Are audio format wars good or bad for audiophiles in the long run?

Are audio format wars good or bad for audiophiles in the long run?
Good, may the best format win
24% (58 votes)
Bad, creates confusion and waste
64% (151 votes)
No opinion
2% (4 votes)
10% (24 votes)
Total votes: 237

Are format wars, such as the battle between DVD-Audio and SACD, worth all the trouble? Some would argue that they let the consumer decide what is best, while others feel that these battles should have been fought in the boardroom and standards committee meetings. What do you think?

Steve's picture

I hope they both lose. I will only invest in a new format if I have no other choice left to me.

Rob Cornelson's picture

I was thinking back to a recent article by Sam Tellig. He mentioned the days when the LP took over the country. Not because it was better, although it did offer longer playing times. It took over because they were everywhere! I personally didn't get into CDs until 1991 -- by then, I didn't have much of a choice because they were ubiquitous! If these new formats are going to work, the record companies need to make a decision and just release everything on SACD. Oh, and the price should be $9.99

Graeme Nattress's picture

All new formats should include, before the data, the necessary software to decode the data that follows. Then anyone could put whatever format data they want, feed the software to a DSP, and have the "computer" play the music.

Tim Bishop's picture

I think it is better to have a choice, and let the best format win. Such war's have raged time and time again. The consumer in the end should decide. That is as long as the industry looks at the audiophile, as the general consumer seems to be wanting MP3 and lower fidleity for convience!

ted betley's picture

No macro comment needed, SACD IS the best format--period. As long as it survives (actually I'm hoping that it thrives) I'm all right with all this nonsense.

Nicholas Fulford's picture

Any watermarked format pollutes music. For that reason I encourage people to boycott DVD-Audio. Why would any music lover support a format that corrupts the music, supports a fold-down two-channel mix, and is aimed at the mid-fi market, all for the purposes of providing total control of our "fair use" rights to the copyright owner?

Larry Larson's picture

Remember what happened with video tape?

Jim Merrill's picture

If it's a war, it's the consumers who are getting shot by being forced to buy multiple formats.

mike k.'s picture

The problem with format wars is that the best sounding format is not guaranteed to win out in the end.

Brother Lowell's picture

Not worth the trouble. This is just an excuse to get the price of discs over $20 each. At that price, I can afford most mint originals/audiophile LP pressings of anything I'm interested in and not have to invest in new equipment.

Chris S.'s picture

I would love to see the very concept of the format war go the way of the do-do bird. I refuse to risk wasting money on one new format only to discover that the "other" format becomes the standard because it was created by the company with the best marketing program. Technology never wins out over money. How many people do you know who have even heard of SACD? This latest format conflict hurts both sides. The industry as a whole needs to realize that this stuff needs to get ironed out before it is brought before the public.

Joe Hartmann's picture

With the purchase of a new cartridge and phono update I now hear more than ever from my LPs. In truth, the CD has pushed LP format to new heights when it was headed in the other direction iwht thinner records and poor sound. Now I have heard some D to A converters which are major improvements in CD sound. So I believe that technology will improve both new and older formats.

TPBrown's picture

By now, we all should know that the big thing about the new formats is multichannel -- and that the midfi companys that started them have one thing in mind: to get the average consumer to buy more amps, speakers, new receivers, and all new software. I could not afford three more channels of same quality as my two-channel setup right now, so I will not buy into these new formats for a long time.

Tony P., Washington, DC's picture

Haven't we beaten this horse to death yet? I seem to recall writing something very similar in response to one of the previous questions. The battle is irrelvant. We, as audiophiles, have zero impact on what is going to happen with formats. Just chill and wait until the winner is announced. As much as we would like to influence who the winner is, we cannot. Call me a fatalist, but that's simply how it is. Sorry.

