Code for XO?E: DVD-A? SACD?

An interesting press release crossed my desk (read: popped into my e-mail Inbox) on Friday:

"John Mellencamp's Life, Death, Love, and Freedom, from Hear Music, July 15."

Buried down in the fourth paragraph is this:

"The album will be the first-ever release in the XO?E (CODE) format. T Bone Burnett [who produced Mellencamp's new album] and his team of engineers developed CODE, a proprietary technology that creates high-definition audio files that are virtually indistinguishable from the original master tapes. The resonance, warmth, and presence that has been realized with CODE is unprecedented in the digital era."

"Unprecedented"? Doesn't that sound, um, familiar? Read on . . .

Continues the press release:

"The CODE version of Life, Death, Love, and Freedom is a DVD that will come packaged with a standard CD version of the album, available at all retail outlets, at no additional cost to the consumer. The CODE disc is playable on virtually all DVD machines, including standalone players and DVD drives in computers. The DVD's content can be copied into most computer music software, including iTunes, and can then be downloaded onto personal music players such as the iPod. The standard CD is included to answer all possible compatibility questions.

"Mellencamp commented, ' When T Bone introduced me to CODE, it was a remarkable experience. I could hear the music the way it was intended to be heard. I'm very happy the people are going to be able to share this experience in a way that's so true to our original intent.' "

Let's see . . . "virtually indistinguishable from the master tapes" . . . "resonance, warmth, and presence" . . . "playable on virtually all DVD machines" . . . "possible compatibility questions" . . . "music the way it was intended to be heard."

I don't know about you, but in the wake of DVD-Audio, SACD, DualDisc, MVI, DVDplus, and CDVU+ - not to mention the supposedly still-gestating DFS disc and the supposed promise of the Blu-ray Disc as a high-resolution music carrier - do we really need YET ANOTHER FORMAT? Call me skeptical. Or maybe, as the press release seems to imply, the ultimate intent of CODE is to provide high-rez files for iPods and the like. Yes, friends, iPod listeners are just clamoring for high-rez files. Call me double skeptical.

I could find no further info on CODE - not even on T Bone's Web site. We'll try to follow up, online or in print.

Tbone_2 Meanwhile, speaking of skeptical and T Bone (whose own new album, Tooth of Crime, will be released tomorrow by Nonesuch) . . . I distinctly remember being shouted down by Mr. Burnett at a New Music Seminar in New York City, about 15 years ago. He was sitting on a technology-in-music panel, and when I stood up from the audience to ask whether the panelists were worried about the dominant sound of drum machines in music at the time, T Bone scoffed at me and said something along the lines of, "Get with the program, buddy. There's nothing wrong with drum machines. This is the sound of the future."

Fifteen years into the future: O, T Bone, Where Art Thou?  Thou art now known as Mr. Natural, eschewing drum machines (and anything else that's electronic or synthetic) in favor of genuine, down-home instruments.

Interesting! -Ken Richardson

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