sound quality of plain CDs to Super Audio CD level we'll leave aside for now.
Rush: Moving Pictures in 5.1
Mercury, a Universal Music label, are going to issue a 30th anniversary edition of Rush's album Moving Pictures. It will apear in the form of two Deluxe Editions: one with a CD and DVD-Audio, the other with a CD and an (audio-only) Blu-ray Disc. The great news: Both DVD and BD will hold a new high-resolution multichannel mix of the album: 5.1-channel 24-bit 96 kHz PCM. In addition, there are a DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1 and stereo PCM mix. Except the 5.1 24/96 PCM on the DVD, all mixes play on PS3 -- including the 5.1 24/96 one on the BD! (again lending credence to the idea that PS3 should be able to play DVD-A)
Both products are slated for release April 5th and available on Amazon for pre-order. They're listed for $21.56 and $26.70, respectively.
Three new Oppo mods by NuForce
According to the modder, the BDP-93 NuForce Edition is "tuned for Class A Triode Sound Characteristic". It is upgradable to Xtreme Edition for an additional $400. Modifications apply to the power supply, the output stages, analog filters and op-amps.
The additional reworking of the Xtreme Edition players concerns the audio clock, in order to reduce jitter.
The players will be available with Blu-ray region A, B or C, to be selected upon placing an order. Nothing mentioned about DVD playback regions but we guess the same flexibility applies there. More details about the mods (but still a bit vague) at Oppo's own site and, in Japanese, at AV Watch. We'll add them to our universal player overview shortly.
'New' Denon Universal Player
* Update distribution via network connection to start around spring 2011
Now that the ship date has shifted beyond January 1, 2011, the player will sadly have to comply with the AACS 'Analog Sunset' rule which prohibits output of analog video at resolutions higher than 480i or 576i. Progressive and interlaced video at higher resolutions remains available only on (copy-protected) HDMI.
Note that this rule also applies to all new Blu-ray Disc players introduced from this year on, including any new PS3 models. From 2013 on, analog video outputs will be ruled out altogether.
New AV remotes for PS3
Earlier this month, SCEJ announced a second-generation 'AV remote' for PS3 -- a remote control for playing Blu-ray Discs, DVDs and – as far as supported – SACDs more conveniently than with the game controller. The new model, CECH-ZRC1, succeeds the original CECH-ZR1J.
The most important change is that besides Bluetooth it supports plain old infra-red, allowing you to operate 'legacy' AV equipment without having to resort to, for instance, BT-to-IR converters we covered about two years ago.
Furthermore, Sony's changed the batteries from AA to AAA, making the remote a little slimmer.
For now, it's been announced for Japan only (at a price of ¥3,600 -- about $43) but we see no reason why it wouldn't be introduced elsewhere. If it isn't, there are alternatives: the Snakebyte Premium Bluetooth Remote (also with infrared as well as Bluetooth), announced last month at the 2011 CES, and the PS3 Blu-Link Universal Remote Control by InterWorks Unlimited.
If you do a lot of text entry on your PS3, there are at least three remotes with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard: the PS3 KeyMote 3-in-1 (Remote, Keyboard, Controller) by Brooklyn, the 3-in-1 Remote for PS3 by A Power, and the PS3 Text Link Slideout Remote by Hyperkin.
SHM-SACD roster for April
Universal Music Japan has announced which nine titles will be reissued on SHM-SACD this April:
Release date for all is April 27th, 2011, list price is ¥4286. Of the pop and jazz albums, only Elvis Costello's and Stevie Wonder's have not appeared on SACD before.
Year of the Rabbit commences
It's Chinese New Year and according to the Chinese zodiac the beginning of the Year of the Rabbit. May it bring peace. Happy Lunar New Year!
Sony is issuing an update of the PS3 system software. Version 3.56, just like its predecessor v3.55, is labeled as "a minor update that adds a security patch." We cannot help but wonder whether it's got something to do with this, though attacks on the system's security are so frequent lately that it could be anything, really.
More SHM-SACDs for March
Last week we reported five new jazz titles Warner Japan has scheduled for release in March (23rd) on SHM-SACD. Universal Japan's got another batch lined up for March 30th:
The albums by The Rolling Stones, Red Garland and Kaori Muraji have already appeared on SACD; the latter even in multichannel. The others are firsts. (We'll refrain from calling them 'new'.)
These seven UMG titles as well as the five Warner titles are available for pre-order from CD Japan now.
Another universal Yamaha player
Early September (during the IFA) we reported about Yamaha's first Blu-ray Disc/DVD-Video/DVD-Audio/SACD/CD player, the BD-S1067. Two months later we've apparently missed the announcement of the BD-A1000, another universal disc player. Obviously, this is not a successor. It's not even a step-up or step-down model but rather another model for another market. Whereas the former is targeted at Europe, the latter is marketed in North America. It offers direct Netflix, Blockbuster and YouTube access. The MSRP is $699.95, the Amazon list price $599.95.
You'll find both in our BD/SACD player overview, already with Amazon links.
Second universal BD player by Cambridge Audio
British brand Cambridge Audio have at CES announced a successor to last year's 650BD. The new model 751BD may look a lot like the previous design but has got new electronics inside as is evident from the completely redesigned rear panel.
New features include:
The 751BD is due in spring for £800. More universal Blu-ray Disc players that support SACD and DVD-Audio here.
New DSD Download from Blue Coast Records
Acoustic recording label Blue Coast Records has just issued a new album in DSD: While She Sleeps - piano lullabies by Art Lande, solo piano. The album, like earlier ones, is available on SACD, as DSD Disc image, in 'red book' audio (44.1 kHz 16-bit PCM) and 96 kHz 24-bit PCM. Individual tracks are available in the same PCM formats and in DSDIFF. For playback on PS3, choose the DSD Disc format.
You can find more DSD downloads here.
Definitive 2010 top 10
Just before Thanksgiving we published a preliminary top 10 of the best-selling music and equipment purchased through this site. In the meantime, the final numbers for the whole year are in. And we've got a new number 1! 'DSotM' has occupied the number one spot for about as long as this site has been offering SACDs (three years) but it's finally been kicked off its pedestal. And the new #1 isn't even an SACD! It's a CD+DVD, where the DVD contains hi-res multichannel PCM in DVD-Audio format but also the 5.1 mix in DVD-Video-compatible form: In the Court of the Crimson King, the remaster of the classic album by King Crimson.
The most popular A/V hardware sold through this site year-to-date is:
Note that number 1, 2 ,3, 7, 8 and 10 all are SACD-compatible BD players.
If we split out gaming gear from the hardware to make a separate chart we can compile the following top 10:
Thanks to all buyers for the support they lend to this site!
5 new Warner SHM-SACDs
All are scheduled for release March 23, 2011 and listed at ¥4,500.
New Marantz Universal player
Marantz' US website as of this week lists a new universal (Blu-ray Disc/DVD-Video/DVD-Audio/SACD/CD/etc.) player; no coincidence with the 2011 CES taking place. The product is the successor to last year's UD7005 and is called UD7006. The former has already been removed from the website so it's not instantly visible what the differences with the latter are. If you know please drop us a line.
Suggested retail price is $899.99. You can find both players and many others in our overview of SACD-compatible Blu-ray Disc players.
Ten new Sony SACD/BD players
At the CES in Las Vegas, Sony has presented their new 2011 line-up this Wednesday, including the their range of Blu-ray Disc Players and BD Home Theater Systems. Like last year's range, all models except a new portable model (BDP-SX1000) feature SACD playback.
The press release states: The full HD 1080p new Blu-ray Disc™ line includes four stand alone models (BDP-S780, BDP-S580, BDP-S480, and BDP-S380) and three integrated home theater systems (BDV-E780W, BDV-E580, and BDV-E280), as well as a 5.1 channel home theater audio system (HT-SS380). All of the models play back DVD, CD and SACD discs in addition to Blu-ray Discs.
The latter is only an AV receiver plus 5.1 speakers package so that makes seven new models for the US market. Prices range from $600 for the top home theater system BDV-E780W to $150 for the entry-level BDP-S380. That makes SACD playback extremely accessible.
The same day, Sony Europe has announced its 2011 line-up and it includes eight new models. Five of them are shared with the North American market so in total there are ten new models. The European press release does not state prices.
All models offer access to over 40 free and premium movies, video, and music services through the BRAVIA Internet Video platform including Sony’s Video On Demand and Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity™, as well as Netflix™, Pandora®, HuluPlus™, Amazon Video on Demand, YouTube™, Slacker® Internet Radio, Crackle, Blip.tv -- when connected to a broadband Internet network.
All models include:
Selected models offer the following features:
All of the integrated home theater systems come bundled with an iPod/iPhone dock.
Apparently, there's still no SACD-compatible successor to the BDP-S5000ES. In fact, there's no successor to this Blu-ray Disc player at all. Nor is there one for the SCD-XA5400ES Super Audio CD player (or any ES series product, for that matter). These models were actually introduced at CEDIA so perhaps we should wait until September for such a product but that would leave a 3-year gap between them.
New SACD releases up 7% in 2010
The year isn't entirely over yet but already we can conclude SACD has been doing rather well. After some years of gradual but consistent decline, the number of new titles released on SACD in 2010 has increased by 7% over 2009, bringing the number back to the same level as 2008; in fact even slightly higher.
According to authoritive site sa-cd.net, 629 new SACDs were issued throughout 2010, which equates to an average of over 52 per month. It seems that the number of classical releases has remained pretty constant while the number of pop/rock and jazz releases has gone up significantly, primarily thanks to Universal Japan's SHM-SACD roster. The term 'new titles' may be a little inappropriate here then, since most of those albums are reissues of classic back catalog material, which in many cases has even been issued on SACD already. Still, the future of SACD in 2011 is looking fairly bright.
Update December 30, 2010: With five more titles listed since Christmas (new total: 634) the growth became 8%. Some more statistics: CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) from 2004 through 2010 is -5.5% (i.e. a decline). The cumulative number of titles grew by 10% this year while the CAGR for the cumulative number over these seven years amounts to 17%.
New Oppo flagship universal player
As hinted at earlier, Oppo is making a more audiophile version of their second-generation universal Blu-ray Disc player, the BDP-93. As opposed to the BDP-83 with its Special Edition follow-up, this player's got a new design and a new type number: BDP-95.
As you may notice, the cabinet is also substantially bulkier than the BDP-93. To upgrade the audio, Oppo has introduced the latest Reference Audio DAC from ESS Technology, the ES9018 SABRE32, driving the also newly (re)added dedicated stereo output, presented as a pair of 'RCA' type connectors and a pair of XLR balanced outputs. Another new feature is the toroidal power supply, custom-built by Rotel.
Other features are identical to the BDP-93.
Oppo adds a note: "Although the BDP-95 shares the same playback platform as the BDP-93, it is designed from the ground up with a different chassis and many different components optimized for the analog audio performance. For this reason it is not possible to upgrade a BDP-93 to gain the BDP-95's enhanced audio performance by replacing parts" (as was possible with the BDP-83/SE).
Also note that you will likely only benefit from the upgraded circuitry if you use the analog outputs -- not if you play your SACDs and other discs via HDMI.
The BDP-95 becomes available in February 2011 at $979. You can already find it in our overview of Universal Blu-ray Disc players -- units that play BD, DVD-Video, SACD, CD and often DVD-Audio plus many other formats. For more details, check this specs page.
We've written before about Pure Audio Blu-ray, the 'format' that allows playback and navigation without the need to switch on the screen. It's not really a special format as it plays back on all BD players (i.e. also PS3, especially convenient with an AV remote) but instead a clever implementation of the disc navigation/user interface.
The company that developed it, German msm Studios (together with 2L), have now made this format more accessible and affordable. They've developed a tool called Pure Audio Creator. It's not available for sale but instead can be used directly online. For the most part, the assets must be uploaded, after which a master is ready for replication very quickly, according to the company's site (news December 12, 2010). It's not completely DIY but it does make the authoring process a whole lot less complicated.
SHM-SACD February batch
HMV Japan lists 14 new SHM-SACDs for release 23 February 2011. Five are Warner titles we've reported about last week. The others are:
All are single-layer SACDs, priced ¥4,500. As usual, some of these you may already have seen as (hybrid) SACDs before.
Expect to see them at CDJapan soon, too.
Update December 18, 2010: They are now available for pre-order there, too.
Onkyo starts DSD downloading service
A Japanese daughter of Onkyo, e-Onkyo Music, which already offered 24/96 PCM downloads, has now started a DSD music downloading service, with content provided by audiophile labels including 2L and M·A Recordings.
Recommending competitor's equipment apparently is no issue: clear graphs explain how you can use DSD recordings with Korg DSD recorders, on PS3 and on recent Sony SACD players like the SCD-XE800.
Generally, the top search terms by which this site is found are very constant and typically include combinations of "PS3" or "PlayStation3" and "SACD" or "Super Audio CD", often combined with a term like "playback". Here are some of the other terms that make search engines lead searchers to this site:
We've agregated some terms that our site stats report separately, hence the brackets. For future searchers who find us we've hyperlinked these terms as specific as possible.
Firmware v3.55: security patch
System software update version 3.55 is out today. It's a minor update that adds a security patch. What for we aren't told.
Warner Japan to reissue jazz albums on SACD
CD Japan doesn't list them yet (nor does WMG Japan) but HVM Japan does, showing a release date of 23 February 2011: Five classic jazz albums to be reissued on SACD, in limited edition facsimile paper sleeves, priced ¥4,500.
While Warner Music is not known to be a supporter of SACD, overseas daughter companies such as Warner Hong Kong have gone their own way before. The price and the sleeve suggest that these titles, recently released as SHM-CD, will see the light again as (non-hybrid) SHM-SACDs. The HMV site doesn't confirm this though.
Don't expect any multichannel here, or in some cases even stereo: Charlie Mingus' album is in mono.
2L 'SABD' #10
Lyndberg Lyd just keeps 'em coming, the Hybrid multichannel SACD/Pure Audio Blu-ray Disc combo packs. The latest title is harmOrgan, a DXD recording of Sigmund Groven and Iver Kleive on harmonica and organ, performing baroque pieces as well as Norwegian folk music.
Denon universal player update
More than seven months ago we reported about two new Denon universal BD/DVD/SACD players, the DBP-1611 and the DBP-2011. The former is out now also in Japan, at 52,500 yen, a little later than we had expected. In the US, both had quietly become available on Amazon. You'll find them in our overview.
Update: The link which still worked at the time of writing seems to be out of service in the meantime.
We wish all visitors, especially the US ones, a happy Thanksgiving. The holiday season is now in full swing, at least in the USA. If you're thinking of buying gifts or making a wish list but are hort of ideas what to get, here's a preliminary chart of this year's bestsellers.
The ten best-selling music titles on SACD and other music formats of 2010 so far according to this site's statistics are:
The most popular hardware sold through this site year-to-date is:
Note that number 1, 2 ,3, 5, 8, 9 and 10 all in fact are SACD-compatible BD players.
Black Friday deals week starts today
This Friday will be Black Friday and Amazon is off to an early start with a whole week of special offers starting today. Besides general offers there are specific offers in the following categories:
Movies & TV series
New DSD download from Blue Coast Records
Blue Coast Records have added Vijay Iyer's album, Solo as their second DSD title. While it's distributed by ACT Music in Germany, the recording was done in the Extended Sound Environment (E.S.E.) fashion at their studio in the Bay Area. Cookie Marenco was the engineer and co-producer. It was recorded to analog 2" tape and mixed to D According to BCR, the recording has received numerous accolades in the New York Times and other media.
Like their first DSD release, Blue Coast Collection, it's available now in DFF (DSDIFF) format as individual tracks or a whole album and in DSF format. The most convenient option (especially for PS3 users) is buying an ISO image of the album in DSD Disc format.
MoFi 2011 SACD roster sneak preview
Artists include James Taylor (JT, Dad Loves His Work), Billy Joel (Piano Man, Turnstiles), Carole King (Music, The Carnegie Hall Concert), Foreigner (Head Games, Double Vision, 4), The Band (Stage Fright), Pretenders (Learning To Crawl), Ray Charles (The Genius of Ray Charles) and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
CD Japan SHM-SACD special offer
CD Japan writes: "Since its first release in June this year, SHM-SACD has provided ultimate music experience for audio enthusiasts. Now, we are offering a buy 4 get 1 free offer for all 73 SHM-SACD titles listed on this page!"
For your information: All SHM-SACDs (except the sampler which includes a hybrid disc) are non-hybrid stereo-only SACDs. 73 titles have been announced or released thus far, only in Japan. We've covered them before: Introduction, Summer, October, November/December.
2L 'SABD' #9: Ensemble 96 - KIND
2L continues its roster of hybrid 5.0 SACDs that come bundled with the same DXD recording on Pure Audio Blu-ray Disc. The latest release is one with modern Norwegian and Nordic choral music by Per Nørgård, Jaakko Mäntyjärvi and Marcus Paus. An earlier recording of theirs won a Grammy Award for "Best Surround Album" in 2006.
High-end BD/SACD player by Ayre
We've included the Ayre Acoustics DX-5 our overview of universal Blu-ray Disc players in since it was informally announced over a year ago (it was unveiled at the 2009 Hong Kong Audio Show) but it's officially available now.
The 'Universal A/V Engine' as they call it is marketed in Japan by Axiss Corporation. It's available in two colours: silver (1,449,000 yen) and black (1,491,000 yen) according to AV Watch. That does seem hefty, even compared to the already not so cheap $10,000 price Ayre indicates.
What Ayre does in terms of custom electronics to set it apart from the $500 Oppo BDP-83, with which it shares various components, they explained earlier here. Features include
The Ayre 'QB-9' 192kHz 24-bit (stereo) USB DAC is built in and can be accessed from front and back. The player uses a CEC feature supported by HDMI 1.3a called Audio Rate Control that achieves the same as Sony's propietary H.A.T.S. and Pioneer's PQLS: suppressing jitter by controlling the audio clock at the source.
One particular feauture, dual HDMI outputs (A/V and Audio-only), Oppo has announce for their successor model, the BDP-93. Common features include Deep Color HDMI output of up to 12-bit 1080p (including 24 fps), all the optical formats -- BD, DVD, DVD-Audio, AVCHD, SACD, CD, HDCD, Kodak picture CD, CD-R/RW, DVD±R/RW, DVD±R DL, BD-R/RE -- video codecs -- AVC (H.264/MPEG-4 AVC), DivX, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, XviD -- and audio codecs -- AAC (including HE-AAC), Dolby Digital, DTS, linear PCM, MPEG-2, MP3, WMA (including WMA Pro and Lossless).
More details here.
Korg AudioGate now for free
At the 2010 AES, Korg has announced a new version, 2.1, of the AudioGate software that comes with DSD Recorders, lets you play DSD on any PC (Windows XP/Vista/7 are supported, as is Mac with OS X 10.4 or newer) and allows you to do all sorts of conversions in standard or high resolution. What's new? It's free! From November 15 on, anyone without a 1-bit recorder can register using an active Twitter account, as explained by AV Watch. More information about AudioGate on HarmonyCentral.
Das Boot on BD-Audio
The latest BD-Audio release is not a music title but a radio drama, or perhaps we should rather say 'audio drama' because it's unlikely it was broadcast in this form. It's an audio-only rendering of the classic U-boat thriller Das Boot, told by Herbert Grönemeyer, who also starred in the original 1981 movie by Wolfgang Petersen (Director's Cut with 'digitally redesigned and remixed soundtrack' also available on BD).
The Blu-ray Disc was authored by msm-studios as a 'Pure Audio Blu-ray' so you can play it without the need for a TV to navigate. It carries a version in 5.1 surround (DTS-HD Master Audio) and one in hi-res stereo. Christoph Stickel, mastering engineer at msm-studios: "The surround mix literally transfers the audience into the scaring narrowness of the submarine with never before experienced three-dimensional atmosphere and noises." The 3-disc release is available in a 'steelbook' case from Amazon Germany.
Note that in the years in between, Grönemeyer has mostly been active as a musician. His album Mensch was even issued on SACD (momentarily sadly unavailable).
Separately, we have started an overview of audio-only Blu-ray Disc releases. We'll call it the BD-Audio store. Even though the number of titles is still limited, it's not even complete. The above title is absent, as are Ghosts I-IV by Nine Inch Nails and the soundtrack to The Social Network by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. That's because these titles are missing at Amazon.com, which is odd because most or all other editions of them can actually be found there. Where are they?
SHM-SACD: November/December roster
The previous batch of SHM-SACDs we reported about isn't out yet for another ten days but two more have been announced for release on November 24th and December 15th. By the way, some from the October roster including Beggars Banquet, Gaucho, Smokin' and John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton have shifted to next month.
