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Why hasn't Blu-Ray audio for Hirez caught on?


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I had lunch with a couple of Decca staff (from the classical side) in June in London. They asked why blu-ray audio hasn't caught on as a hirez medium. The players are ubiquitous and cheap (much larger installed base than SACD players) and you can get 192/24 PCM and multichannel on the same disc (like SACD with DSD) and also have some video. The blu-ray also has huge capacity, so you can put a whole opera or a series of symphonies on one disc.

 

I think the intent of the question is that blu-ray could sell more than SACD and than Decca has a lot of their rich back catalogue already digitized in some form of hirez (better than 16/44), either from original analogue that has been digitized (I have seen photos of Decca master tapes with notations that they have been digitized, some at 24/96) or from digital originals (which started in 1979 with recordings done at 16/48.) They could also sell blu-rays which held more than one album for more money.

 

I only have one blu-ray audio disc - it is from 2L and both a blu-ray and SACD are packaged in the same blu-ray case.

 

Any thoughts?

 

Larry

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I had lunch with a couple of Decca staff (from the classical side) in June in London. They asked why blu-ray audio hasn't caught on as a hirez medium. The players are ubiquitous and cheap (much larger installed base than SACD players) and you can get 192/24 PCM and multichannel on the same disc (like SACD with DSD) and also have some video. The blu-ray also has huge capacity, so you can put a whole opera or a series of symphonies on one disc.

 

I think the intent of the question is that blu-ray could sell more than SACD and than Decca has a lot of their rich back catalogue already digitized in some form of hirez (better than 16/44), either from original analogue that has been digitized (I have seen photos of Decca master tapes with notations that they have been digitized, some at 24/96) or from digital originals (which started in 1979 with recordings done at 16/48.) They could also sell blu-rays which held more than one album for more money.

 

I only have one blu-ray audio disc - it is from 2L and both a blu-ray and SACD are packaged in the same blu-ray case.

 

Any thoughts?

 

Larry

 

IMO, the folks who would be the target audience for this (e.g., music lovers who are interested in high-resolution audio) likely prefer downloads - I, for one, am tired of having thousands of little silver disks scattered throughout my house. Also, Blu-Ray is limited to output over HDMI, and there are few high-end DACs that accept HDMI input (same for pre-amp / amp combos), so your investment in your high-end playback chain is pretty much negated.

 

If I can get the same music as a 192/24 (or whatever) download, I'm going to buy that 100% of the time over physical media.

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I'd personally guess that a) the overlap between the bluray target audience (movies) and the highres audio crowd is only limited. I for example don't own a blue ray player.

 

Furthermore, a blu ray player probably sits as part of a home theater setup and not as part of a dedicated Hifi chain.

 

And finally, agree with my predecessor that hopefully the era of plastic discs is really over.

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I'd personally guess that a) the overlap between the bluray target audience (movies) and the highres audio crowd is only limited. I for example don't own a blue ray player.

 

Furthermore, a blu ray player probably sits as part of a home theater setup and not as part of a dedicated Hifi chain.

 

And finally, agree with my predecessor that hopefully the era of plastic discs is really over.

 

Combining the need for a Blu Ray player and the fact that ripping the audio portion is a PITA, most of those not interested in video would prefer to avoid it. While there are some Blu Ray hi res releases (e.g. The Beatles "Love" album) that are not available in other hi res formats, their number is relatively small.

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Another argument against Blu-ray-Audio is that it would not be a convenient format for classical labels which currently release hybrid SACDs.

 

The main format for classical is still CD. Hybrid SACD offers the possibility to combine it with a hi-rez multichannel format, as a single inventory product. If the label switched to Blu-ray-Audio, it would have to sell seperate CD and BD-A releases, or a CD + BD-A package, which would be more expensive to manufacture and distribute.

Claude

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I agree that downloads are far more desirable these days. I've only bought one DVD-A disc and promptly ripped it. I don't own a blue ray player. Hell, I don't even own a computer with an optical drive any longer. I'm going to have to buy one if I want to listen to more from Nimbus, they don't seem to be available to download anywhere.

