Adventures In Audio with Audio Masterclass
DualDisc - CD and DVD-Audio in the worst of both worlds?

DualDisc – CD and DVD-Audio in the worst of both worlds?


In a panic to get DVD-Audio (DVD-A) accepted into the marketplace, hardware manufacturers have created the totally and utterly pointless hybrid DualDisc format that promises to kill off the potential of future formats before they have even been born.

The problem with CD is that some people don't think the sound quality is good enough. Duh? Sound quality doesn't seem to be an issue with downloads, even it is significantly less good than CD.

But audiophiles would like something better than CD, and there is no reason why they shouldn't have it, but it has to be commercially sustainable.

The answer was supposed to be DVD-Audio. This format can store so much more data than CD that surround sound and ultra-high sampling rates and resolutions are possible. And the disc can hold bonus material that the market has come to know and love from DVD-Video. The bonus materials are in DVD-Video format and will play on a conventional DVD player.

But the problem is that CD players can't play DVD-A, and DVD-Video players can't play the audio section of a DVD-A disc. So record companies have to produce discs that only audiophiles have the equipment to play. And that market is pretty small.

The answer is and always should have been backwards compatibility from the inception of the format. But no-one thought of that, and now we have DualDisc, which attempts to set matters to rights. But too late, and not in the right way.

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DualDisc works by having two sides – one conventional CD side and the other DVD-Audio side. But there are problems. Both sides are compromised. You neither get a proper CD nor a proper DVD-Audio disc.

The CD side is restricted in the amount of data it can hold, meaning that the maximum duration is around an hour, compared to the official 73 minutes maximum, which is often bettered, of a conventional CD.

On the DVD-Audio side, the amount of data is also restricted, placing limits on the audio quality achievable. Also, the bonus materials are oddly in DVD-ROM format, meaning that you need a computer to access them, which is certainly not what people expect.

The weirdest thing is that due to the manufacturing process, these discs are thicker than conventional CDs. So if you try to play one in a slot-loading player, such as an in-car CD, the disc is likely to get stuck.

So, DualDisc is a turkey from the start. There's no problem with that – it will just fail in the marketplace. The real problem is that after the failure of DVD-Audio and now of DualDisc, will any genuinely superior format ever get off the ground?

David Mellor

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Producing Lauren Balthrop

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David Mellor



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