Also out next month are:
Just in time for Christmas should be:
Nothing spectecular here - the usual mix of pop, rock, blues, jazz and classical. Most of these have already been remastered and reissued before. In fact most if not all of them have already been issued on SHM-CD, and some even as fully loaded stereo + multichannel hybrid SACD, such as Diana Krall's.
Mick Talbot and Paul Weller on the cover of the Japanese SHM-CD edition of The Style Council's Café Bleu
Blue Coast Collection now available as DSD download
Blue Coast Records, who recently made live recordings from the California Audio Show available as free DSD downloads, have proceeded to make more of their content available in this form, starting with the Blue Coast Collection, which earlier received very favourable reviews in its SACD incarnation.
The album can be purchased in the form of individual tracks priced $5.00 each or as a complete 12-track disc image priced $50. The former is in DFF format, the latter in DSF. These two DSD flavors are explained briefly on our DSD Downloads page. In short, for playback on PS3 you'll need DSF i.e. the disc image, which is also more convenient.
The tracks are also available for purchase in 24-bit 96-kHz PCM. The artwork is made available for free, incidentally also in 24-bit resolution... Cookie Marenco further explains the release in this blog entry.
More Tom Petty on BD-Audio
In May we reported about a new album by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers that was to be released as an audio-only Blu-ray Disc in June. Clearly the band are fond of the format because they're planning to reissue their 1979 album Damn the Torpedos next month. Audio details have not been announced yet.
Just an alert: Don't be confused by this Blu-ray Disc which is already out since August. It is not a reissue of the album but a video documentary about it, from the Classic Albums series.
New Nine Inch Nails album on BD-Audio
The original soundtrack to The Social Network, the new movie by David Fincher about the founding of Facebook. Well, it's not called Nine Inch Nails officially but the album's recorded by Trent Reznor with Atticus Ross -- producer of several NIN albums -- and released by The Null Corporation, the label that's issued the last couple of NIN albums.
Good news: The soundtrack will also be released on 'Blu-ray Audio', and unlike the previous Ghosts I-IV it will include not only high-resolution stereo but also a 5.1-channel mix. The surround sound quality isn't specified yet but we assume it'll be DTS-HD Master Audio or maybe (also) Dolby TrueHD.
The site lists the following media options: download (320 kbps MP3, FLAC or Apple Lossless), CD, Blu-ray Disc, and 180-gram vinyl. Prices are respectively $5, $8, $20 and $25 if ordered direct from NullCo. The BD-Audio is due October 18. (The movie, which got excellent reviews, will also be available on BD but currently only on pre-order.)
This soundtrack is not Reznor's first high-resolution multichannel recording. Earlier, Nine Inch Nails issued The Downward Spiral on SACD.
Two more King Crimson albums in 5.1
Last year, we reported about three King Crimson 40th Anniversary Editions: albums by the legendary Progressive Rock band, remastered and remixed in full 5.1-channel and reissued as CD + DVD-Audio. Two more of their albums have received this treatment and will be released October 12: Islands and In the Wake of Poseidon.
Both reissues consists of a CD and a DVD-Audio disc, where the CD contains the new mix of the album plus several bonus tracks while the DVD-Audio disc contains the original mix in high-resolution stereo PCM, the new mix in hi-res stereo PCM, and the new multi-channel mix in MLP lossless surround sound as well as DTS 5.1. All material except the MLP tracks will play on PS3.
Brand new Oppo BD/SACD player
In case you're considering shelling out $500 for an Oppo BDP-83 player, you may want to hold out a little bit longer until their new generation hits the market: the BDP-93. Oppo's own site doesn't list it yet but Audioholics has just reviewed it and interviewed the manufacturer.
Like Oppo's earlier universal Blu-ray Disc players this one will play SACD and DVD-Audio. New features are:
The new player was designed from the ground up. As a result, the cabinet is considerably less deep than its predecessor's. The tray and buttons are completely flush with the brushed aluminium front panel.
Audiophiles may scoff at the absence of dedicated stereo outputs. Oppo says in the interview users can make a stereo downmix. They're also working on a more high-end model. It will likely not be a 'BDP-93SE' but a completely redesigned product for higher quality analog audio performance. It will come significantly later though.
List price is $499. When a release date is announced or the product becomes available on Amazon we'll add that information to our BD/SACD player overview.
Update October 1, 2010: Oppo today has opened a BDP-93 page where you can register to be informed when the product becomes available.
Update November 11, 2010: The set is available now n Amazon.com.
Firmware v3.50 out today
PS3 system software version 3.50 we reported about last week is issued today. Of course it's easiest to download it straight from the XMB but you can also find it (with additional feature information) at the sites of SCE Japan, America and Europe.
One correction to our earlier report: Dolby TrueHD, when selected, will not be output as such but converted to Dolby Digital. We've updated the article to reflect this.
Firmware v3.50 will deliver 3D BD
At the Tokyo Games Show today Sony announced that PlayStation 3 system software version 3.50 will be issued September 21, and it will make PS3 Blu-ray 3D-compatible. Of course, you will need a 3D display and also a high-speed HDMI cable. There are however a couple of constraints with Blu-ray 3D on PS3: Dolby TrueHD will be ouput as Dolby Digital and DTS-HD as regular DTS, AV Watch reports. BD-J may or may not work with Blu-ray 3D. Of course, these limitations do not apply to players that were developed with BD 3D in mind from the start.
Another limitation to PS3's 3D capability you may have heard about earlier applies to 3D games: output resolution will be 720p max. 3D movies however can be displayed in glorious full 1080p. The explanation in short is that the movies will typically use 24 FPS (frames per second) whereas games are meant to run at 30 or 60 FPS.
Firmware v3.42 brings "additional security"
PlayStation 3 System Software update version 3.42, available since yesterday, "includes additional security features" according to SCEA's blog. They don't specify what these features are (of course), nor whether they primarily benefit SCE or the user. One thing we can think of is protection against use of the recent mod chip called PS3 JailBreak. It seems the update is not (yet) mandatory.
The annual Internationale Funkausstellung electronics fair in Berlin is taking place this week. Among the new products announced there is this Blu-ray Disc/SACD player by Yamaha: the BD-S1067, available in black and in silver. We've added the Yamaha to our overview of SACD-compatible BD players.
Denon has announced two new players: the DBP-A100, which plays Blu-ray Disc, DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, SACD and CD (plus a host of other formats, evident from the many logos on the front) and the DCD-A100, which plays SACD and CD. Despite the functionality difference, both have an SRP of $2,499. Both are designed in special anniversary styling with high-gloss black finishing.
No BD/SACD player from Pioneer yet. Their new HTZ-606BD home theater system plays BD but no SACD.
In other news, Sony has delayed the PS3 firmware that will enable stereoscopic 3D until October 2010; There's a new home projector, the VPL-VW90ES, that delivers Full HD 1080p 3D; The STR-DAx600 AV receivers Sony announced earlier will be 3D-compatible; And there will be a 3D-enhanced version of Michael Jackson's This is it BD;
DSD downloads: Correction
Earlier this year we reported about DSD downloads from audiophile label M·A Recordings. It turns out this was incorrect, owner Todd Garfinkle has informed us. Through their site you can order DVD-ROM discs (not recordable DVDs) with high-resolution WAV files, one of which also contains bonus DSD files. You could burn these onto a blank DVD to make a DSD Disc but there are no downloads on offer. The files were re-formatted with Korg AudioGate software. He also notes the free DSD files that come with Korg's MR-2 DSD Recorder are M·A Recordings' files. Our apologies for the misunderstanding.
Todd further reported from Tokyo about several companies dealing with DSD recordings and downloads and a hardware manufacturer that may produce a DSD-capable network player. We expect to hear more from them soon.
Five Stevie Ray Vaughan albums on SACD
Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs (MoFi/MFSL) is going to reissue five albums by blues legend Stevie Ray Vaughan on hybrid stereo SACD:
Texas Flood and Couldn't stand the weather have been released earlier as non-hybrid stereo SACDs by Epic; the other three have never been issued on SACD. Texas Flood will be out in October. The other dates are all 'TBD'. MusicDirect lists them at $29.99.
Next batch of SHM-SACDs in October
Univeral Japan's SHM-SACD production is getting up to speed with 16 new titles slated for release October 27.
Only a handful have not appeared on SACD before, including Asia's eponymous album.
Like all SHM-SACDs before, they're stereo-only non-hybrid discs, priced 4286 yen, except the sampler. This sampler, priced just 1429 yen, is particularly interesting: It's a 2-disc set; one is an SHM-SACD (non-hybrid stereo-only) with ten tracks by Marvin Gaye, 10cc, Wishbone Ash, The Allman Brothers Band, Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto, Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis (i.e. a selection from the upcoming as well as earlier releases); the other is a 'regular' SACD i.e. non-SHM with the same tracks so you can make a true comparison. Note that they're made from different masters and that's what's likely making all the difference. The regular SACD is also hybrid, enabling further comparisons.
Sony surround sound headphones
Sony this month releases a pair of surround sound headphones, the DR-GA500 -- successor to the MDR-DS7100, we reckon. They apply Dolby Pro Logic IIx to generate a 7.1-channel soundscape from stereo input. That may suggest they're using discrete drivers to deliver an actual surround configuration but that's not the case. After the DPL IIx processing, the headphones apply 7.1-channel Virtualphone Technology (VPT), a proprietary Sony virtual surround sound algorithm, to fold the signal back to two channels, with the surround effects achieved through psycho-acoustics.
The headset is aimed squarely at gamers: It's got an integrated microphone. Unlike the soundbar Sony recently introduced this is however not PlayStation-branded. It's not even aimed at PS3 users but at PC gamers. Presumably the copy of Medal of Honor that will be bundled with the product from 15 October is the PC version. Granted, PS3 doesn't have a headphone jack but it would be easy enough to connect the headphones (or rather the processing box) to the console's analog stereo output. Perhaps more important though is that as far as we're aware, PS3 does do Dolby Digital (Live) encoding but no Pro Logic IIx encoding, even though it has enough processing power to do so. Not for games, and not for SACD either.
To be sure, these headphones use only two (40mm) drivers -- the same as the stereo-only DR-GA200. Admittedly, it'd be difficult to implement a center channel with headphones any other way than as a phantom channel but there have been headphones before that featured separate drivers for the surrounds.
Lacking DPL IIx encoding on the PS3 or, better, HDMI input to get discrete multichannel from PS3, this solution is not ideal for SACD. The processor box does sport analog 7.1-channel inputs though, as well as a USB port. It's apparent: In their current form, these headphones are a great companion to a game PC but not to a PS3.
And if we may make one suggestion for the ultimate FPS headphones: Why go with DPL IIx instead of IIz? In most configurations (including the one recommended for DPL IIx) a 7.1-channel set-up is still two-dimensional. Height cues can be very important in 3D games. It's probably because the height information cannot be conveyed in a psycho-acoustic way well, so you'd still need multiple drivers per ear. Anyway, that's our two cents.
Free DSD downloads at Blue Coast Records
Audiophile label Blue Coast Records have just published freely downloadable disc images of DSD recordings made at this weekend's California Audio Show by artists Jane Selkye, Gregory James and Jason McGuire.
They write: "The recordings you hear on this page are made in front of a live audience without eq, compression or effects added to enhance the song. These are raw files as we heard it played in the room. Most likely not the final mixes. Within a few weeks, we will post new mixes of the songs enhanced in the studio and prepped for final listening. We hope you enjoy hearing the differences and make your own judgment as to which you prefer."
To learn how to record DSD Discs yourself, check our how-to guide. Burning an ISO disc image as provided by Blue Coast to a blank DVD is even far easier though.
To access the downloads you'll need to register but it's free and quick. You can find more DSD downloads in this overview.
Modified Oppo BD/SACD player
First there was the BDP-S83. Then there was the BDP-S83 Special Edition. Now there's the NuForce edition. It's a mod. To be sure, it's a modified BDP-S83 SE. It's not sold by Oppo themselves but by NuForce, a company specialized in modding devices. The modifications deal with the power supply's regulation and related circuitry. The upgrade is explained in a little more detail on the modder's own site: BDP-83SE NuForce Edition.
The explanation suggests it's mainly stereo performance that benefits from the modification. We're not sure if there are going to be many other mods like this one but we've given this one the benefit of the doubt and added it to our overview of SACD/Blu-ray Disc players.
There's a minor update of the PS3 system software: version 3.41 adds PlayStation Store recommendations. For an explanation check SCEA's blog.
DSD resources overview
With the growing interest in DSD and the increasing but somewhat scattered information on this site about it we felt it would be a good idea to create an overview of all these resources. On this page you will find links to other pages with details about the format, how to make a DSD Disc, DSD downloads, DSD recorders and DSD playback equipment.
David Bowie's Station to Station in 5.1
David Bowie has previously released five of his albums on SACD, three of them multichannel (see here). Station to Station was never among them but EMI is now issuing two box sets of this album -- one called Special Edition, containing 3 CDs; the other called Deluxe Edition, consisting of 5 CDs, a DVD and 3 LPs.
The Deluxe version includes a 5.1 mix of the album. It would have been very appropriate to make this an SACD too but EMI has chosen to use DVD, with 5.1 mixes in 96kHz/24bit DTS and Dolby Digital. This disc also holds the original analogue master in 96/24 LPCM stereo and the new Harry Maslin stereo mix in 48/24 LPCM stereo. One wonders why the latter is just 48 kHz while the former is 96.
Both editions are due September 20. For more details see the news page of the David Bowie site. Click on 'July 1'.
New Sony DSD Disc player
A week after Sony Electronics North America announced a new SACD/BD player, the Japanese and European divisions come up with a new audio-only player, the SCD-XE800.
This unit does not play Blu-ray Disc or DVD but only CD, SACD and -- like the SCD-XA5400ES -- DSD Disc. It's the first player since the 5400 to do so. The main difference with this player that Sony launched last year is that the '800' is stereo only. In fact the only outputs are analog stereo and digital optical, and the latter probably only outputs Red Book CD audio. Apart from these two players only PS3s and some PCs can play DSD Disc. Note that all PS3s do so -- even the ones that don't support SACD.
The SCD-XE800 is not an ES series product but it looks a lot like one -- much more so in fact than the BDP-S1700ES. It will be launched August 21 at 37,800 yen and £179.00. The continental European sites do not list a price yet.
Sony ES series SACD/BD player
Sony Electronics North America has just announced an ES series Blu-ray Disc player with Super Audio CD playback: the BDP-S1700ES. Great news, but is this the ES series BD/SACD player we've been predicting since the introduction of the BDP-S5000ES and SCD-XA5400ES? Not quite. This is not a real ES series model but rather the most advanced of the mid-range products onto which the US product managers have slapped an ES badge, in the same way the did earlier with the BDP-S1000ES and BDP-S2000ES, to which this model can be regarded the successor.
As with those previous two, you're not likely to find this product outside of the North American market. Also the fact that this model is announced well ahead of the 2010 IFA and even the CEDIA makes us hopeful we're still going to see a proper player this year after all.
On the other hand, the announcement coincides with that of Sony's new ES series AV receivers: the STR-DA5600ES, STR-DA4600ES and STR-DA3600ES. The STR-DA5600ES AVR features H.A.T.S. clock synchronization for HDMI and DSD, making it a good companion for the BDP-S1700ES SACD player or any of the other BD/SACD players Sony's launched this year.
320GB unit and Soundbar for PS3
Hard Disk capacity for PS3 has reached a new high with the introduction of the CECH-2500B: 320 gigabyte. There's also a new 'classic white' model but only with 160GB (CECH-2500A). All will be available from July 29 at 34,980 and 29,980 yen, respectively.
A brand new PlayStation-branded product Sony's announced simultaneously is a Soundbar for PS3, CECH-ZVS1, on sale from September 30 at 19,800 yen. It's the first time Sony has introduced such a peripheral with a PlayStation logo on it.
It's not likely aimed at audiophiles. While you could enjoy stereo SACD or DSD Disc playback with it (the two active 65mm subs and four passive radiators with 10W per channel and the integrated subwoofer are probably adequate enough) you can only do so properly with the analog stereo input. There is no HDMI input. The only other input is optical digital input, allowing Dolby Digital, DTS, MPEG-2 AAC and (stereo) linear PCM transmission. The 2.1 -- or should that be 2.0? -- system features Sony "S-Force PRO Front Surround Sound" virtual surround processing.
Foreigner and Pretenders II on SACD
Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs (MFSL or MoFi for short) is about to reissue to classic albums on SACD: Foreigner's self-titled album and Pretenders' second one. The MoFi site so far only lists the former (release July 2010) but sites like Elusive Disc and Music Direct also list the latter (release August 2010) for pre-order.
Firmware v3.40 out
PS3 system software release version 3.40 is now available online. Enhancements deal with PlayStation Plus, a new premium subscription service on PSN; Photo Gallery, now allowing sharing on Facebook and Picassa; Video Editor & Uploader, a new XMB feature that let you edit clips and share them on YouTube; Star Ratings for PlayStation Store content; and Power Save Settings that let you switch your console to auto-standby. For more details, check the SCEA blog.
Not mentioned there but here and probably more interesting for videophiles and likely for readers of this site is the addition of Deep Color Output via HDMI.
AV Watch tried the video editing functions with a Nikon D90, Canon PowerShot S90 and Sony Alpha NEX-5.
Marantz' new SACD/BD players: UD5005 and UD7005
Marantz lets SACD playback trickle further down the range: The successors to the BD5004 and BD7004 Blu-ray Disc players are the Universal UD5005 and UD7005 with BD, DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, SACD and of course CD playback. These models join the UD9004 and UD8004, all of which you'll find in our multi-brand overview.
They'll pair nicely (as a PS3 would, too) with Marantz's new AV receivers such as the SR5005 and SR7005. Even more interesting is the multichannel pre/power amp combo the company has announced: AV7005 and MM7055 -- budget versions of the AV8003 and MM8003 if you will. No, the typenumber is not a typo: the model isn't called MM7005. The other 5 indicates five channels of 140W each, because there's also a stereo version labelled MM7025.
More details and more new Marantz products at What HiFi.
New batch of SHM-SACDs includes Dire Straits
Universal Japan has announced the following new titles on SHM-SACD (after an earlier roster of 20):
We think it's great to see Dire Straits' eponymous album (recently reissued in Japan on SHM-CD) on SACD, even if it's in stereo. We hope to see Love Over Gold in the future too because we can't wait to hear Private Investigations. Imagine that in multichannel.
For anyone else who loved Brothers in Arms in 5.1 the following news may be of interest: Dire Straits' Alchemy live performance has been given the surround sound treatment (mixed my Chuck Ainlay) and reissued on DVD and BD to be released June 8 and June 24, respectively. The latter is labelled as '20th anniversary edition' which seems odd for a 1984 album (Amazon states 1980 on one, 1983 on the other page) but who cares so long as the sound is good?
Michael Jackson material on new SACD... sort of
Amazon lists a new album titled I Love MJ Forever as a (DSD) SACD. The album, released by Universal Japan/Zoom and available on import is supposedly a cover album that comes with a bonus remix disc. No details are provided at this stage as to who the cover artists are. Release date is July 6. We'll keep you posted.
Tom Petty issues BD Audio
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have released their latest album Mojo on an audio-only Blu-ray Disc. It's available through Amazon, which curiously lists this item as a DVD-Audio. The contents are 48kHz 24-bit PCM stereo and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound. The package also includes a code to download the album in one of three formats: 320kbps MP3, Apple Lossless or FLAC (all in stereo, we presume). Release date is June 29.
2L 'SABD' #8: More TrondheimSolistene
The Trondheimsolistene, who had the honour of being the first artists to get released on a Super Audio CD and Blu-ray Disc in a single package, now have their next album released by 2L in the same form. 'In folk style', recorded in DXD (catalog no.: 2L-068-SABD) is available from 2L and Amazon from June 29. The album is also available from 2L in high-resolution stereo or multichannel FLAC but not as DSD download, it seems.
25 new Verve SACDs
Well, not entirely. Some of these have already been issued on SACD before but many others are new. It's no dearly missed pop music but these jazz titles form a welcome balance for the SACD release roster which continues to be dominated by classical music.
After the top 100 titles from the Fantasy catalog, the top 50 from Blue Note and the top 25 from Impulse, this time Analogue Production gets to raid the vaults of legendary jazz label Verve. All will be released on 45 RPM vinyl a well as SACD. The former will cost $50 through Acoustic Sounds; the latter's price is not disclosed. It'll probably be 2011 before the first one's going to be out.
The follwing 25 albums make the list:
After Getz/Gilberto which has been issued on SACD already in two disctinct remasterings we're glad to see another collaboration from his samba/bossa nova -- Jazz Samba with Charlie Byrd -- released and hope one day the other albums from this era will get the same treatment, particularly the collaborations with Joao Gilberto, Luiz Bonfa and Laurindo Almeida.
