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Manufacturers Cite DualDisc Playback Problems

15 Nov, 2004 By: Jessica Wolf

Could DualDisc be headed for trouble?

Two manufacturers, Sony Corp. and Pioneer Corp., last week posted consumer alerts regarding the CD/DVD hybrid on their respective Web sites.

Sony's Playstation.com Web site last week posted an outline of the DualDisc and its potential problems playing back on the game platform.

“The audio side of a DualDisc may not play on this product because these discs do not conform to the specifications required for an Audio Compact Disc,” the site's DualDisc FAQ section reads. “PlayStation, PS One and PlayStation 2 consoles were designed to meet the Audio Compact Disc and DVD Forum specifications. Since the audio side of the DualDisc does not meet the Audio Compact Disc specifications, [Sony] is not in a position to modify its consoles to allow them to play back this new disc.”

The site also suggested that while there should be no DVD playback issues for DualDisc on the PlayStation 2, users should keep the console in a horizontal position while playing DualDisc DVDs to avoid getting scratches on the disc.

A letter to consumers in the “service and support” area of Pioneer Electronics' Web site cited the fact that the CD side of the DualDisc is not up to audio industry specs and went a step further: “Pioneer recommends that consumers not use DualDisc products with any Pioneer products, including CD players, DVD players and recorders, and computer drives until Pioneer has an opportunity to test them. At this point in time, Pioneer does not know whether Pioneer products can safely handle these new hybrid discs, or whether these discs may damage your Pioneer products.”

From the beginning, DualDisc supporters, which include BMG, EMI, Sony Music, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group and 5.1 Entertainment Group have admitted that the DualDisc's CD side does not meet the “Redbook” standard for CD audio specifications.

The hybrid went through extensive testing on a general format basis and via each label's own testing, said John Trickett, chairman and CEO for 5.1 Entertainment.

“The last thing you want to do is have playability issues,” he said.

An outside company tested 370 devices across all types of players, he said. “We found less than 5 percent of devices have a problem playing the CD side and none on the DVD side,” he said.

The Sony and Pioneer statements should not slow down the coming release slate of product and will certainly not change 5.1's plans to release 25 titles this week, Trickett said. These follow the supplier's Nov. 2 release of another 25 DualDiscs. So far, there have been very few reports of problems with the discs comparative to the amount of releases, Trickett said.

There was, however, a snag with Warner Music Group's (WMG) Oct. 26 release of The Donnas' Gold Medal, a replication problem that had nothing to do with the DualDisc format, just a bad run of the entire CD stock of the title that cut off playback during the album's final song, according to WMG. That DualDisc release was recalled Oct. 28 from retailers.

However, a music industry source familiar with the format questioned why The Donnas' DualDisc release wasn't reissued if the problem originated with the master recording — not technology. “If the problem was with the mastering, why didn't it [also] translate to the CD?” said the source.

On The Donnas' Atlantic Records Web site, DualDisc buyers were offered the option to return the hybrid for a regular CD of the album. “The mistake occurred at Atlantic's production plant, and we're sorry to report that the error is present on the entire run,” a site posting read.

It's likely, some sources said, that Sony and Pioneer's consumer advisories were a preemptive tactic in case there are problems with the CD side of any discs released.

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