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DVD-Audio, Multichannel SACD Moving Ahead

The DVD Audio and Super Audio CD formats continued to evolve at CES, where Philips demonstrated multichannel SACD and hardware suppliers revealed that Matsushita and Toshiba have proposed a new DVD Audio encryption system.

Although the music industry is still evaluating the proposed encryption technology, key hardware suppliers at CES said they were optimistic that the music industry will move quickly to endorse the proposal — which they said would allow for summer or fall commercial launches of hardware and software.

Toshiba product planning director Craig Eggers said he thinks the technology will be accepted because it is more robust than the existing DVD Audio spec’s CSS2, a variant of DVD Video encryption technology that has already been hacked. Music companies decided they wanted to reevaluate, and possibly replace, CSS2 because of the hack.

Given its expectations, Toshiba believes its first DVD Audio/ Video player, the $1,999-suggested-retail SD9200, could ship as soon as August.

During a CES press conference, Eggers said Toshiba will “aggressively support the [DVD Audio] format” once the encryption issue is resolved, but he later expanded on that statement by saying he expects the issue to be resolved in time for summertime shipments of DVD Audio software and August shipments of Toshiba’s DVD A/V player.

Meridian president Bob Stuart expects the music and hardware industries in February to accept the encryption proposal, which he described as the “only realistic proposal” to replace CSS2. With that time frame in mind, Stuart expects a September or October commercial launch of software and hardware.

In multichannel SACD, Philips audio managing director Guy Demuynck reaffirmed previously announced plans for third-quarter U.S. availability of a Philips-brand multichannel SACD player that also plays DVD Video discs.

The model will exclude previously planned DVD Audio playback because of the DVD Audio delay caused by the format’s encryption-standard reevaluation.

For its part, Marantz said it has accelerated its plans for a multichannel audio-only SACD player but not as quickly as parent Philips had previously mentioned. Marantz is targeting late this year for U.S. shipments of a multichannel model, said marketing executive Mark Stein, following expected June shipments of a Marantz-brand audio-only two-channel SACD player at about $6,000. The price is higher than a previously targeted retail of about $5,000.

Previously, Marantz parent Philips said Marantz’s multichannel model would be out in the second quarter, but Philips later reversed itself. Multichannel SACD pricing wasn’t announced.

Philips’ Demuynck said he expects multichannel SACD discs to be available in time for the multichannel hardware launch.

For its part, Sony said during CES that it probably won’t ship multichannel SACD until 2001. Previously, it had targeted late 2000.

Before then, Marantz will ship its two-channel SACD players to complement Sony models already available.

While Marantz introduced its SACD player, other companies showed off their first DVD A/V players, including Rotel. The latter supplier showed a working prototype, but additional details were unavailable at press time.

The DVD A/V player displayed by Toshiba features HDCD audio decoding, DVD and CD text capability, and component outputs.

Other companies showing DVD Audio at the show included Denon, Pioneer and Panasonic, which showed a car model as well as home models.