June, 1998---"It's time to stop wasting the talents of brilliant American musicians because of their gender." And with that, an anonymous donor has given one million dollars to establish The National Women Conductors Initiative.
In a move that acknowledges the increasing convergence of consumer electronics and computer technology, Sony Electronics has reorganized its US sales and marketing structure, and will emphasize digital performance in its new line of products. Foremost among these developments is Sony's recent announcement that its new line of audio and video products will prominently feature its VAIO personal computers. The notebook computers have editing features for video and motion-picture technology, and are quite popular in Japan, where around 100,000 have been sold.
The Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Association's recently released U.S. Consumer Electronics Industry Today indicates a healthy glow on the cheeks of specialty audio. US exports of component audio products amounted to $2.12 billion in 1997, an increase of 12% over the previous year's total of $1.89 billion. 1997's total represents a 25% increase over 1995, when almost $1.7 billion in separate audio products went out of the country. The figures are compiled by CEMA from US Department of Commerce figures.
A key benefit of working with Stereophile is enjoying the expertise of fellow audio nerds. After the HI-FI Show just held in Los Angeles, Jonathan Scull and Kathleen Benveniste spent a week riding up the California Coast and paid us each a visit.
For the last few months, random postings kept appearing on internet newsgroups and in my e-mail box: "Anybody know what happened to Counterpoint?" At last count there were 10,000 Counterpoint preamps, power amps, and loudspeakers fanned out across the planet, some dating back to 1977, when the company launched its first product: the SA-1 tube preamp, designed by Ed Semanko.
Following a recent announcement of "diminished expectations" for the near future (see previous story) and a shakeup of upper management---in which Consumer Group marketing honcho Tom Jacoby was put out to pasture and audio guru Floyd Toole was promoted to senior vice president of acoustic and transducer engineering---Harman International Industries has put the finishing touches on a new 10,000-square-foot audio laboratory. At company headquarters in Northridge, CA, north of Los Angeles, the laboratory includes a 10,000-cubic-foot anechoic chamber for testing and measuring loudspeakers, and a multichannel room with computer-controlled, hydraulically operated platforms for positioning front left, center, and right speakers (a reviewer's dream!).
It's no secret that Dolby Laboratories doesn't aim its audio compression technologies at the high-end consumer audio market. After all, Dolby excels at finding ways to get maximum performance out of limited-bandwidth environments such as the audio cassette, or the space alloted for 5.1-channel soundtracks on DVDs.
In a move that is likely to push record labels into the uncharted territory of direct sales, BMG has announced its intention to add in-house sales to its network of music sites. "BMG will be moving in the fall to its own fulfillment capability because of the demands of consumers," said senior vice president Scott Dinsdale at the Business Online 98 conference in San Francisco last week.
Last week, Xing Technology Corporation announced its sponsorship of the First Annual MP3 Summit. In a statement, the company urged music-industry executives to discuss copyright issues, technical standards, and music distribution, and to participate in developing the future of MP3.
Fiscal year 1998 will be one of diminished expectations for Harman International Industries, Chairman Dr. Sidney Harman announced last week to assembled analysts and fund managers at a meeting in New York. He laid much of the blame on the continuing economic slump in Asia.
Digital radio company American Mobile Radio Corporation announced last Wednesday that it has exercised a $52.9 million option to upgrade its satellites. The move will potentially double the channel capacity of AMRC's nationwide satellite-direct audio radio service (SDARS), scheduled for the year 2000.
On June 17, Carlton Communications, owner of Technicolor, announced that it has entered into a merger agreement to acquire Nimbus CD International, one of the world's largest independent manufacturers of optical discs, including CD-Audio, DVD, DVD-ROM, and CD-ROM.
The "world's largest bookstore" may be on its way to becoming one of the biggest music stores, too. Two weeks ago, Amazon.com began a big push into CD retailing, more than doubling the number of its musical offerings to over 100,000 titles. (Competitor CDnow offers over 500,000 titles.) Visitors to the Amazon website can now click on a tab that will take them to a new music site, where they can listen to audio previews and read reviews, reprints of articles on bands and musicians, and music-industry news.
With the plethora of CD and DVD formats out there, it can be confusing figuring out what will work with what. Standards can help define specifications for a particular format, but often do little to guarantee compatibility between them.