Lastly, if AP gets to go through the Verve archives ever again, may we suggest one much more recent album for reissue? Talk Talk's final album Laughing Stock appeared with them after they left Parlophone, who issued their two previous albums on SACD. It may not be everybody's cup of tea but makes fantastic material for SACD, especially if a multichannel mix is possible.
On that note, it has just transpired that some of the Miles Davis albums announced earlier will not be plain 2.0 stereo on SACD but three-channel stereo.
Scratch My Back on USB
When Peter Gabriel's new album was releaed in February, high-resolution versions of the tracks became available for download. As predicted, now there's also a USB stick that holds these. The resolution is 24 bit at 96 kHz. Unlike The Beatles' USB stick however it's not on sale separately but only as part of a limited edition Collectors' Edition Box Set.
"This special version of Scratch My Back contains a rare, blood-red 180g vinyl 12" LP, the double-CD special edition with 4 bonus tracks, an exclusively-designed 4 GB USB with 96 khz 24 bit audio and a high quality, 12" print of the album cover - signed by Peter Gabriel with a numbered certificate of authenticity. The entire set comes in unique boxed packaging. All orders will receive an instant digital download of the album in your choice of FLAC, Apple Lossless or MP3" according to the blurb. Note: probably only the CDs play on PS3.
500 sets were made and signed by the artist. They're available through his site at $299 a piece.
Amazon BD Spotlight Deals event
Amazon.com runs a special Blu-ray Disc (and DVD) promotion through May 24 (with savings of up to 58%, Amazon tells us) on many TV series and movies.
Separately, as always, they're offering everyday savings on TV and Movies new released on DVD and BD:
Denon expands range of universal players
Both players support DVD-Audio and Super Audio CD, and are prepared for Blu-ray 3D (via HDMI v1.4a) and DivX HD+. Also, both "offer Netflix and YouTube streaming and are DLNA 1.5-certified for audio/video/photo streaming with other DLNA certified products across a network." They hold 1GB of on-board memory for BD-Live playback. The more expensive model of the two features more sophisticated audio and video decoding circuitry and an RS-232 control port for home theater integration.
Last week we reported on the introduction of SHM-SACDs, where the substrate is made of special (extra clear) polycarbonate in order to further reduce any jitter and other issues that might affect playback quality. There has however been another such initiative already: Japanese label Fine N&F has created a Glass SACD -- or Super Audio Glass CD, as they apparently prefer to call this disc which they consider a variant of their Glass CD product. This Japanese blog wrote about (a demo of) it yesterday but as N&F's homepage shows this disc was issued already in 2006.
Some may call this Japanese disc manufacturing fetishism. We don't mind, as long as it serves a latent need and attracts more listeners to the SACD format. At least N&F made this disc a stereo/multichannel hybrid. Its success must have been modest because it appears they have not repeated this approach.
System Software upgrade v3.30 mandatory
SCE has issued version 3.30 of the PS3 system software and declared it mandatory, which means you have to install it if you want to sustain access to PSN. Improvements concern the trophy system and according to their blog this upgrade "preps the PS3 system for some upcoming new features, including 3D stereoscopic gaming, which is coming soon to PS3, in time for the launch of Sony’s 3D BRAVIA TVs." We're not sure what Sony means by this: if the features are coming soon i.e. are not there yet, then what does this preparation hold? Perhaps the capability is already there, only the displays are not yet on the market?
This article reveals some interesting technical details about the way stereoscopic 3D is implemented on 3D and how this affects frame rates of specific games. AV Watch meanwhile reports more details about v3.30 (in Japanese).
UMG issues 20 SHM-SACDs including classic pop/rock; all are stereo single-layer
The SHM-SACD jazz sampler we reported about in February has mysteriously disappeared again but instead Universal Music Japan has announced for June 23 a slate of twenty SHM-SACDs, including various classic pop/rock albums (list price ¥4,500). Some of these have appeared on SACD before, others never have. The latter are new 2010 DSD remasters; for the others existing SACD masters have been reused:
Plus four jazz titles:
Plus four classical titles:
It's great to see Universal support SACD and a laudable idea to marry the SHM (Super High Material) technology with Super Audio CD -- two of a range of audio carrier technologies we'd love to see combined like we proposed when Blu-spec CD was announced -- but Universal breaks two important, undeniable trends in SACD: that gradually all releases have become hybrids and most titles nowadays contain multichannel audio as well as stereo: The SHM-SACDs (or SASHMCDs as CD Japan refers to them) are all stereo only, and single-layer (or perhaps double-layer but not hybrid).
Surely this is a conscious choice to appeal to traditional audiophiles who may be suspicious of multichannel sound even when it's discrete, possibly due to historical approaches using matrixing tricks, and who may consider a hybrid media structure a sort of compromise that could negatively affect sound quality. Bear in mind that like nearly all the earlier improved variants of Red Book CD, this improved SACD is aimed squarely at the Japanese market, where 5.1 speaker set-ups face a hurdle of constrained living spaces and many new SACD players still are stereo only. This move takes us right back to the beginning of SACD when Sony launched the format with stereo-only players and stereo non-hybrid discs.
Regarding combinations of disc enhancements, we've now got SHM-SACD, K2 HD + Crystal Disc, SACD/HDCD hybrids and, in other news, SACD/XRCD hybrids: Some of the titles Esoteric (Teac's high-end brand) issues in Japan have a CD layer that's made as an XR-CD, according to this information.
We'll continue to strive for Blu-spec SHM-DSD-XR-HD-SA-CD. Hybrid multichannel, of course.
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SCE to drop Linux support for all models
In a blog post published yesterday, Patrick Seybold, Sr. Director, Corporate Communications & Social Media, announced firmware version 3.21 (due April 1 but the announcement looks serious). This new system software will remove the option to install another OS on all PS3 models. The slim ones never had it in the first place but the 'fat' ones will lose it. Users are warned to back-up their date before upgrading because after it they'll no longer have access to their data. One can choose not to upgrade but that poses all sorts of inconveniences.
The motivation Sony states is 'security concerns', most likely to do with the 'hack' announced a few weeks ago and previous experience with hacking of PSP (PlayStation Portable, not Pit Signal Processing -- the SACD copy protection is still secure after 10 years). It's sad to see another great feature of PS3 being dropped retroactively.
New DSD recorder: Korg MR-2
We've written before about Korg's 1-bit audio recorders. With these (in combination with the AudioGate software that comes with them) you can create DSD Discs -- self-recorded discs with the same quality stereo as SACDs and that can be played on all PS3s, even those that are not SACD-compatible. So far, there was one portable model, the MR-1. Now, several years after its introduction, Korg has launched a sucessor, the MR-2 'High-Resolution Mobile Recorder'.
Instead of a fixed hard disk, the MR-2 uses removable SD or SDHC cards. A 4-GB card can hold up to 16 hours of audio in red book quality (16-bit 44.1 kHz PCM) but recordings cannot last more than 6 hours. In DSD mode about 90 minutes fits on a 4-GB card. Up to 200 recordings ('projects') can be made on one card. Recording formats include 1-bit 2.8224 MHz i.e. DSD (both DSDIFF and DSF flavours), PCM of up to 24-bit 176.4 kHz and even 192 kHz. MP3 however is available too.
Among connections there are mini-jacks for headphones, mic and line in and a type B mini-USB 2.0 port for connecting to a PC. The AudioGate software runs on Windows (XP and later) and Apple OS-X (10.4 and later). More detailed specifications and pictures from various angles here.
March 17, 2010 (updated March 18)
7.1-channel PCM-to-analog converter
The new HD-42V3SR combines the same functions with a 4-input HDMI switcher which of course comes in handy with the ongoing proliferation of HDMI sources in the home. Also, the analog connectors are of the conventional 'RCA' type also known as cinch rather than the mini-jacks used previously. It will be available in Japan at 89,800 yen, about 992 dollar or 720 euro. That price does not make it a favourable option for most owners of legacy AV receivers without HDMI input seeking to hook up their PS3 in a multichannel fashion since suitable home theater receivers can be bought for substantially less.
Update: As with the previous product, this one is available in the west under different brand names -- and a lot cheaper! This HDMX71-V13 ('4x2 HDMI Matrix Amp with 7.1 Audio Routing') by a company called Octava seems to be exactly the same and costs just $350 without HDMI/DVI cable. Still, in a price range where you can find decent AV Receivers.
HDMI v1.4 officially ready
Compatible products have already come to market in weeks prior but the HDMI Founder organisation has now formally announced version 1.4a of the digital interconnection standard. New features include:
While PlayStation 3 consoles so far are equipped with HDMI v1.3, Sony has pledged to upgrade them for 3D video output by means of a simple software update so we're wondering to what extent a device really needs to be v1.4-compliant to work with this. Perhaps the update effectively makes PS3 an HDMI v1.4 device.
Seventh 2L SACD/BD title
About half a year after the previous release, Norway's 2L label issues a new Super Audio CD + Blu-ray Disc package, this time with music from Norwegian composer Ole Bull: Violin Concertos performed by Annar Follesø and the Norwegian Radio Orchestra (catalog number 2L-067-SABD).
Like most if not all of their similar offerings, the SACD is a hybrid one with stereo and 5.1-channel audio and the pure audio BD contains the same music in 7.1-channel surround sound, all produced in DXD.
For an overview of all 2L's SACD+BD titles, go here.
Special offer: Pioneer AV Receiver
In one of Amazon's mailings with 'Home Audio & Theater' deals we came across this attractively priced Pioneer 7.1-channel A/V receiver, the VSX-9040TXH. According to the mail, the price is "too low to show" meaning it varies strongly but when we checked it it was priced $499, down from $699. With 4 HDMI inputs and decoding of DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby TrueHD and multichannel PCM this looks like a great peripheral for a PlayStation 3.
In the same message we were informed about a new HDMI v1.4-compliant Pioneer AV receiver, the even more affordable VSX-820-K at just $299.
Neither accepts DSD input probably but for PS3 users that makes no practical difference.
New Peter Gabriel album in high resolution
Peter Gabriel has just finished recording a new album called Scratch My Back, due March 2 in the US and out now elsewhere. It's a collection of covers of songs by other artists who will be returning the favour by covering one of his songs. These will be released on a companion album titled I'll Scratch Yours.
While it comes in a Super Jewel Box, there's no SACD. There is a Special Edition. Sadly it does not contain a multichannel mix -- remarkable considering the artist's view on surround sound and the fact that the last of his eleven SACD albums, Up, was in 5.1 -- but it does provide access to 24-bit (stereo) versions of the songs. It also holds several more songs.
First 3D-capable AV receiver from Sony
Sony (USA) has announced a new AV receiver, the STR-DN1010. It's their first with HDMI 1.4, in order to pass through 3D video. That's interesting but it made us wonder whether you really need v1.4 for that or if a lower version will do. After all, if v1.3 can't do it then how is Sony going to live up to their promise to upgrade PlayStation3 to 3D video output (for games and also, we presume, Blu-ray 3D)?
Having said that, the new model is a fine companion to PS3, or any of the new Blu-ray Disc players announced -- especially the 3D-compatible types, of course. It features Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio decoding, plus of course 7.1-channel PCM handling. Whether DSD decoding is included the press release doesn't tell, and the full product specs are not online yet, but it seems DSD compatibility is reserved for ES series AV receivers. For PS3 users this will not make a difference but it is relevant for buyers of the new BD players.
Yet more Sony SACD/BD players
Last month we reported about ten new SACD-compatible Blu-ray Disc players destined for the North American and European markets. This week, Sony's added another model for both territories, the BDP-S470. This player is also 3D-ready: it can be upgraded by a future firmware update. We've added it to our overview.
Prices for part of the range have also been announced, starting from $180 SRP for the entry-level BDP-S370.
The Hot Spot OST on SACD
The reissue of the original soundtrack of The Hot Spot we reported about November 15 is out today and unlike we feared, Analogue Productions has issued it not only on vinyl but also on a hybrid stereo SACD. They're not (yet) available on Amazon but they are through Acoustic Sounds.
SHM and SACD finally combined into one disc
We haven't yet arrived at the Blu-spec SHM-DSD-XR-HD-SA-CD we suggested some time ago when Blu-spec CD was announced but at least and at last, SHM (Super Hard Material) disc manufacturing technology is going to be applied to SACD. That's a far more promising combination than the K2 HD Mastering + Crystal Disc which after all still uses the Red Book CD format. Adding a third technique for better quality, gold material is used. We're not sure if this applies to the CD layer or whether it's a non-hybrid SACD-only disc. Either could be the case.
Universal Music Japan has announced for release on March 31, 2010 the first Gold SHM-SACD title. It appears to be a sampler of jazz music by various artists on the Verve and Riverside labels.
New DSD downloads
M·A Recordings, a small audiophile record label based in the US has added some DSD downloads. MA always works with two omni-directional microphones and normally releases their recordings in 24-bit/96-kHz but Será Una Noche ($40.00) comes with four DSD files as a bonus. Read all about it here.
Michael Jackson PS3 bundle
SCEJ today is releasing a PS3 Slim bundled with a Blu-ray Disc of This Is It. It's not yet clear whether this bundle will be released in other territories too. What is sure is that there's no SACD here. Thriller remains the only Michael Jackson SACD to date, and sadly stereo only.
Several other editions of this documentary including a box set are also released on BD and DVD, with 5.1-channel mixes.
Amazon Blu-ray Disc deals
Amazon's next Deals Event which starts today and runs through February 15 features savings of up to 55% on high-action Blu-ray Discs and various DVDs, while supplies last.
Blu-ray Disc and SACD playback now at $289
Oppo just has launched a new Blu-ray Disc player, the BDP-80. It's a cheaper version of the BDP-83 but it also comes with SACD and DVD-Audio playback, as well as HDCD, BD-Live, a USB port, HDMI, 1080p upconversion, etc. This is by far the most affordable player with both SACD and BD out there so far.
And obviously the cabinet and front panel are different, with hot stamp foil finishing that looks like brushed aluminium instead of the real thing. The A/V processing differences are caused by a switch from Anchor Bay's ABT2010 VRS processor to a custom SoC.
While we think the loss of DSD output is a pity, altogether it's a great product that provides a lot of value for money.
Release plans for Europe and other parts of the world are not yet known. At one point Oppo planned to release the BDP-83 in Europe but those plans were canned indefinitely. Let's hope the new unit will be marketed on a more global scale. In the meantime you can buy it on Amazon.com.
* Update: The BDP-80 will feed both DSD and PCM (of course just not simultaneously) to HDMI with SACD playback. The difference with the BDP-83 is that on the latter, analog output is converted direct from DSD while on the new model the signal first gets converted from DSD to "high-resolution" PCM, then from digital to analog. Oppo has confirmed to us this PCM is 24-bit 88.2 kHz.
World Music on BD-Audio
msm studios report on their Pure Audio Blu-ray site about a new, non-classical audio-only Blu-ray music disc: Mira by Jienat, the name under which Norwegian artist Andreas Fliflet operates. The music is described both as 'pop' and as 'world music'. The blurb says:
To the best of our knowledge, Jienat’s twin-disc Mira is the first release of “popular music” recorded in true 5.1 surround. It is also the first world music release on the Blu-ray format. Jienat’s center of gravity of is in the small town of Hammerfest, 3 hours by car from the North Cape. Go due North from here, and you will encounter no mainland until way on the other side of the North Pole. It is the home of Andreas Fliflet, who composes and produces the music. It is performed almost exclusively by voices and drums— sometimes heaps of them. Emotional settings range from «party!!» to «lullaby». The true sonic placement of the listener in the middle of the ensemble creates a goose-bumps-inducing prescence. Recording sessions for this disc has been made in locations ranging from the cobblestone streets of tropical Salvador de Bahia, Brazil to countryside medieval churches on the Åland Islands. But first and foremost it has been made in the Jienat base camp Joikeredet, literally 150 meters away from the Arctic Ocean.
When we follow the link we get to see cover art for another Jienat release titled Tudeer, scheduled for November 10, 2009.
We're not quite sure if this has been released meanwhile or whether the name and artwork were changed at some point and these albums are actually the same. Also: was or will Mira come with an SACD? The PR text mentions a "twin-disc" product but avoids the name SACD, perhaps because msm only deals with BD and DVD?
Adding to the confusion is the fact that Morten Lyndberg of Lyndberg Lyd, better known as 2L, is credited for mixing and mastering yet on the 2L site we can find no reference to Jienat's work. We'll let you know when we've sorted it out.
By the way, the statement about "the world's first non-classical true surround recording" clearly lacks the words "on Blu-ray Disc" but even with that addition would be untrue. Earlier releases include Sara K's Made in the Shade and some non-classical titles by Surround Records.
Update: We spoke with Andreas Fliflet who clarified a number of things:
First of all, the Tudeer title and artwork were provisional. The Mira title and artwork are the final ones. The link is now also fixed.
The release does consist of an SACD and a BD with the same content -- similar to 2L's releases, but despite Morten Lyndberg's involvement, the disc is not released on the 2L label. It was just mixed and mastered by Lyndberg Lyd.
Regarding the statement that this is the first non-classical music recorded in surround, the emphasis should be on the word "recorded" -- probably all other non-classical surround releases thus far were mixed in surround, from multitrack stereo or mono recordings. We think he has a point there.
Andreas Fliflet with his surround microphone array.
Firmware v3.15 now mandatory
January 7, 2010 (last updated: Jan 10)
Sony is back with ten new SACD players
Ten! Happy 2010. And what a great start of the year it is. Finally, almost two years after removing the SACD function from PlayStation3, Sony introduces a long-awaited range of SACD-compatible Blu-ray Disc players. The last three weeks have been quiet but today the annual CES has started so we've got news.
Official Blu-ray 3D logos
Mere days after the official announcement of completion of the Blu-ray 3D format, Sony today announces a line-up of 3D-capable and regular BD players, and all except apparently one feature SA-CD. There are three stand-alone BD players: the BDP-S770, BDP-S570 (picture) and even the entry-level model BDP-S370, successor to the current popular BDP-S360, all play Super Audio CD. Then there are three home theater systems: the BDV-HZ970W, BDV-E770W and BDV-E570W all are branded "1000W Full HD 1080p Blu-ray disc, DVD, CD, SA-CD 5.1 channel home theater system". Only the basic HT-SS370 appears to lack the high-end audio format.
The top player (~770) and HTS (~970) are the 3D-capable ones. They're scheduled for this summer. All others will come to market in spring.
Remarkably, the US press release mentions SA-CD while the European one doesn't. The other way round would have surprised us much less. We suspected for a moment there might be a mistake here. It wouldn't be the first time. But the high-res pictures really reveal SACD logos. The European line-up is different. Where the American home theater systems are styled conservatively as conventional AV components and look just like the stand-alone players, their European counterparts have more of a 'lifestyle' design with a vertical orientation. It's not clear at this stage whether this 2.1-channel BDV-F700 and BDV-F500 and also feature SACD but we're pretty sure about the BDV-E370 and especially the BDV-E870, BDV-E970W and BDV-IZ1000W following a statement by Sony Europe that all players based on the new 2010 Blu-ray Disc platform support SACD.
Lastly, there's no new ES series BD/SACD player yet, like we hoped/predicted. Likely, a successor to the BDP-S5000ES and SCD-XA5400ES, whether it be a single product or two separates, will be introduced at this year's CEDIA in September. Of course, an integrated product would need to address their concern that a combination player doesn't compromise picture or sound quality in comparison to the separate players. Still, we're glad Sony has (re)joined Denon, Marantz, Oppo and other brands by offering BD/DVD/SACD players. And generously at that. We've added the lot to our overview, which now lists 20 models from eight brands.
Any hopes that Pioneer would join too have been dashed by statements that Pioneer will not show any BD players at CES this year. Pioneer may leave the optical disc hardware business altogether.
Update: Pioneer does show new Blu-ray Disc players at CES 2010: the BDP-120, BDP-320 and Elite BDP-23FD. No SACD here however.
Kraftwerk SACDs re-released
2010 will be off to a good start for collectors of electronic music on SACD when on January 8 EMI Germany brings the SACDs of Kraftwerks' Minimum-Maximum -- both GSA (German) and International (English) versions -- back into its catalogue.
The 2-disc Multichannel Hybrid SACD, originally released in 2005, is a registration of a series of live concerts recorded during their 2004 world tour. It went out of print after a while and has become a very much sought-after title, today commanding $699.90 on Amazon and better prices on eBay. Such steep prices will soon be a thing of the past; for a while, at least. The album is also available in 5.1 on DVD by the way, and not quite as rare.
If you like electronic music, this is a must-have.
