Sonic Solutions and Sony Partner to Deliver Internet Audio

In a statement that may have far-reaching ramifications for the online digital music-distribution business, last week Sonic Solutions and Sony announced at the Audio Engineering Society Convention (AES) in Paris that they would collaborate to integrate Sony's ATRAC3 (Adaptive Transform Acoustic Coding 3) into iMaster, Sonic's suite of tools for the preparation of compressed audio for Internet distribution.

Sonic says it will build Sony's ATRAC3 encoder directly into the iMaster toolkit running on the SonicStudio HD workstation, giving mastering engineers the ability to produce Electronic Music Distribution (EMD) masters for Internet distribution of audio in parallel with production of conventional CD-Audio releases.

Sonic's Yuki Miyamoto states that "as a member of SDMI (Secure Digital Music Initiative), Sonic has been deeply involved in the development of secure electronic music distribution. Through close collaboration with Sony, we will be able to quickly deploy the ATRAC3 secure music coding technology to the professional mastering community, making the preparation of high-quality audio content for EMD possible."

Sony's Yutaka Nakagawa explains the deal: "To ensure the success of Sony's EMD business, we felt that it was essential for Sony to collaborate with Sonic Solutions to support major record labels in the preparation of ATRAC3 music content for Internet delivery."

ATRAC3 is a codec developed from ATRAC, the sound-compression technology used in Sony's MiniDisc technology. Although digital-compression technologies such as ATRAC3 have come under fire from audiophiles, who find the processed audio quality frustratingly short of that offered by full-bandwidth CDs, Sony claims the compression scheme is "necessary for Electronic Music Distribution." Sony adds that the ATRAC3 encoding/decoding process is relatively less complex than alternate approaches, allowing ATRAC3 to be incorporated into smaller ICs suitable for implementation in portable products.

The announcement coincides with Sony's recent move to create a Broadband Services Company, described by CEO Howard Stringer as "a multifaceted stake in the shift to broadband content distribution." Sony says that the new business unit will be headed by Emily Susskind, and will have a broad mandate to explore and develop all of Sony's hardware and systems solutions business interests, and exploit all of Sony's content and technology assets to create new service businesses.