DualDisc was a type of double-sided optical disc product developed by a group of record companies including MJJ Productions Inc, EMI Music, Universal Music Group, Sony/BMG Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group, and 5.1 Entertainment Group[1] and later under the aegis of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). It featured an audio layer intended to be compatible with CD players (but not following the Red Book CD Specifications) on one side and a standard DVD layer on the other. In this respect it was similar to, but distinct from, the DVDplus developed in Europe by Dieter Dierks and covered by European patents.

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 product. The test involved 13 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.[2] However, sales plummeted over the next three years, particularly in competition with rival formats like SACD and DVD-A discs.

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 had been sold by the middle of that year.[3]

Technical details

DualDiscs were based on double-sided DVD technology such as DVD-10, DVD-14 and DVD-18 except that DualDisc technology replaced one of the DVD sides with a CD. The discs were 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 525-megabyte storage capacity), resulting in a 1.5 mm-thick double-sided hybrid disc which contained CD content on one side and DVD content on the other.

The challenge for the designers of DualDisc was to produce a dual-sided disc which was not too thick to play reliably in slot-loading drives, while the CD side was not too thin to be tracked easily by the laser. DVDplus, though conceptually similar, used a thicker CD layer and thus is more likely to get stuck in a slot-loading player (although this appears to be almost unknown); DualDisc took the other course by thinning the CD layer.

Because the 0.9 mm thickness of the DualDisc CD layer did not conform to Red Book CD Specifications, which called for a layer no less than 1.1 mm thick, some CD players could not 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 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 a book using bigger print to make it easier to see, even if the person's glasses are of the wrong strength. The downside to this, however, is that the playing time for the CD layer of some early DualDiscs decreased from the standard 74 minutes of a conventional CD to around 60 minutes, although this early limitation was later overcome.

Because the DualDisc CD layer did not conform to Red Book specifications, Philips and Sony refused to allow DualDisc titles to carry the CD logo and most DualDiscs contain one of two warnings:

The DVD side of a DualDisc completely conformed to the specifications set forth by the DVD Forum and DualDiscs have been cleared to use the DVD logo.

Hopes for DualDisc

Record companies had two main hopes for DualDiscs; the first being that they would eventually replace CDs as the preferred media for purchase at music retailers,[4] and the second that the inclusion of bonus DVD content at a price similar to a conventional CD would help to slow down online music piracy by giving consumers more incentive to buy their music through retailers.[5][6] Some titles such as Devils & Dust by Bruce Springsteen and Straight Outta Lynwood by "Weird Al" Yankovic have been 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 varied depending on the title but, on average, a DualDisc cost about $1.50 to $2.50 USD more than the same title on CD.[7] Some DualDisc titles such as Mr. A-Z by Jason Mraz and In Your Honor by the Foo Fighters had enhanced packaging which increased the retail cost of the DualDisc version of the albums over their CD counterparts more than the average. There were 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 includes:

Audio types

The CD side of a DualDisc contained standard 16-bit LPCM audio sampled at 44.1 kHz. On the DVD side, most record companies (with the notable exception of Sony Music: see below) provided the album's music in both high-resolution, 24-bit DVD-Audio (typically at a sample rate of 96 or 192 kHz for stereo and 48 or 96 kHz for surround sound) and lower-resolution, 16-bit Dolby Digital sound (typically sampled at 48 kHz). This was 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 DVD player.


Because Sony had an existing high-resolution audio format, SACD, in the marketplace which directly competes with DVD-Audio (see next section), Sony Music, as a general rule, only provided 16-bit, 48 kHz sampled LPCM stereophonic (and sometimes Dolby Digital Surround) sound on the DVD side of their DualDiscs. The sound was compatible with any DVD player; however, it does not provide the higher fidelity and resolution of 24-bit, high sample-rate DVD-Audio.

In addition, several SonyBMG titles whose regular editions include copy protection programs (such as XCP and SunnComm) did not feature the software on the DualDisc versions.


The biggest competition to DualDisc was 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 were competing solutions to the problem of providing higher-resolution audio on a disc that can still be played on conventional CD players.

DualDiscs took 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.

Hybrid SACDs claim a higher compatibility rate with conventional CD players than DualDisc, because 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 could 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.[8]


There are numerous criticisms about DualDiscs, ranging from size to DualDiscs being more fragile than conventional CDs.

Manufacturer warnings

A number of electronics companies such as Lexicon,[9] Marantz,[10] Mark Levinson,[11] Onkyo,[12] Panasonic,[13] Pioneer,[14] and Sony (both its Computer Entertainment and Electronics divisions)[15][16] issued statements warning consumers about possible problems with playing DualDisc titles on their equipment.

These warnings ranged in severity from DualDiscs simply not working with the equipment to actual damage to the disc and/or equipment. Meridian Audio, Ltd., on the other hand, issued a statement that "no harm or damage whatsoever" would be caused to the player or the disc if DualDiscs were used on their equipment, but noted that their players with DVD drives would not reliably play the CD layer.

There was some controversy surrounding the DualDisc format, as Dieter Dierks, the inventor of the DVDplus specification, claimed that DualDisc technology is in violation of his European patents.[17][18] 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.

DualDisc releases

For a list of past DualDisc releases, see List of DualDisc releases.

