Firmware v1.9: Sony's PS3 Kills Another Corporate Sacred Cow
Just yesterday, I forecasted a coming-soon video download service from Sony in conjunction with the release of PlayStation 3 firmware v1.82 and, in the process, commented on how the service would act as a de facto competitor to the company’s preferred blue laser optical disc format, Blu-ray. Today brings word of pending firmware v1.9, which puts the hurt on another Sony-backed optical disc standard, this one of the high-resolution audio variety.
Among v1.9’s numerous added capabilities is, in Sony’s words, "the ability to upscale audio CD output from your PS3. Now, there are two requirements for this feature: the device you’re outputting to must support a sampling frequency of 88.2 kHz or 176.4 kHz, and your PS3 must be connected to that device with an HDMI cable or digital optical cable." The sacred cow gored by this enhancement is Sony’s SACD, which also supports high audio sample rates albeit of a single-bit Direct Stream Digital flavour.
Granted, SACD’s high sampling rate is native, whereas an upsampled CD’s is interpolated. However, as is with the case with up-res’d DVD versus Blu-ray or HD DVD, an interpolated audio CD stream may be ‘good enough’ for many folks (no matter how skeptical I am of its effects). This is especially the case when you consider that the vast majority of released SACDs have (like audio CDs) been of the two-channel variety, thereby not supporting surround sound.
I began predicting SACD’s (and DVD-Audio’s) ultimate demise over 5½ years ago, soon after both formats launched. More recently, I alerted you to a compelling postmortem interview with one of the formats’ backers. The PlayStation 3 has supported SACD playback since Day 1. Now, however, it seems Sony’s finally seen the ‘SACD is dead’ light, and is instead concentrating on making the PS3 the best-possible audio CD (a format for which, it’s important to point out, they also own a significant patent portfolio position!) player. It’s another interesting day in technology, as the world (or is that the disc?) turns.
Followup: PS3 firmware v1.9 is now available for download direct-to-console, although as I type these words you won’t yet be able to get the update via a storage media intermediary, since v1.82 is still listed as the latest-and-greatest on Sony’s website.