Nick Cave's albums remastered in 5.1
With releases of pure audio in 5.1 in the pop/rock genres so few and far between it's hard to imagine but there are 16 albums that we've completely overlooked. Last year, Mute Records (who earlier issued remasters of all Depeche Mode's studio albums in 5.1 on SACD and in 2008 re-released Yazoo's complete works) announced remasters of all 16 albums by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. The first batch of four albums, From Her To Eternity, The First Born Is Dead, Kicking Against The Pricks and Your Funeral... My Trial, came out earlier this year.
Each album will be reissued as a two-disc (CD+DVD) set, containing both the remastered stereo mix and new surround sound mix, as well as a specially commissioned short film created by UK artists Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard. Also included are the B-sides for the related singles and exclusive sleeve notes. As with Yazoo, no SACD, alas.
Sony closer to break-even with PS3 Slim
As part of an ongoing series of teardown analyses, iSuppli has disassembled a PS3 Slim and estimated the component cost (the Bill of Material or BoM) and the manufacturing cost. In summary, their conclusion is that at an estimated cost price of $336.27, the 120-GB model sold at $299 is closer to break-even than any PS3 model before it. While that is surely true and we trust the accuracy of their estimates, the press release suggests implicitly that when cost drops below the retail price, the product will start to become profitable. Again, as with previous exercises, they seem to forget distribution costs and, more importantly, dealer margins. We think Sony is unfortunately still quite far off and needs to get the cost price down to about $200 in order to turn a profit at a $299 consumer price. But by that time the SRP will be much further down.
PS3SACD.com 2009 music and electronics top 10
The end of the year is approaching so this is a good time to share the ranking of best-selling music and hardware for the year to date. Since we're covering multichannel and high-resolution music on a range of formats, the top 10 does include more than just SACDs. The numbers in brackets are the 2008 positions.
* Of these titles we have aggregated different editions.
The Beatles' Stereo Box Set did not make it to the top 10 but ended up in 15th position.
The most popular hardware sold through this site in 2009 thus far is:
There's a visual overview here.
If you're still searching for Christmas gifts to ask or to give these are probably excellent suggestions. Alternatively, if you can play European Blu-ray Discs you may be interested in Amazon UK's "Buy Two Blu-ray Titles for £14" promotion.
Firmware v3.15 brings Data Transfer Utility
A new system software is out. Version 3.15 introduces a Data Transfer Utility for transferring files and settings to a newer PS3. Some files are copied, others are moved and a few are simply left or need some further attention.
No media changes are reported.
Black Friday deals - all week
This Thursday, the US celebrate Thanksgiving so this Friday it's time for the annual special offer fest known as Black Friday. Amazon features a selection of limited-supply offers all week long, starting today. To go there simply click on this banner:
Theta BD/SACD transport
Theta Digital has announced for release this quarter a 'Universal Disc Transport' that supports Blu-ray Disc, DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, SACD and various other formats. Transport in this case is a fancy term for player because it's more than a plain drive – the decoding circuitry is all here, including 7.1-channel audio outputs.
Judging by specs and looks we take it the COMPLI BLU shares a number of modules and components with the Oppo BDP-83. Theta have not yet disclosed a price but based on their history we can expect one well into the four digits.
You can find the new device in our BD/SACD player overview.
5.1 audio issue solved
SCE has released a new firmware, v3.10, and it has relevance for SACD playback: It fixes an issue present in all previous versions that caused AV receivers to think they got a 5.1-channel signal through HDMI, even when a stereo track was played. Other changes deal with the Photo category in the XMB, the PSN Friends List and Facebook.
The ideal PS3
The Holiday season is approaching fast so it seems an appropriate time to draw up a wish list. Allow us to dream for a few minutes and draw up our list of specifications for the ultimate PlayStation3 console, from our point of view at least. Hint: It plays SACD, very well, but there's more. Read our two cents and join the debate.
New DSD Download: The Window by David Elias
When Wheatus released their mini-album as a DSD Disc download a few months ago we expressed hope more artists and bands would follow. That is now happening. The Window by David Elias is one of those SACDs that have gone out of print and now fetch upwards of $200 on eBay. So David has decided to reissue the album as a DSD download. Here's what he writes about it:
You can read more about DSD Discs in our special guide.
King Crimson in 5.1
Some projects are a long time in the making, and when they eventually reach conclusion they end up different than planned. In the Court of the Crimson King, the debut album of King Crimson, was supposed to be issued on multichannel SACD in the early days of the format (i.e. some ten years ago) but this project never materialized. Now the surround mix of the album has finally been completed it's released this week on DVD-Audio (together with a remastered CD) as the 40th Anniversary Edition. The 5.1 mix was made by Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree fame and Robert Fripp himself. The disc will be a region 0 NTSC DVD with MLP Lossless 5.1 Surround Sound, DTS 5.1 Digital Surround, MLP Lossless Stereo 24/96 and PCM Stereo 2.0 24/48. The DTS and PCM will play on PS3.
It's very rare to see new DVD-Audio releases nowadays – about as rare as seeing new pop/rock SACDs – but Amazon Germany lists a performance by Tangerine Dream, Live at the London Astoria Theatre as DVD-Audio, to be released November 20, 2009. This would be the first DVD-Audio distributed by Sony Music. Possibly this is a mistake, in line with this Sony Music page, and the disc is actually a DVD-Video one.
New Analogue SACDs
Analogue Productions are doing a project with a whole catalog of Nat King Cole abums. So far all their SACDs were pure stereo but these ones will be in 3-channel and 2-channel stereo. Steve Hoffman writes on his own forum: "So, we've done the following for SACD three channel/two channel hybrids and 45 RPM vinyl:
"We are doing three-channel surround SACD's with a two-channel and CD layer plus some extra-special 45 RPM 180 gram vinyl. So you will be able to hear Nat coming out of your center channel (on the three-channel SACD layer) and nicely balanced on your CD and SACD two channel layers and then on the uniquely mixed vinyl versions. Get an SACD player."
On the same ad we spot the original soundtrack of The Hot Spot by John Lee Hooker with Miles Davis and others. It's not clear from this whether this reissue will be on vinyl only or on SACD as well.
While on the topic of this fabulous film score we want to express our hope this equally fantastic film noir – rightfully referred to as 'the Body Heat of the nineties', will get a proper reissue, preferably on Blu-ray Disc but even a good DVD would be appreciated – with proper artwork please like the original film poster and rental video, unlike the shoddy B-movie grade artwork used with the European and American VHS and DVD editions.
And if they're going to reissue Miles Davis soundtracks on SACD may we ask for Ascenseur pour l'echafaud, released on Fontana, please?
More MoFi classic rock on SACD
A short while ago, Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs (MFSL) has announced two more Hybrid SACDs by The Doobie Brothers:
and three more by The Band:
The latter is already out, in addition to the titles we reported about in Spring.
All albums are done in stereo but that's not as obvious as we wrote then because some of these albums have been done in quad in the seventies and The Captain and Me has even been issued on DVD-Audio.
Elvis on SACD
Legendary sound engineer Steve Hoffman is working on remasters of two Elvis albums:
Release dates have not been disclosed yet.
Not mastered by Steve Hoffman but posted in his forum is the upcoming SACD of Sam Cooke's Night Beat, scheduled for release in January on Analogue Productions. George Marino at Sterling Sound is mastering this from the original three-track masters. The SACD will include all three channels.
Oppo for Audiophiles
Oppo, which with its SACD- and DVD-Audio-compatible BDP-83 Blu-ray Disc player has been catering for audiophiles already more than most other brands in the AV space, has probably figured out there are better margins to be made in the audiophile segment than in the videophile one. The company has announced a Special Edition of said player, the BDP-83SE. All improvements are in audio processing and its analog output so there's a warning up front that it isn't worthwhile for those who use just the HDMI digital output. For some SACD fans this will be very attractive but not for those who prefer off-board D/A conversion.
Wish You Were Here on SACD?
The Pure Super Audio blog reports that Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here album will likely appear on SACD soon, quoting people familiar with the matter. The mix is supposed to exist already and sound fabulous. Then again, such reports have been circulating for nearly five years, in this blog for instance, quoting industry insiders who insist that it "will definitely happen". In October 2007, the WYWH SACD was due for February 2008, according to Brain Damage, a fan site. While we'd love to see (and hear) the multichannel mix appearing, we've got low expectations about its likelihood. It looks like a case of rumour aggregation based on statements made in blogs and forums.
The Beatles finally in high resolution
It's the remastering job of the decade of some of the most important music of the 20th century, and yet it was released only on Red Book CD, not even vinyl, let alone SACD, DVD-Audio like the Love album or another high-quality format.
Now the 'complete' works by The Beatles (the fourteen albums that are part of the stereo box set issued on 09.09.09) are finally going to be released in high resolution. In stereo 44.1-kHz 24-bit FLAC (losslessly compressed PCM) and 320-kbps MP3, that is. "Fully compatible with PC and Mac," the press release states. The MP3 is compatible with PS3; the FLAC unfortunately isn't until Sony issues a FLAC codec or decoder as part of a future system software upgrade.
And what an odd choice: 24 bits make for a high signal resolution so why go with a lowly 44.1 kHz sample rate instead of 88.2 or rather 96 kHz? Perhaps the media capacity posed a constraint here.
The carrier is a very charming one: a diminutive USB stick contained in an Apple Corps apple. The capacity is 16 GB.
It's a limited edition of 30,000 copies. Besides the 14 stereo titles it contains "all of the re-mastered CDs' visual elements, including 13 mini-documentary films about the studio albums, replicated original UK album art, rare photos and expanded liner notes." The remaster collection is going to be released December 8 in North America and a day earlier elsewhere. You can (pre)order it at $238.99 or £157.99.
WipEout HD/Fury out on BD
The Blu-ray Disc edition of WipEout HD and WipEout Fury is out. This is what it looks like:
More than a week after its release however it's still not available through Amazon UK or Amazon Germany, only through Amazon France (€24.99). Why? We have no clue. Amazon UK replied to our query that the title is not in stock but we fail to see how that could happen with such a key customer from the day of release. Mind you, the item is not even listed as 'out of stock', it's simply not listed.
Read our earlier coverage why you have to have WipEout HD.
New Marantz receiver
Marantz has made another AV Receiver that's very suited for use with a PS3: the SR6004. It supports DSD decoding via HDMI as well as 7.1-channel PCM and all the latest Dolby and DTS formats. It's available in black in the US (at $1,249.99) and Japan and in UK/Europe also in silver.
Separately, pictures of the UD8004 'Universal HD Player' we reported about earlier are now public. The product was unveiled at this year's CEATEC show in Japan, last week. Here are detailed pictures of the inside. Here it sits atop the yet more expensive UD9004.
Pioneer, staunch supporter of SACD and DVD-Audio in their universal DVD player range will launch a new 'Reference Blu-ray Disc player' this autumn that (like all their BD players thus far) will not be SACD-compatible: the BDP-LX91, sold in the US as Elite BDP-09FD. Just check the press release or the brochure.
Special Halloween promotion
Darker days are here again so 'tis the season to get creepy. To get you into the mood Amazon has a selection of movies on Blu-ray Disc on offer, including of course (but by no means exlusively) a number of 'scary' ones like Halloween, The Haunting, Poltergeist, etc. You can save up to 55%. The promotion lasts until October 31.
SACD's 10-year anniversary
It's ten years ago this month that the first SACD player was launched: Sony's SCD-1 - a $5,000 high-end stereo-only top-loading SACD-only player, a fine piece of engineering still regarded by some fans as the best SACD player ever built. Certainly one of the heaviest, but of course only worthwhile if you're purely into stereo audio.
Some sources put the release of the first SACD title, Miles Davis' Kind of Blue in May 1999 so one could date the introduction of the format a few months earlier but as the content is useless without the hardware to play it on and vice versa we'll stick with October.
While the past ten years are surely more important than the next ten, the format is still going strong in its own niche. It's too bad that the format was picked up so poorly in popular music. Even inclusion is PS3 has not helped much because of the lack of support from the music majors.
Let's hope the format will see some more interesting titles in the years left. Anyway, with out-of-print titles becoming rarer every year and prices rising accordingly the hunt for sought-after discs will continue to be a fun occupation. Long live SACD!
Incidentally, something else celebrates its ten-year anniversary this very month: Amazon's Wish List. The company celebrates this with some special sweepstakes. Click to proceed.
Note: Like several other Sony Music titles (Toto IV comes to mind), Kind of Blue has been issued on SACD several times in different versions: the initial stereo single-layer edition, a stereo hybrid SACD (or was it a stereo/multichannel single-layer SACD?) and a stereo/'multichannel' hybrid SACD that's actually a transfer of the original three-channel stereo recording. Last year the album was once more remastered and reissued in Japan.
Naxos joins BD Audio publishers
Classical music label Naxos, after having issued various albums on SACD and DVD-Audio in recent years, now has switched to Blu-ray Disc for releasing music. (They had already released a couple of operas in high-definition video on Blu-ray Disc). The Virtual Haydn – Complete works for solo keyboard is issued as a 4-disc BD set. One disc contains a three-hour 'making of' documentary (in 1080i format) but the other three discs contain 14.5 hours of pure music in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.0 and PCM 2.0. The region code is 0 so it works worldwide. Also available through Amazon.
We plan to create an overview page of all audio-only Blu-ray Discs shortly. Already up is an overview of SACD/BD releass by 2L, the most prolific label in this field so far.
New David Sylvian album in 5.1
David Sylvian's new album Manafon is released in two versions: a regular CD and a deluxe edition that includes (in a very nice slip case with beautifully printed books and art) a DVD with -- besides a documentary -- a 5.1-channel mix of the album in DTS 96/24. The surround mix was done by Sylvian himself.
Unfortunately at the time of writing the deluxe edition is already sold out. A very limited edition indeed. We hope the DVD will become available in some other way, with or without the CD.
Genesis issues fourth box set
After three earlier SACD/CD/DVD box sets containing remasters of all their studio albums, Genesis have today released one more box set, this time with various live recordings from between 1973 and 1992. Genesis Live 1973-2007, released by Rhino Records, contains four earlier albums on eight CDs and three DVDs: Genesis Live, Seconds Out, Three Sides Live and Live at the Rainbow 1973. All except the third one are now issued in 5.1-channel surround sound. Unlike the previous box sets (the European editions at least), there are no SACDs here. Apparently there is not even a DTS mix, like the American versions of the other three box sets issued by Rhino did. The multichannel mixes are in Dolby Digital and DTS. The year 2007 in the title refers to the 2-CD Live Over Europe 2007 which is not included here but for which space has been reserved.
Join the discussion here.
In other music news, Rush will on November 17 release their live video R30: 30th Anniversary World Tour on Blu-ray Disc. According to the Rush blog the BD will contain 8 tracks more than the 2005 DVD.
250GB model in various bundles
In line with recent rumours following the usual FCC leak, Sony's releasing a new premium model with the same slim design and specs as the 120GB model except for a 250GB Hard Disk. It's going to be available in different bundles in all territories.
Although the 250GB model represents the top of the line it does not feature SACD playback.
While we're waiting for the bundles to appear the base case SKUs are available on Amazon through our PS3 hardware page.
WipEout HD and WipEout HD Fury to be released on BD
The WipEout HD game and the associated 'Fury' expansion pack, both initially released only online through the PlayStation Store, will after all be issued on Blu-ray Disc, in Europe at least. Street date is October 16. The disc with both games will cost merely €24.99/£19.99, reports MCV. WipEout HD and ~ Fury are must-have titles because of their fantastic soundtrack mixed in Dolby 5.1. See our earlier coverage, exactly one year ago today.
Note that the expansion pack not only adds extra race tracks but also six extra music tracks:
It will be very nice if these tracks are also playable outside of the game.
Bug fix: Firmware v3.01
After 'investigating concerns' following user reports of issues with system software v3.00, Sony has issued an apparent bug fix, v3.01. This optional update "improves system stability during use of some PlayStation 3 format software."
SACD player wins EISA award 2009
The EISA award for audio source of the year 2009-2010 was won by Marantz for their SA8003 Super Audio CD player. It's a stereo-only device but it's great to hear nevertheless. Congratulations, Marantz.
(Some) new Sony home AV equipment
We've just returned from the Berlin IFA, where Sony Electronics presents its (European) product line-up for the coming season. This included a whole range of Blu-ray Disc-based home theatre systems, none of which however support SACD. Also the new stand-alone Blu-ray Disc players, the BDP-S560 and BDP-S760, do not, just as the new Blu-ray Disc changer, the BDP-CX7000ES. We were having high hopes for a single successor product to the BDP-S5000ES and SCD-XA5400ES announced at last year's IFA but apparently these products may have a shelf life of up to two years. Also at CEDIA these will not be replaced. Perhaps at the 2010 CES, which is not too far off.
The politically correct answer as to why these players haven't been combined into one is that the company feels it would be a compromise on either side. When you ask the right people, the story is that they're contemplating doing so but they want to make sure the performance (sound and picture quality) is top-notch.
Sony does have some new AV Receivers, including the STR-DA3500ES and the STR-DA5500ES. The latter (also introduced in Japan but as TA-DA5500ES) is a successor to last year's STR-DA5400ES although that model will continue a while longer. So although new models are introduced on a yearly basis here they may still have a longer commercial life span. The 5500 has almost the same features as the 6400 except for the front flap. A more efficient model is the STR-DN1000. All make for excellent companions to a PS3.
On a side note, Sony denied any rumours that they withdrew the SCD-XA5400ES from trade, or that an improved version was imminent.
In the demo room the staff played a BD movie (Bolt), BD music video and SACD; a two-channel SACD but a very spatial recording.
Elsewhere on the booth Sony showed off stereoscopic 3D displays, with 'TV' footage, movies and documentaries, and PlayStation3 games. The sequences (including Gran Turismo, Killzone 2, Motorstorm 2 and WipEout HD) were prerendered but great nevertheless. Also the 3-dimensional XMB was very interesting, even though the smoke in the background looked distinctly 2D. We can recommend taking a look.
We would have loved to check out some of the recent SACD-compatible Blu-ray Disc players but sadly Oppo, Denon, Marantz, McIntosh and the others were all absent at this year's IFA.
Amazon TV series sale: over 50% off on selected DVDs and BDs
Amazon DVD is celebrating the return of the TV season with a Fall TV Sale: Over 1000 TV DVDs and Blu-ray Discs up to 54% Off, and deals from $5.99 including The Office, 24, Mad Men, Entourage and many more. The sale runs until September 30, 2009 while supplies last.
As announced by Sony simultaneously with PS3 Slim, today sees the release of the first major system software update since some time, version 3.00. For owners of 'fat' PS3s, the following changes may be of interest because they further improve its capabilities as a media player:
As mentioned before, bitstreaming output of Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio is hardware-dependent, not just software-dependent.
If you're interested in PS3 Slim, follow the link below by all means. Just be aware it does not play SACD.
Denon adds second universal BD player
Like Marantz, Denon has added another universal disc player with Blu-ray Disc, Super Audio CD and DVD-Audio to its range: the DBP-4010UD (the US typenumber is DBP-4010UDCI; spec sheet here), which sits below the recent flagship model DVD-A1UD(CI). After all, $1,999 is a lot more affordable than $4,500.
One detail worth noting here: According to the manual (see page 14), with SACD playback you'll get only only 44.1 kHz 16-bit PCM output via HDMI, so you've got to rely on Denon Link for DSD output or the discrete outputs for high-quality analog audio.
For an overview of all SACD-compatible Blu-ray Disc players check our overview.
Latest SACD/BD release from 2L: Grieg
The sixth release by 2L of a hybrid SACD and pure audio Blu-ray Disc combined in a single package (but sold at the price of a single disc) is of a piano concerto composed by Edvard Grieg, performed by the Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra conducted by Rolf Gupta. The performance was recorded in DXD. The BD contains high-resolution stereo and surround sound in up to 7.1 channels, the SACD 5.1.
The title is also available for download in 24-bit 192 kHz FLAC format but unfortunately not (yet?) in DSD.
Latest brand with BD/SACD player: McIntosh
McIntosh, another brand from the Denon-Marantz stable officially known as D&M holding, has announced it'll be releasing what has become the norm for high-end Blu-ray Disc players: a universal disc player that features SACD and DVD-Audio playback. Like all others except the Oppo and PS3, this one's price (in dollars, euros or pounds) will be well into the four figures. The exact amount has not yet been disclosed. The player will come to market in October.
You can find the McIntosh together with all other BD/SACD players in our overview.
We're left to wonder meanwhile whether Sony's ES range will finally (after Oppo, Denon, Marantz, Lexicon, Cambridge and McIntosh) get its own SACD-compatible Blu-ray Disc player. Next week we can expect the product announcements for the 2009 Berlin IFA and shortly after that for the CEDIA, where last year Sony presented their high-end BD and SACD separates, the BDP-S5000ES and SCD-XA5400ES. This week in Japan they've only announced a new very slim BD player (the BDP-S360) and their new range of BD recorders.
