Multichannel Audio Fans Soon to be Surrounded

When polled earlier this month, Stereophile's online readers were split on the topic of DVD-Audio's surround capabilities: 30% expressed interest, but an equal number were not so thrilled with the idea. While the release of the official high-resolution DVD-A format is still several months away, some record labels have been quick to capitalize on the ability of current DVD players to play compressed AC3- and DTS-encoded audio DVDs, in the hopes of developing a market for a lower-fidelity surround-sound format.

In an effort to woo surround-sound fans, last week the 5.1 Entertainment Group announced the formation of their Silverline and Immergent record labels, which will operate under the 5.1 Entertainment Group banner. Catering to what it describes as "the thriving DVD-based six-channel surround-sound music marketplace," Silverline Records says it will debut more than 15 classical and jazz DVD music titles this week, including performances by the London Symphony and London Philharmonic Orchestras, with the label's first pop reissues due in spring and summer 2000. According to 5.1, the discs will carry a suggested retail list price of $19.98.

Also last week, 5.1 said that it has signed a marketing agreement with DVD International to assist in the rollout of the new labels' first releases. DVD International's David Goodman states, "We're confident that our account base will react favorably to these initial titles." According to 5.1, by 2001 Silverline and Immergent will have released more than 80 titles spanning the rock, country, pop, alternative, jazz, new age, and classical genres.

5.1 claims that every Silverline and Immergent disc will contain AC3 and DTS formats and, in June 2000, high-resolution DVD-Audio will also be incorporated on all releases. Not one to mince words, 5.1's John Trickett suggests that "the advent of DVD, one of the most successful consumer products in history, provides the industry with its greatest leap since the advent of the LP. This is not just an evolution of format; it is a revolution of art."