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back to article Sony pitches blue-laser Compact Disc revival

Sony failed to tune the masses into its better-than-Compact-Disc format, Super Audio CD, so it's having another go, this time with technology derived from Blu-ray Disc. Dubbed Blu-spec CD, the system uses a blue laser to write the audio data rather than a red laser. And... er... that's it. The format delivers exactly the same …

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Oh dear

Crazy Sony. Doomed to failure.

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Coat

Er, what is the point?

I may have missed something important here, but if the data is just the same as normal CD then any competent system will produce the same sound.

The RS error correction produces the *same* data out for any number of errors up to its correcting limit.

Agreed that normal CD can go beyond 'error correction' in to an fudge mode to fill in the corrupted stuff, but a clean CD and decent player (which I assume any audio lover would have) should not suffer from that.

Far more to be gained by stable clocking of the D/A and good grounding in my view.

Damn, forgot the higher profit margins!

Thanks, its the one with the golden headphones...

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"better sounding music"?

That's a load of crap, up there with CD demagnetizers and magic marker 'sound improvers'. The bits are digital and are read correctly or not.

This disk format *may* be more resilient to bitrot than the normal CD format, but I doubt it considering how long we've been making the latter. As there is no difference from a customer POV, this format will die a quick death.

If there was a hybrid format, with both blu-ray and redbook audio, they might have stood a chance charging a premium.

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Pirate

So, let me get this straight...

For an indefinable increase in quality, which most of us sods will probably never hear, and the convenience of a propietary, closed, CRAP video format, the price of high street music CD's gets to rise even higher ?

What a wonderful development for the already besieged, crumbling and buckling music industry!!!

Pirate logo, since that's likely to become the primary source of music in the forseeable future ...

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Anonymous Coward

They should sell this via Denon

Red Book specifies ECC on all data. So unless you have had your CD bastardised through Macrovision the reader should happily read it even if there are "badly defined pits". However, this can happily join the ranks of 2000$ cables and other items in the Denon "Audiophile" catalogue. It is just about as useful.

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Paris Hilton

"look at those shapely pits!"

New and Improved, yummm... err... what? What is this suppose to be? Unless your pits are beyond recognition, error correction will handle them just fine. 98% (at least) percent of sound-quality comes from the recording and mastering quality anyway.

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Interesting

Sounds like this may help to reduce the jitter to which all CD players are succeptible to one degree or another. It will be interesting to try these CDs to see/hear if the effect will be noticeable. If it works - this will be the first useful application of the blue laser to date.

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SACD

it will have worse uptake than SACD, which at least is used for classical recordings.

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Paris Hilton

Umm, why more?

Sure, burning them with blue lasers costs more. But the return on that is at the manufacturing level - being able to use the same pressing hardware for both CD and Blu-ray.

A CD player doesn't care how beautiful the pits are if it can still read the same 1s and 0s as ever, so these are musically identical to their regular friends. So why pay more for them?

Paris, because my brain hurts.

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Quality

I love the way that (other articles) have talked about how this 'improves the quality of the music' on these CD's, which it clearly doesn't. It may reduce the number of read errors, but that's it.

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Seems an improvement, but what was the problem again?

I don't think I've suffered "jitter" on any CD that I'm aware of. I've certainly had skipping but that's due to scratches. I seriously doubt anyone except the most deluded audiophile could discern a difference between formats. I'm not against the concept in principal of better quality disks but I think The Reg's other explanation is more plausible - that moving to blue laser somehow aligns the tech better with Blu-Ray. If a few audiophiles with to pay out $$$ for the exact same disk that's their business.

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DVD-Audio

I am sure this will be a big hit along side those DVD-Audio disks...... that no one uses either!?

I bet the supposedly high quality audio released on the blu_CD will be a load of AOR and J-pop?

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Re: Umm, why more?

"A CD player doesn't care how beautiful the pits are if it can still read the same 1s and 0s as ever, so these are musically identical to their regular friends."

The fact is that the CD player care very much how beautifuls the pits and lands are. The error correction for CD-DA is much much weaker than for CD-ROMs and errors do occur. Moreover, beside the obvious errors such as cause by scratches etc there are much more subtle errors, which won't be heard on a ghetto-blaster but will affect the sound when listened on a good equipment. Some of these are caused by the clock instabilities, some by drive speed wow and flutter and some by the quality of pits and lands.