PS3 costs reduced by 70%
During a conference call for investors following Sony's Q1 09 financials, Sony Corp's CEO and Executive Vice President Nobuyuki Oneda revealed that manufacture costs of the PlayStation3 have dropped over time by 70%, TVG reports. That number is another substantial step forward from the 50% estimated by iSuppli last December and, according to Sony, "on schedule."
The cost reduction has of course been achieved by shrinking of the Cell processor from 90nm via 65nm to the current 45nm and of the RSX graphics chip from 90nm to 65nm, and the removal of a number of features: 4-way USB ports, memory card readers, PlayStation2 emulation and, sadly, SACD playback. This is all the more a pity because the latest generation energy-efficient PS3 with its reduced fan noise could have done some very quiet audio performance.
If you're interested to see what PS3 Slim looks like on the inside have a look at this teardown by iFixit.
SCE giveth and taketh away features
The long-awaited price cut for PlayStation3 is here, as expected in the form of a thoroughly redesigned and slimmed-down console. It's not called PSthree (but then again neither was the slim PlayStation2 really called PStwo) but simply PS3 Slim as Sony prefers. The PS3 branding may be long accepted by everyone else but for SCE is an evolution from PLAYSTATION 3 and PlayStation 3. The model will be called CECH-2000.
The specs in a nutshell:
Yes, it has thinner and less wide but even deeper than it already was, resulting in a somewhat odd, almost square form. Very different from, say, PS2 Slim.
Note also how installation of Linux is no longer supported. PS3 Slim will be released into markets worldwide on September 1st -- now there's a logistical challange -- running on system software v3.00, which will be made available to the installed base on the same day. We can only hope Linux support is not removed from that. A new feature is BRAVIA Sync, Sony's name for CEC on HDMI. Again, it's not clear whether this feature is added to old models with the new firmware or only to the new ones.
The price will be ¥29,980 in Japan, $299 in the US, €299 in Europe and, we expect, £299 in the UK which, knowing the actual exchange rates between these currencies, only goes to show the importance of psychological pricing.
It's a drastic and impressive price cut, achieved of course by an equally drastic redesign. It could be expected that Sony would drop some features along the way. It's just a pity culling SACD playback couldn't have waited until the introduction of PS3 Slim (at least the fourth internal design iteration of PlayStation3 if not the fifth or higher) because otherwise there would be some 30 million SACD-compatible PS3s in the world now, more than twice the number of other SACD functions (SACD/CD players, 'universal' DVD players, Home Theater in a Box units, etc.) Fortunately, you can still buy SACD-compatible PlayStation 3s.
Removal of the Linux option is also striking. After all, unlike with SACD playback, we assume there is no hardware penalty for it, i.e. no impact on the BoM (Bill of Material).
The power consumption has been reduced further but although no fan and fewer cooling holes are visible on the pictures the press release speaks of reduced fan noise so apparently it's not a fanless product yet.
We're very eager to see the inside of PS3 Slim. According to Sony, it uses a 45nm Cell processor. Presumably, the RSX is still at 65nm process technology. For sure, the two aren't merged yet. That, combined with the still rather large footprint of the new console, is why we expect another redesign with a substantial shrink some two, three years down the line. PS3 Slim & Compact anyone?
Let's hope the best of it. May the life cycle of PS3 last as long as Sony plans.
Update: As it turns out, BRAVIA Sync is hardware-dependent. Sony has replaced the HDMI Si9132 chip by a newer type. This new HDMI chip also supports proper output of Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, i.e. without conversion to high-resolution multichannel PCM. Now the PS3 Slim's optical drive does not support SACD playback but the question whether DSD output is now possible is not academic, because likely DSD Disc format is supported. We'll check with Sony and let you know.
One new feature that will work also on older hardware is simultaneous audio output via HDMI and optical.
* Update 2: Sony has confirmed to us that despite the new HDMI chip and bitstreaming output of Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA, DSD output remains absent. DSD Discs will give high-resolution PCM output via HDMI, also on PS3 Slim.
More music in 5.1? New releases by Pixies and Procupine Tree
Label A+R (Artists in Residence) has issued a collectors box containing most of the Pixies' works, titled Minotaur. The set comes in two versions: a $495 limited edition and a $175 deluxe edition. Both include all five Pixies studio albums (Come on Pilgrim, Surfer Rosa, Doolittle, Bossanova and Trompe le Monde) on "24k layered CD" and BD, plus a DVD with all videos plus a 1991 concert at Brixton Academy. The limited edition adds all albums on 180g vinyl, an art book and more. It's not exactly clear what's on the BD and DVD. Some sites like nylvi state albums "mastered in 5.1 surround sound" but according to these interviews with Black Francis in Wired and A+R founder Jeff Anderson in Rolling Stone the albums have not been remastered.
Ealier, 4AD reissued three Pixies albums on SACD.
Prog Rock band Porcupine Tree, who in the past have released 5.1-channel mixes of many of their albums on DVD-Audio, have issued their new album The Incident -- besides a 2CD edition -- on plain old DVD-Video which, according to the band's site contains a (standard-resolution?) 5.1-channel mix plus a high-resolution stereo mix. Probably the former is in Dolby Digital (or perhaps DTS but claimed to play on any DVD player) and the latter in PCM. Again, there is a limited deluxe edition including vinyl (2 LPs), a hardcover coffeetable book and other goodies. However, no BD, no DVD-Audio, no SACD here.
Two years of PS3SACD.com
Woohoo! Today marks the second anniversary of this website. A heartfelt Thank You goes out to all visitors, posters, shoppers and everyone who has helped spread the word and promoted this site elsewhere on the web. We hope you'll continue to frequent this site with as much joy as we have running it.
Second label to issue same music on SACD and 'BD Audio'
Audiophile label Stockfisch Records from Germany follows in the footsteps of 2L from Norway by releasing a high-resolution multichannel recording on both Blu-ray Disc and Super Audio CD. The final album of singer-songwriter Sara K. -- she has announced she'll withdraw from the music business after this album -- Made in the Shade, which earlier this year appeared as a hybrid multichannel SACD, is now also made available as an audio-only Blu-ray Disc containing the same music in DTS HD Master Audio 5.1, PCM 5.1 and PCM Stereo. As opposed to 2L's release however, the two discs aren't combined in the same package but sold individually.
From the same artists, Stockfisch earlier issued the album Hell or High Water on SACD and XRCD. Before that, she was signed to Cheskey Records, who issued her album Play on Words on SACD. All are hybrid multichannel SACDs.
PlayStation, Korean models
We haven't often reported on the South Korea market, probably because the situation and the SKUs offered there are not very different from the Japanese, North American and European ones. Perhaps that's why we haven't seen the search term "Korean models" show up in our site statistics like we have with Japanese models. Now however we have a very good reason to: As Siliconera reports, Donghae City played host to the first Korean Invitational World Sand Sculpting Championship. Sony Computer Entertainment Korea (SCEK) showed up and joined the sand sculpting fun, and afterwards issued an official press release along with some nice pictures.
Yet another BD/SACD player: Cambridge Audio
It's taken a fair amount of time after the introduction of PS3 before we saw the first SACD-compatible BD player but now they're coming one after the other (see more universal players here). The latest brand to announce one is Cambridge Audio. The model is called azur 650BD.
Besides BD Profile 2.0 (BonusView and BD-Live), SACD and of course CD and DVD-Video also DVD-Audio and HDCD are supported.
Apparently the on-screen menus, or the Graphical User Interface if you will, look very similar to the Oppo's. The rear panel however suggests these two players do not share the same chassis.
The azur 650BD is scheduled for release in November 2009 at a price of €799.
New homepage design
Accumulating all the news posted here since the beginning some two years ago this page had gotten a little heavy: over 4 MB. This must have caused fairly long loading times for visitors who come to this page first time, with a clear cache. All news from before 2009 is now moved to this separate news page. To be sure, this page contains all news, including the latest. The homepage size is now reduced to under 2 MB, hopefully halving the loading time.
To maintain compatibility with external links to older news articles on the homepage, those entry points have been maintained with the article headers, which now link to this news page. In that respect, the index.html page is now truly an index page.
We hope you'll like it and will keep visiting.
Second Marantz BD/SACD player
If $5,999 is too heavy for your budget or 19 kg is too heavy for your equipment rack (yes, rack mount brackets are optionally available separately) then perhaps the Marantz UD9004 is not your choice but you may want to consider the UD8004. At 17 kg it's not exactly lighweight either but the $2,199 price tag makes it a whole lot more affordable. It dispenses with some of the build quality and audiophile circuitry but it's no slouch either.
There are no pictures of it yet but Marantz has announced this new model for October, two months after the flagship model. Both fit nicely with the AV8003 and MM8003 amps and play multichannel SACD. Reportedly, the UD8004 even plays DVD-Audio, a spec point that's still fuzzy about the UD9004.
Some people who covered the UD8004 elsewhere suggested it fits nicely with the PM8003 but that's a stereo amplifier so why bother? If the AV8003/MM8003 combo is out of reach, may we instead recommend the SR6003, SR5003 or SR4003 7.1-channel AV receivers?
We'll keep you posted and have added the new universal player to our overview.
THX-certified BD/DVD/SACD player
Lexicon has announced its first Blu-ray Disc player and like the universal DVD/SACD players RT-10 and RT-20 before it this BD-30 is quite a versatile type, supporting BD, DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, SACD and all the other usual formats. According to Lexicon this is going to be the first THX-certified BD player.
You may notice the Lexicon's back panel bears a striking resemblance to the Oppo BDP-83's rear and although the two products share a lot of specs and, no doubt, many components they are not quite identical products. The Lexicon for instance sports an RS-232 port for interfacing with home theater control systems. This and the certification Lexicon hopes will justify its $3,499 price tag -- seven times that of the Oppo, putting it pretty much on the same level with the Denon and Marantz competition.
For more SACD-compatible BD players check our overview.
Meanwhile Sony has announced three more BD players for the US market, the BDP-CX960, the BDP-CX7000ES and the BDP-S1000ES. The former two are 400-disc mega-changers. Both the BDP-CX7000ES and the single-disc player carry the ES subbrand yet only the changer (like the BDP-S5000ES) looks as if it was designed for the ES range while the BDP-S1000ES -- like the similarly styled but bulkier BDP-S2000ES before it -- seem to have got the ES badge slammed onto it as a cheap marketing trick. Most disappointly however, none of the models support SACD.
Dedicated BD music page on Amazon
Amazon.com now has a page that effectively lists available Blu-ray music discs:
It's not a page designed specifically by Amazon but based on tags assigned by users yet it works quite alright. Included there are all of the titles we listed here earlier plus some more, such as these new titles by Surround Records:
From now on if you're shopping for music on BD just follow the above link or this button:
Wheatus' new record downloadable in DSD
US pop-rock band Wheatus have released their new EP/mini-album Pop, Songs & Death: Vol. 1 The Lightning EP. You can download it from their website. It's available in various formats including 320 kbps MP3, losless AAC, lossless WMA, 88.2 kHz 24-bit FLAC and, most interestingly, DSD -- the format in which the music was recorded.
The site says about this: "FLAC is for advanced users only; DSD is for audiophile maniacs." How much one pays the band have left entirely to the downloader's discretion. So, yes, you can download all six tracks for free. If you pay $5 or more, you get 'intimate acoustic recordings' of two of the tracks plus a comic book in PDF format.
We applaud this brave move and hope more bands will follow this example.
If you want to find out how to make a DSD Disc that plays on your PlayStation 3 or Sony SCD-XA5400ES, read our DSD Disc guide. Bear in mind that all PS3 models play DSD Discs. To find out more about the record, join the discussion.
Michael Jackson on SACD
That Michael Jackson's best-selling Thriller album is available as a stereo SACD is no news. That it almost was released as a fully loaded SACD including a surround sound mix is however unknown to most.
In 2000 or 2001, Sony Music hired sound engineer and mixer Mick Guzauski to work with Jackson on creating 5.1-channel mixes of Thriller as well as all his other albums. Roger Friedman of Fox News wrote about this:
I am also told that Jackson has spent not only millions on the making of Invincible, but millions more on the planned re-release of his catalogue by Sony this fall. All of his albums, from Off the Wall through HIStory, were remixed for the new Sony Super Audio CD format. But Jackson, working through an engineer, went through 50 different mixes of each song from each album. "He went through them and over and over again. It's not like they hadn't already been remastered for CD in the first place. And it was the same engineer who did it the first time. The guy just leaks money."
There are other surround projects where I got more inside the band, [but those] will probably never come out for political reasons. One was Michael Jackson's Thriller. The changes with Sony and with Michael mean that will probably never come out, but that was a lot of fun.
In 2001, Sony Music released a remastered version of Thriller on CD (the Special Edition) that contained various bonus materials. These are not included on the 1999 SACD, which just contains all the original tracks in stereo. Also the 25th Anniversary Edition released in 2008 was issued on RBCD only. The package did include a DVD but just with videos.
Remarkably, none of Jackson other albums were ever released on SACD, not even in stereo-only versions. One can only hope the recent resurgence of interest in Michael Jackson and his work will change this. Whether the passing away of the artist means the veto on the multichannel mixes is over will only be known to those familiar with the details of the contracts. We sincerely hope they'll see the light of day after all, be it on SACD or any other medium. It would be a magnificent way to celebrate the musical legacy of the undisputed King of Pop.
Oppo BD/DVD/SACD player now available
The long awaited Oppo BDP-83 with Blu-ray Disc, DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, Super Audio CD and HDCD playback as of today is finally shipping and available from retailers such as Amazon. By the way, so are the Marantz UD9004 and the Denon DVD-A1UD.
You'll find them in our brand new overview.
SACD/BD player overview
For what it's worth, we've added a simple overview of Blu-ray Disc players that feature Super Audio CD playback, like the Marantz, Denon and Oppo we reported about earlier. You can find it here.
Also the 'sitemap' is new.
Another firmware update
Or the same one? SCE has issued system software version 2.80 and according to their blog, "the playback quality of some PlayStation 3 format software has been improved". That sounds strikingly similar to what was said about v2.76.
Multiple new bundles
Several new bundles have been announced, all of them with the current (SACD-less) 80GB model: Two in Europe, both priced €399; one with inFamous, the other with Ratchet & Clank: Quest for Booty. The latter includes a second DualShock3 controller. The US gets a $399 bundle that includes MLB09 The Show and a Blu-ray Disc of the Quantum of Solace movie.
Update: We've found Amazon Germany offers two different Ratchet & Clank PS3 bundles, each with two Platinum Edition games included: one with Gran Turismo 5 Prologue added, the other (at €499!) with Heavenly Sword added.
New details about Marantz SACD/BD player
New details of Marantz' pretty universal player UD9004 (earlier coverage here) have surfaced, including this picture which nicely shows an equally sized Super Audio CD and Blu-ray Disc logo snugly sitting side by side.
More pictures, including rear panel and inside views, can be found here (Japanese) and here (German). The UD9004 may not be going to be the most expensive SACD player ever, it will likely be the priciest BD player so far at ¥577,500 (some $6,000 or €4,300).
Judging by the back panel, this unit will fit excellently with the AV8003 pre-amp and MM8003 multichannel power amplifier combination (previous coverage here), as opposed to the earlier SA8003 SACD player which is stereo only. Marantz' other BD players including the new BD7004 don't feature SACD playback.
Meanwhile there is still no announcement of BD/SACD player from Pioneer or Sony, other than PS3.
Update, August 2009: The UD9004 is now available for order from Amazon.
DSD downloads by 2L
Norwegian music label 2L, who we've covered frequently following their string of releases on dual-disc (no, not DualDisc) SACD + Blu-ray Disc of high-resolution multichannel recordings, offer downloads in many formats on their website. These include both high-resolution and multichannel options, such as 24-bit 192kHz stereo FLAC (losslessly compressed PCM) and 24-bit 96kHz 5.1-channel FLAC. Most interestingly however, 2L also offers some DSD downloads of the Nordic Sound sampler of 2009.
Unfortunately, these files are not in the DSF flavour of DSD that PlayStation3 (and the Sony SCD-XA5400ES) can handle. 2L has not yet answered queries from us as to whether they'll consider issuing DSF files but when we discussed these downloads with an engineer at Korg (we asked "aren't these in professional DFF format instead of 'consumer' DSF format, making it impossible for PS3 owners to use these files?") he gave us the following interesting answer:
"These are in DSDIFF format instead of DSF format. AudioGate can handle both formats, and can create DSD-Disc from any format including PCM using its strong format converter. VAIO can also play back DSDIFF files as well as DSF files, so I think it's better to have DSDIFF downloads than having nothing at all.
DSF file format is quite a new format, and currently, there aren't any software or recorders (besides ours) in the studio or in the record company that can handle DSF format, which makes it hard to start DSF downloads.
With the debut of AudioGate v2.0 at the AES Munich, the industry is now aware of DSF/DSD-Disc, and it's starting to change. Other companies who have been developing DSD equipment are trying to support DSF, so I believe it's just a matter of time."
If you're interested in creating DSD Discs to play on your PS3, check our DSD Disc guide.
New DSD writing software from Korg and Sony
Korg has issued a new version of AudioGate (v2.0.0) which enables you to burn a DSD Disc as well as an audio CD with ease. All you have to do is to import your recordings, insert a blank disc, and hit the newly added "Burn Disc" button. AudioGate will do the rest for you, and you'll get a DSD Disc which can be played on PS3 -- all models, not only SACD-capable models -- and Sony's SCD-XA5400 ES series SACD player.
You can download this software for the following platforms:
Sony meanwhile has released an update of the DSD Direct Writing software for VAIO PCs, version 1.0.00.04130. It solves the issue of not being able to create a DSD Disc after PxEngine is installed.
New 2L title
2L, the classical music label from Norway that released the first music-only Blu-ray Disc, bundled with a hybrid SACD, has issued a fifth title in this dual format: Flute Mystery by the Philharmonia Orchestra and Vladimir Ashkenazy.
All PS3 models will play most of the audio versions included in this; if you've got the right model you'll be able to access every individual version.
Minor firmware update
SCE has issued system software version 2.76. According to their blog, it "improves the playback quality of some PS3 format software". That means games.
Oppo BDP-83 confirmed to play DVD-Audio
Oppo's first Blu-ray Disc player, the BDP-83 we reported about earlier, is finally confirmed to perform DVD-Audio playback -- a feature Oppo had all the while planned to implement but until now couldn't commit to. This makes it very much a universal disc player (counting out some obsolete formats like HD-DVD and LaserDisc) and the first BD player to support both SACD and DVD-Audio. The only other DVDA-compatible BD player thus far was the Panasonic DMP-BD10A. Other SACD-compatible BD players include those from Marantz, Denon, ezGear and of course PlayStation3. PS3 may be capable of playing DVD-Audio too but it will require a hack to do so. It's not yet proven it's feasible.
New Depeche Mode album out in 5.1
The band from Basildon have recorded a new studio album, Sounds of the Universe. Mute Records have released it today. The label has been a staunch supported of SACD, issuing their previous album Playing The Angel, the live album 101 and remasters of all nine preceding studio albums on the format (see the end of this page) but no more: SotU comes in various editions including, besides the basic CD album, a deluxe edition on CD+DVD and a deluxe box set consisting of three CDs, a DVD, two 84-page hardcover books, posters, postcards and other trinkets.
The DVD included with both deluxe editions contains a 5.1 mix of the entire album as well as the 'B-sides' from CD 2 in 24-bit 48kHz DTS and Dolby Digital. Perhaps the lack of an SACD edition should come as no surprise after Mute reissued Yazoo's complete works, In Your Room, on CD+DVD instead of SACD.
Pioneer introduces SACD player with DLNA
Pioneer has announced a new SACD player for the Japanese market, or rather an SACD receiver because this device has an integrated amplifier. The product has an ethernet port and is DLNA-compliant. That doesn't mean however that it will send SACD music through the home network: Like PlayStation3, the PDX-Z10 is a DLNA client, not a server -- you can access media (DRM-free audio in MP3, WMA, AAC, WAV and FLAC format) stored on your local network. We're still hoping a future PS3 software upgrade will add the server possibility.
An iPod connection is also integrated but it's not iPhone-compatible. An optional Bluetooth 2.0+EDR adapter is available separately.
In the area of sound quality Pioneer claims use of Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) technology. We suspect this refers simply to the DSD processing. Note that the amplifier is stereo only.
New IR remote control options for PS3
In the beginning, there was the official Sony PS3 Blu-ray Disc remote. With this, you could conveniently use your PlayStation3's excellent media playback capabilities (including Super Audio CD and of course Blu-ray Disc) without having to resort to the awkward use of the game controller for this.
Now while most consumer A/V devices use infra-red signals for remote control PS3 relies on BlueTooth. This eliminates line-of-sight problems associated with normal remotes but rules out use of most other remotes. A number of companies have devised different solutions for this.
