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  1. #1
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    DVD Audio vs. SACD

    I don't know whether this would be the right forum to post this, so I apologize if not.

    First, I'd like to start by stating my lack of knowledge on the subject and seek advise as to what is the difference between these formats and what should I look for in a system to enjoy the benefits of any of them.

    Last of all, should I even bother with this? Appreciate your help.
    Last edited by Ronyice; 05-12-2005 at 08:26 AM.

  2. #2
    Suspended topspeed's Avatar
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    DVD-A is based on PCM technology, just like RBCD. SACD is based on DSD technology. This brief overview details the differences, although it gets a bit technical in places. From a purely technical standpoint, SACD is the better of the two technologies. From a consumer standpoint, there are more "pop" releases on DVD-A.

    Should you bother with it? I dunno. They sound better than RBCD, but are they releasing artists that you want to hear and are willing to pay the extra dough for the discs? Only you can answer that.

  3. #3
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ronyice
    I don't know whether this would be the right forum to post this, so I apologize if not.

    First, I'd like to start by stating my lack of knowledge on the subject and seek advise as to what is the difference between these formats and what should I look for in a system to enjoy the benefits of any of them.

    Last of all, should I even bother with this? Appreciate your help.
    They're fundamentally different, but have the same objective of providing higher resolution digital audio and uncompressed multichannel audio.

    DVD-A is pulse code modulation (PCM) based format. Fundamentally, it's the same principle as CD audio, except that DVD-A has much higher resolution and can do 5.1 audio. CD audio uses a 44.1 kHz sampling rate with 16-bit word lengths, while DVD-A uses a 192 kHz sampling rate with 24-bit bitdepth for two-channel audio, and 96/24 resolution with 5.1 audio.

    SACD uses a DSD bitstream, which is different from PCM in that it does not sample the audio in 16 or 24-bit chunks, but in single bitstream sampled at a very high sampling rate. Some would argue that this results in something that sounds more natural and better approximates an analog wave form than PCM. But, it does create some noise, which SACD shifts into the inaudible region. DVD-A supporters contend that this noise shifting is a flaw with the format.

    As far as the disc format goes, SACD has an advantage over DVD-A in that SACD has a hybrid dual layer format that's fully compatible with CD players. Several albums have been released in this hybrid format (the Rolling Stones remasters and Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon are the most notable examples), and a lot of consumers don't even know that they already own SACDs because of the backwards compatibility.

    At a more pragmatic level, the DVD-A and SACD playbacks that I've heard thus far have been very impressive. The discs that are out generally yield a significant improvement over the CD version. Whether this is due more to improved mastering and mixing techniques, or due to the higher resolution is debatable. But, you not only get improved two-channel playback with DVD-A and SACD, but you also get multichannel 5.1 playback. And IMO, that's where you really hear the benefit of the formats.

    But, there are drawbacks aplenty. First and foremost, both DVD-A and SACD are copy protected formats, which does not allow for digital audio connections with your receiver and requires that you use the six-channel analog input on your receiver. The bass management on DVD-A and SACD players can vary a lot, and in most cases, this means that you cannot use the same bass management settings that you use with DD and DTS sources (which do allow for digital connections and integration with your receiver's bass management settings).

    Secondly, the albums you want to hear in multichannel might not be available in DVD-A and SACD. To date, there have been about 3,000 SACD titles issued, and somewhat fewer DVD-A titles. The major record labels and manufacturers have botched the format release big time, and IMO that puts the future of SACD and DVD-A in doubt. Both formats will likely live on as niche formats because the audiophile community has embraced SACD in particular. But, as mainstream formats, I don't know if they will ever exist outside the fringe.

    IMO, the recent introduction of DualDisc is an indication that the record companies are moving away from high resolution audio and that's a shame. Basically, the DualDisc is a flipper disc with the CD on one side and a DVD layer on the other side. Some manufacturers tried to create a hybrid CD/DVD-A that would be backwards compatible, but ran into technical problems, so the DualDisc was created as a compromise. But, what's happened in the meantime is that the record companies have determined that consumers would rather have video content on the DVD side than high resolution audio, so the majority of the DualDiscs so far have only included an "enhanced" stereo PCM mix (typically using a slightly higher sampling rate than CD audio, but nowhere near the resolution of DVD-A) or a 5.1 mix in Dolby Digital. While it's great that consumers will finally get a chance to hear more multichannel music with DualDisc, the sound quality of Dolby Digital is a step backwards even from CD audio.