The "ipod generation" may not care about jitter as they already have their hearing atrophied and brains scrambled - how else they could call ipods and ipod docks "hifi"? But for people who are still able to listen to music this makes a lot of difference.

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Paris Hilton

Re: Quality.

I like the idea of 'improving the quality of the music'. Presumably then, the blu-CD version of the Best of Abba is actually Elgar's Enigma Variations and if you splash out on the blu version of the latest Dizzee Rascal ouvre it sounds suspiciously like Led Zeppelin IV.

I'll go with the Sony Maria Callas icon here.

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Useless..

SACD, on the other hand, actually works provided you're mostly looking for classical recordings. It might be useful if someone could promote that, especially as there are cheap players available..

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Alien

bring back MD

They have repeatedly dropped the ball when it comes to new media types. MiniDisc was a great idea. A CD which due to the floppy disc style case, can be thrown around the room, and go for years outside of its case with out getting damaged. For a person like me whose computer has columns of CD's/DVD's not in their cases surrounding his computer, MiniDiscs were a boone. My father loved them for the car, because you take it out of the player, fling it whereever you want, with out worrying about damaging it, and slip another one in. Unfortunately, Sony did not release the specs to enough manufacturers, hardware and discs remained expensive to buy, and due to a couple of stupid design flaws they failed. One of these being that their were different formats for audio and data.

Sony revamped the MD, and brought out the UMD. Universal MiniDisc. Sounded good, they even released Movies on the format. But the only player was the PSP. A PSP to TV player was only recently released, and they didn't open the format to anyone so it is safe to say that it has died a death aswell.

I am refusing to buy blu-ray discs, as I have spent the last few years collecting quite a large DVD collection and I am not going to replace it with Blu Ray discs. If I were to do that, then it would be the 4th copy of the Matrix I will have bought(VHS, DVD, UMD, Blu-Ray). In the meantime I am waiting for VOD, and internet TV to mature to the point that I won't need to store anything on Disc.

As for this blue laser CD? Pull the other one.

ET, because when we make contact, undoutedly they will be using a different format of media to us, and Sony will be pushing an Extra Terrestrial-compliant disc on us.

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Coat

Clearly idiots here...

If you read the source article, this disk means that it's possible to manufacture an disc that plays as a audioCD in existing players, but had Hi-Def, Multi channel data that can be read in future players (and by the sound of it, Blu-ray players) too.

In short, nobody loses anything, Blu-ray owners have a option to get better sound quality. Win/Win...

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Paris Hilton

Digital data is yes or no

Better pits?

It's like people selling high-quality HDMI cables. Whilst analogue cables *may* benefit the transmission of signals, and better definition and materials may have benefited sound reproduction in the era of Vinyl and cassette, in the digital world it's snake oil.

Unless there is hidden data that a Blu-disc player can read to retrieve higher resolution sound or more channels, whilst maintaining playability in a standard CD player, this is worthless.

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Joke

Fantastic news! Finally!

So Sony, who have a significant interest in protecting it's piece of the increasingly volatile music industry pie, has been investing £XXXm developing a CD pressing technique that will reduce CD-read-errors-during-playback.

If there's one thing thats been bugging the music-buying public ever since their introduction in the early 80s through to the emergence of widespread MP3 use in the 00s it's CD-read-errors-during-playback.

CD-read-errors-during-playback this. CD-read-errors-during-playback that. CD-read-errors-during-playback the other. Over and over. It's all you ever heard about over the past 25 years.

Congrats to Sony on finally solving the one major issue facing the music industry these days.

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Future?

The problem with CD audio is that the content is crippled by the mastering loudness war before it even gets near the disk.

SACD could have solved this if it wasn't so horribly DRM riddled and proprietary.

My vote for a suitable future would be compressed Floating Point PCM audio. This could use the same media as today and would cast the loudness war adrift in the normalisation of 32 bit Float -> integer DACs.

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Unhappy

@Vladimir Plouzhnikov

"beside the obvious errors such as cause by scratches etc there are much more subtle errors, which won't be heard on a ghetto-blaster but will affect the sound when listened on a good equipment."

Wrong.

Sorry, but that's utter nonsense. Pit definition needs to be good enough to get a one or a zero out. Nothing else.

There's no such thing as a more rounded zero or a sharper one. Pit quality has no effect, no effect AT ALL.

Sorry for raising my voice at the end there, but you audiophiles angry up my blood something chronic. Read the science, understand the encoding mechanisms, learn what does and doesn't actually affect the waveform reproduction by a digital player.