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While I would prefer downloads, with the current state of things, I'd much rather buy a disc right now.

 

If I don't like an album, I can resell it and get some money back. A download has no value.

There is actually a used market where you can buy "out of print" albums instead of them being removed from sale or "unavailable to download in your region".

Being a physical item, retailers actually compete on price instead of the current price-fixing with downloads, and the price will actually get lower over time.

Most of the time you are paying the same price as a disc - if not more - for a download, but you are only getting the stereo mix, not the stereo + 5.1 mix. Multichannel downloads are uncommon.

 

The main format for classical is still CD. Hybrid SACD offers the possibility to combine it with a hi-rez multichannel format, as a single inventory product.
That is a good point. It's a shame that SACDs are such a pain to rip though. Blu-ray or DVD-A is easy.
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IMO, the folks who would be the target audience for this (e.g., music lovers who are interested in high-resolution audio) likely prefer downloads - I, for one, am tired of having thousands of little silver disks scattered throughout my house. Also, Blu-Ray is limited to output over HDMI, and there are few high-end DACs that accept HDMI input (same for pre-amp / amp combos), so your investment in your high-end playback chain is pretty much negated.

 

If I can get the same music as a 192/24 (or whatever) download, I'm going to buy that 100% of the time over physical media.

 

Agreed. I'd much rather have high quality albums from Analog and DSD Masters as DSD Downloads than BD Audio discs at this point.

 

Decca should look at converting some of their Analog Tapes to DSD downloads and see if that moves - and makes more $ for them - than starting up a whole new audio disc format like BD Audio.

 

I'm sure sites like Pentatone and Native DSD would be glad to help make some DSD Downloads of the Decca Analog Tapes a reality! :)

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Bluray audio has all the reasons in the world to catch on as the uber-CD:

 

- Everybody can already play it.

- The standard is well established.

- Extreme resolution and quality is part of the standard 7.1 - 24 192.

- Insane amount of space allows offers of many resolutions of the material.

 

 

Bluray has failed as the uber-CD for a number of reasons:

 

- Bluray has no perceived unique value.

- Audiophiles are old schooler - stuck with stereo so market is already small.

- The high-res Stereo marked is saturated by downloads.

- The high-res Surround marked is split between downloads, DVD-A's and even SACD's and now Bluray's.

- Surround audiophiles has already been burnt by DVD-A's and SACD's

- Few surround components are actually good enough to be audiophile.

- Available audiophile surround components are prohibitively expensive.

- Surround was newer fully embraced by musicians and publishers.

- Surround was newer fully embraced by audiophile component companies.

- Surround was newer fully embraced by audiophiles

- Ultimately there was no burning platform.

 

 

Personally I just want all possible resolutions of the material available once I have paid for access.

2L.no does offer me this with Bluray purchase, and they most often how in a SACD for good measure.

 

 

I have 2L albums that includes:

 

5.1 surround in 24/96 and/or 24/192

7.1 surround in 24/96 and/or 24/192

9.1 surround in 24/96 and/or 24/192

24/192 stereo and/or

24/96 stereo

Redbook (16/44)

MP3 download

SACD stereo

SACD 5.1

 

all for the price of one album @ EUR 25 / USD 30.

I think that should sell a lot of tickets!

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Combining the need for a Blu Ray player and the fact that ripping the audio portion is a PITA, most of those not interested in video would prefer to avoid it. While there are some Blu Ray hi res releases (e.g. The Beatles "Love" album) that are not available in other hi res formats, their number is relatively small.

 

If I remember correctly, the Love hi res disc (which I own and ripped) is a DVD. :)

 

I do own a couple of Blu-Ray Audio releases, but yes, they were a relative PITA to rip vs. DVD, and they all seem to be 24/96 resolution, which is fine but certainly nothing unique in the hi res world.

