I hadn’t thought about it for more than a nanosecond since a brief flurry of hype in 2008 until an email from an American friend reminded me about SHM-CD.
What? You may well ask! SHM-CD was supposed to be an improved type of CD comparable to SA-CDs, but unlike that cult format, it would be playable on a normal CD player. (I should qualify that: many SA-CDs are playable on a conventional CD player, but they won’t reveal their extra sonic lustre unless played on a dedicated SA-CD player).
Anyway, my American friend (who was announcing that he’s capped a limit on his album collection at a mere 25,000!) spoke about his habit of buying Japanese pressings of SA-CDs and SHM-CDs.
This is what CD.Japan.Co – a mailorder company – has to say about SHM-CDs:
“The high quality SHM-CD (Super High Material CD) format features enhanced audio quality through the use of a special polycarbonate plastic. Using a process developed by JVC and Universal Music Japan discovered through the joint companies’ research into LCD display manufacturing, SHM-CDs feature improved transparency on the data side of the disc, allowing for more accurate reading of CD data by the CD player laser head. SHM-CD format CDs are fully compatible with standard CD players”.
A quick gander at that mailorder site reveals that such titles as the Stones’ Exile On Main Street, Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, together with a welter (or should I say a brace) of releases by the likes of The Scorpions, Black Sabbath and James Taylor are all available on SHM-CD.
And yet, I’ve not once seen a SHM-CD in a New Zealand record store.
The question has to be asked: why not? Surely there must be a market for those who would like superior quality audio from their CDs, especially if it doesn’t involve forking out for an expensive SA-CD player.
Any record company representatives out there who may be reading this, please, give me an answer on this pressing (ha!) topic.
The obvious answer, I guess, is that all of these disc formats are on the way to being extinct already. But hey, look at the way that Blu-ray is being promoted when everyone knows that eventually even this will be turfed away in favour of hi-res downloads. Why, then, can’t we get SHM-CDs here? Even as a stop-gap, if the sound is really that much better than CDs, I for one, would be in the market for their sonic wonderment. GARY STEEL