On October 1 and 2, engineers, marketing executives, and journalists filled the Hyatt Regency conference center near the San Francisco airport for the DVD-Audio Forum. A long afternoon of technical lectures left us numb. "Therapy for insomniacs" is the only way to describe the seemingly endless Power Point presentations. Microsoft's Power Point seems to be the standard format at all large gatherings, and it's as soporific as hearing a professor read from a textbook.
Running close on the heels of the 105th AES Convention in San Francisco, the DVD Forum held its conference two days later in the posh Hyatt Regency near the SF Airport. Attended by a variety of computer and consumer-electronics industry folk who manufacture and sell DVD discs and hardware, more than half of day one was devoted to the emerging DVD-Audio format. Although the presentations became highly technical at times, the sheer variety of possible formats and applications for DVD-Audio became apparent. Whether this is a blessing or a fatal flaw, all agreed that the consumer will ultimately determine DVD-Audio's fate in the next 2 to 5 years.
Day Four at AES. The crowds were somewhat thinner, but the convention floor was still buzzing, still incredibly busy right up to 4pm, the official break-down time. I spent a couple of hours strolling the floor with Vacuum Tube Valley's Eric Barbour, who works another side of the thermionic street as an application engineer for Svetlana, the Portola Valley, CA-based importer of Russian-made tubes. Svetlana will soon be making the ubiquitous 12AX7 and other popular tubes in its St. Petersburg factory, he told me. Instability in Russia has hindered production recently, but Eric said all such problems have been solved. He also mentioned that VTV has moved to new offices and should soon be published quarterly. I stood by as he made a sales call at the Millennia Media booth.
Cats vs. dogs, Wile E. Coyote vs. Roadrunner, Spy vs. Spy, Analog vs. Digital. It seems that some battles will never end, and so it is with flux vs. bits in the professional recording industry. The Audio Engineering Society (AES) conventions dazzle showgoers with the latest audio recording and processing gear, mostly digital, and this year's show is no exception. The big buzz heard 'round the hall were higher sampling and quantization rates for future music formats such as DVD-Audio. But off-site, at the nearby ANA hotel (great choice of venue---just add LOG) in downtown San Francisco, key industry heavyweights were holding a meeting to discuss the future of analog recording technologies.
HDCD and Pacific Microsonics appear to be on a roll these days. The HDCD process, developed to coerce 20-bit performance out of the 16-bit CD format, is gaining several new licensees and is also appearing in more devices, as evidenced by several recent announcements. The company is also looking ahead to future DVD formats with an agreement intended to couple HDCD benefits with higher sampling rates.
For years, credit cards have allowed people to earn points toward air travel and automobiles, so earning credits for audio and video gear seems a no-brainer. Last week, Sony Electronics and Citibank launched the Sony Citibank Card, a co-branded credit card that allows consumers to earn points toward the purchase of a variety of Sony entertainment and merchandise.
James Bongiorno needs your help. The legendary electronics designer, whose pioneering work with fully complementary solid-state amplifiers has become part of engineering's standard lexicon, is battling liver cancer.
Saturday, September 26, thousands of enthusiastic audio-savvy attendees began swarming through the massive cavern of the Moscone Center's North Hall in San Francisco. They will continue to swarm until late Tuesday, September 29, the last day of the 105th Audio Engineering Society Convention. The convention has attracted hundreds of companies whose products are extravagantly displayed in the huge space beneath the Yerba Buena Gardens. Demonstrations of new products and technologies also take place in smaller rooms off the main floor. Research papers are being presented in meetings throughout the four-day event.
It's cheating to say that the best sound I've heard at the English Show was at Martin Colloms' house on Saturday night---cheating the same way it is when someone asks that question and I (or some other reviewer) piously responds that some live music event ranks above any exhibitor. Martin, of course, has an advantage over anyone at the Show. He set up his own listening room and had all the time he needed to boot. Even so, his system, consisting of a Krell KRS-25 and FPB 650Ms and Wilson Audio WITT IIs, was astoundingly fast, rhythmic, and dynamic.
Are there differences between an American hi-fi show and the British variety? A few---the biggest is the extent to which all the real business takes place at the bar. This is true for the audio press (okay, not all that different from an American show), but it's true for manufacturers as well. After Show hours, the boozer is jammed with everybody in the business sharing a few pints, smoking, and talking shop. It's not unusual to see business rivals chatting amiably about the state of the industry---and even discussing distribution in some detail.
Wandering around the halls of the Heathrow Renaissance Hotel, I saw and heard a lot more affordable audio on display than I've seen at most American shows. This makes sense. After all, this is a consumer show (or it will be tomorrow---yesterday and today were trade days), and, while consumers want to fantasize about the state of the art, they also like to see kit they can actually own. Me too.
The HI-FI Show 98, the sixteenth put on by UK audio magazine Hi-Fi News & Record Review, sedately opened its trade days this morning in the Renaissance and Excelsior hotels on Bath Road near London's Heathrow International Airport. No, that's not a change in venue, it's yet another name change for the hotel that first hosted the "Penta Show" and, more recently, the "Ramada Show." However, this year's show will be the last at the site, as the new owners do not seem interested in hosting large-scale events at all. Next year the show will be moving---to a destination that nobody's revealing in advance of Friday's official announcement.
On August 25 and 26, John Atkinson and Wes Phillips were in Salina, Kansas. They were recording what will be Stereophile's first jazz album, at the deconsecrated downtown church Chad Kassem of Acoustic Sounds has transformed into Blue Heaven Studios. The band, led by acoustic bass guitarist Jerome Harris, featured alto saxophonist Marty Ehrlich, trombonist Art Baron, vibraphonist Steve Nelson, and percussionist Billy Drummond. Over the two days, the quintet recorded a striking set of original compositions by Harris, as well as a superb tribute to Duke Ellington in one of the great bandleader's signature tunes, "The Mooche."
The Library of Congress has honored American composer, conductor, writer, and teacher Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) with an online preview exhibit from The Leonard Bernstein Collection, one of the largest special collections in the Library's Music Division.