    As far as whether or not to pull the trigger, I say why not? Right now, universal players (that can play DVD video, DVD-A, and SACD) can be found for $150. Just the other day at Best Buy, I saw a closeout Samsung universal player selling for $100. The low end universal players are not optimal for SACD because they convert the DSD signal into PCM (still at high resolution), and they typically lack decent bass management functions. Universal players that decode SACDs in their native format will typically cost at least $300, and the ones that have more flexible bass management, along with the types of channel level and delay adjustments that you typically find on home theater receivers will cost more than that.

    Otherwise, if you're more inclined to choose between SACD and DVD-A, you can find DVD-A players for under $100 and dedicated SACD players for less than $150.

  4. #4
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    Well said Wooch, but...

    Quote Originally Posted by Woochifer
    IMO, the recent introduction of DualDisc is an indication that the record companies are moving away from high resolution audio and that's a shame. Basically, the DualDisc is a flipper disc with the CD on one side and a DVD layer on the other side. Some manufacturers tried to create a hybrid CD/DVD-A that would be backwards compatible, but ran into technical problems, so the DualDisc was created as a compromise. But, what's happened in the meantime is that the record companies have determined that consumers would rather have video content on the DVD side than high resolution audio, so the majority of the DualDiscs so far have only included an "enhanced" stereo PCM mix (typically using a slightly higher sampling rate than CD audio, but nowhere near the resolution of DVD-A) or a 5.1 mix in Dolby Digital. While it's great that consumers will finally get a chance to hear more multichannel music with DualDisc, the sound quality of Dolby Digital is a step backwards even from CD audio.
    This isn't quite right. I own DualDiscs that have legit DVD-A layers on them, and others that have the crappy higher sampling rate on them...both are a big improvement IMO, but the latter is an obvious let down when one considers the potential.
    Interestingly enough, my Sony empire DualDiscs all seem to have the cheap "hi-rez" format on them...hmmm...wonder why...

    DualDisc has potential, unfortunately different artists, lablels, etc are deciding to use them differently. For some it's more video content, for others it isn't. Guess you have to do your homework. What's really horrible is the lack of a consistent standard. Some labels simply label the DVD side "hi-rez", but I don't exactly consider 48KHz sampling rate, 20 bit hi-rez.

    Can't see the introduction of DualDisc being helpful to those demanding more hi-rez multi-channel releases to be delivered, though it does provide artists with more flexibility in offering a superior product tailored to the audience. If the fans demand hi-rez, the artist has this option...if they don't and want video content instead, ditto. Not really a bad thing, just a let down to us audiophile types.

    Some day something will catch on, in the meantime I'll just keep enjoying what I can and not worry about it.

  5. #5
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kexodusc
    This isn't quite right. I own DualDiscs that have legit DVD-A layers on them, and others that have the crappy higher sampling rate on them...both are a big improvement IMO, but the latter is an obvious let down when one considers the potential.
    Interestingly enough, my Sony empire DualDiscs all seem to have the cheap "hi-rez" format on them...hmmm...wonder why...DualDisc has potential, unfortunately different artists, lablels, etc are deciding to use them differently. For some it's more video content, for others it isn't. Guess you have to do your homework. What's really horrible is the lack of a consistent standard. Some labels simply label the DVD side "hi-rez", but I don't exactly consider 48KHz sampling rate, 20 bit hi-rez.
    I did say the majority of DualDiscs fit that description, and thus far I have seen very few DualDiscs with a DVD-A layer. I would actually be fine with "hi-rez" because it does not require a DVD-A player and can be output digitally to a receiver/processor. But, even there, most of what I've seen on DualDiscs is 5.1 DD, which is far from high resolution. And actually, 48/20 would be a significant increase in resolution, but I'm not even sure that the "enhanced stereo" tracks on DualDiscs are even at that resolution. From what I've read, most of these stereo tracks are actually 48/16 resolution. At this point, I might be content to put it all into DD+ or DTS-HD, and just forget the rest of all the alphabet soup we're drowning in with SACD and DVD-A.

