Technical & Editorial

TVs? We Don't Need no Stinking TVs - Third-Generation Multi-channel Audio - Part 3

ARTICLE INDEX

Introduction

It is useful to have the Blu-ray player read downloaded MP3, FLAC, and WAV files off a memory stick. If the player is well designed, the MP3 files should display information on the work and the performer on the TV screen. FLAC files encoded at sampling rates of 96kHz, or a sampling rate or 192kHz, should be bit-accurate at the both the S/PDIF or HDMI outputs. Be careful; many Blu-ray players do not support FLAC data files.

Most Blu-ray players USB ports will also work with Hard Drives. Another option on many Blu-ray players is to find music across a computer network if you establish an Ethernet connection for the Blu-ray player to your computer router. Special software must be resident on the computers. How to do this is way out of the scope of this article.

It is most important that your Blu-ray player should read MP3, FLAC or WAV files that are burned to DVD on a computer. I like this feature because I can purchase high-resolution downloadable files, but store and use them like any disc media. I put them in a blank jewel box along with the music and performance notes that are available with some of the downloaded files. I then put the jewel boxes in the appropriate place next to my standard CDs, SACDs, DVD-As and Blu-ray music discs. How you do the sorting is beyond the scope of this article. I go alphabetical by composer. For multiple composers, I place the CD at one composer and place little cards at the other composers section of the collection as a guide to the CDs location.

Turning your high resolution downloadable media into DVD-Rs eliminates the need for a very large hard drive on your computer. Consider if Wagner's Ring Cycle was available in FLAC. The size would by 30 Gigabytes with a sampling rate of 192kHz and a 24bit depth. With the Oppo BDP-93, I transferred some FLAC files to the DVD-R using my computer's data copy function for the DVD-R drive. When a Blu-ray player cannot read FLAC off the DVD direct, special disc authoring software is available to convert the data to a format the Universal Blu-ray player can read such as DVD-A. Software to burn a 2 channel Blu-ray Audio disc is not yet available to my knowledge. The BDP 93 and 95 are the only players Oppo has produced that can read FLAC direct. I do not know what other brands can do this.

Multi-channel FLAC 5.1 files are now a reality.

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Like 2 channel FLAC files you can burn these to DVD as a data file. I have tested FLAC 5.1 with the Oppo BDP-93 player both using a memory stick and DVD-R. This could be the future for distributing multichannel sound, especially for music genres not issued on SACD. I do not know if other Blu-ray players will read discs with the FLAC 5.1 files transferred as I did. Again special mastering software on the computer will be required to create a DVD-A with LPCM encoding before some Universal Blu-ray players will make music from a FLAC 5.1 file. You cannot master multichannel to a Blu-ray recordable medium using a DTS or Dolby encoding since this can only be done with professional software licensed from these companies for professional only.

Competition from downloadable FLAC 5.1 files might marginalize the Blu-ray Audio disc. Blu-ray Audio discs are expensive in part because of their larger capacity. But, you may not want all the selections on the disc. Downloads should offer a less expensive alternative allowing you to purchase just the music you want. Unfortunately 2 channel FLAC files are expensive relative to the amount of music these days. 5.1 files are available for only a few titles as I write this.

To determine if a Blu-ray player has the ability to read FLAC files, bring a memory stick and DVD-R with FLAC files to the store and check if the player reads them.

Some might advise storing the whole collection on a hard disc and using software to locate tracks. I have my reservations about this, among which are the inability to rip SACD or Blu-ray, and the criminal offense of ripping a DVD or DVD-A. In addition, many early CDs, especially classical, have no metadata to identify them. Self-produced CDs provided by chamber musicians after a concert (these can represent a good part of the profit for the evening) are also an example. These are often CD-Rs with no metadata. Similarly, CD-Rs on which I have archived black vinyl lack metadata. Computer systems that display the metadata and cue the files can have problems displaying the correct information for classical CDs. The searching systems are not appropriate for classical. Anyone who has tried to search for classical music files on popular sites for purchasing music files know this problem all too well. This is why sites like ClassicsOnline, Passionato, and ArkivMusic exist on the web to serve the classical downloader. The loss of access to the program notes is also a significant issue when you burn your collection to a hard drive.