Grabbing the Crystal by the Ball

Every once in a while, and particularly around the first of the year, news writers (of which I am one) get the urge to play oracle, laying our credibilities on the line by attempting to divine what the coming year will bring. Since I am writing this at the end of January, the chances of my miscalling my shots have already been reduced by a factor of 0.083. But there are still 11 months to go, and some possibility that a prediction or two may be wrong. Nonetheless, I shall intrepidly grab the bull by the horns, the crystal by the ball, and the opportunity of the moment to take an educated guess at what the rest of 1988 holds for audio.

First, Digital Audio Tape. I predict that the Electronics Industry Association of Japan will issue a joint statement announcing that consumer DAT machines will definitely be available in the US by the Spring of 1996, "at the very latest."

The number of recordings of Vivaldi's The Four Seasons will top 100 by the end of '88, prompting an unprecedented convention of the entire recording industry to consider a 20-year recording moratorium on the work. The motion will fail to pass, by 101 votes.

The phono cartridge to end all phono cartridges will not be invented in 1988. That will not happen until 1991, after the last of the vinyl disc-stamping machines is installed in the Smithsonian Institution.

The Anglicization of Stereophile will become complete when Larry Archibald is granted British citizenship by Her Majesty, the Queen. Her Royal Majesty, while signing the papers, will be heard to mutter "And about time, too."

A new company will announce The Ultimate Minimalist Line Switcher. Touted as "The Cheapest Way to Do It Best," it will consist of two 1m shielded interconnects.

An obscure inventor will submit to the Audio Engineering Society a paper describing a simple holographic digital recording process that reproduces up to 2 hours of flawless sound from a 2¼" square of optical film, via a player costing $5.80 to manufacture. Neither he nor his paper will ever be heard of again.

Stereo Review magazine will publish an article offering conclusive proof, supported by irrefutable statistical evidence, that under carefully controlled conditions it is impossible to distinguish an oboe from an English horn. It will assert that people who believe they are playing an English horn are deluding themselves, and are actually playing an oboe.

Telarc Records will not announce that, in future, all their recordings will be done using Brüel & Kjaer's new cardioid microphone. Defending their continuing use of spaced omnis, producer Bob Woods will say, "If God wanted us to hear imaging, he would have put our ears 8" apart."

In a book chronicling the history of communications giant RCA, a top executive will admit that their infamous phono plug was all a misunderstanding. "We proposed it as a put-on—you know, for April 1—but then it kinda got out of hand," he will be quoted as saying.

AJ van den Hul will offer the first superconductive loudspeaker cables to well-heeled audiophiles. The company's "Karajan" cable set, which will be touted as the first perfect amplifier/loudspeaker interconnect, will cost a mere $43 per running foot. The refrigeration system needed to make them superconductive will cost $31,000, regardless of how long the cables are. (A line of lightweight, compact airline luggage will be introduced shortly thereafter under the same name.)

John Bedini will announce his discovery of A-waves, an entirely new kind of energy by which electromagnetic signals within a 10Hz to 30kHz frequency band are conveyed directly from the original recording microphones to the auditory centers of the brain. At the same time, he will introduce a complete line of devices which tap this hitherto unknown force in order to provide dramatically improved soundstaging, dynamics, depth, inner definition, low-frequency range and impact, midrange accuracy, and high-end openness and detail.

The well-known home electronics chain, Timothy Tweeter, will enter the high-end audio market with a flagship monoblock power amplifier, "The Gargantuan," featuring 2 kilowatts of power into a ½-ohm load, 5 Farads of power-supply storage, and its own regulated and fully stabilized diesel-turbine power generator. A hydroelectric generator will be announced as a future option.

On April 1, John Atkinson, editor of Stereophile, will yield to the weight of pressure from readers by announcing that all of Stereophile's contributors, including himself, will be replaced by Anthony H. Cordesman—after Tony's British citizenship becomes final.

A talent-booking service in San Francisco will offer the local symphony orchestra for rent by the evening to well-heeled audiophiles who "won't accept substitutes for the real thing." Written proof of a large living room will be required.

Enid Lumley will report in an issue of International Audio Review that reproduced sound is affected by the day of the week. Claiming that odd-numbered days make the sound rough and veiled, she will advise that any calendar in the room be turned off or removed while listening to records.

The American music industry will mount a campaign to outlaw listening to recorded music by persons who did not actually purchase the recording. The bill's sponsor, Arthur W. Venal, will be quoted as saying "America's creative talents are being deprived of billions a year through this scurrilous practice, which is in obvious violation of the law we are trying to get enacted."

Wilson Audio Specialties will announce the availability of their most expensive product ever, "The Carnegie"—the world's first prefabricated listening room for audio perfectionists. Interviewed by Audio magazine about it, Dave Wilson will be quoted as saying "What the heck, most people just don't have space in the den for a WAMM."

Sometime toward the end of 1988, Eugene Pitts III, Editor of Audio, will take over the helm of The Absolute Sound after TAS is bought by High Fidelity. Harry Pearson can't decide whether to devote himself full-time to The Perfect Vision or to enter the political arena, thus bringing it a much-needed dose of charisma.

The descendants of Lee DeForest, inventor of the vacuum tube, will bring suit in federal court against Conrad-Johnson Design, for patent infringement. Litigation will continue for 18 years, and the case will be settled out of court with acrimony at 11 paces. Neither side will win.

Laserdisc Corporation of America will announce a program to re-release all LaserVision discs of Hollywood films with closed captioning for the deaf. The promotional campaign for their "See-Say" LVs will feature endorsements by internationally famed dyslectic John (JB) Harris (Hassri).

Peter Belt will announce the discovery that the mysterious force his devices have been counteracting is actually a gravitational field spilling over from a parallel universe into our own, and that he will celebrate this discovery by establishing a church, a college, and an alternative broadcasting network.

JGH will confess in Stereophile that he declined an offer by Ray-O-Vac to endorse their hearing-aid batteries for a national advertising campaign. His excuse will be "I never use 'em; they have lousy high end."

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