Convergence has come to the automotive market. Clarion Corporation of America announced December 4 that it has developed the the world's first product that integrates car audio, computing functions, navigation, and wireless communications through hands-free voice activation. The Clarion AutoPC is a DIN unit that fits in the dash of an automobile, and is powered by the Microsoft Windows CE operating system.
Back in January of this year, we reported that loudspeaker manufacturer Polk Audio had purchased an interest in Genesis Technologies, a loudspeaker and digital electronics manufacturer, with an option to buy the company in three years. Last week, however, Polk announced that it has decided to pass the company on to new investors.
Among loudspeaker designers, Franco Serblin enjoys an enviable reputation for beautiful creations and meticulous craftsmanship. Until recently, Sonus Faber's resident genius had confined himself to minimonitors with simple crossover networks, such as the Concerto, a Stereophile Class B Recommended Component.
Over three quarters of a million readers served! With several million "page views" and dozens of millions of "hits" in the past 365 days, the Stereophile website has continued to grow steadily, with a record number of folks visiting practically every week. We've also dished out over 300 news articles---practically an article each day---covering everything audio, from important new-technology announcements to the demise and then rebirth of several legendary brands.
Four years after its first unsuccessful foray into the American consumer marketplace, Sony's MiniDisc appears finally to be winning serious numbers of converts. Several large-scale retailers, including Best Buy, Circuit City, Service Merchandise, and (soon) Sears department stores, have dedicated MiniDisc displays, with home recorders, portable players, and blank discs available individually or as a package deal. The displays were built with Sony's support, according to Mike Viken, senior VP for Sony's personal audio/video marketing division.
We'd been playing phone tag for a couple of weeks, but Paul McGowan was finally tethered to a handset as he explained to me a product from his "new" company, the reincarnation of PS Audio. "Everything you've ever wanted in a power conditioner---times 10---with none of the drawbacks!" McGowan could hardly contain himself while pitching his latest brainstorm. He certainly had an intriguing idea, but the path from founder of PS Audio back in the late '70s to Genesis Technologies and back again was nearly as interesting.
It had to happen eventually. Britain's internationally successful loudspeaker manufacturers tend to be highly geared exporters, with overseas markets often accounting for 80-90% of sales. The dramatic downturn in sales across virtually all Asian markets, alongside the collapse of the Russian ruble and an ever-strengthening pound sterling, has been making life very tough indeed.
For the seventh consecutive year, Stereophile has named a select few audio components the "Products of the Year." In doing so, we recognize those components that have proved capable of giving musical pleasure beyond the formal review period.
Is stadium rock passé? The Rolling Stones, the world's greatest practitioners of large-venue concerts, have announced a tour of smaller arenas beginning January 25. The "No Security" tour---in support of the recently released Virgin Records album of the same name---will take the band through 25 North American cities.
Long the bane of finicky audiophiles, Consumer Reports magazine has been measuring just about anything sold in a store since 1936 in an effort to "test products, inform the public, and protect consumers." But when they get around to testing audio gear, the magazine's "lab" has become the target of many audio enthusiasts who don't share CR's views on how to tell good sound from bad. In fact, part of the problem is that CR often reports that sound quality is not always the final factor in rating a product, with concerns about reliablity, ease of use, and fit and finish often skewing results.
It's well known among designers of power amplifiers that the class-A and -A/B amplifiers (referred to as linear amplifiers) used in the majority of car, home, PC, and pro audio systems are notoriously inefficient. They can consume vast amounts of power and yet waste most of it---as much as 80% or more---as heat. They require large power supplies and massive heatsinks, which drive up system weight, size, and cost. On the other hand, class-D amplifiers, using Pulse Width Modulation switching technologies, have good power efficiency but sometimes questionable audio fidelity. (The Spectron designs are possibly the exceptions here.) Class-D amps are used mostly in battery-powered applications in which sound quality might be considered secondary to battery life.
In the world of computer operating systems, you've got commercial products from Microsoft, Apple, Be, Sun, and others in one corner, and open-source products like Linux in the other. The commercial products are released to the public as finished products (at least until the next "bug fix" is ready), usually for a fee, and their core software code is protected much like the recipe for Coca-Cola. If you don't work for the company producing the official version, then it's hands off.
Billy Joel has decided to clean out his warehouse. Next month, the veteran rocker's almost-30-year-old collection of musical instruments, recording equipment, and stage gear will be put up for public auction by Sony Signatures, his merchandising company. A portion of the gross from the "Billy Joel Memorabilia Auction" will be donated to VH1's Save the Music Foundation, according to Dan Cooper, Senior Vice President of Sony Signatures' music division.
One might think that the publisher of "The Largest Marketplace in the World for Audiophile Equipment" would have a vested interest in encouraging trading activity among his readers. One would think that such a publisher might take a neutral stance regarding fluctuations in the world market for used equipment. One would think that he would credit his readers with sufficient intelligence to decide for themselves whether any specific purchase, sale, or trade was a good deal.
The WebNoize three-day conference took place last week in Los Angeles, mixing record-company executives with Internet geeks, all trying to find profitable ways to distribute music online. Tom Roli, publisher of the Webnoize website, set the tone for the event, stating that "the industry is facing great change and uncertainty due to emerging technologies, shifting global markets, and media revolutions."