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BLANK CD MEDIA

At first, blank CD media were pretty straightforward, whereas that for DVDs could get confusing at times. Nowadays, however, there is an almost equal proliferation of different blank CD media, depending on the intended use. It is still nothing like the near-chaos that just about erupted with DVDs, but today's consumer of blank CD media should be more aware of the variety of options that exist.

Blank CD media may one day be surpassed by DVDs - even for music. While most people still think of audio CDs, DVD-Audio may soon give blank CD media a run for their money. Of all the many aspects of DVD technology that can be discussed, DVD-Audio, or DVD-A, is often left out of consideration – and this series of articles on the Digital Versatile Disc format has not been an exception. Until now: in this seventeenth installment, DVD-Audio will be given a thorough examination.

First off, just as blank CD media are not monolithic and homogenous, so too DVD-Audio is not the same as concert films and music video anthologies on DVD. DVD-Audio was envisioned to replace the Compact Disc as the audio format of choice for consumers and audiophiles alike. It’s multiple channels of digital surround sound was to have delivered the purest of high-fidelity experiences yet available for the home theater. Thus it was engaged in a brief format war with Super Audio CD (SACD), another method of delivering high-fidelity content. Ironically, neither was able to make much headway against the CD, never mind each other; perhaps consumers were wary of not only having to replace their collections, but also of being required to purchase expensive new hardware to truly take advantage of the new technologies.

Be that as it may, DVD-Audio was indeed the superior technology, offering user-defined configurations of five full sound channels at various sampling frequencies and rates, plus a sixth dedicated to low frequency effects for bass and the like. Audio data is stored on the disc in an uncompressed or losslessly compressed form, helping to ensure the highest playback quality possible. DVD-Audio players have special software algorithms which will downmix the 5.1 channels to two-channel stereo audio if no native stereo data exists on a disc. In common with DVD-Video, DVD-Audio discs may feature menus, subtitles, and even still images and video, too. (And because DVD video players were familiar enough by the time of DVD-Audio’s introduction to the marketplace in the year 2000, some sort of backward compatibility was desirable, so DVD-Video compatible data was included to allow them to be accessible by DVD-Video players as well). Compared to the Compact Disc format which it was to have replaced, DVD-Audio also allows for considerably more music, in terms of total running time and/or the quantity of individual songs.

However, there is some disagreement over whether DVD-Audio does indeed offer the audio improvement it claims. There is at least one report of professional audio engineers being unable to meaningfully distinguish between the output generated by DVD-Audio discs and regular CDs, though it has been countered that perhaps different mastering standards could have been responsible.