DVD-Audio and SACD are offering record companies a chance to re-release their back-catalogs of "classic" material once again. But the results will not necessarily resemble the CD re-releases of the last two decades. Artists, producers, and labels now have an opportunity to go beyond the standard "re-mastered for (insert new format here)" process when updating an older title for DVD-Audio or SACD. For better or worse, they can entirely remix the master tapes for multi-channel surround sound.
What's next for you? Your last CD player? Your first SACD player? DVD-Audio? Looking forward to multichannel music? Still satisfied with two-channel stereo? Maybe you're waiting for an affordable combination SACD/DVD-A multichannel player, or for the format feud to shake out and leave a clear winner. So many options, so much excitement, so little software.
It was a late Friday afternoon in May and I wasn't having much luck getting into Sony's multichannel SACD demo room at the Home Entertainment 2001 Show. Surely, as a member of the audio press and a freelance writer for Stereophile, I should have no trouble. Not this time. After several polite "Nos," a Sony consultant managed to snare for me the last ticket of the day.
Although it announced support for SACD in early September, the world's third-largest record label, EMI Music Distribution, says it is also gearing up for a full slate of DVD-Audio titles. While the company has numerous new releases available, these will be the first to come from its back catalog.
Will the official online music gates finally stream open and flood us with non-pirated tunes? Perhaps. One important step in the process has finally been taken. The National Music Publishers' Association (NMPA), the Harry Fox Agency (HFA), and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) announced last week that they have come to a "breakthrough" agreement on the licensing of musical works for new subscription services on the Internet.
Do good things come in small packages? Audio technology over this past half century offers pretty good evidence that they do. Fifty years ago, the long-playing record amazed people with a half-hour of music per side, compared to the 78's few minutes. Thirty years ago, the cassette tape replaced bulky open reels, ushering in a new era of recording capability—and portability—for millions of people. Twenty years ago, the CD began to push the LP out of the way because it packed a little more music into a much smaller and more durable package. Personal radios have long been hugely popular, and portable audio players are consistently among the industry's best-selling products.