Yes - there are better and worse speakers, DACs, interpolation techniques, clocks stabilities etc. But pits are either adequate or not.

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Heart

Cleans dirty bits

The blue laser is blue for the same reason toilet cleaners are blue - to clean. Nothing's as clean as something that's been cleaned with blue. So, by using a blue laser they get rid of the dirty bits that the red laser would miss, leaving only clean bits and making it all sound better. Isn't it obvious? Dirty bits create dirty bytes that get thrown out by the centrifugal action of the CD spinning - open up the case on any CD player and you'll find a mark left around the inside from the dirty bytes getting flung out, and these marks steal frequencies.

Seriously, you match up a blue CD player with nitrogen-enhanced interconnects and quantum volume controls and you'll find it hard to believe how poor everything else sounds.

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Boffin

"50:50" is apparently not enough of a title for El Reg

@ all the "it's binary / digital / either yes or no" folk: If it's 50:50 then there's room for error, non? And if there's room for error, there's room for improvement.

But read errors on commercial Red Book music CDs is hardly the burning issue facing the music industry these days, is it?

Cost savings through the use of blue-laser-only pressing plants would seem to be the behind-the-scenes benefit here. D'ya think that Blu-ray discs or CDs will drop in price as a consequence? Me neither.

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Stop

Please RTFA.

This isn't a new format at all. It's just using a blue laser to make a cleaner burn on the discs while adhering to the traditional CD format, and thus all the new discs will play in existing equipment without modification.

While this technology might also help make hybrid format discs with higher definition sound and/or multichannel, SA-CD already includes this in its standard. Using a semi-transparent layer which will be recognised by a SA-CD player, while maintaining a standard CD-DA layer which will be the only layer recognised (and seen) by your bog-standard CD player so while the sound might not be as good as from the SA-CD layer it's still the same CD-DA sound quality you're used to from your existing CD player.

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Alert

No sony!

just no! enough already just pack it in!

/goes back to listening to MD player

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Happy

@ Vladimir Plouzhnikov

Thanks Vlad for explaining real high fidelity to the plebs :-)

If reading a CD was so simple why ARE there so many expensive players, using all sorts of esoteric means of improving the audio signal retrieved from the same disc you can put into a £20 ghetto blaster? Try listening to a seriously good hifi system sometime, and you WILL hear the difference.

And yes there probably is also an economic benefit here, but if it means CD manufacturing plants can turn over to Blu Ray production on the same lines, then there may also be a win in bringing down the costs for everyone. Of course pricing of the content has never really been based on the cost to produce the media, so that's all down to us, the buying public, voting with our wallets!

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Joe

@ Mark, Re: Clearly idiots here...

Are you sure you don't want to read the article again?

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Hold on a moment

When they launched CD Sony promised 'Perfect Sound - Forever.'

Have I been lied to by an advertiser? I'm shocked! Shocked I tell you!

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win-win

This is win-win. This is meant to decrease error correction in CDs, thus improving listener's experience, nothing more nothing less. CDs may be digital, but errors can still exist.

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Missing the point (I hope)

Given that commercial CDs are PRESSED and never go near a laser until they're first read, this won't actually impact "normal" CDs.

However (and I assume this is where they're aiming), CD writers could potentially have this blue-laser technology built into it to create more resilient discs - we've all had CD-Rs that deteriorate over time, presumably these would last a bit longer.

Sort of a middle ground between cheap/nasty CD burners and full blown pressing facilities (hence the reference to SMEs in the article)

A tentative thumbs up

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What's a CD?

Seriously, does anyone actually buy CDs anymore? Who cares what lasers they use, it's not going fit into the USB socket on my mp3 player any better.

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Boffin

@AC (Missing the point (I hope))

While commercial discs are pressed, surely the master disc the press is made from has to be burnt somehow. It could be this stage of the process that is getting this new laser treatment.

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Jitter (and reading bugs...)

Heaven help us - firstly the old on on timing and jitter - yes it did have an affect, but that was at the sampling stage. The designers of the original A/D systems hadn't actually appreciated just how accurate the timing had to be. But that was long ago, and modern over-sampled digital recording systems in studios don't exhibit this. The timing signal is effectively defined by the way the music is encoded digitally - sampling rates are fixed and it's a matter of how evenly they are fed into the D/A conversion stages. The music timing is not about where the pits are located - the position of the pits effectively dictates whether the disk can be read at all. You can either read the damn things, or you can't (after error correction). Get some uncorrected bit errors in your digital data stream and it isn't going to be a subtle failure; it will sound obvious. More like the way a digital video image breaks up.

