DualDisc is a type of double-sided
optical disc developed by EMI Music, Universal Music Group, Sony/BMG Music
Entertainment, Warner Music Group, and 5.1 Entertainment Group . It features
an audio layer similar to a CD (but not following the Red Book CD
Specifications) on one side and a standard DVD layer on the
DualDiscs first appeared in the United States in March, 2004 as part of a
marketing test conducted by the same five
record companies who developed the technology. The test involved thirteen
titles being released to a limited number of retailers in the Boston,
Massachusetts, and Seattle, Washington, markets. The test marketing was seen as a success after
82% of respondents to a survey (which was included with the test titles) said
that DualDiscs met or exceeded their expectations. In addition, 90% of
respondents said that they would recommend DualDisc to a friend
DualDisc titles received a mass rollout to retailers throughout the United
States in February, 2005, though some titles were available as early as
November, 2004. The recording industry had nearly 200 DualDisc titles available by the end
of 2005 and over 2,000,000 units have been sold to date
How a DualDisc works
DualDiscs appear to be based on double-sided DVD technology such as DVD-10,
DVD-14 and DVD-18 except that DualDisc technology replaces one of the DVD sides
with a CD. The discs are made by fusing together a standard 0.6 mm-thick DVD
layer (4.7-gigabyte storage capacity) to a 0.9 mm-thick CD layer (60-minute or
storage capacity), resulting in a 1.5 mm-thick double-sided hybrid disc that
contains CD content on one side and DVD content on the other.
Because the 0.9 mm thickness of the CD layer does not conform to Red Book CD
Specifications, which call for a layer no less than 1.1 mm thick, some CD
players may not be able to play the CD side of a DualDisc due to a phenomenon
called spherical aberration. As a result, the laser reading the CD side might get a
"blurry" picture of the data on the disc; the equivalent of a human reading a
book with glasses of the wrong strength. Engineers have tried to get around this
by making the pits in the CD layer larger than on a conventional CD. This makes
the CD side easier for the laser to read; equivalent to the book using bigger
print to make it easier to see, even if the person's glasses are of the wrong
strength. The inevitable downside to this, however, is that the playing time for
the DualDisc CD layer decreases, from the standard 74 minutes of a conventional
CD, to around 60 minutes.
Because the CD layer does not conform to specifications,
Philips and Sony have refused
to allow DualDisc titles to carry the CD logo and most DualDiscs contain one of
- "This disc is intended to play on standard DVD and CD players.
May not play on certain car, slot load players and mega-disc changers."
- "The audio side of this disc does not conform to CD specifications and
therefore not all DVD and CD players will play the audio side of this disc."
The DVD side of a DualDisc completely conforms to the specifications set
forth by the DVD Forum and DualDiscs have been cleared to use the DVD logo.
Hopes for DualDisc
Record companies have two main hopes for DualDiscs; the first being that they
will eventually replace CDs as the preferred media for purchase at music
 and the second being that the inclusion of bonus DVD
content at a price similar to a conventional CD will help to slow down online
piracy by giving consumers more incentive to buy their music through
 Some titles such as Devils & Dust by Bruce Springsteen were released in the United States on DualDisc only.
Costs versus conventional CDs
In the US, the cost of a DualDisc at retail versus that of a conventional CD
varies depending on the title but, on average, a DualDisc costs about $1.50 to
$2.50 USD more than the same title on CD.
 Some DualDisc titles such as Mr. A-Z by Jason Mraz and In
Your Honor by the Foo Fighters have enhanced packaging which increases the retail cost of the
DualDisc version of the albums over their CD counterparts more than the average.
There are also other factors which go into the additional costs such as
production, marketing etc.
Common DVD content
What one finds on the DVD side of a DualDisc title will vary. Common content
- The entire album in higher-quality
stereophonic and/or surround sound.
- The artist's
- A link to the artist's
The CD side of a DualDisc contains standard 16-bit LPCM audio sampled at 44.1
kHz. On the DVD side, most record companies, with the notable exception of Sony
Music, provide the album's music in both high-resolution, 24-bit DVD-Audio
(typically at a sample rate of 96 kHz for stereo and 48 kHz for surround sound)
and lower-resolution, 16-bit Dolby Digital sound (typically sampled at 48 kHz). This is done to allow consumers
with DVD-Audio players access to very high-resolution stereophonic and/or
surround sound versions of the album while also providing the lower-resolution
Dolby Digital stereophonic and/or surround sound which is compatible with any
Because Sony has a high-resolution audio format in the marketplace which
directly competes with DVD-Audio (see next section), Sony Music, as a general
rule, only provides 16-bit, 48 kHz sampled LPCM stereophonic (and sometimes
Dolby Digital Surround) sound on the DVD side of their DualDiscs. The sound is
compatible with any DVD player; however, it does not provide the higher fidelity
and resolution of 24-bit DVD-Audio.
How a hybrid Super Audio CD works
The biggest competition to DualDisc is the hybrid Super Audio CD (SACD),
which was developed by Sony and Philips Electronics, the same companies that created the CD. DualDiscs and hybrid
SACDs are competing solutions to the problem of providing higher-resolution
audio on a disc that can still be played on conventional CD players.
DualDiscs take the approach of using a double-sided disc to provide the
necessary backwards compatibility; hybrid SACDs are a one-sided solution that
instead use two layers: a conventional CD layer and a high-resolution layer.
Lasers in conventional CD players have a different
(typically around 780 nm) than those in SACD players (650 nm). Hybrid SACDs
possess a special high density layer that is transparent to the conventional CD
player's laser but is partially reflected by the SACD player's laser. When a
hybrid SACD is placed into a conventional CD player, the laser beam passes
through the high-resolution layer and is reflected by the conventional layer at
the regular 1.2 mm distance. The result is that the hybrid disc plays as normal.
