[2.4] Is CD compatible with DVD?
This is actually many questions with many answers,
covered in the following sections.
[2.4.1] Is CD audio (CD-DA) compatible
[Note the differentiation between DVD (general
case) and DVD-ROM (computer data).]
Yes. All DVD players and drives will read audio
CDs (Red Book). This is not actually required by the DVD spec, but
so far all manufacturers have made their DVD hardware read CDs.
On the other hand, you can't play a DVD in a CD
player. (The pits are smaller, the tracks are closer together, the
data layer is a different distance from the surface, the modulation
is different, the error correction coding is new, etc.) Also, you
can't put CD audio data onto a DVD and have it play in DVD players.
(Red Book audio frames are different than DVD data sectors.)
[2.4.2] Is CD-ROM compatible with DVD-ROM?
Yes. All DVD-ROM drives will read CD-ROMs (Yellow
Book). Software on a CD-ROM will run fine in a DVD-ROM system.
However, DVD-ROMs are not readable by CD-ROM drives.
[2.4.3] Is CD-R compatible with DVD?
Sometimes. The problem is that most CD-Rs (Orange
Book Part II) are "invisible" to DVD laser wavelength because the
dye used to make the CD-R doesn't reflect the beam. Some first-generation
DVD-ROM drives and many DVD players can't read CD-Rs. The formulation
of dye used by different CD-R manufacturers also affects readability.
That is, some brands of CD-R discs have better reflectivity at DVD
laser wavelength, but even these don't reliably work in all players.
The common solution is for the DVD player or drive
to use two lasers at different wavelengths: one for reading DVDs
and the other for reading CDs and CD-Rs. Variations on the theme
include Sony's "dual discrete optical pickup" with switchable pickup
assemblies with separate optics, dual-wavelength lasers (initially
deployed on Sony's Playstation 2), Samsung's "annular masked objective
lens" with a shared optical path, Toshiba's similar shared optical
path using an objective lens masked with a coating that's transparent
only to 650-nm light, Hitachi's switchable objective lens assembly,
and Matsushita's holographic dual-focus lens. The MultiRead logo
guarantees compatibility with CD-R and CD-RW media, but unfortunately,
few manufacturers are using it.
Bottom line: If you want a DVD player that can
read CD-R discs, look for a "dual laser," "twin laser," or "dual
An effort to develop CD-R "Type II" media compatible
with both CD and DVD wavelengths was abandoned.
DVD-ROM drives can't record on CD-R or any other
media, but a few combination DVD-ROM/CD-RW drives can write to CD-R
and CD-RW. Most newer recordable DVD drives (see 4.3)
can also record on CD-R or CD-RW.
CD-R burners can't read or write DVD discs of any
[2.4.4] Is CD-RW compatible with DVD?
Usually. CD-Rewritable (Orange Book Part III) discs
have a smaller reflectivity difference, requiring new automatic-gain-control
(AGC) circuitry in CD-ROM drives and CD players. Most existing CD-ROM
drives and CD players can't read CD-RW discs. The OSTA MultiRead
standard addresses this, and some DVD manufacturers have suggested
they will support it. The optical circuitry in even first-generation
DVD-ROM drives and DVD players is usually able to read CD-RW discs,
since CD-RW does not have the "invisibility" problem of CD-R (see
Most newer recordable DVD drives (see 4.3) can also record on CD-R or CD-RW.
CD-RW burners can't read or write DVD discs of
[2.4.5] Is Video CD compatible with DVD?
Sometimes. It's not required by the DVD spec, but
it's trivial to support the Video CD (White Book) standard since
any MPEG-2 decoder can also decode MPEG-1 from a Video CD. About
two thirds of DVD players can play Video CDs. Most Panasonic, RCA,
Samsung, and Sony models play Video CDs. Japanese Pioneer models
play Video CDs but American models older than the DVL-909 don't.
Toshiba players older than models 2100, 3107, and 3108 don't play
VCD resolution is 352x288 for PAL and 352x240 for
NTSC. The way most DVD players and Video CD players deal with the
difference is to chop off the extra lines or add blank lines. When
playing PAL VCDs, the Panasonic and RCA NTSC players apparently
cut 48 lines (17%) off the bottom. Sony NTSC players scale all 288
lines to fit.
Because PAL VCDs are encoded for 25 fps playback
of 24 fps film, there is usually a 4% speedup. Playing time is shorter,
and the audio is shifted up in pitch unless it was digitally processed
before encoding to shift the pitch back to normal. This also happens
with PAL DVDs (see 1.19).
All DVD-ROM computers can play Video CDs (with
the right software).
Standard VCD players can't play DVDs.
Note: Many Asian VCDs carry two soundtracks by
putting one language on the left channel and another on the right.
The two channels are mixed together into babel on a stereo system
unless you adjust the balance or disconnect one input to get only
For more on Video CD, see Russil Wvong's Video CD FAQ.