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I had lunch with a couple of Decca staff (from the classical side) in June in London. They asked why blu-ray audio hasn't caught on as a hirez medium. The players are ubiquitous and cheap (much larger installed base than SACD players) and you can get 192/24 PCM and multichannel on the same disc (like SACD with DSD) and also have some video. The blu-ray also has huge capacity, so you can put a whole opera or a series of symphonies on one disc.

 

I think the intent of the question is that blu-ray could sell more than SACD and than Decca has a lot of their rich back catalogue already digitized in some form of hirez (better than 16/44), either from original analogue that has been digitized (I have seen photos of Decca master tapes with notations that they have been digitized, some at 24/96) or from digital originals (which started in 1979 with recordings done at 16/48.) They could also sell blu-rays which held more than one album for more money.

 

I only have one blu-ray audio disc - it is from 2L and both a blu-ray and SACD are packaged in the same blu-ray case.

 

Any thoughts?

 

Larry

 

I think the absolute key here is that they're actually aiming for a non-existent market: Audiophiles who want 192/24 music through a disc player. Virtually everyone I have ever "known" on the Internet who's talked about 192/24 resolution is listening to a digital file via computer or dedicated file player. Almost no one is listening to this music with disc players. Thus offering the music as downloadable high resolution files rather than discs helps cut out the fuss for the user of buying physical media and ripping.

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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I think the absolute key here is that they're actually aiming for a non-existent market: Audiophiles who want 192/24 music through a disc player.

 

And some high resolution audio formats, like DSD 128 and DSD 256, are not currently part of the Blu-Ray spec. So you have to download them, by definition, to get that resolution quality. Another point for the downloads model.

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I think the absolute key here is that they're actually aiming for a non-existent market: Audiophiles who want 192/24 music through a disc player. Virtually everyone I have ever "known" on the Internet who's talked about 192/24 resolution is listening to a digital file via computer or dedicated file player. Almost no one is listening to this music with disc players. Thus offering the music as downloadable high resolution files rather than discs helps cut out the fuss for the user of buying physical media and ripping.
mShuttle on the discs will provide you with easily accessible FLAC files. (just download via a web browser)

It's up to the record label, but they can include full resolution 24/192 FLACs.

 

Or if you have a Blu-ray drive in your PC you can rip the 24/192 audio tracks directly.

I can't think of the last time I watched or listened to a disc directly.

 

And I think there is at least some overlap between audiophiles and videophiles, the latter of which will already have Blu-ray players.

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I own around 20 Blu-ray Audio titles, mainly classical from Naxos and other labels.

 

I never play them with my Blu-ray player (Oppo 93 connected to a DAC via S/PDIF), because of the copyprotection limitation that limits the S/PDIF output from Blu-ray to 48kHz. I have ripped them (stereo part only) and play files through the DAC, at the full resolution.

 

The reason I bought them is that either the albums were not available as hi-rez downloads, or the downloads are more expensive than the BD-A. Naxos discs for example can be found for less than 10€, while the hi-rez downloads are 15€ and more.

 

For me, the BD-A format does not make sense when it comes to stereo-only releases. Most of them have 24/96 sound. When ripped and converted to FLAC, a stereo album is less than 1.5GB. Why use 25GB discs for such a release? For the same sound quality (uncompressed 24/96 stereo), they could use the "DAD" format (DVD-Video disc with audio only) which has existed since the late 90's and plays on every DVD player.

 

It is especially bizarre that Universal has released BD-A titles in stereo only, when the previous SACD or DVD-A release of the same album had a multichannel mix. How better to ensure that a format does not catch on?

Claude

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No interest in any disc playback solution that tries to play from disc vs copy the disk to fast memory storage

and play only from memory. Mechanical playback limitations are to costly to get right compared to play from memory.

If blue ray players did this, supported DSD and made remote choice between stereo vs multi channel easy, then I'd be

interested in a blue ray player for audio. I do have a few audio blue rays, but they disappoint compared to streaming audio,

Regards,

Dave

 

Audio system

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DMCA pretty much killed all of disc formats.

