In 2012 I wrote a blog post for Residential Systems calling Blu-ray “The Holy Grail of High Fidelity” because this new format has enough storage space (50 gigabytes) for a one-to-one copy, bit-for-bit identical to the original master recording for the first time in audio history. It was the #1 ranked blog story of the year in 2012 in the industry’s leading trade journal for dealers and installers of high end custom audio video systems.
Adoption of the Blu-ray standard by audiophiles has been slow. There was a messy format war at the beginning and the evolving standard of the encrypted digital connection interface called HDMI kept a lot of people on the side-lines. In the meantime, over 1000 live concerts by the world’s greatest artists have been released on Blu-ray, delivering uncompressed 1080p HD video and the highest resolution in audio history into our homes. These are the best sensory experiences I’ve ever had, bringing me closer to the artists than ever before possible.
There are no words I can use to convey the importance of these live shows, in some cases “one night only”. Led Zeppelin fans for example can experience the band’s one-off 2007 O2 Arena show in glorious HD, with uncompressed video and audio together. Nothing has ever looked or sounded this good at home and the artists use the format to bring the viewer on stage with them, creating an intimacy that not even the live shows can match.
High Fidelity Pure Audio uses Blu-ray technology to deliver uncompressed music. Three different sound formats are available, these are PCM, Dolby True HD, and DTS-HD Master Audio, with minimum 24-bit/96kHz audio.
The first batch of “High Fidelity Pure Audio” Blu-ray discs – and prices – have been confirmed, with the likes of Amy Winehouse, Nirvana and the Rolling Stones on the release schedule. At launch there will be 27 titles to choose from, with releases from artists such as Bob Marley, Queen and Marvin Gaye also on the schedule. Classical music is also included as well as jazz standards like Ella Fitzgerald and Stan Getz.
Olivier Robert-Murphy, Global Head of New Business at Universal Music Group, said: “We are very excited about the potential for High Fidelity Pure Audio, allowing music lovers to experience the work of artists in a way that has never before been possible. Once you hear High Fidelity Pure Audio you can hear the full dynamic range of the actual studio recording or live concert for the first time”.
But can a new physical audio format really survive and thrive with the increasing prevalence of downloads and streaming systems?
And does Universal have a wide enough range of music in the pipeline to appeal to a wider demographic? Let me know what you think in the comments.
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