Nyko has introduced a dedicated product for PS3, the popular 'Blu Wave' remote which uses regular IR transfer and a receiver in the form of a USB stick to get the signal into the console. An affordable and effective solution.
Logitech is about to release a special PS3 adapter PS3 for their Harmony range of universal remotes, the E-R0001. The company has yet to issue detailed information about the introduction date, price and exactly which Harmony remotes will be compatible but has admitted the product plans after details leaked via the FCC site. With a Harmony remote and this adapter you should be able to conveniently control BD and, presumably, SACD playback on your PlayStation3 as well as a host of other devices.
Audio Authority meanwhile has issued a more generic solution that should work with just about any programmable remote, the C-1071 BlueBeam IR-to-BlueTooth converter picured below. Don't be mislead by the USB connection here: that's a power supply option, as an alternative to a powerpack or batteries. The converter doesn't need to sit next to your console; it relays the control signals by up to 30 feet via a wireless BlueTooth connection. The adapter supports many functions including macros (that you can create using a PC set-up utility) and discrete on/off, making it a good choice for custom installers and system integrators.
Gundam on Blu-ray Disc + Blu-spec CD
If you've got a PS3 and are interested in anime as well as Blu-spec CD (besides Blu-ray Disc) then this Japanese release may be just the thing for you: Gundam 00 Complete Best. The standard version consists of a CD and DVD but the deluxe version is issued by Sony on Blu-spec CD plus Blu-ray Disc.
Firmware v2.70 released
SCE has today issued system software update version 2.70. In the audio department, they've added a Dynamic Normalizer. For video, they've added the possibility to offload movies purchased from the PlayStation store to an external hard disk. You can later restore these to the internal hard disk when you want to play them again. You can also transfer videos purchased from PSN for PSP* to PS3 for playback. Other improvements deal with online functionality. Japanese readers check this overview.
* PlayStation Portable -- not Pit Signal Processing
2L continues BD/SACD releases
Hot on the heels of the Nordic Sound sampler follows the fourth BD/SACD combo release by 2L, Mozart/Grieg vol II: Werke für 2 Klaviere by the Dena Piano Duo. The album with music in 5.1-channel and stereo, produced entirely in DXD, was released last Friday. Owners of the right PS3 models can enjoy every version included on either disc, of course.
25 jazz albums to be reissued on SACD
After the Fantasy 45 series and 25 titles in the Blue Note Reissues, Analogue Productions will in the course of 2009 release 25 albums in the Impulse! Reissues series.
The first two titles by Gil Evans and Charles Mingus will be issued in April.
Marantz next with BD/DVD/SACD player
After Denon, Oppo, ezGear and of course Sony's PS3 Marantz is the next brand to release a Blu-ray Disc player that supports SACD, reports bluray-disc.de. The UD9004 ('UD' stands for Universal Disc player, we presume) will be presented at this year's High End show in Munich.
As soon as we've got pictures or pricing information we'll let you know.
New MoFi SACDs
Pop/rock music news: Mobile Fidely Sound Labs will reissue several vintage albums on 'Ultradisc UHR™ SACD' shortly:
All are Original Master Recordings hence in stereo.
SACD/BD sampler from 2L
Lyndberg Lyd, the Norwegian record company known in short as 2L, has released a third Super Audio CD/Blu-ray Disc combi pack. It's a sampler titled The Nordic Sound and it includes a selection of recordings by the artists from the 2L stable. Most tracks were originally recorded in DXD and have been converted to DSD for SACD and downsampled to 192 kHz for BD. The two discs contain the exact same music. The album is also available for download -- not in DSD format but as 320 kbps MP3 and 24-bit FLAC with a choice between 96 kHz stereo, 192 kHz stereo and 96 kHz 5.1-channel.
HDMI-to-analog audio converter
Japanese company Lancerlink has introduced a nifty little device that a lot of people may have been waiting for. The HD-R121AD takes HDMI input, decodes multichannel LPCM (7.1, 5.1 or 2-channel) and feeds the decoded signal to multichannel analog audio outputs.
On the other side the HDMI signal comes out again so you can easily still feed it to a display, for instance.
This must be welcome news to owners of an AV receiver without HDMI who are not yet ready to replace their AVR but wish to use it with a PlayStation3 or other Blu-ray Disc player.
It seems like an odd product choice to use mini jacks instead of regular 'RCA' type connectors but conversion cables are probably bundled. The dimensions of the box must have played a role here. Then again, why not make it a little larger to facilitate normal plugs?
Update: The product is also available in the west, only under different brand names. In the UK for instance it is sold as the Cypress CLUX-11SA HDMI v1.3 repeater with audio decoder from vendors such as CYP and Letropacks.
Sony plans hybrid PS3 game/movie discs
According to an article in Video Business, Sony plans to introduce BD discs with a movie as well as a PlayStation3 game on them, thus better using Blu-ray Disc's 50-GB capacity (and competing in a way the Xbox360 and Wii with 9GB per disc cannot follow) but especially providing more value for money. The movie and game will, of course, be 'tie-ins'. Though details are still sketchy, Sony's statements suggest the movie could be in full HD resolution with a portable digital copy for transfer to PSP.
Interesting plans. May we suggest adding in some more interesting content, for instance a nice 5.1-channel soundtrack of the same movie and/or game?
New DSD Recorder
For those interested in making recording DSD Discs (or even actual SACDs, but you'll need yet more stuff for that), Korg has this month introduced a successor to its MR-1000 1-bit DSD Recorder: the MR-2000S. With its rack mounting brackets (if not its reported list price of $2,499) it is squarely aimed at professionals. The device can handle 2 tracks, so for 5.1-channel recordings (which is supported by SACD but not by DSD Disc, so far) you'll need three of these products working in tandem, something enabled by an OS upgrade.
New firmware update soon
Sony has announced it'll issue system software v2.60 shortly. New media features include DivX 3.11 playback and a Photo Gallery application. Some previews are posted in the US PlayStation blog.
More PS3 bundles coming
Limited edition decorated PlayStation3 models just keep on coming, in Japan at least. Two weeks ago we saw units with Biohazard 5 and Yakuza themes, this week we get (well, it's really coming April 16 but it was announced today) a PS3 in Final Fantasy XIII style.
It's a 160-GB model, which does not feature SACD playback, just like the 80-GB model that comes in the Killzone 2 bundle which will be heading to Europe soon.
LaserDisc news? In 2009? Well, Pioneer has announced it'll stop production of LaserDisc players after 29 years, since it's become difficult to obtain certain components. Pioneer has been a staunch supporter of the LaserDisc format. So staunch in fact that many people believe they invented it while in fact Philips deserves that credit. Another common misbelief is that LD is a digital format. The video is really analog, and the first couple of years (until after CD had become a successful spin-off product) even the audio was analog. The only digital thing on the the disc was the time code (for CLV discs) and the frame number (on CAV discs).
Apparently it took Blu-ray Disc to succeed where DVD failed: killing of the first-generation optical video disc. It also means Pioneer will not come with a super-multi-format player that supports LD, CDV, VCD, SVCD, DVD and BD (although the company has made players that support CD, CDV, LD and DVD), let alone one that also supports SACD. A pity. We would have loved a player that spanned four generations of optical disc (12 inch, 12cm infra-red, 12cm red and 12cm blue). In a way, Pioneer has been a champion of multiformat players, being one of the first brands (if not the first) to introduce a product that supported both SACD and DVD-Audio. There's never been a LD player with SACD playback but the two formats do have something in common: LD uses an FM-modulated A/V signal, which is very similar to the pulse-density modulation system that forms the basis of DSD.
Pioneer has also more or less pioneered (no pun intended) the use of optical discs for use with home videogame consoles (if we overlook CD-i and 3D0 for a moment) before the advent of PlayStation 1, in 1993, to be exact: the LaserActive system, a hybrid of a LaserDisc player and a Sega Genesis/MegaDrive, which played Mega LD, a special type of LD-ROM disc.
LaserDisc, we salute you. We will remember you fondly.
At PS3SACD.com we don't usually pay much attention to classical music (of which lots is released on SACD) but we'd like to mention we noticed Surround Records, a US label, last year has started releasing classical music mixed in 7.1-channel 24-bit 96-kHz DTS-HD Master Audio, on (mostly audio-only) Blu-ray Disc and initially even on HD-DVD. Remixed probably because we recall seeing most of these titles released earlier in 5.1-channel on DVD-Audio. The product notes on Amazon state: "Please note that this record was originally produced for 5.1 and presented for 7.1 surround sound reproduction to provide you with unique acoustic reality experience."
The current catalog (see overview) includes music by Bach, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Vivaldi, Rachmaninov, Shostakovich, Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, Wagner, Grieg and Nina Rota. We expect to see more releases in the future. Where, for instance, is the BD of Uncommon Mozart?
Surround Records has also issued other music on BD in 7.1, such as this ambient piece Mysterious Aqua - Music Experience in 3-Dimensional Sound Reality.
For more information refer here.
Two new decorated consoles
Two new PS3 bundles are launched in Japan and both are decorated. One nicely, the other gorgeously.
Both come with DualShock 3 controllers (one with two, the other with one) and 80GB HDD capacity but, we must assume, without SACD or PS2 compatibility.
PS3 truly offering 3D
Various reports (this one by Kotaku uses a brilliant photoshop job) indicate Sony will start offering 3D content on PlayStation3 starting this year. This may sound odd because PlayStation content is already generated in 3D since the days of PS1 but what is meant here is stereoscopic video output.
What surprises us is that everyone seems to expect using monitors that require glasses, mimicking the techniques used in movie theaters like anaglyph 3D or polarization (where this is probably the only feasible solution) while there is technology available that doesn't force the user to don any glasses, such as the autostereoscopic displays offered by Philips' spin-off 3D Solutions. These monitors use a lenticular screen, like the 3D postcards you may remember from decades ago.
The other thing that struck us in these reports is the statement by Neil Schneider, President and CEO of Meant to be Seen (MTBS) that “the best part is console support will only need a bios upgrade to work.” “We are told that the ability to add this capability via bios may be unique to Sony PS3 versus the other console solutions.” BIOS? Does PS3 have a Basic Input/Output System? Isn't that Wintel PC territory? We assume they mean a system software update, but never mind.
Exciting news is that the 3D output shall work with both games and (special) Blu-ray Discs. 3D-BD still needs to be standardized but we wouldn't be surprised if PlayStation3 turns out to be the first player capable of decoding such discs, and the only player that can be upgraded to do so. We're looking forward to PS3D.
More BD/DVD/SACD players coming
Yet another SACD-compatible Blu-ray Disc player (following Denon and Oppo) is coming to the market, and a budget one at that. The ezGear BluCobra EZ3000 (no, we hadn't heard it this brand before either) is a Profile 1.1 i.e. BonusView BD player. Outputs include HDMI 1.3 though it's not clear whether DSD streaming is supported. The player is announced for March (2009 we assume though the EZ000's product page currently states 2008 but hey, the year is still fresh and we all have to get used to it still) with a reported MSRP of $400.
Wishing you a Blue 2009
We wish you a happy new year with lots of interesting releases in terms of music, movies and games to play on PS3. To start the new year of well, Amazon.com runs a special buy two blu-ray discs, get one free promotion (on select titles) between January 6 and 16.
PlayStation3 cheaper but still loss-making, says iSuppli
More than two years after their cost analysis of the first-generation PS3 console, industry watcher iSuppli has done a tear-down of the third-generation PS3 hardware and concluded that the bill of material (BOM) has decreased from over $840 (for the 60GB model) to $449 for a current unit -- we presume they used a 40GB model.
Business Week quotes an iSuppli analyst, Andrew Rassweiler, stating that Sony has in many cases combined two or more chips into one, or integrated some low-level chips. More precise: When it was first released, the PS3 sported a total of 4,048 different parts, including those in the handheld controllers. Now, that number has come down by about 30%, to 2,820. "At the end of the day the PS3 is doing the same thing it did before, but with two-thirds as many parts."
Of course this statement is not entirely true. SACD playback and PS2 compatibility have been sacrificed in the current generation to save costs.
One thing that surprises us about the BW article as well as coverage by Gamasutra and other publications is the conclusion that the PS3 is near break-even. Even if we neglect the difference between BOM and manufacturing price -- the factories will want to earn some money on production, especially since Sony has outsourced manufacturing of PlayStation3 hardware to contractors like AsusTek, Hon Hai Precision, FoxConn Electronics and Maintek -- there is a (likely larger) difference between that and the retail price, a difference called dealer margin. No retailer would be prepared to make shelfspace available for a product they couldn't make a profit on. Even though they may settle for a lower margin on hardware than on games and peripherals, Sony will still need to supply them the hardware at a price well below the $399 street price.
We can understand most games publications focus on the big three platform owners, the game developers and publishers but we're surprised Business Week and even iSuppli seem to ignore distribution.
WipEout HD free trial demo
Sony Computer Entertainment Europe has released a playable demo of WipEout HD in the PAL PlayStation Store, as announced on ThreeSpeech. We can strongly recommend this title, not just for its fantastic visuals and gameplay but also, if not foremost, because of the brilliant soundtrack, remixed in 5.1. See our earlier coverage.
There's an in-game upgrade for the store trial to the actual game at £11.99/€14.99. We assume the availability of the trial version is temporary but no timeframe has been disclosed. Release in other territories has not been announced either.
The Police on Blu-ray Disc
Sting (or at least his record company, A&M) has always been a bit of an early adopter when it comes to new disc formats for releasing his music on. We've got LaserDiscs of Nothing Like the Sun - The Videos, The Soul Cages Concert, Unplugged and The Police's Every Breath You Take - The Videos; a 'CD-i Digital Video' of Ten Summoner's Tales (even though it's not very interactive and practically works like a Video-CD it's really a 'Green Book' disc, not a 'White Book' one); a Video-CD of Fields of Gold - the Best of Sting; DTS-CDs of Ten Summoner's Tales (we do not cease to wonder why this 5.1-channel mix was never issued on SACD) and Brand New Day; a DVD-Audio of Nothing Like the Sun; SACDs of Brand New Day, Sacred Love (released in America on DVD-Audio instead) and Every Breath You Take - The Classics plus DVD-Video releases of Bring on the Night and ...All This Time, oddly without a DTS soundtrack.
Now there's Certifiable, the live registration of a concert in Buenos Aires from The Police's reunion tour, released on Blu-ray Disc and presented in 1080p high-definition video, with 96kHz/24-bit audio in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and 2.0. It comes with two audio CDs. There's a great review of it on The Digital Bits here.
Hybrid DVD/Blu-ray Disc launched
A group of Japanese companies has announced they've developed a hybrid DVD/BD disc. Unlike we suggested two weeks ago, it's not a double-sided 'flipper' disc with DVD on one side and BD on the other but a single-sided disc that uses much of the same principle as the hybrid CD/SACD disc: there's a fully reflective layer that can be read with the old format's laser frequency, hidden behind a semi-reflective/semi-transparent layer that's transparent i.e. invisible at the old frequency but reflective at the new frequency; in this case a red laser of 650nm for DVD and a blue laser of 405nm for BD, respectively (for some more illustrations see the coverage by AV Watch).
BD/DVD Hybrid Disc structure
It's been a while since we last heard of hybrid disc structures in the HD era of blue lasers -- probably since Warner's Total Hi-Def (THD) format, a HD-DVD/Blu-ray Disc combination which never materialized. We're surprised it comes this late -- some two years after the launch of Blu-ray Disc. Late, because one would expect such a hybrid format to be a temporary vehicle to help the transition from the old to the new format. Perhaps the consideration is that the early adopters don't need such a hybrid but to conquer the masses it is needed. Parallels with 'single-layer' SACD and the hybrid SACD come to mind.
While we will not engage in predictions about the success of the hybrid DVD/BD (we think it's an interesting and viable idea) we will say we don't expect the format to have particular relevance for BD's appeal for audio applications. After all, what should the DVD layer add here? DVD-Audio content? Likely, the installed base of BD players already eclipses DVD-Audio's. No, for audiophiles only a hybrid with CD or rather SACD (or both) like we proposed would be needed but a relative niche format can do little to help a fledgling mass-market format truly break through.
On a positive note, it seems that PS3 is compatible with the new disc. That suggests that at least this format has been anticipated for long. It's not clear whether PS3 can play both layers and if the UI offers an option to switch between them, like with hybrid SACDs. That's important because the content of the one layer is not necessarily just a lower-resolution version of the other's. Besides, you may like to do A/B comparisons. We'll report back as soon as we know more.
SACD top 10 of 2008
'tis the time of the year for overviews so here's a rundown of the ten best-selling SACD titles as far as our statistics go:
The most popular hardware year-to-date sold through this site is:
If you're still thinking what to ask or give for Christmas, rest assured these are all fine choices. If you're looking for something different, you may take a look here:
Two RBCD flavours merged?
Although we made a suggestion in this direction just over a month ago (in our coverage of Blu-spec CD) we doubt this is what gave them the idea. Two of the process improvements introduced to create better 'Red Book' CDs have been combined now. JVC's 2K HD technology, an improved mastering process, is combined with a MemoryTech disc replication technology that uses glass (which is harder and supposedly clearer) instead of polycarbonate as substrate material, an approach similar to SHM-CD. The resulting disc is referred to by the two as K2 HD Mastering + Crystal Disc. For more details and graphs refer to this (Japanese) article.
While we applaud combining these two technologies rather then letting them exist side by side for us it doesn't go far enough. There are more 'competing' technologies that really are no substitute for one another but actually complementary. Most importantly, it's still a red book CD with 16-bit 44.1-kHz stereo PCM sound. Why pursue (sub)marginal improvements in this format while since nine years there's a standard that's a major leap forward in terms of fidelity (yet still maintains compatibility with CD players) -- Super Audio CD.
Many of the RBCD improvements listed in our earlier article below could be applied to the CD layer of SACD, some even to the SACD layer or the overall disc yet the only real combination we've seen are a couple of hybrid SACDs where the CD layer is HDCD-encoded, mostly by Fim (First Impression Music).
PS3 and Japanese models
Occasionally we check our site statistics to see what search terms people use to find our page and one of the terms that shows up in the top twenty this month is the phrase "Japanese models". We could imagine these searchers are actually looking for photo models rather than product types, so in order to not disappoint these people when they visit this site we'll post a picture here of a couple of charming Japanese booth babes.
Of course it's completely on topic since they're posing with an equally pretty PlayStation3 and not just a gratuitous image to beautify the page, let alone some shameless attempt to increase the site's ranking. If we find a picture of a Japanese model holding an SACD disc for sure we'll post it here too.
PS3 'Movie Pack'
One more bundle for the holiday season, for Europe that is: a 'Movie Pack' consisting of an 80GB PlayStation 3, DualShock 3 and a BD copy of 300, for the surely symbolical price of £300. In case you were wondering: Like all recent bundles, this concerns a model without SACD or PS2 compatibility.
There's a similar movie pack with I Am Legend bundled.
Sony BD/DVD/SACD Home Theater Systems?
While wondering what's taking Sony so long to release an SACD-compatible Blu-ray Disc player other than PS3 (like Oppo and Denon have) and focusing on the ES series, we may have been sleeping all along. Here are two Sony-branded integrated systems (BD/DVD/CD players with integrated AV receiver) usually referred to as Home Theater Systems or, outside of North America, Home Cinema Systems, which all appear to offer SACD playback, according to the SonyStyle site:
Some of the other details make us wary. The feature list shows "SA-CD : Yes". Yet it also says "DVD-Audio : Yes". While it's not impossible this is correct, it's unlikely. It would make this the first Sony product ever to support the 'rival' format. Sometimes such things do happen. At some point Sony DVD players have started offering DVD-RAM playback -- the above products included, apparently. In this case however we suspect the product manager who filled out this table may unintentionally have overstated the capabilities.
Perhaps "DVD-Audio : Yes" means it can play the DVD-Video-compatible audio tracks that all such discs have (any DVD player can) and maybe "SA-CD : Yes" means it can play the CD layer of a hybrid SACD. With the feature list drilling down to such a deep level of detail it's remarkable they haven't specified it like "Hybrid Disc (SA-CD/CD) : No/Yes" (or ~Yes/Yes, whichever applies). Especially considering the list does include the following lines:
Which may shed an interesting light on the shape of things to come. While at it, may we suggest a hybrid BD/SACD perhaps? While making it a hybrid BD/SACD/CD with Blu-ray Disc on one side and Super Audio CD and Red Book CD on the other is theoretically feasible within the boundaries of the standards but it sounds extremely challenging. Just the 'DSD layer' on one side and BD on the other must be perfectly technically feasible and no more complicated than a BD/DVD hybrid (which, admittedly, we have yet to see). It would be a perfect option for a label like 2L Music, who have released two (classical) titles each consisting of a Blu-ray Disc and a (hybrid) SACD: Divertimenti and SONaR (discussed in this thread).
