As a logical continuation Sony will soon introduce a new generation of ATRAC data reduction chips on the market. ATRAC-4 will have a wider frequency range, so that instead of the so far 18 kHz, now all 20 kHz of a CD are transferable to a mini-disc. But with that a significant improvement in sound quality is not to be expected, as these high frequencies are only audible to very young ears.
Considering noise, the ATRAC-3.5 had already reached CD level (STEREO 8/95) - so that the MiniDisc can now only go beyond the CD standard. It is not a secret that this is possible. The MD is, as is DCC, an intelligent data reducing sound carrier that is not bound to a stiff and inflexible bit allocation, so that it would be possible to increase the resolution to 20 bits in the 'middle' frequency regions where human ear is most sensitive. This technology would of course only be applicable in prerecorded discs that are already available in Japan or home made recordings with a 20 bit A/D-converter. Contradicting theory we could imagine an improvement in digital copies from Super-CDs.
During the yearly Techincs European-Seminar in Barcelona we got to know that
the Technics-mother Matsushita is developing their own ATRAC chips.
This can be seen as MD system support from the biggest entertainment
company in the world, and is therefore an important sign for Sony. The
quality of the new Techincs chips is so far unknown, but concurrence
in the field is certainly an advantage for the consumer. Already the
next generation of Technics MD players should be equipped with their
new chips. They should be introduced on the Tokyo Audio Fair in
October and be available at the same time (but only for the already
booming Japanese market).