Goodwin's High End


High Resolution Digital Audio Formats

Starting around 2000 there was a lot of talk about both the DVD-Audio and the SACD audio formats that promised to offer much better sound quality than the existing ("Redbook") CD format. We have heard both of the contending formats and have been thinking about what ramifications their evolution might have on our clients' investments in digital technology.

When the CD format was introduced in the early 1980's, the music industry was able to quickly introduce a great deal of recordings (often called "content") by re-releasing their existing catalog. They went back to the original analog master tapes (some of which were quite good) and then remastered the recordings for the compact disc. During the 80's and 90's, and into the 21st century, the majority of all new recordings have been done digitally, either at or above CD-quality resolution. Today, there are large inventories of high resolution digital masters to use in remastering high resolution discs. So high resolution discs can be either old or new recordings made at high resolution, or reissues of old analog recordings.

To complicate matters further, two incompatible formats were battling to become the new standard. Manufacturers and music companies were divided into two camps, with most supporting only one of the two formats. This delayed the broad acceptance of a high resolution format—and broad acceptance was needed to bring equipment prices down and content availability up.

Therefore, as of 2003, we at Goodwin's High End expect that the selection of high resolution recordings will be small and the availability sparse, at least for a while.

We are advising our cutting-edge clients to invest in high resolution equipment only after they understand the risks involved in format standardization and content availability.

Furthermore, we are advising all of our clients that are interested in the highest possible digital performance to consider investing in high performance CD digital front ends (if they have not already done so). We expect this equipment to have a very long service life, both for existing music collections and for new CDs released in the upcoming years.

We are monitoring the unfolding story of new digital formats and will post further updates at events transpire. So stay tuned...

UPDATE:  Now in 2009 high resolution audio files are finally starting to become available either as downloads or on DVD-R's. For more information on this exciting development click HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE! Then call us with any questions you may have. To us this is the most exciting development in high quality music reproduction for the home in decades! Of course at this point it still remains a niche format like SACD and DVD-A currently are. We still have to wait and see when and if a large library of titles emerges. As with any format, the key thing is to have a wide variety of music available in that format to listen to!


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