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SACD, DVD-Audio Gain At HE2001

NEW YORK — Multichannel digital media mixed with two-channel analog media at the Home Entertainment 2001 show, where Sony unveiled its first three multichannel-SACD/DVD-Video players and announced plans for its first 10 multichannel-SACD discs.

The show attracted 12,387 attendees over a three-day period to 80 demo rooms shared by 200 companies, including retailers. The attendance figure includes 500 manufacturers, dealers, and reps and 300 press members.

During the event, Sony said it will open its multichannel-SACD/DVD-Video lineup at an expected everyday $299 for a single-disc model, matching the opening price points of new DVD-Audio/Video players announced by competitors. The other two Sony models, also due in the fall, are priced at an everyday $400 for a five-disc model and $1,000 for a single-disc with progressive output. These and a new $3,000 multichannel SACD-only player will bring Sony’s 2001 selection of SACD-only and SACD/DVD-Video players to 14 SKUs in the fall.

Although no new DVD-Audio/ Video players were announced at the hybrid trade/consumer show, three of the five largest music companies — Warner Music, BMG and EMI Recorded Music — reiterated their support for the fledgling format during a press conference hosted by the DVD Entertainment Group.

Warner said it would ship another seven DVD-Audio discs by the end of May to join its current 29. A BMG statement reiterated plans for its first DVD-Audio titles in 2001. Virgin Records, an EMI Group label that operates independently of EMI Recorded Music, has already shipped its first DVD-Audio title, “Blue Man Group Audio.”

Universal Music, the world’s largest music company, was not represented at the event, but a DVD Entertainment Group list of titles to come in the first half lists a Vivaldi disc by Universal Classics/Deutsche Grammophon, a Universal label. It would be Universal’s first DVD-Audio disc.

To raise consumer demand for DVD-Audio, Warner unveiled a DVD-Audio demo disc that will be available primarily to electronics retailers but will also be available to interested music retailers. The disc includes an on-screen tutorial that explains the technology’s benefits, and it dramatizes the differences between CD and DVD-Audio by switching seamlessly between CD-quality and multichannel DVD-Audio versions of songs.

All told, the software selection breaks down like this:

SACD: A total of 241 SACD titles are available in the United States, about half from Sony and the rest from independent companies. About 15 of the discs feature multichannel music, said Sony ES marketing manager Lou Masses. Another 25 multichannel SACD titles have been announced, he added. They include Sony’s first 10, due in the spring, a Sony statement said. Nine of them were remixed from the original masters, and one is Sony’s first original SACD recording.

All of the current multichannel discs are hybrid discs with a separate CD-audio layer for playback in standard CD players, Masses noted. Sony, however, still has no plans for hybrid discs, he said.

Although it offers a DVD-Audio title, Virgin also offers an SACD title, the multichannel “Tubular Bells,” and announced plans for six more SACD titles sometime in 2001. A spokesman said they’d likely be two-channel discs.

DVD-Audio: The DVD Entertainment Group updated its accounting of available and announced software titles, pointing out that 56 titles are available and almost 100 will be available in the first half. During CES, the group said 165 DVD-Audio titles would be available in the first half.

Current titles are available from Chesky, Warner, EMI/Virgin, DTS Entertainment, and Surrounded by Entertainment, the group said. Thirty-eight more have been announced for the first half from all of those companies, except Virgin, plus Telarc, which already offers SACD discs.

Also, independent music company AIX Records announced it would ship its first three DVD-Audio discs in June. Nine others are in development. Music styles include classical, jazz, bluegrass, acoustic blues, and others.