  6. #6
    Forum Regular edtyct's Avatar
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    I love these two formats so much that I'd be heartbroken if they disappeared, although it would certainly be a stretch to say that they've made much of an appearance. You guys have pretty much set the context, but I'd like to add one more thing. We are in a convenience-driven world, and nothing reflects this state of affairs better than our sources of entertainment. Beyond the terrible rollout of SACD and DVD-A, the proliferation of bare-bones formats like MP3 drives down the interest and appreciation of higher-quality technologies. The MP3s of the world certainly have their place, and it is no wonder why they are so popular. I can certainly see how fussier, more expensive formats would have little practical chance of overtaking them. Why should they? They have a totally different environment and cache. But that they would face complete demise is a disgrace. The problem is a collaboration of economics, advertising, public perception (manipulation in some sense), and plain poor management. We will have high resolution DVD and increased HDTV in the near future, and though they both arrived none too soon (HDTV's eventual rise to rule rather than exception will have been abominably slow), but audio will lag behind shamefully. Whether DD+ and DTS HD will be the remedy remains to be seen.

    We can live without all of these luxuries if we have to. I'd give up some electronic entertainment to feed the world, stop war, or clean up the planet. We create waste like crazy. The truth is, we're damn lucky to have what we do, relative to much of the rest of the world. If it ever makes sense, or becomes viable, to give something up, let's retain the best of our culture rather than the disposable parts. Audiophiles and videophiles aren't just weird people; they actually care about, and take care of, things. Save HD audio.

  7. #7
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by edtyct
    I love these two formats so much that I'd be heartbroken if they disappeared, although it would certainly be a stretch to say that they've made much of an appearance. You guys have pretty much set the context, but I'd like to add one more thing. We are in a convenience-driven world, and nothing reflects this state of affairs better than our sources of entertainment. Beyond the terrible rollout of SACD and DVD-A, the proliferation of bare-bones formats like MP3 drives down the interest and appreciation of higher-quality technologies. The MP3s of the world certainly have their place, and it is no wonder why they are so popular. I can certainly see how fussier, more expensive formats would have little practical chance of overtaking them. Why should they? They have a totally different environment and cache. But that they would face complete demise is a disgrace. The problem is a collaboration of economics, advertising, public perception (manipulation in some sense), and plain poor management. We will have high resolution DVD and increased HDTV in the near future, and though they both arrived none too soon (HDTV's eventual rise to rule rather than exception will have been abominably slow), but audio will lag behind shamefully. Whether DD+ and DTS HD will be the remedy remains to be seen.
    Well said. I liken the MP3 phenomenon to the growth of prerecorded cassettes after the Walkman was first introduced. It's basically the same emphasis on portability and convenience while trading off a lot of the sound quality. The problem with MP3 compared to prerecorded cassettes or tape dubbing is that the sound quality of MP3 is better than compact cassettes and the music can now be shared by thousands of people at once, rather than just one at a time.

    IMO, the music industry has only a few options to save themselves -- 1) lower prices, 2) higher value so that music can compete with other entertainment options that have taken away market share the last few years (i.e. DVDs and video games), or 3) find the next "big thing" in music. DVD-A and SACD clearly fit into #2, but then so does DualDisc and DualDisc has the added advantage of not needing a separate section at a retail store and the support of all the major labels (rather than the divided camps that you see with DVD-A and SACD). Universal Music already tried option #1 a couple of years ago, but apparently it did not boost sales enough for them to continue.

    I think DVD-A and SACD have been handicapped from day one by virtue of the copy protection scheme. By making the formats so closed and inflexible, they managed to alienate audio enthusiasts and casual listeners alike. With audio enthusiasts, the limitations and inconsistencies with bass management, level adjustments, and delay timing are big time omissions because they make it more difficult to optimize the sound quality. And for casual listeners, the requirement of a separate player with analog outputs (for SACD especially) eliminates any kind of listening enjoyment of those formats while on the go.

    DD+ and DTS-HD have the potential to get around all of this by providing high resolution digital audio, and an open datastream that allows for inclusion in a variety of devices. Unfortunately, it's that very openness of the datastream that I think will make it less desirable for the record labels to allow their releases to come out in this format.

    I don't think that SACD will disappear because of its cachet with audiophile labels, but with Sony apparently abandoning the format on the title side, it will never catch on as the heir apparent to the CD (Sony basically could have ended the format war by simply standardizing all of their new releases around SACD, but that never happened). Both formats likely will live on, but only as sideline players. DualDisc has the potential of finally bringing multichannel music to the masses, but unfortunately it will further solidify Dolby Digital as the multichannel format of choice.

