EMI, Virgin Records Endorse SACD

The Super Audio CD has won the endorsement of two more major record labels, according to press releases issued the last week of August. The announcements followed by only a few days one by Universal Music Group that it would begin producing the high-resolution recordings for mass distribution.

UK-based EMI and Virgin Records will soon produce and distribute titles in the high-rez format. Neither announcement specifies when new discs will appear ("over coming months," reads the EMI announcement), but it seems likely that they will arrive sometime late this year. EMI mentions "successful projects in Germany, UK, and Belgium" that led to the decision to go forward with SACD.

EMI will initially release as many as 17 titles on Super Audio CD, possibly including new and back-catalog material from Geri Halliwell, Fun Lovin' Criminals, Beverley Knight, Coldplay, Joe Cocker, David Bowie, Pet Shop Boys, Tina Turner, and Paul McCartney. Virgin Records, which debuted an SACD version of Mike Oldfield's 1970s classic Tubular Bells, will make a similar move. Among the titles slated for release as SACDs are The Best of Roxy Music, The Best of Simple Minds, Dare by the Human League, King Crimson's In The Court Of The Crimson King, Brian Eno's Music For Airports, Tangerine Dream's Rubycon, Ennio Morricone's soundtrack recording for The Mission, Michael Nyman's The Piano, and Songs Of Sanctuary by Adiemus.

"We have received a fantastic reaction to our first SACD release," stated Jason Day, catalog manager at Virgin Records. "Music lovers are impressed by the clarity of the stereo mix and thrilled with the multichannel mix that are both found on Tubular Bells. Quite simply, this exciting new music format adds value to the customer. In its multichannel form, it provides surround capabilities to a wider audience, at the same time as enhancing sound fidelity for the important audiophile market." SACDs can contain as many as three different versions of the same recording: a standard "Red Book" CD layer playable on any CD player, a high-rez two-channel Direct Stream Digital (DSD) layer, and a surround mix with up to six channels.

EMI is in the process of creating an SACD production center at London's Abbey Road Studios. The company installed its first DSD workstation this past July—a "Sonoma" multichannel recording, editing and mastering system, developed by Sony. "This high-resolution recording and mastering technology enables record companies to release new productions, as well as re-releases that have been re-mastered from analog and digital master tapes, on Super Audio CD," stated the company's announcement. "This installation is part of the studios' continual drive for audio excellence at the cutting edge of sound recording."

Noting that more than 20 models of SACD players are now available in Europe (including affordable DVD-Video/SACD/CD combination players), and acknowledging the pioneering work done by smaller record labels, Virgin Records stated that "SACD is set to become widely adopted in households throughout Europe."