San Francisco — Forget about SACD, DVD-Audio, or DualDisc, Monster Cable founder Noel Lee contends. It will take Monster Cable’s SuperDiscs to get consumers interested in listening to high-quality music, particularly surround-sound music, through a high-quality sound system.
The SuperDiscs will be sold through nontraditional music retailers in the consumer electronics retail channel and positioned in Monster’s M4 training program as an attachment sale. Besides offering dealers a chance to sell a high-margin add-on, the discs will help convince consumers to step up to high-quality audio components, including a Monster Cable component selection that will be expanded from speakers to an audio processor at January’s International CES.
Limited-edition SuperDiscs, some of which will be specially remastered, will feature either DVD-Video discs or CD/DVD packages, the first of which are street-priced at $19.98 to $24.98. The DVD will be encoded with 96kHz/24-bit PCM stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1, and DTS 96/24 5.1 playable on any DVD-Video player. Some of the DVDs will offer music in surround sound, and others will feature full-length music videos, some of concerts. The music DVDs will also include video features such as interviews and explanations on setting up a home theater system.
The DVDs also feature unprotected Windows Media Audio (WMA), AAC and Apple lossless-compression tracks. On top of that, the WMA and AAC tracks will be encoded in surround and in Dolby Headphone so that listeners can enjoy a virtual surround experience through headphones when the tracks are transferred to a portable device.
Most surround discs will also give consumers the opportunity to change their "audio angle" in much the same way that they use their remote control to change camera angles on a DVD, Lee said. Listeners will be able to move from the audience seats to a spot in the middle of the band, he said.
All DVD discs will play in a DVD player like a CD, making it unnecessary to use an on-screen DVD menu to initiate playback. The DVDs will default to Dolby Digital, but an on-screen countdown will give users time to select a different format.
Although multichannel music isn’t new to the industry, it’s new to consumers, Lee lamented, in part because of a lack of demonstrations at retail and music labels that didn’t support the DVD-Audio and SACD multichannel-music formats with up-to-date releases.
"The project got started as a search for good surround music," Lee said. The DVD-Audio and SACD formats featured "obscure titles" and a lack of the "latest up-to-date music," he said. Consumers also had to buy special DVD players, and the need for six analog cables to connect them to a multichannel sound system "confused people."
The six-cable requirement also contributed to a lack of consumer awareness because dealers couldn’t easily wire DVD-Audio and SACD players into component-audio switching systems. "It was hard to find one hooked up in a demo room," Lee said.
"The failure of surround sound music has been the lack of the ability to demonstrate," he continued.
Many consumers were also unimpressed when they heard the music, he said, because audio engineers "put very little information in the surround channels, but with Monster Music, its five channels all the time."
SuperDiscs also offer a "broader appeal" because consumers won’t have to hook up six analog cables to transfer the music to a surround-sound receiver. The content fits through a DVD player’s single coaxial or digital SP/DIF audio output.
Monster chose not to offer music in DualDisc format, which features CD audio on one side of the disc and DVD (usually DVD-Video) on the other. The CD side of a DualDisc isn’t always compatible with all CD players because the CD layer is not at the CD-standard depth. The discs are also thicker than CDs, causing them to jam in some slot-load players and changers, he said. Based on an informal survey of CD players and changers, Lee estimates that DualDiscs can’t be played in 10 percent of home and car players currently available in stores. DualDisc promoters, however, believe the percentage is much smaller.
Five SuperDisc titles shipped to dealers by Thanksgiving. They include Ray Charles’s Genius Loves Company, Three Doors Down’s Away From The Sun, the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s A Charlie Brown Christmas, and Peter Cincotti’s Live In New York.
In recent years, Monster has diversified from cables and connectors to power conditioners and home audio components.