Which Audio Format


New member
Username: Tomacco

Carp, ON Canada

Post Number: 1
Registered: Jun-07
1. I'm a fan of "just plain" stereo (I'm gonna' hang myself, but quadraphonic would also suit me). After all, that's how it all started out, and that's what the audience back then appreciated - people sitting around with a few drinks in a night-club, usually listeneing to a high-quality stage band (or facimily of one) play.

2. Now we have a ridiculous number of speakers surrounding a room, being driven by the poorest-quality amps whose claim to fame is distortion. A $500 amp which can drive 1,000 watts, or some similar absurd notion (click your heels twice Dorthy, but I'm afraid that ain't gonna' get ya' to Kansas!).

3. Is HDCD/DVD-A dead, and if not, worth getting?

4. In any case, can anyone provide the names of a few vendors (I've read that the Cambridge Audio 640C V2 Compact Disc Player is a very good contender), although something a little less pricey would be more with my thinging.

Gold Member
Username: Frank_abela

Berkshire UK

Post Number: 2202
Registered: Sep-04

There is a big difference between HDCD and DVD-A (and for that matter, SACD). HDCD stands for High Definition Compact Digital. As you know already, the standard Red Book definition of CD tells us that the signal embedded on a CD is 16-bit 44.1khz. However, Sony/Philips anticipated a possiblity where they might want to use extra control bits in the signal, and since there was more than enough space for the 74 minute definition they had enough padding in there to specify this. HDCD was developed by Pacific Microsonics. They use the extra control bit to define an extra 4-bits on the CD thus giving true 20-bit resolution. Since all CD players know about the control bit, they all accept the signal, even if they don't know what to do with it. This means that any HDCD disc can be played on non-HDCD CD players. However, CD players fitted with the Pacific Microsonics chip could decode the extra bits and give you the extra resolution. So - an HDCD disc is actually a standard CD. Pacific Microsonics was bought by Microsoft and continues development as far as I know. The important thing here is that HDCD is standard CD and therefore is as long-lived as CD.

DVD-A and SACD are rival standards in high definition music reproduction. SACD has the broader coverage and more music titles out. It is based on CD technology but with far more resolution and also offering surround facilities up to (I believe) 8 speakers. DVD-A has similar facilities, but this is based on DVD technology. The mechanisms of these two players are sufficiently different to make it difficult (and therefore expensive) to engineer a universal machine. It has been done, but not very successfully since optimisation has to happen in the design which treats one of the formats preferentially. Furthermore, the war between the formats has been so bitter that it effectively put off the public at large most of whom already thought CD was good enough. Add in the download factor with a huge user population which sprouted from nowhere and the whole DVD-A/SACD debacle turned into a fiasco. It's a shame since theoretically one of these formats could have been a springboard for a whole new era of quality sound. The fact is that DVD-A and SACD combined disc sales were less than vinyl last year!

I'm not sure how much the Cambridge Audio costs but I have heard good things about it. The cheapest separate CD player I know that I like is the NAD C525BEE. It was launched in the last few months and is a fine player for the money.

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