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High End Society

High End Society Frankfurt 2000 Audiophile Show




Ferrari F355


  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!


HIGH END SOCIETY Press Conference

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).


Marantz SA-1

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 July 2000.


Pioneer DV-828

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.

DVR-1000 DVD / CD-R / CD-RW Recorder



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.


Screen Shot


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.


Pioneer DV-AX10

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 happen?

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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