In any case, as far as timing on replay is concerned, well the days when (most) players used variable angular velocity techniques and played the music synchronously with disk rotation are long gone. Generally speaking, most CD players buffer the tracks into memory - that's how all those anti-skip buffers in portable disk players worked. The analogue reconstruction of the signal effectively just feeds the appropriate bit patterns into the D/A circuitry at a speed governed by the electronics in the player.

As for blue lasers burning disks more precisely - for heaven sake, pre-recorded disks are pressed. They are not "burnt" and you can guarantee that the master press isn't generated in some form of modified CD burner.

As usual with the world of audiophilia there are people who will grasp at straws and claim they can hear the impossible. And they are right - it's the often the voices in their heads. Concentrate on where the differences really area - blue laser burnt CDs aren't one of them, although they might make the disks more reliable.

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Boffin

@Missing the point

If memory serves me right the master disk from which the cds are pressed is a laser etched bit of metal.

CD-R deteriorate over time because the dyes become chemically unstable with age and break down, I don't think a blue-laser written CD-R is going to fair any better (although it might bring down the cost of writers if you only need top provide one laser in your drive unit).

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@David Hicks

"There's no such thing as a more rounded zero or a sharper one. Pit quality has no effect, no effect AT ALL."

Oh, c'mon. You're really don't think your pits and lands are the individual ones and zeros, neatly arranged, do you?

Take a look at that pic from the wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Compact_disk_data_layer_2d_3d.PNG

Now, whether it's 1 or 0 depends on whether the track changes from pit to land (or vice versa) or stays in the same state within a measured period of time. A slight wobble in the disc or a poorly defined pit will cause an error. Most errors may be caught with the ECC algorithms but many won't. Your CD player will not stop at each error, telling you about CRC failure, it will continue to play, error or no error. For large scratches you will hear the disc clicking, skipping etc but for these small occasional errors you may not hear anything obvious but it will affect transients, higher frequency tones and the better your back-end equipment the more noticeable the effect will be.

You should really try to play a CD or two on a good separates system and not on a PC with a "surround" soundcard and some cup-sized "high-technology" speakers.

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Whats an MP3?

"Seriously, does anyone actually buy CDs anymore? "

Does anyone seriously buy rubbish quality mp3's off the net when you can get a hard copy of the same album for more or less the same money with far far better quality?

IMO you iTunes types are the suckers.

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Boffin

@ David Cornes

High-End CDPs exist because people pay for them and it looks pathetic if your €20000 amp/speaker setup employs a €20 CDP as a source. Now of course High-End CDPs sound much better than €20 ones which is due to lots of budget for a vastly superior DAC and a killer analog-stage behind it, all driven by a decent power-supply. Plus they might spend extra on a drive that is not all plastic and doesn't mechanically sound like the whirring cheap crap in the €20 unit (unless you buy Denon, they just don't give a rat's ass in that regard, even in the 4-digits). It all means nothing for the data-readout and its handover to the DAC though, as that is simply going to happen according to the Red Book standard and basically relies on a proper feed of 1s and 0s. Which is working fine since 79. You can easily verify this by replacing your High-End CDP with a DAC of the same ballpark and feed that with the digital signal from a rotten cheap source as say a Playstation2 or Apple Airport Express. Will sound just as good if not better.

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Eh ?

320 mp3 is good enough thanks content Mafia sony

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Coat

Marketing strikes again.

Plain to me why Sony are doing this.

They can use one plant instead of two, so they cut costs significantly.

They made the mistake in mentioning it to their Marketing dept. and this breed of subhuman has seen a path to making an extra Yen off Audio nuts who buy CD pens.

You can't blame them for milking these innocent naive idiots can you?

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Paris Hilton

@Steve Anderson

A ha ha ha ha ha...will that cleaning up the 'dirty bits' work for Paris?

Seriously, if the music CDs are burned on blupay discs...aren't those coated with something to make them more resistant to scratches and damage? I would welcome that for the music discs that the local library lends out to idiots who use them as frisbees.

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Paris Hilton

@Vladimir

"You should really try to play a CD or two on a good separates system and not on a PC with a "surround" soundcard and some cup-sized "high-technology" speakers."

You just proved my point mate - the same CD will sound a million times better on a system with a decent DAC, amplifier, speaker set etc.

