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Saturday, January 24, 2004
DVD-Audio/CD Flip Disc available soon


The widespread commercial release of the CD/DVD-Audio flip disc is “coming to stores in the next 30 days” says a high-level executive at one of the major record labels.

According to sources the flip disc (CD on one side and DVD-Audio on the other) has passed critical functionality tests that earlier discs had failed this past fall. The big concern with the flip disc is that the width of the multi-layer discs may cause them to physically get stuck in car players. Disc manufacturers have overcome this problem and the discs are now very close to production. Reportedly, test marketing is to be done in Seattle and Boston in Q1, 2004. A spokeswoman from Warner Music Group refused to confirm the rumor. However, she reemphasized WEA’s support for the DVD-Audio format.

The SACD camp has had the only significant commercial success thus far in the high-resolution format war with their hybrid SACDs, which can play on both CD players and SACD players. Titles from the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and Bob Dylan have sold very well, partly because of the backwards compatibility of the high-resolution format to CD. The star power and creative excellence of the titles also certainly have helped sales as well.

If the DVD-Audio flip disc makes it to the marketplace, music enthusiasts should watch to see if DVD-Audio supporters like EMI and WEA (and maybe even Universal) start to release stereo versions of the discs in large numbers to populate the CD bins at record stores with flip discs. Even if the flip disc has a higher-resolution stereo DVD-Audio version on the flip side, the format will have made a major marketing breakthrough. Just as Microsoft sells the same software over and over again, the record companies can release 24-192 DVD-Audio versions of thousands of their records relatively easily. Mixing them into surround is a lot harder, but as either SACD hybrids or DVD-Audio flip discs grow in consumer acceptance, the temptation to remix (and of course resell) the titles will be strong. This one change in format could likely save the music business model of saving discs.

As long as SACD and DVD-Audio discs are banished to the “audiophile’ bins at music retailers, neither format has much of a chance at becoming “the next CD.” If one or both formats can make it into the main CD bins, you might see a trend towards a potential winner in the format war.


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