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AV Education on RHT

What Is DVD-Audio?

Written by Jerry Del Colliano

What Is DVD-Audio?
DVD-Audio is one of the two competing pre-recorded audio formats positioned to replace the Compact Disc after the CD’s 20-year reign as the ruler of the world’s music stores. DVD-Audio is derived from the same DVD disc that DVD-Video movies are recorded on. However, with DVD-Audio, the space on the disc is configured to optimize high-resolution audio, surround sound and added value features.

On most standard DVD-Audio discs, you will find three different audio playback options:
1) A high-resolution stereo track that is often 24 bit and 96 or even 192 kHz resolution.
2) A default DVD-Video compatible surround sound track that is usually a lossy (AKA compressed) surround sound format like DTS (3:1 compression) or Dolby Digital (12:1 compression).
3) A MLP surround sound mix. MLP stands for Meridian Lossless Packing and it is the highest quality audio for surround sound found on DVD-Audio.

One of the advantages DVD-Audio has over its high-resolution competition, SACD, is DVD-Audio’s ability to include video content. Most of the record companies issuing DVD-Audio disks, among others, have added in music videos, interviews and cool video clips as an added value goodie for consumers who purchase their artist’s records on DVD-Audio. Other added value goodies on DVD-Audio include lyrics, photo galleries, Easter eggs, video games and more.

People are often concerned that they will not be able to play DVD-Audio discs in their system. DVD-Audio discs will play in any DVD player in either stereo or default surround. In order to enjoy MLP surround sound, you need to own a DVD-Audio player which has a 5.1 analog output, or a proprietary digital output (Meridian and Denon are good examples of this) designed to send copy-protected audio from your player to your preamp. In order to enjoy MLP surround on your 5.1 home theater system, you also need the right 5.1 analog input or special digital input on your receiver or AV preamp. Almost all AV preamps and receivers sold today have the right 5.1 analog inputs needed for DVD-Audio. Fewer have digital connections.

If you are wondering why connecting a DVD-Audio/Video (or SACD) player to a home theater system requires so much extra work, blame the paranoid record companies. Their fear of people stealing music made such complicated and expensive connections a necessity. But fear not - there are other ways to hook up DVD-Audio that are easy. In fact, you may already have them running in your AV system. Any DVD player with a digital output can send stereo or default surround to your theater system. Default surround isn’t as good as MLP, but it sounds far superior to CD in every case.

Another way to play back DVD-Audio discs is to use a Microsoft Xbox or a Sony Playstation 2. They will not perform in MLP surround, but they will play back the default surround and stereo tracks on a disc. All you need is a digital cable running from your game machine into a digital input on your AV preamp or receiver. It is as easy as that to be playing DVD-Audio in surround sound.


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