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Wednesday, January 08, 2003
BMG shakin' with DVD-Audio format

Following its market trial of Elvis Presley (news)'s "Elvis 30 #1 Hits" in DVD-Audio, BMG has announced its support for the format. The global music division of Bertelsmann AG is planning to release 12 or more DVD-A titles this year and ramp up production after that.

The Presley compilation debuted in the top spot of the relevant charts when it came out Sept. 24 as a regular CD and again Dec. 10 as a DVD-A. As of last month, Presley's DVD-A had sold about 15,000 copies, nearly half of which were in the United States.

"We are pleased to bring our artists and their music to fans in this exciting format," BMG chief operating officer Michael Smellie said. "DVD-Audio provides consumers with a new level of musical entertainment with both exceptional sound quality and a compelling visual experience."

Of the major labels, BMG, Warner, Universal and EMI now have DVD-A releases in their catalog. Analysts say DVD-A represents a noticeable improvement in sound quality over CDs. Recordings in the format are also far more difficult to copy, a characteristic that makes them an attractive alternative to CDs from the music industry's point of view.

DVD-A discs provide uncompressed, multichannel, high-definition audio, typically at 24-bit, 129 kHz sampled audio, compared with 16 bits and 44.1 kHz for CDs. Additionally, DVD-A enables a greater dynamic range because it can support a higher quality of pulse-coded modulation. They can also display video, graphics and text on a compatible device.

On the negative side, these discs cannot be played in a standard CD player. The vast majority of them will play flawlessly in an ordinary DVD video player, however, and there are specialized players on the market.

Adding to the potential confusion, there is a standard called Super Audio CD, or SACD, competing to replace the CD. Developed by Sony and Philips -- the same team that came up with the CD 20 years ago -- SACD also provides significantly better sound quality and visual capabilities in a harder-to-copy format; it even has an embedded watermark. It does this by recording the analog signal at a high (2.8224 MHz) sampling frequency and converting it to 1-bit data.

Sony has been joined by Virgin, Telarc, DMP and other labels in releasing SACD recordings since the format launched in 2000. They take advantage of disc capacity to add a hybrid version so that they can be used in existing CD players, though the improvements are only possible on a specialized player.

BMG is the global music division of Bertelsmann AG. It owns more than 200 record labels in 42 countries, including Ariola, Arista Records, J Records, Jive Records, RCA Records and RCA Label Group -- Nashville.

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