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DVD Audio & SACD - The Royal Scam Part II

by August 30, 2004

Original Publish Date: 9/05/02 - Much of the content in this article has been addressed via hardware, but we keep it live for archival purposes. Software selection however is still the big issue remaining.


It has been some time since I wrote the controversial, but much needed article titled, "DVD Audio & SACD The Royal Scam".

I did not write this article to bash new technologies, nor to be a non-supporter of technological progress. I wrote this article to educate the public about the shortcomings of these new technologies, which are mostly implementation related due to the greedy Record Industry and bureaucratic Standards Bodies (i.e. DVD AWG).

If you recall from this articles predecessor, the three major issues with DVD-A and SACD are:

  1. Limited or No bass Management.
  2. No Universal Digital Output for High Resolution Signal.
  3. Limited Software.

In addition to the above mentioned issues, I have discovered a few new ones:

  • No speaker Channel Digital Delay Adjustments (many players).
  • No Channel Volume Level Adjustments (many players).
  • Alternate Menu Configurations to Select DVD-A Analog Output or DD Bitstream output for DVD-V (applies only to DVD-A players).
  • Audio Watermarking May Kill Resolution.

Issue #1: Limited or No Bass Management

At the time I authored "The Royal Scam Part I", no DVD-A or SACD player offered bass management out of the analog outputs to support these new formats. Since then, a handful of DVD-A players and Sony SACD players (not enough models of either format for a full finger count) were introduced with limited bass management. When I say limited, I mean that the bass management offered is fixed at around 100-120 Hz. What were they thinking? Who crosses over their sub so high? This reminds me of those little "Cubed" speakers from the company we all love to hate. In addition, most of these players donêt incorporate bass management in two channel mode, so if you have small main speakers, you are not going to be able to route bass to your sub. Are your SACD / DVD-A discs sounding a little thin?

Some companies such as Outlaw Audio, offer a bass management system designed to resolve this problem.


Outlaw Audio ICBM Bass Management System for DVD-A / SACD (Retail: $249)

While this is a step in the right direction, this analog bass management unit has issues of its own:

  1. No channel level adjustments.
  2. No speaker digital delay adjustments (see issue #4 for further elaboration).
  3. Requires an additional six RCA type cables.
  4. Solution for one player at a time only.

In order to use products such as the ICBM, you must connect it in series with your DVD-A or SACD player before connecting it to your Preamp / Receiver. As if there werenêt enough cables to worry about, now you will have to add a whopping 12 audio cables! I hope you like spaghetti. In addition, what happens if you want to listen to SACD and DVD-A, but have separate players for these competing formats? In order to use this system for both players, you will need to rig up a Y-Connector with a switchbox and feed 6 RCA cables from each player into it, followed by 6 RCA cables into your Preamp / Receiver.

Some Receiver manufacturers such as Sherwood New Castle, and Pioneer Elite now offer bass management on their analog inputs, however there is a price to pay for this convenience. For example, the Sherwood Newcastle Model R-963 claims to offer complete bass management for DVD-A and SACD.


Sherwood New Castle Model R-963 Multi Channel A/V Receiver

I did some digging and found out what they are doing is taking the DVD-A / SACD signal, converting it back to digital, processing it inside the Receiver to add bass management, and then converting it back to analog for amplification. So let's get this straight.

  • Step #1
    DVD-A / SACD player converts digital signal to analog to pass into Receiver.
  • Step #2
    Sherwood R-963 Receiver converts analog DVD-A / SACD signal back to digital to process for added bass management.
  • Step #3
    Sherwood R-963 Receiver converts re-digitalized DVD-A / SACD back into analog for amplification. Can somebody tell me how we are going to hear the supposed added resolution of DVD-A / SACD when we are butchering the hell out of the signal by bouncing it back and forth between the digital and analog domains? This sounds like a good idea to me, where do I sign up?

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About the author:

Gene manages this organization, establishes relations with manufacturers and keeps Audioholics a well oiled machine. His goal is to educate about home theater and develop more standards in the industry to eliminate consumer confusion clouded by industry snake oil.

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