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Dual Mixes To Make DVD-A Discs Playable On DVD-V Players

Warner Music and Universal Music are devising ways to make DVD-Audio discs backward-compatible with the current generation of DVD-Video players, although the discs will not deliver the full potential of the DVD-Audio format when played in a DVD-Video player.

During a Panasonic/Technics-sponsored Web cybercast, Warner new technology VP Jordan Rost said his company’s first discs will include a compressed Dolby Digital 5.1 mix playable on DVD-Video players. He noted that Dolby Digital “does not take up a lot of space” on a disc.

Jim Belcher, Universal Music’s production director, said his company is “looking at” the addition of uncompressed 96kHz/24-bit stereo PCM tracks on its DVD-Audio discs for playback compatibility with DVD-Video players.

In a telephone interview, Belcher told TWICE that 96/24 stereo tracks “might not be on every disc, but we’ll try.” One issue is that the DVD-Video spec allows for only 96kHz and 48kHz sampling rates. Because many albums are mastered at 44.1kHz, he said, the master would have to be interpolated to 48 or 96kHz, reducing sound quality. In that case, “for some discs, we might do AC3 [for compatibility with DVD-Video players].” Nonetheless, he said, “We’re shooting for 96/24” on the first discs. “It doesn’t take up a lot of space.”

During the cybercast, Belcher also said Universal’s first discs “will have uncompressed audio.” And in his subsequent telephone interview, he said Universal would use Meridian Lossless Packing (MLP) lossless compression in only two circumstances. The first is if six-channel 96/24 material, which must be compressed to fit within DVD-Audio’s bandwidth, is recorded and the second is if MLP is needed to fit all material onto a single layer, eliminating the extra cost of producing a dual-layer disc.

In other comments during the cybercast, moderator Gene Kelsey, Panasonic audio group GM, said his company plans DVD-Audio shelf systems and car audio “in the not-too-distant future.” Also, Technics marketing manager Alberto Reggiani said his company’s two DVD-Audio/Video players will be available for sale to consumers before Christmas or in the first quarter at a suggested $999 and $1,199. Before then, the products will be available in-store for demonstration by such dealers as Tweeter, HiFi Buys and Ultimate Electronics. A list of participating dealers will go up on the web site in a week or two. Warner and Universal will provide sampler discs for the demos, Reggiani noted.