 

Those plastic pieces are really not worth for the price when I can't use them fully with my equipments thanks to copy protection.

 

And of course, ripping them, even with using all of available illegal tools, is incredibly tiresome and hard.

 

I can bet this; they would sell far more if they just put flac files on the disc and sell them as 'flac cd'.

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DMCA pretty much killed all of disc formats.

Those plastic pieces are really not worth for the price when I can't use them fully with my equipments thanks to copy protection.

And of course, ripping them, even with using all of available illegal tools, is incredibly tiresome and hard.

Well, illegal in some countries that have bowed down to corporations instead of protecting consumer rights.

Morally, I doubt anyone has a problem with you ripping discs that you own.

 

I can bet this; they would sell far more if they just put flac files on the disc and sell them as 'flac cd'.
You mean like they are currently doing with the Blu-ray discs that use mShuttle?
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BD Audio should be winning and can be a winner but it depends on who is at the helm.

The SW BDs are a perfect example of taking full advantage of the medium.

Tons of "extra" material.

Full album instrumental only tracks, original 2 channel mixes, video content, etc., etc., etc.

 

I would love classical genre BDs that feature a video of the performance, interviews with the conductor, recordists etc.

I believe these would have a market but the content producers have to extend the effort but currently they are able to sell

SACDs and DSD downloads for pretty step prices without the extra money\time to create the additional content.

 

As far as SACD vs DSD downloads, sure I prefer the downloads since unless you own rarified gear you can't rip SACDs which

is a typical Sony F'up.

If you have the right software, ripping BDs is not that difficult. At least they can be ripped.

Who knows maybe Sony will spin off their entertainment and music divisions, they need to do something you can't go on for long losing a billion plus dollars a year.

Sony is great in technical execution but thicker than a brick in business execution.

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The days of the disc being anything more than a niche withing a tiny niche are over. I only buy them in the case of an artist that I'm a *huge* fan of, and that's only because I want all of the art. I rip them immediately. I never play them directly.

 

Besides, Jud said it well, the intersection of audiophiles who want hi-res content and don't use a computer based system must be vanishingly small.

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Besides, Jud said it well, the intersection of audiophiles who want hi-res content and don't use a computer based system must be vanishingly small.

 

Given the number of streaming clients on the market, there must be a considerable number of audiophiles who do not use a PC for playing files, but prefer a dedicated playback device.

 

Of course they use a PC to buy and organize downloads, but they don't necessarily want a computer in their audio system, except as a file server.

 

And then there are classical music fans who may currently limit themselves to SACDs as far as hi-rez content goes, but as the number of classical hi-rez downloads is increasing, there is a strong incentive to try file playback as well.

 

My dream machine would be a streaming client with DSD-capable DAC and an optional external SACD drive that could be connected to future DACs as well

Claude

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Given the number of streaming clients on the market, there must be a considerable number of audiophiles who do not use a PC for playing files, but prefer a dedicated playback device.

 

If you are looking for a dedicated Digital Music Server, the Sony HAP-Z1ES and -S1 are excellent choices. There's also the Marantz 8005 which serves as a Stereo SACD player and DAC for a player/DAC combo.

 

Definitely choices out there in those two arenas.

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Given the number of streaming clients on the market, there must be a considerable number of audiophiles who do not use a PC for playing files, but prefer a dedicated playback device.

 

You're absolutely right, but when referred to people using a "computer based system", what I really meant was people that don't play music from spinning silver discs that contain one album or one piece of music.

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I know these devices and their limitations.

 

The Sony players do not have a digital output, so one is stuck forever with the built-in DAC.

 

The Marantz is a SACD player and DAC, but does not play files itself (except the outdated support for MP3/wma/wav. No FLAC).

 

With a tiny effort from the developpers and probably little cost, these features could have been included. Apparently Marantz wants people to buy 2 devices, a streaming client and a SACD player, each with their own built-in DAC.

