In one corner is the HFPAG (High Fidelity Pure Audio Group), the people behind the “new format” Blu-rays that don’t have video but instead rave about the great quality of their audio. And in the other corner, the folks behind the Pure Audio Blu-ray disc format (which is not really a format at all…just a clever way of using the built-in capabilities of the regular Blu-ray format) as developed by MSM Studios in Germany and support by 2L, Gimell Records and Sono Luminus. Apparently, there’s even a third corner in the battle populated by NAXOS, one of the largest classical music labels and distributors in the world. They have issued a number of basic Blu-ray discs with high-resolution audio. In fact, they are my distributor. They called me a few years ago because AIX Records also produces and releases high-resolution music on Blu-rays (but our have HD-Video).
I’ve written about the new UMG and Dolby High Fidelity Pure Audio Blu-ray discs (Read the article here and find absolutely no compelling reason to spend $30 on old tracks in a shiny new wrapper. The comments on the fidelity that I’ve read are pretty poor. Here’s one from a FB post:
“No source information and no mastering information, it’s clear they’re just using whatever the most recent master they have access to and sonics be damned. The new “Layla” disc is horrendously compressed (dynamic range compression) just like the Nirvana Nevermind was. In fact the new High Fidelity Pure Audio release of “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs” scores worse on the dynamic range meter than any other release of this title.”
Taking an overly compressed master and issuing it on a Blu-ray disc at 192/24-bits is a complete waste of space and effort. Now if there was a surround mix without the heavy mastering, I might be tempted.
The current debate is about two different groups trying to claim the same territory. Who gets to stake their claim on the new Blu-ray format for music only discs? Is it the people in Germany who want to collect a license fee for an “almost” technology, a protocol for using the colored buttons on your Blu-ray player and a bunch of logos? Or perhaps you’re leaning to the new kid on the block, the UMG people and their High Fidelity Pure Audio releases?
The German Pure Audio Group just sent me their specifications and packaging requirements. Their protocol features “screenless navigation” creating a CD-like user experience. The discs will automatically begin to play when put into a player, you can select individual tracks by pressing the number keys on the remote control and you can switch between the audio presentations using the colored buttons. The RED button plays the 5.1 or 5.0 mix and the YELLOW button reverts to stereo.
All of that is pretty cool, right? But I can do the same things using the standard Blu-ray authoring tools that movie BD producers use. I’ve done it. Several of my Blu-ray releases use the colored buttons. In fact, I had to use ALL four of the buttons because I put multiple 5.1 mixes on our releases.
The UMG and Naxos titles do require a video monitor in order to navigate through the tracks and to the alternative mixes. And I highly recommend using a video display with my Blu-ray disc…especially since they include HD-Video of the music making. I personally see no issue with having a monitor hooked up to your Blu-ray player…it is after all a movie format.
It’s unfortunate that UMG decided to appropriate the Pure Audio Blu-ray name. But I think both initiatives are misguided. Why would anyone be interested in using a disc to access high-resolution music when you can simply download the tracks from sites like iTrax.com (I make available all of the 2L catalog in stereo and surround!) and others.
When another writer laments the fact that UMG and Naxos aren’t using the Blu-ray format to its full potential, I have to laugh. As the producer of almost 30 Blu-ray titles that have HD-Video and lots of bonus features on them, I have to ask who’s not using the full potential of the format?