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Sound. A selection of recordings used during the review. Audio Accessory - T-TOC Records High Quality Data Master Comparison, TDVD-0002, DVD-R (2011),16/44,1, 24/96, 24/192 FLAC rip; Random Trip, Nowe Nagrania, 005, CD (2012); SATRI Reference Recordings Vol. 1, Bakoon Products, FLAC 24/96; SATRI Reference Recordings Vol. 2, Bakoon Products, FLAC 24/192; T-TOC Data Collection Vol. 1, T-TOC Records, DATA-0001, 24/96+24/192, WAV, rip from DVD-R; Al Di Meola, Flesh on Flesh, Telarc, 24/96, HDTracks, FLAC; Allan Taylor, Live in Belgium, Stockfisch, SFR 357.7062.2, Blu-ray + DVD (2009); Ashra, Belle Aliance Plus, MG ART/Belle, 121914-5, 2 x SHM-CD (1979/2012); Bajm, Płomień z nieba, Pomaton/EMI, 4942032, CD (1993/1998); Charlie Haden & Antonio Forcione, Heartplay, Naim Label, 24/96 FLAC; David Sylvian, Sleepwalkers, P-Vine Records, PVCP-8790, CD (2011); Dick Hyman, From the Age ofSwing, Reference Recordings, HR-59, HRx (176,4/24), DVD-R (1994/2001)...

...Ellen Sejersted Bødtker, SONaR, 2L, 2L51SABD, Blu-ray + SACD/CD (2008); Frank Sinatra & Count Basie, Might As Well Be Swing, Universal Music Japan, UICY-94601, "Sinatra Society of Japan, No. 17", SHM-CD (1964/2010); Johann Sebastian Bach, Weihnachtsoratorium, Karl-Friedrich Beringer, Winter&Winter, 910 189-2, 2 x CD (1991/2011); Kombi, Nowy rozdział, Polskie Nagrania Muza/Polskie Nagrania, PNCD 985, CD (1993/2005); Lars Danielsson & Leszek Możdżer, Pasodoble, ACT Music, ACT 9458-2, CD; FLAC rip; Metallica, Metallica , Warner Brothers Records, HDTracks, FLAC 24/96; Miles Davis, Tutu, Warner Brothers Records, HDTracks, FLAC 24/96; Portishead. Dummy, Go! Disc Limited/Universal Music [Japan], UICY-20164, SHM-CD (1994/2011); Radiohead, The King Of Limbs, Ticker Tape Ltd, TICK001CDJ, Blu-spec CD; Schubert, Lieder, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Gerald Moore, "Signature Collection", EMI, 55962 2, 4 x SACD/CD; Sonny Rollins, Tenor Madness, HDTracks, WAV 24/96; Sonny Rollins, Way Out Wes, Contemporary Records/JVC, VICJ-60088, XRCD (1957/1997); This Mortal Coil, HD-CD Box SET: It’ll End In Tears, Filigree & Shadow, Blood, Dust & Guitars, 4AD [Japan], TMCBOX1, 4 x HDCD, (2011); TrondheimSolistene, Divertimenti, 2L, 2L50SABD, Blu-ray + SACD/CD (2008); Vangelis, Spiral, RCA/BMG Japan, 176 63561, K2, SHM-CD (1977/2008).

I remember very well our audiophile community's disgust at listening to the first DVD players. Their sound was dynamically and emotionally stale and monochromatically grey of color. There was no true bass or midrange saturation. The treble was metallic and bright - a true nightmare! Although manufacturers tried hard to convince us that we were wrong and that the fantastic new technology had to trump the inherently limited Compact Disc format, one listening session was usually enough to settle the matter.

The situation with high-resolution 24/96 recordings unfortunately was no better. Although the DVD format was focused from the start on video and backed by huge monies that could only be recovered by selling entire film catalogues in the new format, its potential was particularly interesting for audiophiles. The WG-4 forum behind the Digital Versatile Disc format didn’t care much for the audio side of things. There was no money to be made from it or so it seemed. Perhaps by way of reaction, recognizing the beauty of the potential to play high-resolution recordings there emerged an organization called ARA or Acoustic Renaissance for Audio founded by Professor Hirokazu Negishi. His technical committee consisted of Tony Griffiths (technical director of Decca Recording Company, chairman of Technical Subcommittee National Sound Archive, member of IEE, fellow of the Royal Television Society); Professor Malcolm Hawksford (University of Essex, on the boards of the Audio Engineering Society, Institute of Acoustics and board of IEE); David Meares (R&D manager, Audio & Acoustics, BBC Research & Development Department, member of IEE); and Bob Stuart (chairman and CTO of Meridian Audio Ltd., associate member of Essex University, member of the Audio Engineering Society, member of the Acoustical Society of America, head of Acoustic Renaissance for Audio, member of XtraBits, member of the Technical Subcommittee National Sound Archive and member of IEE and IEEE).

The insistence which the new organization focused on using the DVD format for audio delivery was such that WG-4 included in the final format specification the ability to play DVD with two-channel 24/96 audio without need for an external TV screen. The discs operated just like ordinary CDs. Such albums under the name DAD or Digital Audio Disc were issued by Chesky Records. And that’s where the birthing pains began. It quickly became clear that the competition at Sony and Philips wasn't asleep but working on their own hi-rez audio format called SACD. This would be able to store high-density stereo and multi-channel 5.1 on a single disc. With the help of Bob Stuart an amendment to the DVD format was added under the commercial name DVD-Audio. In addition to 24/96 5.1 audio it now could also contain 24/192 stereo sound and video signal.

With the digital revolution in video formats already in full swing by then, existing DVD players were still unable to process DVD-A. And who would replace their new DVD player for an even newer one just to play back a newfangled audio-disc format without a sizeable catalogue or easily availability in retail stores? Moreover to play DVD-A discs meant navigating their menu via TV, a nightmare for audiophiles. The real crux of course was the lack of support from the major recording companies. For all intents and purposes the promising new format was thus stillborn. SACD fared slightly better but after the quiet withdrawal of its creator Sony, only small specialized labels mainly in the classical and Jazz sectors continued to support the medium which didn't change when EMI began to issue SACDs. For a brief moment it seemed as though Blue-ray could be the final audiophile hope for last hi-rez physical carrier. After all this disc format can store 7.1 channels at 24/96 or stereo at 24/192. Bob Stuart was involved once again and his MLP codec already known from DVD-A became an optional part of the new BD specifications.

The growing popularity of music file downloads of course undermined the establishment of a new physical audio carrier. But the Internet isn't the only one to blame. From the very beginning DVD players—and Blu-ray is to a large extent a further development of the DVD—fought an uphill battle. Their drives had always been optimized to read DVDs as had been their clocks. Little care was given to their sound. Dreadful cheap switching power supplies worsened the matter. First reviews of DAD discs and later DVD-A players with 24/192 recordings showed that the data-dense format did have advantages yet comparisons with even affordable well-engineered CD players still put those new machines into their place no matter whether they played back 24/96 or 24/192 material. Their true place was beneath the television.