Michael J.'s picture

Apart from reel-to-reel tape, audiophiles have never had a really good consumer carrier medium. We finally get one -- SACD -- and it will turn out to be a cruel existential tease, its desultory, low-profile launch followed by a tepid lack of mass acceptance and, inevitably, decline and extinguishment. SACD's ending is writ all over its beginning. We'll never have more than a token experience of it. The whole mess is deeply demoralizing, and would be anguishing, too, if I didn't have vinyl reissues to console me.Goddamn Red Book CD. It's the music carrier equivalent of a 1970s Japanese rack system. It's a paperback book, a cheap econobox car, frozen food, K-Mart clothing, stick-and-cardboard housing construction, et cetera ad nauseam. They should have called it LCD, for Lowest Common Denominator.

tabaca's picture

we need to get back to the basics of listening two ears two speakers spend all money and research in finding the most accurate replication of what took place in the studio. I don't want to sit in the middle of the stage. I want front row center and the cleanest purist most accurate reproduction of that sound left and right is fine for me surround sound is fine for movies but for music it's just another gimmick to get music lovers to buy more equipment and more copies of the same music they already own. They have tagged me with 8 track and cassettes and now they are tring to make my cd's obsolete thank God for vinyl and that fact that a groove can only have two sides

DC in ABQ's picture

From the standpoint of technology, the audiophiles who stick around will benefit in the long run, as competition always breeds product improvement, and, foten, lower prices. However, the cynicism bred by such things as watermarking will cause some folks at least to leave the hobby in disgust. If enough do that, our already niche market may become too small to be self-supporting, and all could lose in the end.

wojtek's picture

Protracted format wars lead to confusion and hurt both formats. Quadro did not survive because of that (among others).

Joel's picture

The format wars are bad because the winner is picked based on what's cheapest, not what has the best quality. For instance, Betamax had better quality than VHS, but look who won. DVD has been successful and has great quality because the format was decided on a group-think basis. SACD is better than DVD-A in theory and execution, but unfortunately the DVD-A will probably win. This is because DVD movies have such a good name, and the DVD-A players are more affordable than SACD. I hope that I'm wrong, though.

Sergio Ruz's picture

Maybe a format war would be good if it really was left to the consumer to decide what's better, but as the Beta vs. VHS war proved, that's certainly not the case. As for SACD vs. DVD Audio, I can only say that the average joe couldn

Robert Hamel's picture

I don't see how they do anyone any good. I lived through the Quad mess in the 70's and it was a pain in the butt. We are in for a DVD-A SACD format war? What else is arround the corner multiple watermarking schemes that you need special players like DIVIX? As far as the public is concerned, I think the convience and compadabillity of a format is going to determine who wins. Look at the DVD-A players that did not address bass management. That was a big whoops! How did that happen? And remember, the best format technically is not always the winner.

Scott Miller's picture

Format wars confuse potential customers and delay the acceptance of improved technology. There's also no guarantee that formats chosen by the market are superior, since the masses seem to be satisfied with MP3 quality audio played over $50 speakers anyway.

Jeffrey Michael's picture

Being at war on a new Audio Format just confuses the customer and makes the manufacturers who take sides with one tormat look all the more ridiculous.

Daniel Kostzer, Argentina's picture

It only makes noise. One delays purchasing decisions. It harms the whole industry, but the big ones that are the path setters. After all it is the music!!!

Anonymous's picture

I still own a beta machine with little to play on it. Enought said.

Randy Fishman's picture

Since most consumers believe that CD is perfect already, the format war simply divides a niche market even further, with the possible outcome that neither high-resolution format will acheive enough market share to become economically viable.

Jared Kline's picture

These are bad as in the end niether of the formats will win. People are not going to buy machines that only work with a format that has yet to prove its self against a competitor. Especially when the software has been so slow to roll out and the machines cost thousands of dollars. The CD will reign supreme because the average consumer has no reason to buy into the format. Normal consumers will decide which if either wins, not the audiophile and any audiophile who believes that they will determine which format wins is either arrogant or naive.

roger b's picture

just make them all compatable

Bill Ehring's picture

I'm not investing until it is ironed out -- if ever. Both sides are losing out on my software dollar, and I'm missing out on better sound.

Jim Tavegia's picture

Unfortunately, what will happen like with Betamax is that who ever has the lowest priced hardwre first will probably win. If DVD-A wins it will be by many non-audiofiles who want the convenience of an all in one DVD/CD/DVD-A player that can play 5.1, 6.1, and 7.1. The Technics A-10 is such a player at $800, but would probably rate at a "C" level or lower, if at all, on sound quality. Good enough for all to many people. The outboard 24/192 converters wars will heat up. SACD/CD players should win, but Sony/Philips/Marantz MUST keep the audio quality at the "B" level and get the price to $1K or less to win over the public. The Sony 333ES could be just such the player. Sony...are you listening! The new Philips SACD 1000 with DVD/CD ability is worth the extra money at $2K. The $25 discs are another matter and another debate. With not much hardware or software, it doesn't matter, yet.