Releases issued during limited test marketing campaign in two cities

Below is a list of the 15 DualDisc titles released as part of a test marketing campaign that was run before DualDiscs were released nationwide. These releases were only available in two test markets: Boston and Seattle, and only at a handful of stores in each market (15 stores in the Boston area, 12 in the Seattle area). The test marketing campaign started on February 3, 2004. It is believed that fewer than 1000 copies of any title were sold during the test marketing, making them all scarce and now collectible. One title, Dave Brubeck's Time Out, was recalled shortly after the start of the test market campaign due to a rights lawsuit. As a result, very few copies of this title were ever sold. It is estimated that fewer than 50 copies of this title are known to exist, making it one of the rarest commercially released CDs of all time.

All of these DualDisc titles are now out of print. Some were reissued as standard commercial issue DualDiscs once the test marketing phase was over, but in every case this was done with packaging changes (although not necessarily changes to the UPC). For example, the test market version of AC/DC's Back in Black does not have a large "FBI warning" logo on the back, whereas the standard reissue does.

The following is a complete list of titles made available during the test market campaign in Boston and Seattle. These are the only titles that were part of the test market campaign. Many other DualDisc releases were issued in subsequent years, following the completion of the test market, but these were not part of the original set of releases. The test market version of any title on this list should be considered scarce or rare. Two of these 15 titles were issued after the test market had begun; these late addition titles are those by Fischerspooner and Jane's Addiction. The remaining 13 titles were available from the start of the test marketing campaign.

Artist Title UPC Reissued as DualDisc after test market? Comments
AC/DC Back in Black 82796-90828-2-9 Yes Reissue DualDisc differs in packaging/inlay card
Andrew W.K. The Wolf 6-02498-61423-5No
Audioslave self-titled 82796-90830-2-4 No Entire album in 20bit 48 kHz sound on DVD side. Has been termed a demonstration quality audiophile release.[19][20]
Barenaked Ladies Everything to Everyone 0-9362-48650-2-5 No
David Bowie Reality 82796-90743-2-9 Yes Reissue DualDisc differs in packaging/inlay card
The Dave Brubeck Quartet Time Out 82796-90829-2-8 No Very rare. Fewer than 50 copies known; Recalled due to licensing issues a few days after issue
Good Charlotte The Young and the Hopeless 82796-90831-2-3 Yes Reissue DualDisc differs in packaging/inlay card
Donald Fagen The Nightfly 0-8122-78016-2-5 No
Fischerspooner #1 7-2435-99392-2-2 No
Jane's Addiction Strays 7-2435-99393-2-2 No Entire album in Advanced Resolution 24/96 5.1 on DVD side
Linkin Park Reanimation 0-9362-48637-2-4 No
P.O.D. Payable on Death 0-7567-83704-2-7 No
R.E.M. Automatic for the People 0-8122-78105-2-8 No
3 Doors Down Away from the Sun 6-02498-61414-3 Yes Reissue DualDisc differs in packaging/inlay card
Usher 8701 8-2876-57915-2-6 Yes Reissue DualDisc differs in packaging/inlay card

The titles by Fischerspooner and Jane's Addiction were released during the test marketing phase, but were not in the initial shipments. They shipped to the select test market retailers after the test began. Three additional titles were announced as being part of the test, but were never issued: Barbra Streisand: The Movie Album (82796-90789-2-1), Missy Elliott: This is Not a Test (0-7559-62934-2-6) and Sheryl Crow: The Globe Sessions (02498-61433-4).

See also


  1. Alex Vegia, Music industry banks on DualDisc, Associated Press, August 26, 2004.
  2. DualDisc Guide, accessed August 13, 2005
  3. DualDiscs Getting Popular, The Online Reporter Issue 446, May 28, 2005
  4. DualDisc Artists Holding Top Spots, billboardpostplay.com, May 19, 2005
  5. Joshua O'Connell, New DualDisc Format Ups the Ante Against Music Piracy, The Fairfield Mirror, March 17, 2005
  6. Anthony Breznican, DualDisc breaks sound barrier, USA Today, April 25, 2005
  7. DualDisc: CD and DVD on One Disc, accessed August 13, 2005
  8. 75% of US households have a DVD player, ZDNet Research, April 6, 2005
  9. Statement Regarding the "DualDisc" Format, Lexicon, December 23, 2004
  10. Important Notice About Dual Disc, Marantz, April 5, 2005
  11. Statement Regarding the "DualDisc" Format, Mark Levinson Madrigal Audo Laboratories, December 23, 2004
  12. Onkyo "DualDisc" Question, Onkyo, accessed August 13, 2005
  13. DualDisk, Panasonic, accessed August 13, 2005
  14. Important Notice About "DualDisc" To Prevent Product Damage, Pioneer Electronics, accessed August 13, 2005
  15. Consumer Alerts - DualDisc, Sony Computer Entertainment America, March 31, 2005
  16. Brian Moura, Sony Electronics Issues Warning About Dual Disc Compatibility With Sony Disc Players, High Fidelity Review, November 4, 2004
  17. Stuart M. Robinson, DualDisc The Hybrid CD/DVD Disc - The DVD Plus Saga... (Part Two), High Fidelity Review, November 2, 2004
  18. Dieter Dierks patent search from the European Patent Organisation
  19. Jerry Del Colliano , Audio Video Revolution, June 07, 2004
  20. Jerry Del Colliano , Home Theater Review, March 22, 2010
  • 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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