DVD Changers Introduced by Sony and Yamaha

Not long after the single-disc CD player was introduced, the multidisc changer followed, with products from companies like Sony and Pioneer. Shortly after the changer was introduced, it became the most popular version of the new hardware format. In the past eight years, changers have consistently outsold single-disc machines. The high-end market was characteristically slow to embrace changers, but companies like California Audio Labs have been successful in this category with products like the CL-10, a five-disc carousel changer.

The DVD appears to be following the reverse path. The first high-end DVD changer was announced on the Stereophile Guide to Home Theater website back in December: a 200-disc, $14,000 Runco machine built on a Sony platform. At that time, affordable DVD changers were still on the drawing board.

Recently, however, several consumer electronics companies have announced DVD changers clearly intended as replacements or upgrades for current mid-priced CD machines. These devices can play a mix of CD and DVD material, including shuffling mixes of DVD music videos.

"We expect consumers who currently have a five-disc CD carousel to look to the five-disc CD/DVD-Video carousel as a natural upgrade to integrate high-quality audio and video in a single unit," said Mike Fidler, vice president of DVD marketing at Sony Electronics. "Sony's five-disc CD/DVD-Video changer is a solution to the 'I don't have any more room' syndrome as components compete for real estate in home entertainment cabinets."

Both Yamaha and Sony have announced 5-disc carousel DVD changers, to be introduced by late summer. Although they have been designed and built independently of each other, they share several common features.

Each sports an internal 96kHz/24-bit D/A converter for audio decoding. Unfortunately, there is no place on the backs of these machines to take a direct digital output for decoding with an outboard converter. External dedoding is a contentious issue with record labels, who fear digital pirating of the higher-quality signal. MPEG1/2 and Linear PCM (two-channel) outputs are on the Yamaha, however.

The players have built-in Dolby Digital decoders, along with the standard Dolby Digital output for use with outboard processors. Also included are component video outputs, with an S-Video connector on the Yamaha. The Sony machine features a variable-coefficient digital filter to allow adjustment of the sound characteristics of CDs to suit personal tastes, as well as "Digital Cinema Sound" technology, in which a "virtual" rear-channel effect is created with only two stereo speakers.

What all of this is leading to, of course, is a single machine in most homes for both CD audio and DVD audio and video. Will this hybrid, multidisc format catch on with high-end audio consumers?