  8. #8
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    Wooch:
    I'd have to say I've seen more than 1/2 of the DualDisc claim a DVD-A layer, though many don't use the 96/24 or better resolutions, opting for 20 bit, 48 KHz sampling rates or in the case of the 2 Nine Inch Nails DualDiscs, 24 bit, 48 KHz.
    But yeah, many don't even have that. Glorified Enhanced CD's IMO...

    The real funny thing about DualDisc is that it was largely driven by DVD-A proponents and yet it's making the same mistake many, many DVD-A's did...inconsistency. There's a ton of DVD-A's out there that don't use the format to its full potential too...you'd think we'd learn from our mistakes.

    The irony in all this is that if DualDisc and DVD-A cannibalize each other, SACD may emerge the unlikely winner in all of this.

    Guess we'll have to wait and see what BluRay and HD-DVD bring us...gonna need another player.

  9. #9
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kexodusc
    Wooch:
    I'd have to say I've seen more than 1/2 of the DualDisc claim a DVD-A layer, though many don't use the 96/24 or better resolutions, opting for 20 bit, 48 KHz sampling rates or in the case of the 2 Nine Inch Nails DualDiscs, 24 bit, 48 KHz.
    But yeah, many don't even have that. Glorified Enhanced CD's IMO...
    Hmmm, that's interesting because when I perused the DualDisc section over at Virgin Megastore a few weeks ago, I saw only two DualDiscs out of twentysomething titles in the bin that mentioned anything about a DVD-A layer. Thus far, I've only purchased one DualDisc and that's Bruce Springsteen's Devils & Dust. It has both a 5.1 DD track and a PCM track with no indication as to what the resolution is. Not noticed much difference between the CD layer and the PCM track on the DVD side, but it's cool that the lyrics show up while listening to the PCM track.

    Quote Originally Posted by kexodusc
    The real funny thing about DualDisc is that it was largely driven by DVD-A proponents and yet it's making the same mistake many, many DVD-A's did...inconsistency. There's a ton of DVD-A's out there that don't use the format to its full potential too...you'd think we'd learn from our mistakes.

    The irony in all this is that if DualDisc and DVD-A cannibalize each other, SACD may emerge the unlikely winner in all of this.
    You're right about that. The whole reason the DualDisc was created in the first place was because the engineers could not come up with a viable hybrid DVD/CD similar to the SACD/CD hybrid. Sony jumping on board with DualDisc is pretty much the death knell for any effort on their part to expand the market reach of the SACD/CD hybrid format.

    I'm not sure if the inconsistency with the DVD-A releases is all that wide given that you know that all DVD-A releases come with a DVD-V compatible layer and a DVD-A layer with at least one MLP track. DualDisc is all over the place -- you have no idea if the DVD layer will have any video content or any audio content, and if so, what the resolution will be or if it's two-channel or 5.1.

    SACD might well emerge the winner simply because most audiophile labels have annointed it as the preferred format. Because of that, it's pretty much assured that SACD will live on as a niche format, even if the major labels drop all support for the format. DVD-A is a bit dicier because it has catered more to major label new releases and remasters of more recent catalog titles titles. Without major label support, DVD-A has far fewer specialty partners to prop up the format. SACD is a better substitute for the CD simply because it behaves more like a CD. You don't need to navigate through any menus, and it fires up fairly quickly. SACD II was supposedly in the works and that would have allowed for video content, but as of now I have not seen anything released with that designation.

    Quote Originally Posted by kexodusc
    Guess we'll have to wait and see what BluRay and HD-DVD bring us...gonna need another player.
    Sad part is that I think that DD+ and DTS-HD can potentially deliver audio quality that's up there with SACD and DVD-A because both formats are scalable and have lossless modes available. But, I doubt you'll see much music get released through those formats due to piracy paranoia. DTS 96/24 already exceeds CD audio, and is fully compatible with all existing DTS decoders, yet it can do multichannel audio at close to 96/24 resolution while making full use of a receiver/processor's bass management and other adjustments.

  10. #10
    BooBs are elitist jerks shokhead's Avatar
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    Talking

    I see from about the 3rd post on,its gotten away from the question. Big suprise. Ask a simple question and all the tech crap pops up which doesnt mean jack to my ears. SACD,get a hybrid and you can play it as a reg cd. DVD-A and i'm not sure where the video is because there isnt much. Close your eyes and you wont know which your listening to,thank you.
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