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Hybrid CD/DVD Disc To Go For A Spin

The music industry’s four largest record labels will join independent label 5.1 Entertainment Group in the commercial launch of hybrid CD/DVD-audio discs.

The music companies said the first hybrid discs, called DualDiscs, will be available in October. Hybrid multichannel-SACD discs have been available for several years.

The Dual Disc technology can also be used to create hybrid CD/DVD-video discs, but it’s intended mainly as a music disc, said Jeff Dean, president of 5.1’s Silverline label.

Although the four largest labels didn’t outline their launch plans in detail, 5.1 Entertainment said it will release 25 hybrid CD/DVD-audio titles on Nov. 2, followed by another 25 on Nov. 16. Beginning in January, the West Los Angeles company will produce about 20 to 25 per month, chairman/CEO John Trickett told TWICE. All will be “priced competitively with CD,” he said.

5.1 joined EMI Music, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group early this year in Boston and Seattle to test market about a dozen discs using the technology, said Trickett. One of the labels tested a hybrid CD/DVD-video disc, he said. The rest tested CD/DVD-audio discs.

The consumer response, Trickett contended, was “overwhelmingly positive.”

The dual-sided discs feature a CD layer on one side and a single DVD-audio or DVD-video layer on the other side to reproduce music in surround sound or in better-than-CD two-channel. The technology is “basically the same” as existing dual-sides DVD-video discs, and they can be played in all standard CD players, including slot-load CD players, because they are within the 1.5mm maximum thickness specified in the CD standard, he said.

For now, the DVD side features only one layer, but the record industry is looking at dual-layer DVD sides, he said.

The license for the DualDisc technology and brand will be administered as a free license by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), he said. The DVD Forum, he added, incorporated the technology in its DVD standards in June.

Under terms of the license, all CD-side tracks must appear on the flip side, which can also include additional versions of those tracks, as well as music videos, interviews, photo galleries, Web links, concert footage and lyrics. If the flip side is DVD-video, it must include high-resolution tracks in addition to Dolby Digital, said Jeff Dean, president of 5.1’s Silverline label. The high-resolution audio could be PCM, he said. The DVD-video spec already allows for two PCM channels with up to a 96kHz sampling rate and 24-bit resolution.

To expand DualDisc’s popularity, Silverline will add Dolby Headphone-encoded multichannel AAC tracks to all of its Dual Discs, allowing the songs to be transferred to an Apple iPod, which will deliver the music in surround sound through iPod headphones, Dean said.

“DualDisc represents a dramatic expansion of the music entertainment experience,” said Andrew Lack, CEO of Sony BMG Music Entertainment. “By combining video, surround sound and Web connectivity in a single disc, we are presenting our artists with a broader palette to express their creative vision, while at the same time giving consumers what they told us they want — greater value driven by unique content that brings them closer to the artist.”

“We’re confident,” he said, that the technology “will help to re-energize traditional music retail.”

All of the participating record labels plan to offer an increasing number of DualDisc products, including a range of front-line and catalog releases, they said.