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Weekly AUDIO NEWS for May 7, 2003

Cracks in Certain SACDs Found Cosmetic Only - Some of the Internet audio forums were crackling with concerned discussions last week about small cracks that appeared in some of the SACD pressings of Dark Side of the Moon, Star Trek Nemesis soundtrack, three SACDs from DMP and two from GrooveNote. The cracks appeared around the center hole, but didn’t affect playback, at least not yet. It was found that all the affected SACDs came from the same pressing plant - the brand new Crest National plant in LA, which only recently went on line to solve the backup at other SACD plants. The new plant also makes it possible for majors such as Sony and Universal to issue hybrid and not SACD-only discs as Sony did until now.

Crest National obtained and tested some of the affected SACDs, and even carried out accelerated deterioration/aging tests on them. They found that only the printed label layer suffered from the cracks when they do occur and that they do not affect playback in any way. They also testified to changes they have already made in the production line at the plant to eliminate the problem on future pressings. If purchasers from the online outlets find they have received cracked SACDs and wish to return or exchange them anyway, Music Direct, Acoustic Sounds and Elusive Disc all said they would be happy to offer refunds or exchange.

This whole incident reminds us of the “bronzing CDs” of a couple years ago, which also originated from a single pressing plant - this one in the UK. Unfortunately those affected hundreds of releases from labels such as ASV and Hyperion and they did eventually destroy playback as the “bronzing” effect (though quite lovely to look at) spread out gradually, causing clouding of the playing surface. And before that there was “laser rot,” which affected only certain laserdiscs.

Apple Purchase of Vivendi Unlikely - Apple Computers is said to have offered $5 Billion for Vivendi, parent firm of Universal Music, but the offer is considered far too low for serious consideration. But there are others interested, including MicroSoft, GE, Viacom and Marvin Davis, who has offered $13 Billion for 65% of Universal’s assets. One approach a new computer/Internet-oriented corporation might consider is to bundle an entire huge music catalog with a new PC just as MicroSoft has bundled their software for years now. But such a possibility of entirely new distribution channels brings up serious considerations about how the songwriters and performers will then be paid - so far unanswered.

More SACD Bits - Sony has announced that six of the 15 Bob Dylan hybrid Stereo SACDs originally scheduled for release this month and next have been remixed for multichannel SACD; and the release date has been moved up to “mid-summer.” Chesky Records also announced that their new Rebecca Pidgeon retrospective SACD will be the first to be pressed only in hybrid SACD form, with no simultaneous CD-only release; this was also done with the 22 Rolling Stones SACDs on Abco.

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