Willie Nelson's Night and Day slated for DVD-Audio release October 31

It may still be a trickle, but at least a little music relief has reached the parched throats of audiophiles awaiting the arrival of DVD-Audio discs. Last week saw the announcement that Aaron Neville's latest CD release will also hit stores as a multichannel DVD-A on Immergent Records on October 24. This week sees the announcement that another recording legend, Willie Nelson, will soon take the plunge.

Planned for release October 31, Nelson's Night and Day is being issued in the DVD-A format by Surroundedby Entertainment. The label says that the Nelson release will be encoded in the 5.1-channel DVD-A format and will incude extensive video content, including what the company terms the "Scrapbook"—a collection of photographs of Nelson ranging from his high school years to the present day. Surroundedby says that when the disc is loaded into a PC's DVD-ROM drive, a "Giftshop" function can be enabled that will offer printable posters, sheet music, and album art, together with hyperlinks to relevant websites.

Surroundedby's founder, Jim Mageras, describes DVD-A as "long the audiophile's mythic El Dorado," and feels that multichannel surround sound (as opposed to conventional two-channel stereo) has now become a "breathtaking reality." Mageras adds that "the very best stereo recordings are like the finest, hand-numbered reproductions of a masterpiece painting. The best surround sound is like being pulled into the painting itself. It goes beyond a listening experience to become a musical experience.

"But as vinyl LP holdouts raged against the Compact Disc, and Mono purists dismissed early stereo efforts, this new format won't escape partisan skirmishes." Mageras is well aware of the debates ahead (for example, see David Chesky tackle the subject). Also a sound engineer, record producer, and, as he puts it, something of an "audio snob," he states that "the sonic clarity, the pure fidelity of what we're doing in this format is without rival, period."

DVD-Audio has been the center of roiling controversy for quite some time already, with the major labels unable to reach consensus on copyright protection for the new software. But Surroundedby's Mageras says he isn't waiting for the industry giants to shake hands on the subject, and adds that he "refuses to compromise sonic quality by embedding anti-piracy measures such as 'watermarking' in Surroundedby software. There are those in the audio field who will tell you they can actually hear the watermarking. That may sound like a reach. But once you know what to listen for, it's there. And we won't do that to our software or to our artists."