Written by Brian White - February 4th, 2000


DVD Audio is ridiculous. It's one of those things that must have seemed like a great idea a couple of years ago, and now the suits aren't dropping it like they should.

Here it is: a CD can only hold so much data. As a result, the music we hear on CD is sampled at a specific bit rate. Clearly a DVD can hold more information than a CD. The logical assumption is that record companies would put out DVDs with music only, at a higher sampled rate, which would thus sound a lot better than CDs (and MP3, I might add). DVD Audio goes one step further: it wants to deliver music, at the higher sampled bit rate, in 5.1. That's cool enough in theory, but it won't work on your DVD player.

What it gives you:

First of all, music in surround has been tried, and failed before. Some artists in the early 70s recorded music in quadraphonic sound. It didn't take off. As George Harrison said, "We only have 2 ears." True enough. Certainly, there's no current rush for Dolby Pro-logic music.

I know what you're thinking: Hey, we listen to movies in 5.1, why not music? Simple: Watching a movie requires your head to be pointing in one direction. You are climatized to that position. The audio stimulus works with the visual stimulus to make the experience work.

Do you sit in one position listening to music? Sometimes. But mostly, you walk around, do house work, dance, have sex, drink. Think about a party at your house. Does everyone mingle in one direction? DVD Audio wouldn't give the intended effect in most situations where we listen to music. Of course, if you're one of those guys from high school who spent parties sitting in front of a stereo (upstairs, and far away from where the girls were), wearing a jean jacket, getting stoned, and listening to Pink Floyd; then maybe DVD Audio is for you.

DVD Audio folks tell us that 5.1 simulates a concert experience. B.S.!! At a concert, the speakers, or orchestra, are in front of you. This is just like the typical stereo setup. Sure music bounces off the walls, but it also does at home. Just put on one of those horrid DSP modes on your receiver!

What you'll have to buy:

And don't think it ends at a new expensive DVD Audio-enabled player! They also want all 5 speakers to be exactly the same! Imagine the look you're going to get from your wife when you try to get her to sign off on that. How the hell do you hang full sized speakers? What's your room going to look like? How much is a full-sized, shielded center speaker? Will it fit on top of your TV?

What will be available:

Not very much. The music industry has no desire to provide content. According to Home Theater Magazine, music producers aren't jumping at the opportunity to spend extra money to record music in 5.1. There's no audience. Again, we have the chicken and egg problem: just like your local video rental place that was shy on DVD. Supply must equal demand, and it just isn't there. As popular as DVD is, it's still a niche market. DVD Audio would be a sub-niche market, like DTS. DTS wouldn't be as popular as it is if consumers needed to buy a new player to enjoy it. Also, what's the point of rushing out for DVD Audio if all they give us is market-research based titles, like the Eagles, and Tina Turner? Another point, made in Home Theater, was the hesitance of music producers to allow the listener to play with balance settings for all speakers.

Now Sony will obviously try to push hardware, so they'll put out titles through their music wing. However, is there lots of really great music out on DVD now? Of course not.


The adoption of DVD Audio will be very expensive for the consumer. The enjoyment of DVD Audio will force the listener to sit in one spot, facing one direction, listening to music. Record companies are not jumping at providing DVD Audio titles. When there is music, it will probably be demographically based. This means lots of easy listening on DVD Audio.

Now don't get me wrong, I love new toys. I ran out and bought my DVD player before anyone I knew. I did the same with Laser Disc. DVD and Laser Disc gave me an obvious advantage over what was available at the time. I will have no problem upgrading my equipment if something better, like HD DVD, comes along. DVD Audio is not worth my, or your cash.


Provide music in stereo on existing DVDs, at a higher bit rate. Most music today is recorded at a higher bit rate than that available on CDs. Why not press DVDs at the highest possible bit-rates in stereo? Then we'd all get recorded music far superior to that available on CDs, and we can all enjoy it on our current systems. Also, the industry can do battle against MP3, as every kid is going to own a DVD-enhanced Playstation 2 later in the year.

What do you think?





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