Goodwin's High End


Music Formats: SACD and DVD-Audio. And Blu-ray?

We discussed above our thinking about the merits of investing in high resolution digital components. As we mentioned that there are two disk-based high resolution formats: DVD-Audio and Super Audio CD.

Here is a link that lists over 5500 available SACD titles. As of 2009, there are still some SACD titles being released although it is obvious that it will remain a niche format. Irregardless of what happens in the US market, it does look like SACD will remain viable going forward because SACD demand continues in certain European and Asian countries especially Japan and Germany. Other countries including Holland and Belgium also have a devoted fan-base. In addition China is also embracing the format.

Here is a link that lists over 1500 available DVD-A titles—and and here is another link with title listings.. As of 2009 however, we are unaware of any new DVD-A titles being released.

So that you can understand the differences between the SACD and DVD-Audio formats, here is a comparison between them.

  DVD-Audio Super Audio Compact Disc
Digital Coding Linear Pulse Code Modulation (LPCM) Direct Stream Digital (DSD)
Bit Rate Option of 16, 20, or 24 bit 1 bit
Frequency Response DC-96kHz/channel at 192kHz sampling DC-100kHz/channel
Dynamic Range >144dB 120dB
Disc Type CD-size, single-sided or dual-sided, with up to two high-density layers per side; written spec is silent on inclusion of Redbook CD layer, but not prohibited CD-size, single-sided, choice of one high-density layer, two high-density layers, or one HD layer paired with one Redbook CD layer
Lossless Compression Technology Meridian Lossless Packing (MLP) (about 2:1 data reduction, option on disc, mandatory in player) Direct Stream Transfer lossless packing (2:1 data reduction, optional on disc)
Number of High-Density Channels Up to six full-bandwidth 96kHz/24-bit channels for a multi-channel program (plus optional 2-channel mix of the multi-channel program residing on the same high-density layer for playback on 2-channel systems such as portables); OR 2-channel 192kHz program at 16, 20, or 24 bits Up to six channels of DSD material for a multichannel program (plus optional 2-channel DSD mix residing on the same high-density layer for playback on 2-channel systems). This is in addition to an optional Redbook CD layer
Maximum Playback Time Examples (on one layer, with compression, depending on material compressed) 77-123 minutes of 6-channel 96kHz/24-bit material, OR up to 136 minutes of 2-channel 192kHz/24-bit material, OR 67 minutes of 5-channel 96/24 material plus 2-channel 96/24 version of same material on the same player. Up to 74 minutes of 2-channel DSD w/o lossless packing plus up to 74 minutes of 6-channel DSD w/ lossless packing. (Lossless packing of 6-channel material needed to accommodate both DSD version on same player.)
Multichannel-to-Two-Channel Fold Down Smart Content (artist adds data to each multi-channel song to instruct player to mix down each song to 2 channels in real time; optional on disc, mandatory in player. Not Available
Future Coding Options Coding such as DTS or DSD permitted, if approved by DVD Forum as long as LPCM version resides on same layer for compatibility with all DVD-Audio players Not Available
DVD-Video Player Compatibility Step-up "universal" DVD players will play DVD-Video and DVD-Audio discs; Step-up DVD-ROM players also to play DVD-Audio discs Not addressed in spec, but decision left up to each manufacturer to build DVD-Video players that incorporate SACD playback. Some consumer-grade suppliers intend to offer all-in-one players for CD, DVD-Audio, DVD-Video, and SACD.
Other Optional Features Song titles, lyrics, and graphics; multiple still pictures per song; full-motion video content conforming to DVD-Video standard (reducing total disc playback time) for playback on universal and DVD-Video Players. DVD-Video music video discs are allowed to offer bonus 2-channel LPCM audio tracks playable on DVD-Audio-only players Song titles, lyrics, and graphics, multiple still pictures, full-motion video permitted, but video format not specified.


Blu-ray is another potential high resolution format in that the Blu-ray 3.0 profile is an audio only format. However it remains to be seen if any substantial content will actually ever be released.

There are of course a growing number of great Blu-ray concert discs now available which have high resolution audio encoded—as well as a 1080i or 1080p video. Obviously 1080p is preferable! Of course to see and hear these you need a home theater set-up. To learn more on that topic click here and here.


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