SACD Surround Systems on the Horizon

Last week at the Audio Engineering Society Convention in New York City, Sonic Solutions announced that it plans to introduce what it says is the world's first digital audio workstation based on Sony's new Direct Stream Digital (DSD) technology. Sonic says that the new system, SonicStudio HD-DSD, is being developed in cooperation with Sony Corporation and will provide the recording industry with a mastering tool for the new Super Audio CD (SACD) format.

Robert Doris, president of Sonic Solutions, made the announcement: "The early DSD editing systems Sonic introduced in 1998 were used to support this year's launch of Super Audio CD. Now, in close collaboration with Sony, Sonic is extending DSD and Super Audio CD to deliver DSD audio in full surround. Based on Sonic's advanced HDSP technology, the new SonicStudio HD-DSD systems push the envelope of recording technology with the ultimate in high-resolution and multichannel sound."

Sonic says that their SonicStudio HD-DSD combines the company's HDSP audio array processor with Sony's custom-developed DSD technology to deliver four edited channels of DSD audio (two board sets are used to provide eight-channel surround). A company release says that, using a PCM-sampled, proxy audio technique for functions such as screen display, SonicStudio HD-DSD provides mastering engineers with the capability to record, edit, and audition the 64x-oversampled 1-bit DSD signal (2.8224MHz) in real time.

According to the company, SonicStudio HD-DSD also provides a full range of premastering capabilities, including editing of DSD programs, application of automated EQ and gain changes, mixing of DSD channels, and downconversion into PCM audio, as well as standard machine control and interface functions. It also supports the direct transfer of edited DSD streams directly to SACD authoring systems. Sonic expects commercial deliveries of SonicStudio HD-DSD workstations to begin next year.

In an interesting counterpoint to the SonicStudio HD-DSD announcement, Sonic revealed that Sony Music in New York has completed its first two DVD-Audio titles, including a disc of Bernard Hermann film scores performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Esa-Pekka Salonen and recorded using the company's DVD-Audio authoring systems, SonicStudio HD and Sonic DVD Creator AV. The company says that SonicStudio HD supports editing and mixing of multichannel audio at sample rates from 44.1kHz to 192kHz. DVD Creator allows authoring of DVD-Audio titles with real-time preview of all the elements in a DVD-Audio title—multichannel high-resolution audio, menus, slide shows, and video.

Leslie Cohen of Sony Music Entertainment states that "Sony Music has begun production on an impressive slate of DVD-Audio releases from a number of its top artists which will be available concurrent with the new format's launch. We look forward to working closely with Sonic to take full advantage of DVD-Audio's capabilities as we help shape the future of this format."

Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group also announced DVD-Audio titles, with Al McPherson, VP of technology at WMG, commenting: "Preparing DVD-Audio titles is much more challenging than traditional CD premastering. In contrast to a CD, which involves just a single stream of stereo audio at a fixed sample rate, our first demonstration DVD-Audio disc contains hundreds of different elements—10 tracks with six channels at different sample rates, graphics, menus, slide shows, and video. Preparing DVD-A titles requires complex tools that can handle all these elements."