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The Hidden Future Music Format War

The surge in popularity of online music downloads, facilitated by convenient and cost-effective digital platforms, has effectively ended the format war between DVD Audio and Super Audio CD.

dvdaudio.jpgAt the moment, all the talk is regarding the future of high definition video and data storage, that being HD DVD Vs Bluray. Another format war though is raging… well actually is silently coming to a stand still in the music media storage war. Yes forget your lovely Audio CD collection, there are also two competing formats in the audio sector of entertainment as well. Presenting DVD Audio and Super Audio CD

You may have heard very little about this audio format war or maybe even nothing at all, however it is happening as we speak, just in the shadows as nobody really seems to care in the general music market. Most people are very happy with the standard Audio CD media, which even today sounds very good. I imagine though, that the main factor that has rendered this audio war pointless is again from the bad boy the Internet.

How many of you use an iPod or any mp3 player? Well I am guessing quite a few of you now have your hands raised high… This has been the killer to the next format war for audio playback. Downloading tracks from the Internet is very popular as it is convenient and fairly cheap. Gone are the days you would rush to your local high street music store on the morning of a big single or album release. Now you sit back in your reclining chair and surf the web for that artist of your choice. With a few mouse clicks, the tunes are downloaded to your computer and job done.

People are becoming more and more comfortable with buying music online, however there is a dark side with this ability. I for one absolutely loath Digital Rights Management (DRM). This is the technology that most online music stores use in their audio codecs who offer music downloads on the Internet. This is a protection for making sure the music people download isn’t then being pirated and shared illegally, however it is extremely fussy and clumsy, certainly for the Windows Media Audio files, so I would sooner buy the good old Audio CD version and convert to a compressed format, importantly without DRM enabled.

This convenience has killed the earlier format wars between DVD Audio and Super Audio CD (for now at least). I personally have the SoundBlaster Audigy 2, which supports DVD Audio playback. I can enjoy the advantages of the format, which includes 5.1 surround sound playback and 24bit/96kHz audio quality. As you would expect with any new format, the selection of titles is pretty grim (except for a very rare few), although I do love the format.

Will the Internet again kill another format war, that of HD DVD Vs Bluray? I certainly hope not! I like the idea of having a hard copy available without the worry of DRM protection.

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James Woodcock

James is a Freelance Journalist, Copywriter, Author, Blogger & Podcaster specialising in gaming, gadgets and technology, both retro and modern. Ever since he experienced the first controllable pixel movement on the television screen, he has been entranced by the possibilities and rewarding entertainment value generated from these metal and plastic boxes of delight. Writing hundreds of articles, including commentary and reviews on various gaming platforms, whilst also interviewing well-known industry figures for popular online publications. Creator of the ScummVM Music Enhancement Project and host of the Game & Gadget Podcast. View his portfolio for more information.

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2 thoughts on “The Hidden Future Music Format War

  • I’ve been following this war for some time now, because of the nature of dvd audio and sacd recordings, most people would listen to these tracks on the same surround sound setup used for films and games rather then the traditional Hi-fi setup. As such a growing number of dvd players now support both formats as they use more or less the same technology. Maybe this is the first format stalemate!! :-?

  • Possibly, but both have downsides.

    Super Audio CD can have a normal Audio CD layer, but not all disks support this.

    DVD Audio has no CD Audio layer at all, although you can use your DVD player to play the disks and get 5.1 surround using Dolby Digital and DTS.

    Both though have different ways of presenting 5.1 audio. I personally perfer the lead singer to be in the center speaker, but it really does vary on each disk in quality and mixing.

    As much as I love DVD Audio, at the moment I am quite happy to have compressed wma music at 192kb/sec ripped from an audio cd even if it is in stereo. Maybe we need Microsoft to push their audio format further as it already can do 5.1 surround and 24bit/96kHz, but it can downscale easily for portable players as well in stereo.

    It is a shame you don\’t have the option to rip DVD Audio like you can CD Audio, as I prefer all my music on my PC on the hard drive!


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