July 5 - Our special feature on the state of digital audio (Issue 174) includes a retrospective in honor of the 25th anniversary of the Compact Disc's US launch. My editorial in that issue laments the fact that CD technology is essentially 30 years old (it was developed in the late '70s), yet there's no format in the wings to take its place.
Although HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc have written into their specifications the provision for an audio-only disc that can store up to eight channels of 192kHz/24-bit PCM digital audio (on Blu-ray; HD DVD's maximum spec is 96kHz/24-bit), record companies have shown no interest in releasing titles in either format. High-resolution downloads might be the answer, but we need a larger installed base of music servers to make downloading a reality.
In the meantime, however, we have vinyl, SACD, and DVD-Audio. In a most welcome development, Warner Records is releasing scores of titles from its vast (and amazingly good) catalogue on high-quality LP and DVD-A. The recording giant is also promoting, through its new Web site www.becausesoundmatters.com, the idea that sound quality is important to fully appreciating music.
It's a heartening sign when Warner Records spreads the message of sound quality and offers its music in high-quality formats rather than pursuing the lowest common denominator of MP3. Let's hope Warner's move is a harbinger of the future, because, after 25 years, the Compact Disc is showing its age.