When a hybrid disc is placed into an SACD player, the laser is partially
reflected by the high-resolution layer (at 0.6 mm distance) before it can reach
the conventional layer. If a conventional CD is placed into an SACD player, the
laser will read the disc without incident since there is no high-resolution
layer to reflect. Because of the difference between the working distances of CDs
and SACDs, the aperture of the lens in the SACD player must be adjusted to
obtain the correct focal length
Hybrid SACDs boast a higher compatibility rate with conventional CD players
than DualDisc, due to the fact that hybrid SACDs conform to
Red Book standards. However, a SACD or SACD-capable DVD player is required
to take advantage of the enhanced SACD layer. With a DualDisc, consumers can use
their existing DVD player to hear surround mixes. (DVD-Audio capable players are
required for higher-resolution audio, if present.) It is currently estimated
that 75% of households in the United States have at least one DVD player
In addition, several SonyBMG titles whose regular editions include copy
protection programs (such as XCP and SunnComm)
do not feature the software on the DualDisc versions.
There are numerous criticisms about DualDiscs, ranging from size to DualDiscs
being more fragile than conventional CDs.
In addition to the possible inability for some CD players to read a DualDisc
properly, other consumer criticisms of DualDisc include:
- The 1.5 mm-thick disc can get jammed in a very small number of computer
DVD drives, DVD players, slot-loading CD players (such as car CD players)
and mega-changers. This may even damage the disc.
- For any CD player, the thinner CD layer makes reading the CD side of a
DualDisc harder than reading a conventional CD. Thus, anomalies such as
small scratches, fingerprints or disc tilt may cause tracking errors more
easily than those same anomalies would on a conventional CD. Since disc
damage is inevitable over time, this can mean a reduction in a DualDisc's
effective lifetime as compared to a CD.
- The recommended 60-minute limit of the CD side prohibits it from
including the entire content of some conventional CDs.
- Since both sides of the disc are used for data, a label cannot appear on
either side of the disc. The only way that a consumer knows which side is CD
and which is DVD is by looking at the center ring of the disc where it is
A number of electronics companies such as
Lexicon , Marantz , Mark Levinson , Onkyo , Panasonic ,
Pioneer , and (ironically) Sony
 have issued statements warning consumers about possible
problems with playing DualDisc titles on their equipment. These warnings range
in severity from DualDiscs just not working with the equipment to actual damage
to the disc and/or equipment.
There has been some controversy surrounding the DualDisc format, as Dieter
Dierks, the inventor of the DVD Plus
specification, claims that DualDisc technology is in violation of his European
. This delayed the release of DualDisc titles in Europe,
with them eventually hitting European shores in September 2005. The first
British artist to announce a DualDisc release of his album was Sony/BMG
recording artist Will Young.
Below is a list of the thirteen initial DualDisc titles released as part of
the test marketing. Some of these DualDisc titles are now out of print.
3 Doors Down's Away from the Sun
AC/DC's Back In Black
Audioslave's self-titled album
Barenaked Ladies' Everything to Everyone
David Bowie's Reality
Dave Brubeck's Time Out (recalled due to licensing issues)
Donald Fagen's The Nightfly
The Donnas' Gold Medal (recalled due to a mastering error which resulted in
one track being omitted from the album)
Good Charlotte's The Young and the Hopeless
Linkin Park's Reanimation
P.O.D.'s Payable On Death
R.E.M.'s Automatic for the People
Andrew W.K.'s The Wolf
↑ Alex Vegia,
Music industry banks on DualDisc,
Associated Press, August 26, 2004.
DualDisc Guide, accessed
August 13, 2005.
DualDiscs Getting Popular, The Online Reporter Issue 446, May 28,
DualDisc Artists Holding Top Spots, billboardpostplay.com, May 19,
↑ Joshua O'Connell,
New DualDisc Format Ups the Ante Against Music Piracy, The Fairfield
Mirror, March 17, 2005.
↑ Anthony Breznican,
DualDisc breaks sound barrier,
April 25, 2005.
DualDisc: CD and DVD on One Disc, accessed
August 13, 2005.
Super Audio CD - A Technical Overview,
Super Audio CD, Digital Audio Industrial Supply,
75% of US households have a DVD player, ZDNet Research,
April 6, 2005.
Statement Regarding the "DualDisc" Format, Lexicon,
December 23, 2004.
Important Notice About Dual Disc, Marantz, April 5, 2005.
Statement Regarding the "DualDisc" Format, Mark Levinson Madrigal
Audo Laboratories, December 23, 2004.
Onkyo "DualDisc" Question, Onkyo, accessed August 13,
DualDisk, Panasonic, accessed
Important Notice About "DualDisc" To Prevent Product Damage,
Pioneer Electronics, accessed August 13, 2005.
Consumer Alerts - DualDisc, Sony,
↑ Brian Moura,
Sony Electronics Issues Warning About Dual Disc Compatibility With Sony Disc
Players, High Fidelity Review,
November 4, 2004.
↑ Stuart M. Robinson,
DualDisc The Hybrid CD/DVD Disc - The DVD Plus Saga... (Part Two),
High Fidelity Review,
November 2, 2004.
Dieter Dierks patent search from the
European Patent Organisation
- Surroundablog, August 26, 2004
- The Online Reporter, Issue 446, May 28-June 3, 2005
- Billboard, 2005-05-19
- International Herald Tribune, 2005-03-21
- USA Today, 2005-04-25
- Columbia ISA DualDisc Guide
- High Fidelity Review, 2004-11-02
- RedBook CD Audio specifications, November, 1991 (pp. 3)
- European Patent Office
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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia
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