High End Society Frankfurt 2000 Audiophile
As i was walking in to the
hotel this morning there was this nice racing Ferrari 355 in the driveway.
More like these please! What amazed me is that there was no German made
Porsche to be seen!
Today was the first official day of the show and as such there
was the appropriate press conference. The High End Society are the folks who have put on this wonderful Frankfurt
show for over nineteen consecutive years and is considered the biggest and most import show in Europe.
It is an organization with 37 members consisting of both distributors and manufactures.
During this press conference representatives from Pioneer (Thomas Hintze),
Sony/Marantz Deutschland (Rainer Finck) and a software distributor (Bernard
Rössle) were also present to discuss DVD-Audio, SACD and music distribution. Like many
countries with a prosperous audiophile industry, many consumers and industry insiders alike wonder what the real future is for the
software within the high resolution digital formats.
All the following comments were through a translator who summed
up what the appropriate representatives said. The Sony/Marantz representative said his company now feels the
advantage for their SACD is not just the CD/SACD hybrid discs. Strange as i
repeatedly questioned them about multi-channel SACD at Hi-Fi '99 and they said
there would not be multi-channel SACD. On the other hand the Pioneer representative
claimed they will have an all format DVD player (SACD/DVD-Audio and the other usual suspects). While the
code-cracking of the "protected" DVD-Audio format was mentioned, i know that no matter what new encryption format they
devise it will eventually be broken. For the moment i will actively avoid the humor that overcomes me when i hear the words "protected software" as referred to the like of
DVD-Audio, SDMI, etc. As for the software side of things, carrying multiple formats can make for a financial complicated
situation while also confusing the public. Not a good thing i assure you. Simply producing every software title in every format is
not an option. Alas, the music distributor had no real idea as to which was the industry is going to go (SACD or DVD-Audio).
The Marantz SA-1 SACD (15,000 DM) can plat SACD, CD, CD-R and CD-RW discs. it offers both balanced and single-ended output plus 16-bit/44.1
kHz digital output via S/PDIF. Availability is said to be in the middle of
Pioneer is no slouch when it comes to the new digital audio technology
formats. Their DV-828 DVD-Audio player seen above (3,500 DM) offers 24-bit/192kHz
digital audio resolution. Meanwhile their DVR-1000 DVD / CD-R / CD-RW recorder
seen below (6,000 DM) was an interesting piece. Yes, it can record DVD discs,
yet the specs were a bit elusive.
JVC is not just trying to keep up in the flurry of new DVD-Audio products,
they are offering some very interesting pieces too! Their XV-D9000 DVD-Audio (350,000 Japanese Yen available in two
weeks) also plays DVD-Video discs. In fact for the very first time we were
able to see a true DVD-Audio disc with a proper screen shot. Below is what was
on the TV monitor as the DVD-Audio disc was playing.
JVC also has a very affordable DVD-Audio player coming out in September and
called the XV-D721 (1,499 DM). This basically equals around $700 USD! Now if
you felt this was great news, below is an extra special world first.
The Pioneer DV-AX10 is the world's first SACD and also
DVD-Audio player (12,000 DM) and is said to be available in the fourth quarter of 2000.
Just in time for that winter holiday gift giving season! You saw it here first
at Enjoy the Music.com. Frankfurt is the first show for
this unit anywhere in the world!
Ok, so for the first time in a long while i sat through a manufacture's "dog and pony"
show. A "dog and pony show" is basically where you wait in line for
a show. The a manufacture keeps you locked into a room for 30+ minutes as they give you a
long schpeil about how great their products are and play music now and then.
Fortunately this show was long on music and short on hype (thank goodness). The Pioneer DV-AX10 dog and pony show first started with vinyl replay of the Myles Davis Kind of
Blue (Classic Records pressing). Then came the regular CD version. The vinyl sounded smoother and not as
overly tinny/bright in the highs as the CD plus the lower frequencies were better
with the vinyl (i'm keeping my comments brief here as this is not a system i know nor the best
room conditions, etc.). The system, by the way, used all Pioneer electronics except for the turntable which was
popular in Germany Transrotor Piano with SME IV tonearm and Van den Hull cartridge.
Next up was the SACD of the Miles Davis recording. The highs still seem brighter than the vinyl BUT not tinny or harsh.
Nicely extended is what my notes say. Bass was better than the CD though the vinyl seemed best of
all so far to my ears. The midrange of the SACD was far ahead of the CD and seemed quite natural... more like
good vinyl replay.
Then came a piano piece on CD which was then played yet again with the SACD
version. Needless to say the SACD version sounded much, and i do mean much better.
WARNING: Of course who knows the mastering differences as each software title was
not, repeat not mastered at the same time using the same techniques. To give you an idea, that is like
using a regular low-quality mastered CD and comparing it to a Mobile Fidelity quality mastered SACD. The Pioneer
representative was kind enough to say that they understand this dilemma and just wanted to give a basic presentation. Of course i want to present this fact here as to give you, the reader, the wise
decision to take ALL OF THIS with a BIG grain of salt.
Next cane the full-scale Carmina Burana classical music which sounded horrid on the vinyl.
Whatever pressing they used should have been filed in the trash bin long ago.
It was horribly compressed both frequency-wise and dynamics. It sounded quite
like the same way hard clipping does of an amplifier. The CD sounded much better than the vinyl. Now
came the DVD-Audio disc encoded at 24-bit/44.1 kHz . It totally obliterated the CD. It was like the difference between seeing a photo of a Ferrari as
compared to standing next to the actual automobile. Highs, bass, mids, hall dynamics, etc etc etc.
Next up was Beethoven's Fifth on CD. It sounded quite good. Hall acoustics seemed a bit
dried out and foreshortened but all in all a very good recording. Then came the 24-bit/96kHz
DVD-Audio version. Same Ferrari photo comments as above apply here. While at this point i had hoped we'd hear an SACD
version of a recording and then the 24-bit/192 kHz DVD-Audio disc version. Would that moment
We then heard the world's first 96kHz/6-channel/16-bit recording. The six channels were front right
and left, Rear right and left, center and lastly the subwoofer channel. Alas, like many
surround sound demos the rears were too loud and seem to be not correctly time
delayed. While it sounded ok all in all, i preferred the
two-channel version over the six-channel version. Sadly, we never did heard a
direct comparison of SACD versus 24-bit/192kHz DVD-Audio. In fact we never
hear any 24-bit/192kHz DVD-Audio. Well, at least i can say i was among the
very first in the world to hear this unit and you, my friend, were the first
to see it and share in the experience.
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