HD Disc Format Orgs Sound Off On Sound
HD DVDThe DVD Forum, a specifications-setting organization for the DVD format, has selected Dolby Digital Plus and MLP Lossless technology as mandatory audio formats for HD DVD. Dolby Digital Plus is an extension of the Dolby Digital format we've all come to know and love thanks to DVDs and North American HDTV broadcasts. Originally unveiled earlier this year to the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) (the people responsible for making sure the latest reality TV show makes its inane way to your living room), Dolby Digital Plus is designed to add more versatility and capabilities while maintaining backwards compatibility with all the Dolby Digital 5.1 systems in use today. On an HD DVD, where higher bit rates can be allocated for audio playback, Dolby maintains that Dolby Digital Plus will deliver "the highest quality audio performance possible" due to a "highly sophisticated perceptual coding process." Dolby Digital Plus will also be able to offer more discrete channels than the current 5.1 standard.
The DVD Forum also selected MLP Lossless technology, developed by Meridian Audio and licensed by Dolby Laboratories, as a mandatory audio standard of the HD DVD. MLP Lossless is the core audio technology behind multi-channel DVD-Audio discs where it enables encoding of multiple channels of 24-bit/96kHz surround sound or 24-bit/192kHz stereo music.
The DTS Coherent Acoustics coding system wasn't forgotten by the DVD Forum, either. In addition to including DTS' core technology as a mandatory audio technology for the HD DVD, they also selected DTS' extension technologies as optional. The extension technologies, including DTS-ES and DTS 96/24 and identified collectively as DTS++, encompass higher data rates, lossless operation, and additional channels. DTS asserts that "both the mandatory DTS core technology, as well as optional higher sampling rates such as DTS 96/24 and additional channels up to 7.1...offer DTS' premium audio quality to consumers while retaining compatibility with all existing DTS decoders."
Blu-ray DiscThe announced audio standards for the Blu-ray Disc format, too. Dolby Digital is now a mandatory audio standard for the Blu-ray disc. DTS' core technology also got the nod, along with DTS++ extensions being named as optional features. DTS claims that this makes DTS++ "the only lossless audio technology selected for both formats."
Of course, neither format is officially here; and unless your crystal ball is a whole lot better than ours, it's anybody's guess as to which shiny disc will eventually gain mass market acceptance. The one thing we do know, however, is that if either one of the proposed formats makes it to the big leagues, it'll sound just fine.
1Actually, Dolby Laboratories claims that there are more than 39,000,000 (that's 39 million) A/V receivers equipped with Dolby Digital. DTS, to quote a figure that includes more than just A/V receivers, states that there are over 280 million DTS-licensed consumer electronics products worldwide.