Claude

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Hi Larry,

 

I looked into Blu-ray as a possible vehicle for Soundkeeper's extended resolution and high resolution releases and concluded it is a bad idea for several reasons.

 

A relatively minor reason for a small company like Soundkeeper Recordings, is the licensing fees the format requires. Even if this were not the case, the overriding reason is that if one is seeking the highest quality possible, I would say this is not the path.

 

First, the limitation of HDMI for the digital audio output means a jittery transmission protocol that the finest digital-to-analog converters (DACs) don't even recognize--in my opinion, for good reason when there are much better alternatives. Of course, one can use the DAC in an AV receiver or built into the disc player but in my view, this puts an unnecessarily low ceiling on what can be achieved sonically.

 

And even if *this* limitation wasn't there, playback in real time from a spinning disc just doesn't sound (to my ears) like the master used to create said disc. Regardless of the player or transport, I've always found a loss of focus and fine detail, sometimes subtle, other times not so subtle.

 

The best way I know to hear extended resolution and high resolution files is from a computer hard drive (ideally a solid state drive but even a spinning hard disk outperforms any player or transport in my experience). This is the only way I've ever heard playback that sounds the same as the master. I wrote a bit about this in the blog entry entitled Listening to Tomorrow.

 

 

Best regards,

Barry

Soundkeeper Recordings

The Soundkeeper | Audio, Music, Recording, Playback

Barry Diament Audio

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Well, illegal in some countries that have bowed down to corporations instead of protecting consumer rights.

Morally, I doubt anyone has a problem with you ripping discs that you own.

 

You mean like they are currently doing with the Blu-ray discs that use mShuttle?

 

For individuals, you are right. But for corporations, it is impossible issues. Companies like Realplayer's RealDVD and Kaleidescape got shutdown. What media content companies did not realize was that now we have no easytools to securely manipulate DVDs and Blu-rays to use them on computers or transfer them into mobile devices. That signaled the slow death of DVDs and Blu-rays we are witnessing.

 

Had Realplayer and/or Kaleidescape won the court battle, Blu-ray still might be growing platform with convenience. Instead we have to pay whooping 200 dollars to a company claiming to be on some island to break the DRM, and then use various hacky tools to decipher which chapters have to be ripped. It's full of inconveniences.

 

And no, mShuttle is not even close to what I describe. While much better than trying to ripping the CD, it is still tedious and annoying, not to mention the whole album have to be downloaded from the internet, defeating the one good advantage of the physical format.

 

Hi Larry,

 

I looked into Blu-ray as a possible vehicle for Soundkeeper's extended resolution and high resolution releases and concluded it is a bad idea for several reasons.

 

A relatively minor reason for a small company like Soundkeeper Recordings, is the licensing fees the format requires. Even if this were not the case, the overriding reason is that if one is seeking the highest quality possible, I would say this is not the path.

 

First, the limitation of HDMI for the digital audio output means a jittery transmission protocol that the finest digital-to-analog converters (DACs) don't even recognize--in my opinion, for good reason when there are much better alternatives. Of course, one can use the DAC in an AV receiver or built into the disc player but in my view, this puts an unnecessarily low ceiling on what can be achieved sonically.

 

And even if *this* limitation wasn't there, playback in real time from a spinning disc just doesn't sound (to my ears) like the master used to create said disc. Regardless of the player or transport, I've always found a loss of focus and fine detail, sometimes subtle, other times not so subtle.

 

The best way I know to hear extended resolution and high resolution files is from a computer hard drive (ideally a solid state drive but even a spinning hard disk outperforms any player or transport in my experience). This is the only way I've ever heard playback that sounds the same as the master. I wrote a bit about this in the blog entry entitled Listening to Tomorrow.

 

 

Best regards,

Barry

Soundkeeper Recordings

The Soundkeeper | Audio, Music, Recording, Playback

Barry Diament Audio

 

 

I believe the reason the most of CD players sound bad is because of outdated clocking circuit and components. Clocks have been progressed rapidly in recent 10 years, and the most of CD players still use obsolete ones as far as I concern.

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