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May 2011 editorial

New classical K2HD albums from JVC Music

Author: Lucio Cadeddu - TNT Italy

[JVC K2HD new CDs]
24 bit/100 kHz on a CD? Really?

Well, almost two years ago we published an article announcing Linn decision to stop CD players production. The old (not so good?) CD format seemed and still seems to be doomed to an end. Actually, CD prices are going down quickly and it is not hard to find 3-4 years old CDs for less than 10 € each (sometimes even below 5 €!).
Perhaps they were overpriced at 25-30 €, perhaps people are starting to buy less CDs, as the official RIAA sales figures seem to prove, certainly it seems there's no room for expensive CDs. Or maybe not? Read on.
Despite of this sad scenario, JVC Music/Victor Entertainment have decided to boost their K2HD CD production, announcing that 10 new classical titles will be released by July, 10. But...what's K2HD after all? Just another high-resolution format?

Well, forget JVC XRCD, this is a different story, though K2HD-based XRCD's were made.
Introduced in 2008, K2HD process consists mainly in a more accurate mastering technique: master .wav files are encoded in 24 bit - 100 kHz digital format, then they are converted into 16 bit - 44 kHz resolution so to be recorded onto any Red Book standard compact disk. But there's more: JVC's new K2HD discs will be manufactured using an exclusive Memory Tech HQCD technology, a high-precision, low-tolerance manufacturing process. HQCD makes use of a high-quality polycarbonate disc substrate material, the same used in LCD panels, plus a reflective film with excellent heat resistance and durability, if compared to the conventional aluminum alloy used in normal Audio CDs. Yes, even CD coating has been improved: generally CDs use ordinary aluminium alloy, while HQCDs use silver alloy, which has several times higher than normal CDs reflectivity.

[JVC K2HD new CDs]
JVC K2HD technology

This should give us more durable CDs and fairly accurate master files. Unfortunately the 24 bit/100 kHz resolution will be reduced to 16bit/44 kHz so the benefits of high resolution will get lost. It is like taking a shot with a high resolution digital camera, exporting it as a raw file and then compressing it into a .jpg.
We hope that the more sophisticated CD production and pressing techniques will give us CDs which are easier to read and, hence, that should sound better than conventional CDs.

Honestly, though JVC Music/Victor Entertainment are to be highly praised for their attempt to pump new, fresh blood into the CD format old veins, we don't believe this will save this digital format from its near end.
We, as customers, should be warned about attractive logos and exciting, new technology claims. K2HD CDs are just Red Book CDs you can play on standard CD players. Because of the accurate mastering and pressing process prices of these new K2HD classical titles are expected to range from 2800 and 3500 Japanese Yen, that is to say between 24.50 and 31 €.

The main question hence becomes: do we really need standard Red Book CDs to be so damn expensive? With standard production CDs prices going down rapidly we believe these K2HD titles are aimed at a niche of a niche...of a niche! We don't believe there's still room for this kind of commercial operations. In case we're wrong, why limit new releases to classical Music only? Why not...rock (me babe)? :-)

In case video embedding doesn't work, search for B.B King's "Rock me babe" on YouTube (link points drectly to the video above).

© Copyright 2011 Lucio Cadeddu - direttore@tnt-audio.com - www.tnt-audio.com

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