XRCD is an acronym for extended resolution compact disc. The format was developed by JVC Corporation in 1995 and sought to offer to audiophiles a superior sounding cd which was playable without having to upgrade or purchase new home stereo equipment. In developing xrcd, JVC set out to prove that clearer, higher-quality sound could be obtained by changing the compact disc mastering process. JVC accomplished this by exacting greater care with the master of artists recordings and transferring the analog or digital source material directly to a physical disc.
JVC’s unique process involves transferring the digital master to a magneto-optical disc which is then sent to JVC’s Yokohama plant for jitter reduction. There, the master is down converted to 16 bit using a K2 “super coding” process. This 16 bit version is EFM encoded before going through an extended pit cut DVD K2 technology to produce a glass master. This process optimized the linear velocity of the glass master giving precise pit lengths to eliminate time jitters. Once the glass mastering process is completed, all CD copies are stamped from the glass master.
Despite JVC’s advanced and intricate mastering process, xrcd’s sound reproduction is still dependent on standard compact disc player technology. Unlike SACD’s which require a completely different player, xrcd’s can be played in any compact disc player thus by limiting their capabilities. In a vain attempt to make on final stab at SACD’s domination of the market, JVC went back to their Yokohama based drawing boards and released CD’s in two new formats: XRCD2 and XRCD24.
XRCD2 allows a copy of the analog/digital master to be made directly to a magneto-optical disk via the K2 regenerator. XRCD24 increased the depth rate from 20 bits to 24 bits. Neither of these advancements though could make a large scale enough different in xrcd’s tiny niche of the cd market and some industry analysts criticized electronic behemoth JVC for being far too slow to release these formats to the public.
Another drawback to xrcd was the same dilemma which is plaguing Sony’s SACD which is a lack of popular titles available in the format. Despite having been round for some time, the number of popular music titles in the xrcd format is anemic. Many artists such as Genesis and Billy Joel have decided to have their best albums and cd’s remastered in Sony’s SACD format which was a severe blow to the future of the xrcd format. Without popular Top 40 artists to choose from, many consumers have foregone xrcd even though the format does not require the user to purchase new equipment.
Elusivedisc.com, an online retailer in high-quality CD formats, has come to the rescue of xrcd. Although JVC has officially discontinued creating xrcd’s, Elusivedisc.com will continue to provide xrcds to the public who demands them. As to whether Elusivedisc.com will simply continue stamping already existing xrcds or release a line of new artists in the format remains to be seen.
www.musicdirect.com (this site is useful if you want to purchase xrcd’s)
www.amazon.com ( amazon has many hard-to-find xrcd’s and other cd formats at excellent prices both new and used)