[2.4.6] Is Super Video CD compatible
Not generally. Super Video CD (SVCD) is an enhancement
to Video CD that was developed by a Chinese government-backed committee
of manufacturers and researchers, partly to sidestep DVD technology
royalties and partly to create pressure for lower DVD player and
disc prices in China. The final SVCD spec was announced in September
1998, winning out over C-Cube's China Video CD (CVD) and HQ-VCD
(from the developers of the original Video CD). In terms of video
and audio quality, SVCD is in between Video CD and DVD, using a
2x CD drive to support 2.2 Mbps VBR MPEG-2 video (at 480x480 NSTC or 480x576
PAL resolution) and 2-channel MPEG-2 Layer II audio. As with DVD,
it can overlay graphics for subtitles. It's technically easy to
make a DVD-Video player compatible with SVCD, but it's being done
mostly on Asian DVD player models. The Philip's DVD170 player can
be upgraded (using a special disc) to play SVCD discs.
SVCD players can't play DVDs, since the players
are based on CD drives.
See Jukka Aho's Super
Video CD Overview and Super Video CD FAQ for more
[2.4.7] Is Picture CD or Photo CD compatible
Sometimes. Because Picture CDs and Photo CDs are
usually on CD-R media, they suffer from the CD-R problem (see 2.4.3). That aside, some DVD players can play Picture CDs.
Only a few can play Photo CDs.
Most DVD-ROM drives will read Picture CDs or Photo
CDs (if they read CD-Rs) since it's trivial to support the XA and
Orange Book multisession standards. Picture CDs are designed to
work with Windows. Photo CDs require specific support from an application
or an OS.
Photos can be put on recordable DVDs using the
DVD-Video slideshow feature, which works on all DVD players. See
[2.4.8] Is CD-i compatible with DVD?
In general, no. DVD players do not play CD-i (Green
Book) discs. Philips once announced that it would make a DVD player
that supported CD-i, but it never appeared. Some people expected
Philips to create a "DVD-i" format in an attempt to breathe a little
more life into CD-i (and recover a bit more of the billion or so
dollars they invested in it). A DVD-ROM PC with a CD-i card should
be able to play CD-i discs.
There are also "CD-i movies" that use the CD-i
Digital Video format that was the precursor to Video CD. Early CD-i
DV discs won't play on DVD players or VCD players, but newer CD-i
movies, which use the standard VCD format, will play on any player
that can play VCDs (see 2.4.5).
See Jorg Kennis'
CD-i FAQ for more information on CD-i.
[2.4.9] Is Enhanced CD compatible with
Yes. DVD players will play music from enhanced
music CDs (Blue Book, CD Plus, CD Extra), and DVD-ROM drives will
play music and read data from enhanced CDs. Older ECD formats such
as mixed mode and track zero (pregap, hidden track) should also
be compatible, but there is a problem with Microsoft and other CD/DVD-ROM
drivers skipping track zero.
[2.4.10] Is CD+G compatible with DVD?
Only a few players, such as the Pioneer DVL-9 player
and Pioneer karaoke DVD models DV-K800 and DVK-1000, support CD+G
discs. Most DVD players don't support this mostly obsolete format.
All DVD-ROM drives can read the CD+G information, but special software
is required to make use of it.
[2.4.11] Is CDV compatible with DVD?
Sort of. CDV, sometimes called Video Single, is
actually a weird combination of CD and laserdisc. Part of the disc
contains 20 minutes of digital audio playable on any CD or DVD player.
The other part contains 5 minutes of analog video and digital audio
in laserdisc format, playable only on a CDV-compatible laserdisc
player. Pioneer's combination DVD/laserdisc players are the only
DVD players that can play CDVs.
Standard laserdisc/CDV players can't play DVDs.
(See 2.5 for more LD info.)
[2.4.12] Is MP3 compatible with DVD?
Not officially. MP3 is the MPEG Layer 3 audio compression
format. (MP3 is not MPEG-3, which doesn't exist.) The DVD-Video
spec allows only Layer 2 for MPEG audio (MP2). However, MP3 can
be played any computer with a DVD-ROM drive, and many DVD players
(particularly those manufactured in Asia) can play MP3 CDs. However,
most DVD players can't play MP3 DVDs, because they are shortsightedly
designed to only look for MP3 files on CDs. Check the player list at DVDRHelp.com
for players that can play MP3 CDs or MP3 DVDs.
[2.4.13] Is HDCD compatible with DVD?
Yes. Pacific Microsonics' HDCD
(high-definition compatible digital) is an encoding process that
enhances audio CDs so that they play normally in standard CD and
DVD players (and allegedly sound better than normal CDs) yet produce
an extra 4 bits of precision (20 bits instead of 16) when played
on CD and DVD players equipped with HDCD decoders.