In the case of another Home Theatre System, the DAV-IS50, SACD (which may very well be supported in an HTS without BD playback) is indicated on the features page but denied on the specifications page, which is inconsistent and confusing.
We'll check with Sony and let you know as soon as we learn more.
Update: One of our readers reports he has inquired with Sony Customer Service who confirmed the SACD playback for the BDV-IS1000 yet upon delivery of the system it turned out it actually didn't support SACD.
Update 2: We've got confirmation from Sony HQ in Japan that the two BD systems play neither SACD nor DVD-Audio. The pages referenced above should be adjusted shortly.
Denon BD/DVD-Audio/SACD player
Denon today announced it's first Blu-ray Disc player that supports Super Audio CD and DVD-Audio as well as of course DVD-Video and plain old CD -- the oddly named DVD-A1UD. (Would 'UD' denote Universal Disc player? That seems like such a moving target.) Denon's previous BD player was called DVD-3800BD.
The set will support BD-ROM (BD-Video and BDMV), BD-R/RE, DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, DVD-R/RW, SA-CD, CD, CD-R/RW. There's no mention of VCD or SVCD (but who wants to play such low-resolution formats in this HD age?) nor of DVD+R/RW (though there's a good chance those will play anyway). There's no HD-DVD which may disappoint some and lead to other to debate this is not a truly universal player but Denon's never been in the HD-DVD camp.
Furthermore there's support for DivX6, WMA, MP3 and JPEG. The set also features an SD/SDHC slot. Of course it has HDMI output but it's not clear whether DSD streaming is provided on it or only via the proprietary 'Denon Link'. BD-Live (profile 2.0) is promised as an upgrade. Until then you'll have to make do with BonusView (profile 1.1).
The DVD-A1UD will be available in black and silver from January 2009 on at a price of ¥546,000. It may beat the Oppo BDP-83 to market by a narrow margin. These are the first BD players besides PS3 that play SACD as well as BD. It's also the first BD player since Panasonic's first-generation DMP-BD10 that plays DVD-Audio, and likely the first BD player to support both high-end audio formats. But perhaps the reason for the slight Oppo delay beyond the 2008 holiday season is they're still working to make it DVDA-compatible, regardless of the significant price difference. The Denon price translates to $5,875 while the Oppo will cost something between $499 and $999.
In the meantime we'll stick with the wonderful media player that is PlayStation3 while hoping next year's Sony ES range will bring us a BD/SACD player. A BDP-SA5500ES perhaps?
Kotaku last week reported about an imminent release of system software v2.53 for PS3 -- supposed to provide full-screen video for Adobe Flash Player -- so we've kept an eye on it but to this date neither SCEA's blog nor their update page (or SCEJ's/SCEE's for that matter) shows any such news, instead still advertising v2.52.
Update: A few hours after posting this, v2.53 is up after all. More on AV Watch (Japanese).
We wish you a very joyful Thanksgiving Day and an equally enjoyable Black Friday.
Black Friday is almost here
In the US it's alsmost Thanksgiving Day and the Friday before that as a form of (recent?) tradition is a national bargain day known as Black Friday. Amazon.com will also have some special offers.
In the meantime, PS3 is featured in three different Amazon.com bundles (each with a game, one or more BD movies and PlayStation3 Blu-ray Disc remote control) ranging from $199 to $229. Which bundle will actually make it is a matter of voting. If you vote for the winning combination you stand a chance to buy the bundle at the advertized price. You can vote here.
One note: Each bundle features an 80GB model but we cannot tell for sure whether it's SACD-compatible. Considering the packshot shows a DualShock3 controller we suspect it's the incompatible 2008 model. Still, it's incredible value. Compare it to this bundle featuring the same 80GB PS3, Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction and Casino Royale (the first Daniel Craig James Bond movie) on BD, without the remote -- suggested retail price $399...
One 80GB PS3 bundle that is supposed to give you SACD playback is the once-hard-to-get MGS4 bundle. Walmart (no, we're not affiliated with them) now offers it at a mere $399. If they run out you can always look for one here. At the time of writing, the 80GB PS3 Motorstorm bundle is $399.
PS3 turns two
PlayStation3 was launched (in the US) two years ago today. That means it's got at least eight more years to go to fulfill Sony's ambitions of a ten-year life span and to outsell PS2 by shifting 150 million units. Let's hope it all comes true and Sony (and other record companies) supply this massive market with lots of SACDs and, further down the road, high-resolution multichannel music downloads perhaps.
Oppo BDP-83 news
Oppo has released proper pictures of its first Blu-ray Disc player, the BDP-83 we reported about earlier -- the first device since PlayStation3 to support Super Audio CD as well as BD. You can clearly spot the SACD logo, next to a DVD-Video logo. DVD-Audio support is still not confirmed, as is DSD streaming via HDMI.
The release date is not firm either yet but unconfirmed reports indicate it will not make it before Christmas and shift into 2009. For those interested to stay informed about any updates Oppo has created a registration form.
First 160-GB PS3 bundle
Europe, or at least Scandinavia, seems to have the honour of getting the first bundle of the 160-GB PlayStation3.
As we reported earlier, although this model is now the top of the range, it is compatible with neither SACD nor PS2. It does come with a DualShock 3 controller and vouchers for four PSN games (GT5: Prologue, Quest for Booty, Last Guy & Super Stardust HD), according to Kotaku.
Update: It's been spotted in other European territories as well, notably the Benelux countries.
Blu-spec CD: yet another attempt at a high-quality audio format
The Blu-ray Disc format today has given rise to another 'high-quality audio carrier': Blu-spec CD, announced today by Sony Music Entertainment (SME).
No this is not DSD, DXD or high-res PCM on a BD-ROM disc, thus creating something like a BD-Audio disc. It's yet another flavour of good old Red Book CD (RBCD), the original Compact Disc Digital Audio format we've known for over 25 years.
If we interpret the information (from the Japanese press release) correctly, the idea is to apply a blue laser (as used with Blu-ray Disc) instead of a conventional infra-red laser to cut a more precise CD master with more perfect pits.
This technique leads to more accurate read-out of the (16-bit 44.1kHz PCM stereo) digital audio signal.
While this is surely an interesting method to improve sound quality, we must note that Blu-spec CD is not really a new format but a new technique applied to an existing format -- CD. It's applied to one specific step of the whole CD making process, namely the cutting of the physical CD master. It competes with other attempts at establishing new standards for making CDs:
And above all, of course, it competes with Super Audio CD for the affection and money of consumers interested in superior sound quality. As you can see from the above overview, all of these approaches relate to different parts of the creation and manufacturing process, so there seems to be no technical objection why all of these couldn't be combined into an ultimate single high-quality carrier. That could be an RBCD but we suggest is be a hybrid SACD. Where DSD-CD, HDCD, XRCD and Blu-spec CD can create a better CD layer, we think use of a blue laser could also make a yet finer SACD layer (typically recorded using a red laser) while the more transparent 'super high material' of SHM-CD and the special silver alloy coating of HQCD would make a better disc overall.
The objections are not even political but of course of financial nature. These various process improvements are surely patented and the record companies plan to license them to others, perhaps even each other. Now if only they could get their act together, agree on a cross-licensing agreement and create this ultimate carrier. We're not going to speculate about the name this should take (SHM-DSD-XR-HD-SA-CD anyone?) but of course, we are pessimistic this will happen. More likely in music shops selling physical media, already facing difficult times (not only the brick & mortar stores but probably also the online retailers) you're going to see separate racks for XRCDs, SHM-CDs, HDCDs, Blu-Spec CDs and SACDs next to the regular CDs.
Sadly, the consumer will not have much choice other than between the original CD and one of these new formats: as these are 'proprietary' formats, you're not going to see a single album released in multiple formats. If this were to happen, inventory/stocking problems would get even worse.
On a side note: a warning is in place here: If you see a title with too many of the above disc format's logos on them, it's probably a fake from China, just like these albums by Abba, the Bee Gees, Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, U2, Kiss and Enigma (the latter branded as a DSD CD) we've come across. China Record Co likes to wow its customers but it's pure cargo cult.
Sony Music will launch Blu-spec CD in Japan (as ブルースペックCD) by reissuing 60 back catalogue albums in the new standard. And to be sure: as these are essentially Red Book CDs, all PS3 models are compatible with Blu-spec CD.
Discuss this topic in our forum.
Firmware v2.52 issued
In other news today, SCE has issued system software v2.52, reportedly fixing a flaw with text entry by means of USB/Bluetooth keyboards.
Firmware update v4.30
Sony has issued firmware v4.30 to address playability issues with the James Bond Blu-ray Discs (reported earlier here). Version 4.30? Yes, that's for the BDP-S300 player. As far as we can find, PS3 does not suffer from this issue so no firmware upgrade is needed at this time. Some other BD players do however. See the official Blu-ray Disc Association's page.
Yet another 80GB PS3 bundle
Yet another 80GB PS3 bundle, and like all other recent ones it's the model without SACD playback.
It's going to be released in Japan November 27th at ¥46,980 and will come with two DualShock 3 controllers and a copy of Winning Eleven 2009, the Japanese name for Pro Evo soccer.
3rd Genesis SACD box available finally
If you're in the mood for some Halloween/horror movies on BD or DVD you may want to check out this selection.
Firmware v2.50 released
Sony has issued firmware v2.50 today. New 'media' features include Flash Player 9 support and more fine-grained volume control. For a complete overview check the ThreeSpeech blog or Wikipedia. There are no new SACD features.
Rush concert on BD
The Rush SACDs that were to be expected at one point never materialized -- MFSL (Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs) got a license for Permanent Waves and other albums yet could only do a Gold CD reissue -- but now there's a Blu-ray Disc going to be released of their Snakes & Arrows live album. The concert was recorded over two nights at the Ahoy Arena in Rotterdam. The complete show plus additional footage will be there.
It will be issued (November 25) on DVD and Blu-ray Disc, both as 3-disc sets. The Digital Bits report the BD specs are not disclosed yet while the DVD will contain Dolby Digital and PCM 5.1 audio. We doubt that, since that would make it a DVD-Audio disc. We'll let you know as soon as we've figured out the details.
Low-cost 80GB model coming to Japan
The low-cost 80GB model is also going to be released in Japan by the end of this month (October 30), Sony announced today at the Tokyo Games Show. It will be available in colors Clear Black, Cermaic White and Satin Silver, and in two bundles: GT5 Prologue Spec III and Little Big Planet. Prices will range from ¥39,980 to ¥44,980. The typenumber is going to be CECHL00. As with the western model CECHK~ this SKU with have just two USB ports, no PS2 compatibility and, moreover, no SACD compatibility. To help overcome the USB port limitation, the company has also introduced a separate USB charger with two ports.
New pop/rock albums on SACD
SACD releases in the pop and rock genres may be few and far between nowadays but they do keep coming. Universal Music Group has its Deluxe Edition series. Unfortunately not quite all albums in this series contain SACDs. We can think of many where this would have fit excellently, such as ABC's The Lexicon of Love (and some of the tracks have been remixed in 5.1 for the DVD compilation). Yet the series does include a couple of clasic pop albums on SACD including Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, The Who's Tommy and The Moody Blues' Days of Future Passed.
UMG now adds to this Black Sabbath's Paranoid (released October 21, 2008)
and Emerson Lake & Palmer's Brain Salad Surgery (released October 7, 2008).
MusicDirect, who own MoFi, also lists Foghat's Fool for the City on its website; date to be confirmed. It's going to be a numbered limited edition SACD. By the way, if you search Amazon.com for "Foghat SACD" you'll find this interesting sampler: 10 Great Artists, 10 Great Songs. The indication that this is an SACD must however be a mistake because (a) it's a Warner release and (b) its release predates the SACD format by several years...
Update: It appears the Black Sabbath release does contains two CDs and a DVD-Video disc with Dolby Digital 2.0 and DTS 5.1 (both regular 48 kHz 16-bit) but no SACD.
First-ever PC with SACD support
Another first in the history of SACD: the first-ever PC that plays SACDs. It's the Sony VAIO JS1-series 'all-in-one' lifestyle PC. According to the press release, "this can handle Super Audio CD (SA-CD), allowing the JS1 to record, edit and play music at SA-CD quality, and even upgrade older recordings to the new standard.
What's a little confusing is the drive. The specs mention "Optical: DVD±RW/±R DL/RAM." That could refer to DVD formats this PC's drive is capable of reading but we assume what's meant is this drive can record them. That makes this not only the first PC drive ever to support SACD playback but the first DVD writer drive that's compatible with SACD.
What's more, several of the PR pictures show a BD-R sitting in the tray. Now this may not guarantee anything but at least it suggests BD-R playback. More likely we can expect Blu-ray Disc recording. That makes this one of the most universal drives of all time, and the first SACD-compatible BD drive outside of PS3.
We'll let you know when Sony gets back to our query.
Update: The press release turns out to have been confusing and confused. Confusing in the sense that this PC cannot handle SACD -- the processor could but the drive can't. The author must have been confused because although this PC comes with SonicStage Mastering Studio which can handle DSD, the DSD Disc format still only supports stereo -- not 5.1. The question about the DVD/BD writer remains unanswered.
Update 2: Sony Europe press centre has revised the press release per October 13. Any reference to SACD or 5.1 is now gone. Also removed are the pictures showing a BD-R disc in the tray, implicitly answering part of our question about the drive's capabilities. Presumably it's a CD/DVD writer with no BD support.
New Pioneer A/V Receivers
Pioneer has recently added two new AV receiver models in Japan and Europe: the SC-LX71 and SC-LX81. Of course, with features like Dolby TrueHD, DTS HD Master Audio (and likely DSD input -- the brochure isn't explicit about that) via HDMI these receivers are designed to make a nice stack in combination with the BDP-LX71 Blu-ray Disc player and the DVD-LX50 DVD/SACD player. With 7.1-channel PCM input they'll work very nicely with a PS3 too.
Firmware v2.43 relevant for Japan only
A new system software version, v2.43, is available. According the the official PlayStation Blog, "unlike previous updates, firmware v2.43 is specific to the Japan region, and only PS3 users there will be required to install the update. PS3 users in all other regions will not be prompted to download v2.43. However, if you manually initiate a firmware update by clicking on “System Update” under the XMB’s Settings icon, the v2.43 update will be available, regardless of where you are located.
Users outside of Japan do not need to perform this update if your PS3 system software is on version v2.41 or later. However if you do perform the update, it will not cause any issues with your system or add any new functionality."
Reportedly, the changes are for the release of rental content in the PlayStation Store.
WipEout HD release imminent
The long-awaited PS3 game in the wipEout series, wipEout HD, is due for release worldwide on 25 September, ten days from today, SCE has announced on its blog. As transpired earlier, the game will be PSN-exclusive i.e. only available via the PlayStation Network.
As also reported before, the soundtrack will be in 'Dolby 5.1', whatever that means precisely (we're thinking plain vanilla Dolby Digital or, better for in-game use, Dolby Digital Live). The game will offer the option to race to any custom playlist from your HDD.
We're hoping the audio tracks will be accessible outside of the game as well but have to assume by now the soundtrack will not be released on SACD or even DVD (like the soundtracks of the original wipEout game, wipEout 2097/XL and wipEout Pure were issued on regular Audio CD). Songs remixed to multichannel for the game are:
Three new Marantz receivers
Marantz has added some new models to its AV receiver range: The SR6003, SR5003 and SR4003. All of them can handle 7.1-channel PCM via HDMI (and as such are well-suited for hooking up to a PS3) while the first two also accept DSD input. List price is $1199/¥120,000, $799/¥87,000 and $549, respectively.
Oppo: First BD/DVD/SACD/CD player other than PS3
In other CEDIA news, Oppo has beaten Sony's Home AV division (as well as Philips, Pioneer, Marantz and other brands) to it: making the first combined Blu-ray Disc/DVD/Super Audio CD player other than PlayStation3. Besides BD, DVD-Video and SACD the product named BDP-83 will also play CD and HDCD. DVD-Audio support Oppo is reportedly still working on. None of Oppo's websites we're aware of has any details about the upcoming multi-format player but people who have spoken with Oppo on the showfloor (they don't have their own stand but exhibit this prototype at the booth of Anchor Bay, whose VRS chipset they're using) say it should be out this winter. We'll post some proper pictures when we get them.
Top-of-the-line Sony receiver
At CEDIA, Sony has shown the same ES series equipment introduced last week at IFA, plus another new 7.1-channel, DSD-compatible AV receiver: the DLNA-compliant STR-DA6400ES. It will be available in September for about $2,000 and sounds like a nice companion for a PlayStation3.
Yet more PS3 bundles coming to Europe
Also the Little Big Planet PS3 bundle coming to Europe contains the new 80GB PlayStation3, meaning it will not play SACD.
New PS3 bundles coming to the continent
SCEE will release at least two new bundles in Europe -- one with a movie, the other with Gran Turismo 5.
Reportedly, the bundles (€399 and €449, respectively) will only make it to mainland Europe -- not to the UK. Be aware that although both include an 80GB PS3, neither provides SACD playback. These are the new 80GB models.
First Sony SACD player with DSD output via HDMI
It had been a while since Sony last released a dedicated SACD player but this week Sony hits back with a new potential masterpiece, the ES series model SCD-XA5400ES.
While the front looks familiar -- it basically uses the same front panel as its predecessors SCD-XA9000ES (the model with i.Link) and SCD-XA3000ES, SCD-XA1200ES and the DVP-NS9100ES -- its rear panel indicates the internal circuitry of this device must be quite a radical departure. Like PlayStation3, it's no longer got analog multichannel outputs, just stereo (although in the case of this ES model they're balanced outputs). It does however have one important feature that PS3 lacks: DSD output via HDMI. It's the first Sony player to do so (though it's not quite the first brand to do so; see this list). Previously, only DSD output via i.Link was available. It's also the first SACD player (besides PS3) that can handle the DSD Disc format.
The new player features Sony's proprietary H.A.T.S. (High-quality Audio Transfer System) that was used previously with i.Link between the SCD-XA9000ES and STR-DA9000ES, and between the SCD-DR1 and TA-DR1.
To enjoy DSD decoding in the receiver, you'll need the new Japanese TA-DA5400ES model, the new STR-DA4400ES model for European and American markets (see below), the earlier STR-DA5300ES (see further below) -- or a different brand altogether. Check this list or our store.
The American and European prices for the player have not been announced but some retailers' websites suggest a $1,499 street price. The Japanese price is ¥176,400.
We're still dreaming of an ES series player that combines BD, DVD, SACD and CD playback all in one. Until that becomes a reality (PS3 is still the only device in the world playing SACD as well as BD) one will need separate devices and to fill this gap Sony has announced an ES series BD/DVD/CD player, the BDP-S5000ES -- a model that appears to be more worthy of the ES subbrand than the earlier BDP-S2000ES, which had virtually the same cabinet as Sony's other second-generation BD players. The BD player, SACD player and AV receiver look like they make a terrific combination together.
At IFA, Sony has also introduced several other Blu-ray Disc players, including the global models BDP-S350 and BDP-S550 but also the BD-compatible home theatre system (integrated player/AV receiver) BDV-IT1000, possibly a strictly European affair.
Update: It appears the SCD-XA5400ES can output PCM via HDMI but will only do so for Red Book CD -- not for SACD; there, only DSD output is provided. There seems to be no setting or option to let the player convert DSD to high-res PCM, while with PlayStation3 this is the only way. This means that for owners of an AV receiver that handles PCM via HDMI but not DSD, the 5400 is not a good choice but a proper PS3 is. For those whose receiver can decode DSD however it's a great choice.
Update 2: Kal Rubinson reports that the SCD-XA5400ES can actually output high-resolution PCM, provided that the receiving processor sends the proper EDID (Extended Display Information Data) message across HDMI. Not all AV receivers may do so and there is still no manual setting on the SACD player for selecting/switching this.
Amazon Blu-ray Disc sale: up to 50% off
Amazon has another Blu-ray Disc sale with up to 50% off on titles including No Country for Old Men, The Bank Job and The Prestige. There are further pre-order bargains on Iron Man (Ultimate 2-Disc Edition), Band of Brothers and The Ultimate Matrix Collection.
The promotion ends August 29.
Last of three Genesis SACD boxes about to be released
The last of the three Genesis SACD boxsets is finally available for (pre)order.
Genesis 1970-1975 contains remasters of the first couple of albums:
All of the albums are hybrid SACDs with stereo and multichannel remixes. The boxset will be released September 30. It'll be available from Amazon.com at $139.98. We assume the SACD albums will also be available separately.
