Bring on the Blu-ray Sound

Although I think DVD Audio is a dead format, and SACD isn’t too far off either, I still keep buying them if I see them at a reasonable price. The other day I picked up The Who’s Tommy from on DVD Audio at a reasonable price. It’s also available on SACD.

Why? Because my Oppo DVD players play them (and SACD) brilliantly. And because these older works — including some from Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Alice Cooper, Deep Purple, The Doors — sound far, far better than they ever will on CD. It isn’t the greater resolution, I think, that makes the difference (most are supplied with 96kHz sampling and 24 bits). It’s partly the way that 5.1 channels allows the ear to separate the musical elements more clearly than two channels. But it’s also largely because of the amount of work that has been put into cleaning up the sound before loading it into these high resolution formats.

But I do worry. Will DVD-A (and SACD) die away so much that eventually there will be no equipment to play these. Which leads me to ask: when are they going to be re-released?

No, not as DVD Audio, nor as SACD, but as Blu-ray. Blu-ray does not support the Direct Stream Digital format used by SACD, but it does more-or-less support the Meridian Lossless Packing format used by DVD Audio. Dolby TrueHD is a development from and extension of MLP. There’s no technical reason why these DVD Audio discs couldn’t be ported over to Blu-ray with a minimum of fuss.

They could carry the SACD content as well, after it had been converted to PCM format. Since SACD fans worry about the granularity of PCM, and praise the ‘analogue sound’ of DSD, their concerns could be at least partially addressed simply by encoding these discs with a 192kHz sampling frequency and 24 bits of resolution. Actually, 176.4kHz would probably work better because SACD was designed for easy conversion to PCM in whole multiples of 44.1kHz.

But for older material originally recorded in analogue format, rather than converting from the DSD version, it would be better to resample afresh with high resolution PCM, thereby avoiding the monstrous amounts of ultrasonic noise that DSD loads into the sound.

But that’s a story for another day.

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