You don't magically fix the pits by putting something into a higher end system.

Paris, because your reasoning is, well...

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Background Reading

Well for those that want to know about these things. a useful article from somebody who knows what they are tallking about :-

http://www.optical-disc.com/techpapers/Jitterwhatitisandhowtomeasureit.pdf

A useful quote :-

"So let us consider what matters when we play a CD. Ultimately, the only thing that matters is that there should be no uncorrectable errors. But how do we make sure of this in production? We use a measurement called the block error rate (BLER), which counts erroneous data blocks and is an indication of the general quality of the disc. If the BLER is high enough, then there are likely to be uncorrectable errors."

So the only thing you will hear out a decent CD player is uncorrected errors (and they will not tend to be subtle ones). The "jitter" referred to in this article is all about that in the CD disk reading process itself - you simply won't hear that unless it is so bad it leads such high block error rates (BERS) that they can't be corrected. The Sony technology should allow for more accurate pits to be burnt making the BLER lower, but as long as it is below the correctable rates then it will be inaudible whatever the system.

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Anonymous Coward

Four Words...

Who gives a shit?

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@Vladimir

"You don't magically fix the pits by putting something into a higher end system."

No, you don't - I agree with you. You just hear the things which on a bad system were masked by even bigger defects of the cheap analogue stage and the limitations of the speakers.

It's like watching a VCD on 20'' TV - looks nice and clean - and then watching the same VCD projected to a 90'' wall screen - all these macroblocks and colour banding come out with the vengeance.

The point is simple - CD-DA (by specifications) does not recover from 100% of errors, better manufactured CDs produce fewer unrecoverable errors, fewer unrecoverable errors means better analogue sound.

If everything were so simple with CD-DA there wouldn't have been a need for the Yellow Book CD-ROM standards with extra layers of error protection, would it?

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@Vladimir Plouzhnikov

Rip a CD, scratches and all, using a perfect copy ripper (e.g. EAC on a Windows PC), and you do away with all these playback errors.

Result is a perfect rip, which you can store in lossless formats like Flac. Will be totally identical to what Sony are offering with their Blue funk, but infinitely cheaper because no one has to pay a whopping big licence fee to Sony to manufacture their discs just to boost Sony's flagging profits and make up for the vast costs incurred during the development of Blu-Ray and the PS3 (which neither Blu-Ray or PS3 sales have recovered).

Then take your Flacs and store on a big media server for you Hi-Fi, or convert to lossy formats for MP3 players like iPods (or play as lossless Flac on decent, non-Apple, portable players ;)).

Anyway, even if there's a benefit for audiophiles who continue to insist on using £1000 CD players to convince themselves it sounds better (especially with those £100 digital coax/optical cables), those people would be far better off with SACD/DVD-A or better still HD audio from an HD format.

So, the "point" to this appears simply to be to get manufacturer's tied to Sony. That is all. No benefit to the consumer. Zip. Zero. Nothing.

Worse is it will just push the consumer more towards inferior low quality lossy DRM'd downloads which become cheaper (but still far too expensive) than Sony's new CD.

Consign to the same bin as...

Betamax

SACD

Memory Sticks

UMD

and in 5 years time, Blu-Ray.

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Flame

@Vladimir

"The point is simple - CD-DA (by specifications) does not recover from 100% of errors, better manufactured CDs produce fewer unrecoverable errors, fewer unrecoverable errors means better analogue sound."

No. It means less skips and glitches, which you shouldn't have on a CD anyway. If you have a CD that has unrecoverable errors on it when you buy it then you take it back.

You said "which won't be heard on a ghetto-blaster but will affect the sound when listened on a good equipment."

Which is nonsense, because unrecoverable errors will occur on every piece of equipment, given that they're unrecoverable. This tech MAY ensure longer life for your disc.

Better defined pits won't make a scrap of difference to this compared to scratch resistant coatings. They certainly will not subtly increase your listening pleasure unless you're the kind of delusional idiot that spends hundreds of quid on two feet of triple-insulated oxygen-free copper cable...

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Ash
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In a word...

No.

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Smells fishy

Sony wants replication plants to move to Blue ray discs, most are not that excited with Blue Ray and assume punters are still happy with DVDs for the next 10 years. Why invest in new machinery, so that would be an extra incentive. But it wont stop there, I am sure Sony would find a way to add DRM on a BR-CD and other convenients compromises.

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