New 160GB PS3 model
Sony Computer Entertainment Europe has today (at the Leipzig conference) announced a new PS3 SKU with a 160 GB HDD -- a big jump, since the 80 GB version was never introduced in Europe and the 60 GB was phased out quite some time ago. The PAL model will be introduced on October 31 at a recommended retail price of €449. SCEA confirms that also the US will get a 160 GB model and apart from the Hard Drive capacity it'll have the same specs as the new 80 GB model. That means no SACD and no PS2 compatibility.
1 year of PS3SACD.com
PS3SACD.com is one year old today. We want to thank everyone who has contributed to its success: all visitors, everyone who's responded, all shoppers and especially everyone who has posted on the forum. Thanks for your continued support. Count on us to proceed with the same enthusiasm and dedication.
Amazon Summer Sale
New Onkyo AV Receivers
Onkyo has launched some new 7.1-channel AV Receivers with DSD input via HDMI. They support DSD processing as well as 'Direct Mode'. Other features include DTS-HD Master Audio / Dolby TrueHD decoding, THX certification and Windows Vista compatibility via a front USB port. The US gets the TX-NR906 (no SRP announced yet). Presumably this model is virtually identical to the Japanese TX-NA906X. Derived from this is the Integra DTX-9.9 (¥ 367,500). Similarly, the Onkyo TX-SA806X formed the basis for Integra DTX-8.9 (¥ 262,500).
Firmware v2.42 issues
Firmware v2.42 is reported to have some issues. No further details are given but apparently it's less serious than the fall-out from v2.40.
New Sony receiver with DSD input
Sony demonstrates its continued commitment to the DSD audio format by introducing a new A/V Receiver with DSD input via HDMI: the STR-DA4400ES.
The 7.1-channel receiver has got six HDMI inputs and a Cross Media Bar (XMB) user interface. Supported audio codecs include Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio. Too bad PS3 still doesn't output these except converted to PCM.
The ES series model will be available in August for about $1,500.
Firmware v2.42 issued
Sony has issued a minor firmware update, v2.42, to 'improve the playback quality of some PlayStation3 and PlayStation format software'.
New 80GB PS3 model coming to PAL land
The as yet unnamed new 80GB model will go on sale in all PAL territories, simultaneously on August 27, says SCEE. The price will be €399 on the continent and £299 in the UK. It will replace the 40GB SKU. Now this may sound like good value for money until you realize $399 equates to €252 and to £199. In other words, the price of PS3 is 50% higher in Europe than in the US -- a discrepancy that tax differences alone cannot account for.
New 80GB PS3 model
Although Sony hasn't said so explicitly, it looks like the newly announced $399 80GB model of PS3 will not have SACD playback. After all, except for the Hard Disk capacity the specs are the same as of the current 40GB model, according to the press release. It also means no hardware emulation for compatibility with PS2 games (nor software emulation, for now). There's no confirmation of the typenumber yet. As soon as there is, we'll update the overview in the FAQ. Until that time, expect confusion about the specs of 'the 80GB model', now that there are two.
For your convenience, we've added a button that will put a PS3SACD.com widget on your iGoogle homepage. You'll find it at the top of this page.
Yazoo remasters in 5.1
Mute Records has recently issued remastered versions of Yazoo's albums that include a brand new 5.1-channel mix. Sadly it appears that unlike the Depeche Mode remasters (see coverage near the bottom of this page) Mute didn't choose SACD with DVD added: It's a boxset with three plain CDs and a DVD with the surround mixes. Still, this probably makes for some interesting music.
Firmware v2.41 issued
As predicted, there's a v2.41 firmware release. Sony issued it yesterday to address the issues introduced with v2.40.
Firmware v2.40 withdrawn
Yesterday, SCE put firmware v2.40 online. This release was highly anticipated because of many new features. Within hours however, users reported problems and Sony was forced to retract it. We expect we'll see a version 2.41 shortly. We'll keep you posted.
Firmware v2.40 due
System software version 2.40 is due tomorrow. New A/V features include upconverting of video content (from 1080i to 1080p) on self-recorded Blu-ray Discs -- so-called BDAV discs -- as well as HDD, SD cards and Memory Sticks. New among the audio features is support of DTS-ES and DTS-96/24 for DVD and DTS-ES Matrix for BD playback.
Also added is support for MP3 Surround, a feature we suggested in our recent editorial. Thanks for that, Sony. We remain hopeful you'll follow up on our other suggestions too.
Sony BMG: BD Music survey and contest
Sony BMG Music Entertainment has already released a number of music video titles on Blu-ray Disc and clearly is considering issuing more. Surround sound, high-resolution audio-only content is an option here. You can have a say, and could win 12 BD titles in the process. Fill out this survey to enter the contest (for US residents).
Firmware news: v2.40 is near but there's v2.36 as an intermediate update.
Meanwhile, PS3 Hacks has posted the elusive v2.00 -- the only version thus far that on the fly converts SACD's DSD audio to DTS Digital Surround sound for output via optical wire (see coverage from November below or the FAQ). We are not aware of any tricks to downgrade the system software version so until then this is only useful for those who are still at v1.93 or lower. Note: since it's only just been added you may find v2.00 at the top of the list; not between version 1.93 and 2.01.
SACD-compatible 80GB PS3 back in store
Metal Gear Solid 4 is out and bundles with PlayStation3 are available in the main markets but there's an important difference: in North America, the MGS4 bundle contains an (SACD-compatible) 80-GB model while in Japan and Europe you can only get the 40-GB model instead.
North America only: 80GB, SACD-compatible
40GB, no SACD
Create your own DSD Discs
Have you always wanted to make your own SACDs? Well, you can't unless you've got all the studio equipment and access to SACD disc replication facilities but what you can do at home is make DSD Discs, the closest thing to it. Basically they're DVDs (that you can record on your PC) with DSD audio on them. How to get audio in DSD? One possible choice that's in reach is Korg's professional but portable audio recorder, the MR-1 (for detailed specs and an explanation of the benefits of DSD recording, check the Korg website; for a review read this).
To learn how to make your own DSD Discs, check this comprehensive guide, included on our site courtesy of Desertsky.
Dead Can Dance SACD Collectors Box
The SACD reissues of all nine Dead Can Dance albums (see our earlier coverage) will soon also be available in a nice slipcase. The collectors box set will be released on June 30. You can preorder it here.
PS3 firmware upgrade v2.35
Sony has issued a new system software update, v2.35. As usual with 'intermediate' updates (where the first decimal isn't raised but the second is) there are no new features, only 'stability improvements'. Remarkably, it doesn't solve the widely report GTA-IV bug either.
Invisible Home Cinema with Sony Bravia Theatre furniture
For those who wish to have a 5.1 surround sound set-up without all the cables and, moreover, without the numerous speakers about the room, Sony Europe has introduced some new models of its Bravia Theatre furniture pieces. With their 'hidden speaker' they provide 'invisible home cinema'.
Interestingly, they operate with HDMI, passing through 1080p video and, importantly, decoding high-resolution multichannel PCM -- as provided by PS3, although this option is not mentioned in the press release.
There are two models: RHT-G900 and RHT-G1500. The main difference appears to be that the former has an extra shelf while the latter is wider. Note that these are not '2.1' or even '1.1' home theatre systems. Sony emphasises that every channel has its own speaker and amplifier so there's no downmixing and virtualisation going on here.
Update: The Register has published a review of the RHT-G500 and an alternative by Sharp, the AN-PR1500H.
Firmware v2.30 adds DTS-HD Master Audio
System software version v2.30, announced last week, has become available today in Japan, Europe and North America. The key new feature is DTS-HD Master Audio decoding. That means that instead of feeding the bitstream to your receiver via HDMI the PS3 will convert the signal to high-resolution multichannel PCM for output via the same port. Of course, your receiver must be able to handle that audio format otherwise it's still no use.
SCE added the following specific details:
The formulation of the first item strikes us as remarkable since – as far as we're aware – PS3 does not offer an option to stream the original audio signal via HDMI, only the PCM conversion. In fact, this is valid for all the high-resolution audio formats: Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD, DTS-HD Master Audio and, notably, DSD.
You can read and discuss our comment in the forum.
BBC iPlayer for PS3
System software version 2.20 may be barely two weeks old but already the release of v2.30 is imminent. Sony has revealed on its PlayStation blog that one of the key additions will be DTS-HD Master Audio output. Other new features include the revamped PlayStation Store.
Great new Marantz gear for BD/SACD/PS3
The AV8003 is not an AV receiver -- it's a 'networking AV PreAmp/Processor'. In other words, it requires a separate power amplifier. This is where the MM8003 comes in -- an 8-channel power amp.
We could be mistaken but judging by their design, the two products appear to be part of Marantz's Reference Series. That would be great to see: Marantz finally upgrading this segment of their range to multichannel. Thus far, their top-most equipment has been stereo only while 5.1-channel sound and beyond has been reserved for their 'lower' ranges. The mind boggles.
Let's hope Marantz will offer a matching BD player (not the BD8002) and, above all, a matching SACD player. Until that time we'll stick with our PS3...
The AV8003 and MM8003 don't come cheap at $2,599.99 and $2,399.99 SRP respectively but we reckon they make a great set-up. In fact, considering the engineering and the sheer amount of features that went into them they are in fact a real bargain.
All nine Dead Can Dance albums on SACD
After all this time, Dead Can Dance's complete set of albums is about to be released on SACD. The nine albums are scheduled for release on June 2. Other reports may mention a March 24 date but that was for Japan and has been postponed.
The discs will be hybrid but stereo-only. As a spokesperson of DCD's record label 4AD explains: "Unfortunately, due to the way DCD recorded, multi-tracks only exist of the first album and EP. […] We did want to do surround mixes but without multis there's nothing that can be done. Many of the albums were actually created in the final mastering where triggered samples (not on the multitrack) were mixed in live. This means that, apart from the stereo masters, there is no other recording containing all the musical elements."
Europe may get another SACD-compatible PS3
Europe may again get another SACD-compatible PS3: According to British retailers quoted by CVG, an 80GB model is on its way to the UK (and presumably Europe) to reach shelves by the end of summer. It's unknown whether this concerns a model with the same specs as the American 80GB model i.e. SACD and PS2 compatibility. Sony will not confirm the rumour – nor deny it, for that matter.
In the meantime, the 60GB model is still available.
System software v2.20 now released
System software version 2.20, which adds 'BD-Live' functionality (see coverage from March 20 below) is now available for download from Sony.
Seven suggestions for Sony to reinvigorate SACD
Sony has certainly done a lot for Super Audio CD by incorporating it in PlayStation3 but there are more things the company could do that would make existing owners, new PS3 buyers and other people interested in SACD happy. Read our two cents in the new editorial section.
System software v2.20 about to be released
System software version 2.20, due 'late March' according to SCEE, will add Blu-ray Disc Profile 2.0, also known as 'BD-Live'. Other features include remote play enhancements for audio playback via PSP and a noise reduction setting for BD and DVD video playback. We'll keep you posted.
System software v2.17 released
Sony Computer Entertainment has released (at least in Japan – it appears to work in Japanese initially) a new version of the PS3 system software, 2.17. As far as we know thus far it has no relevance to SACD playback. We also know not what happened to 2.11-2.16 but suspect these were internal release candidates that have not been approved.
New Nine Inch Nails album available in various high-res choices
Nine Inch Nails have released their new album, Ghosts I-IV. Unlike their previous album, The Downward Spiral, this one will apparently not be released as an SACD. Instead, you can choose between a free high-quality (320 kbps) DRM-free MP3 download of the first nine tracks plus a 40-page booklet in PDF form, a FLAC-encoded (losslessly compressed) download of all 36 tracks priced USD 5, a 2-disc CD set priced USD 10, and a USD 75 deluxe package including a DVD-ROM that contains all tracks in multitrack format (so you can do your own mixing) and a Blu-ray Disc with the album in high-definition (24-bit, 96 kHz) stereo. So no multichannel mix, unfortunately -- although with the right equipment one could make this from the multitrack master...
The USD 300 super-deluxe limited edition package was sold out instantly. The BD version is scheduled for release on May 1. In the meantime you could join the discussion on our forum.
New PS3 model is just Satin Silver 40GB version
Suggestions from sources such as Ars Technica and Kotaku about a 120-GB PS3 thus far have not materialized. In the meantime SCE Japan has announced a 'Satin Silver' version of the 40-GB unit dubbed CECHH00SS. The specs are exactly indentical to those of the 'Clear Black' and 'Ceramic White' models, meaning: no SACD. SCE America denies plans to introduce this version.
T3 meanwhile speculates about a slimmed-down PS3, referred to as PSthree. We think it's way too early in the console's lifetime to make that step. Even when after the Cell Broadband Engine also the RSX GPU gets shrunk from 90nm to 65nm the two may still be too large to make combining them on a single die economically feasible.
New PS3 model expected
Speculation is rife about a new PlayStation3 model about to be announced. According to the rumour, the 80-GB version is on the way out in favour of a 120-GB version. Phasing out of the 80-GB model would explain why it wasn't mentioned when the 20-GB and 60-GB models were eliminated from the Japanese line-up last month.
According to Consumer Electronics Daily of January 23, SCEA has filed with the FCC for a white model. We speculate the new typenumber will be CECHI00 and/or CECHI01.
The big question, of course, is whether such a new model will retain the high-end specs of the 80-GB edition, especially SACD playback.
Constituting already the fourth generation of PS3 in just over a year, it may be yet another cost reduction, for instance containing a 65-nm version of the RSX graphics processor. (The third generation uses a 90-nm GPU with a 65-nm Cell BE processor while in the earlier two generations both were made using a 90-nm process.)
Keep an eye on this page for more information.
20GB and 60GB PS3 phased out in Japan
SCE Japan announced it stops manufacture of the (SACD-compatible) 20GB and 60GB PS3 versions, focusing further efforts on the 40GB version (which does not play SACD). The press release makes no mention of the 80GB version.
Firmware update v2.10
SCE has issued firmware version 2.10 for PS3. New features of the system software include:
Check back here shortly for more information or join the discussion in the forum.
Last Genesis SACD box ready for pre-order
Release is scheduled only for March 31, 2008 but the last box in the Genesis SACD reissue series is now available for pre-order from Amazon UK and Amazon Germany. It's the third one -- or rather the first one, depending how you count -- spanning the years 1970 through 1974. We'll add an Amazon USA link when it becomes available for pre-ordering there.
Firmware update v2.01
The joy of having multichannel output from SACD over optical out has lasted only short: about two weeks. Earlier this week Sony released a 'minor update' of the system software, v2.01, to address "stability issues". For all the new SACD users that came on board a fortnight ago it's a major change though: optical output from SACD remains possible but just in stereo. This may explain why the feature wasn't documented in the first place. Apparently it wasn't supposed to be there at all.
To all who don't have an HDMI receiver yet we suggest postponing the upgrading from v2.00 to v2.01 as long as possible and enjoying multichannel SACD while it lasts.
Music page added
We've added a page with an overview of pop music titles on SACD. Even more so than other pages on this site it's a case of work in progress. We aim to greatly expand the number of vendor links but you can already have a look and click through.
SACD playback via optical digital output
Important news for all PS3 owners (and wannabe owners) whose AV receiver doesn't feature HDMI or multichannel PCM decoding: While not yet publicly documented by Sony, it turns out that system software v2.00 enables SACD playback via optical digital audio output. Multichannel DSD gets converted to multichannel DTS!
Join the discussion on our forum.
Firmware update v2.00
Sony has released firmware update v2.00. Going by the details they've published about it thus far (on the Japanese consumer site, the US consumer site and blog and the European press pages) no new SA-CD functionality is included. There is no word about a Blu-ray Disc profile upgrade announced earlier either, so surely we can expect more, significant upgrades in the future.
40GB PS3 coming to America
Following Europe and Japan, North America now also gets the 40GB, SACD-less PS3 unit, at 399 US/Canadian dollars. The unit will be available from November 2, SCEA announced today. More importantly, the 80GB model's price is cut by $100 to $499 with immediate effect. We'd say: Get yours while you can.
As was to be expected, SACD-less PS3 units are going to be introduced in other regions than just Europe. Today, SCE Japan announced two new models, equal in spec to the 40GB type (CECHG01) announced just days ago in the old world. The difference between them: the colour -- the CECHH00 CW is the first white unit (the letters 'CW' denote Ceramic White).
The SACD-compatible 60GB and 20GB versions will remain available and be reduced in price: ¥54,980 and ¥44,980. Even at this lower price the 20GB model is still more expensive than the new 40GB model (¥39,980) but of course you get SACD for that (plus some other features; see the FAQ). Let's hope that Sony will continue offering a 'high-end' model with all the A/V features including SACD, next to pure game machines.
To be sure: there is no SACD-compatible white PS3.
It's official: the future of SACD looks a little less bright today than it did just a few days ago. Perhaps a lot less bright. Sony has announced a cost-down PS3 model for the European market, dropping SACD support.
The new model, introduced at €399, has a 40GB Hard Disk Drive, two USB ports instead of four and lacks the multi memory card reader. Perhaps most striking is the discarding of backwards compatibility with PlayStation2. Remarkable because the emulation was already done in software anyway. The press release made no mention of the change concerning SACD but the spec list no longer specifies the format and the official pictures said it all.
It's probably only a matter of time before these changes are introduced in other markets, too. What will happen to the 'high end' model that features SACD remains to be seen but one can wonder if Sony will continue that for long, so you'd better get one while you can!
The last two albums of Depeche Mode's remasters series, 'Ultra' and 'Exciter' are finally out. Like the other eight albums in this series, they consist of a hybrid multichannel SACD and a DVD containing the same tracks in PCM stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 at 24-bit 96 kHz, plus some additional footage.
The SC-LX90 is probably a nice match for any Blu-ray Disc player including the PS3. With a price tag more than ten times that of the console however you may want to consider a different type such as Marantz' new SR5002.
Unlike some other models of the brand it doesn't have DSD input via HDMI but it does support multi-channel PCM through this port. At a price of $799 or €699 it's a lot easier on the wallet.
Denon meanwhile has released its new top-of-the-line AV Receiver, the AVP-A1 HD, an "Ultra-Reference 12 Channel A/V Home Theater/MultiMedia Preamplifier with Network Streaming and Wi-Fi".
The price tag – don't be shocked – $7,000 suggested retail price, $5,998 street price.
It also exists in silver, but probably only in Japan.
SCE has issued another firmware update for PS3, v1.93. It has no effect on SACD playback though.
The FAQ has undergone a major revision. It includes new chapters, new questions and includes a much more detailed table of contents for easier navigation. Also, the new layout should make it much better legible.
Sony has issued a new firmware update, v1.92, but it holds no new improvements for SACD over v1.90. Reportedly the benefits relate to the PlayStation Store and to PS2 software emulator for better backward compatibility.
At the Berlin IFA fair, Yamaha has introduced a new AV receiver with DSD input via HDMI as well as Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD High Resolution and DTS-HD Master Audio: the DSP-Z11. While these features makes this unit highly suitable for use with PS3 it can do a more – a lot more. In fact it is Yamaha's new flagship product. You may be interested to know the suggested retail price is EUR 5,500. We're not exactly sure at this moment about the differences between this model and the RX-Z11 announced for North America. Perhaps the typenumber's the only thing.
What’s new? This site is! Opened to the public on August 17, 2007, so forgive us if not everything looks polished and finished yet. In the meantime, do look around and let us know what you think and what else you’d like to see here.
Sony has announced a new range of ES receivers, the STR-DA3300ES, STR-DA4300ES and STR-DA5300ES. While, thanks to multichannel PCM input via HDMI, all of these are very well suited for use in combination with a PS3 we’d recommend the latter (incidentally named TA-DA5300ES in Japan). Not because it’s the most expensive at SRP $1,699 (we don’t receive any commission for this advice) but because it’s more future-proof. How? It’s the only model in this series with DSD input via HDMI – a feature we hope PS3 will be able to use in the near future.
Sony Computer Entertainment has issued a number of PS3 firmware upgrades that further improve the audio and video performance of the console. The latest is v1.90, released July 24, 2007. It’s great to see the engineers behind PS3 care so much about picture and sound quality. For more details about what these improvements mean for SA-CD playback, check out the FAQ.
On the content side, Virgin Records has started reissueing Genesis' complete works on SACD. The first box, consisting of albums from 1976 to 1982, is available since this Spring. The second box, 1983-1998, will be released this September. A third box with their early work is to appear later. This move resembles one by Mute Records, who have embarked on a program to release remastered versions of all Depeche Mode albums on SACD. For Genesis as well as Depeche Mode, the albums are remastered and remixed from the original multitrack mastertapes. The albums reissues each consist of two discs: a hybrid multichannel SACD, containing a remastered CD version and a stereo plus multichannel SACD mix, and secondly a DVD with the same multichannel mix in Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS, enhanced with all kinds of bonus materials. Beware however: In North America, both Genesis' and Depeche Mode's remasters are sold as CD/DVD combinations only, so without SACD! Fortunately, the SACD versions are widely available through import.
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