W h a t i s H D C D ?
A: High Definition Compatible Digital, or HDCD, is a patented process for delivering on CD more of the richness and detail of the original microphone feed. When listening to HDCD recordings, you hear more dynamic range, a focused 3-D soundstage, and more natural vocal and musical timbre. You get the body, depth, and emotion of the original performance—not a flat, digital imitation. HDCD-encoded CDs sound better because they are encoded with 20 bits of real musical information as compared with 16 bits for all other CDs. HDCD overcomes the limitation of the 16-bit CD format by using a sophisticated system to encode the additional 4 bits onto the CD while remaining completely compatible with the CD format.
Q: Why should I listen to HDCD-encoded CDs on a player with HDCD decoding?
A: HDCD recordings will always sound better than conventional CDs when played on any CD player. You will hear fuller, richer sound on all types of players, from portables to high-end systems. This is why so many top artists and engineers use HDCD. To bring out the full bandwidth and superb fidelity of HDCD recordings, a player with HDCD decoding should be used. You will then be able to hear the dynamic range and resolution produced by decoded HDCD recordings. And, best of all, the HDCD decoder chip used in consumer products also contains the HDCD high-precision digital filter that improves the sound quality of all types of digital audio recordings. This means that any A/V receiver, CD player, and DVD player equipped with HDCD will produce significantly better sound from your entire collection of CDs and DVDs.
Q: Why does the HDCD decoder chip improve the sound of all CDs, DVDs, and MDs?
A: Every CD player has a digital filter that is an integral part of its sound reproduction electronics. In addition to decoding HDCD recordings, the HDCD decoder chip used in consumer products also contains the HDCD high-precision digital filter that improves the sound quality of all types of digital audio recordings. This means that any A/V receiver, CD player, and DVD player equipped with HDCD will produce significantly better sound from your entire collection of CDs and DVDs—including the non-encoded ones.
Q: How does a player become an HDCD-equipped player?
A: Consumer electronics manufacturers use HDCD decoder chips to provide HDCD decoding and HDCD filtering on their equipment. HDCD filtering is provided by IC chips such as the PMD-100 and the PMD-200, with the PMD-200 being the flagship decoding chip. The PMD-200 is a 0.6-micron application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) that performs both HDCD decoding and digital filtering. Pacific Microsonics also licensed HDCD code for digital signal processor (DSP) applications and custom integrated circuits. HDCD decoder solutions are a worldwide standard in high-fidelity audio systems, with well over 100 models of HDCD-equipped players having been manufactured. Leading audio chip manufacturers including Analog Devices, Motorola, and Sanyo, and others, licensed the same HDCD technology used in the PMD-series to develop HDCD chips for the general audio market. These chips have been used in a wide range of playback products such as DVD players, A/V receivers, mini-component systems, and CD players, changers, and portables.
Q: How do CDs become HDCD?
A: Mastering engineers all over the world use Pacific Microsonics' professional Model One and Model Two HDCD Processors to produce HDCD recordings. The HDCD Processor is a two-channel analog-to-digital (A/D) and digital-to-analog (D/A) converter, and digital processor with more than 200 millions of instructions per second (MIPS) in computing power.
Q: How can I identify an HDCD-encoded CD?
A: Virtually all CDs mastered with HDCD have the HDCD logo on the back of the album cover and on the CD itself. When you play an HDCD CD on a player with HDCD decoding capability, a light comes on telling you that you are listening to an HDCD recording.
Q: Where can I buy HDCD-encoded CDs?
A: HDCD CDs are available from any CD retailer including such websites as Amazon, ArkivMusic, and Reference Recordings.
P l a y e r s & E q u i p m e n t
A: You do not need an HDCD amplifier if you have an HDCD CD player. Just connect the analog outputs from an HDCD CD player to any amplifier or receiver. To decode an HDCD recording, an HDCD amplifier needs a digital signal from a CD player, which it decodes and then converts to analog.
Q: Do I need an HDCD receiver (in addition to the HDCD player) to take full advantage of HDCD technology or will a regular receiver work as well?
A: You need an HDCD CD player or an HDCD receiver for HDCD to work, not both. However, for a non-HDCD CD player to work with an HDCD receiver, it must have a digital output that is connected to the HDCD receiver, which then decodes the signal. The analog outputs of a non-HDCD CD player cannot be decoded.
Q: What is the difference between HDCD and Super Bit Mapping (SBM)? Which is better?
A: Dither is used in all modern digital recording systems to reduce distortion when professional-format 20-bit or 24-bit signals are converted to 16 bits for CD release. SBM is simply a brand name for a type of dither. It cannot deliver more than 16-bit performance and has no playback decoding. HDCD uses very advanced dither and, in addition, has technology that allows up to 20-bit performance when an HDCD player is used.
Q: Normally when I play an HDCD recording, I hear a relay click and the HDCD light comes on. With some CDs, the HDCD light comes on but I don't hear the click. What does this mean?
A: This is normal. When an HDCD recording is made, the mastering engineer has several HDCD encoding options that are used depending upon the type of music. One of those options is Peak Extend, which provides more resolution with music that has sudden peak levels. Depending upon whether Peak Extend was used, you may hear a relay click at the beginning of some HDCD recordings with certain HDCD players.
Q: My CD doesn't have the HDCD logo on the packaging. Is it HDCD or not?
A: Some HDCD recordings do not include the HDCD logo due to the artwork for the album being completed prior to the mastering process. You can rely on the HDCD light on your CD player or D-A converter as the final test as to whether an album is an HDCD recording or not. Or you can look at our HDCD recordings list here.
Q: I'd like to see a specific song or artist remaster his recordings in HDCD. Can you help?
A: Our best suggestion is to contact the label and encourage it to issue the release in HDCD format.