Blue-ray and High-Resolution Audio

Like it or not, the near future of high resolution audio discs is probably now in Blu-ray discs since they are the lone surviving mainstream high definition video and audio format. Blu-ray basically does all the same audio things as SACD, DVD-Audio and defunct HD-DVD, supporting essentially the same high-resolution audio PCM and MLP (Meridian Lossless Packing) formats from Dolby and DTS. Unfortunately the latter are optional in the Blu-ray specification, so equipment compatibility may be uncertain for these presumptively technically superior formats. Linear PCM is of course excellent sonically, but at about double the storage requirements or half the recording capacity as the lossless compression formats, it's not as practical or flexible.

Needless to say Blu-ray also supports the usual highly-compressed lossy Dolby and DTS audio formats which are unfortunately standard for most video recordings, but they are essentially irrelevant for high-resolution audio due to their low data rates and lossy nature. Audio information is deliberately thrown away in these lossy, compressed formats which completely opposes the principle of high-fidelity sound. HiFi is about accurately preserving and presenting as much audio information as possible, not deliberately discarding it.

SACD, DVD-Audio and HD-DVD are all essentially dead formats. DVD-Audio stalled not long after it was launched, and new SACD releases have slowed. Toshiba pulled the plug on HD-DVD. Blu-ray has won, for better or worse. But Blu-ray does have plenty of capacity for excellent audio (as did HD-DVD, DVD-Audio and SACD). It's up to consumers to demand high-quality, lossless audio from the producers of Blu-ray discs, and for content producers to take advantage of the high-quality audio capabilities of Blu-ray in order to offer excellent recordings that exploit them fully.

Oppo has come out with the BDP-83, a universal Blu-ray, DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, SACD, CD player that is getting good reviews as of July 2009. It's probably worth checking out. Turns out Oppo is in Mountain View, California.