HDCD Spreads Further into the Audio Kingdom

HDCD and Pacific Microsonics appear to be on a roll these days. The HDCD process, developed to coerce 20-bit performance out of the 16-bit CD format, is gaining several new licensees and is also appearing in more devices, as evidenced by several recent announcements. The company is also looking ahead to future DVD formats with an agreement intended to couple HDCD benefits with higher sampling rates.

At the Audio Engineering Society Convention in San Francisco this week (see report elsewhere), Pacific Microsonics announced that it is adding 192kHz A/D conversion and 96/48kHz output capability to the Model One HDCD processor. Currently the Model One performs A/D conversion at 176.4kHz with the ability to output an 88.2/44.1kHz signal. According to the company, the addition of these new sampling rates allows mastering engineers to use the Model One to create a high-resolution master tape without concern for the limitations of commercial release formats. Then, using HDCD technology embedded in the Model One, the mastering engineer can "fit" this high-fidelity signal into any release format---CD, DVD, or Surround---while maintaining many of the sonic benefits of the original high-resolution master.

Also at the convention, Burr-Brown Corporation announced an agreement with Pacific Microsonics to incorporate HDCD technology into the first single-chip HDCD audio digital-to-analog converter. The new chip, the PCM 1732, combines the HDCD decoding and HDCD filtering contained in Pacific Microsonics' PMD-100 chip along with Burr-Brown's 24-bit, 96/88.2kHz DAC technology. The PCM 1732 will be targeted for consumer audio applications such as A/V receivers, CD players, and DVD players. Samples will be available in the first quarter of 1999.

Burr-Brown is the fourth HDCD licensee to announce an audio chip with HDCD technology. Earlier in 1998, Analog Devices and Motorola announced DSP chips with HDCD for the A/V receiver market, and Sanyo announced a "CD player on a chip" with HDCD for high-volume CD players, mini-component systems, and portables. Pacific Microsonics plans to announce several more agreements with chip manufacturers before the end of 1998.

On the consumer electronics front, both Denon and Harman/Kardon recently introduced their first HDCD-equipped products. Bennet Goldberg of Pacific Microsonics stated, "the addition of Harman/Kardon and Denon to the family of leading manufacturers that have recently announced HDCD playback products is great news to consumers everywhere. Over the coming months we expect to announce the names of several other leading-brand HDCD products. The increased momentum of the HDCD brand with consumers, consumer-electronics manufacturers, record companies, and the global chip manufacturers has been phenomenal."

The company says that, in addition to Denon and Harman/Kardon, there are now over 100 models of HDCD players available from manufacturers including Adcom, Arcam, California Audio Labs, Linn, Luxman, Madrigal (Mark Levinson), and Rotel. Pacific Microsonics also reported that over 1500 CDs have now been mastered with the HDCD process, while unit sales of HDCD CDs have topped the 75 million mark worldwide. (Check out Joni Mitchell's Shadows and Light and the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds Sessions, says Stereophile editor John Atkinson, for state-of-the-art HDCD transfers of classic albums.)

"HDCD's presence has grown significantly over the last year in both the CD and DVD markets," said Mr. Goldberg. "In the last 12 months, the number of HDCD recordings has more than doubled, we have successfully implemented our HDCD chip-licensing program with many of the world's leading audio-chip manufacturers, and a growing number of the world's best-known consumer-electronics companies have introduced HDCD-equipped CD players and DVD players."