Sony DVP-S9000ES DVD/SACD player Beyond the CD
For those who haven't been following industry developments outside of the home-theater sphere, three new high-resolution formats are vying to replace, or at least supplement, the CD as a music medium. The first of these is often referred to as Digital Audio Disc, or DAD. This format makes use of the data-storage capability of the DVD to record audio with a resolution of 24 bits at a sampling frequency of 96kHz. It is not actually a new format, but an alternate use of the DVD provided for in the DVD-Video specifications. DAD is a 2-channel-only medium and is supported only by a few small audiophile labels.
If you're interested in DAD, you'll want to know that the Sony DVP-S9000ES is one of the few players that can be set up to output a 24/96 signal from its digital outputs without downconverting it to 24/48. The player's D/A converters are also 24/96, so it will also reproduce these recordings properly from its 2-channel analog outputs. With many players, using the analog output is the only way to retrieve the full-resolution signal.
The second format, DVD-Audio, also makes use of the DVD medium to provide higher performance than CD, but it is also multichannel-capable. A number of high-resolution options are provided for, depending on the number of channels used by the recording engineer. The maximum resolution is 24/192, though this sampling frequency is available only in 2-channel mode. DVD-Audio is only just beginning to appear in the marketplace. It provides for various forms of copy protection, as does SACD.
SACD, the third new format, was developed by Sony and Philips and uses a unique encoding technology (called Direct Stream Digital, or DSD) to record high-resolution audio on a DVD-like carrier. While the first DVD/SACD players, including the DVP-S9000ES, were and are 2-channel devices, multichannel SACD is possible, and coming soon.
If you smell a format war coming on, one is certainly possible. But it's also possible to design players that will play all of these formats. Though so far no such player has appeared, the Pioneer DV-AX10 comes closest; for $5000, it will play all of the major formats except multichannel SACD.—TJN