"Digital audio quality at analog prices." ThatÆs how Cirrus Logic's Crystal Semiconductor division introduced a chip that may bring a new level of audio performance to a much wider audience. On April 6, Crystal announced its CS4334, an 8-pin, small-outline D/A converter. The 24-bit CS4334 will support sampling rates of up to 96kHz, and is being marketed as a low-cost, high-quality solution for computer, automotive, and portable audio applications, as well as DVD systems and set-top converter boxes. Crystal claims the new chip is the industryÆs smallest delta-sigma DAC.
At the recent WinHEC '98, NEC Electronics Inc. made available prototype sample units of 1394-to-POF (plastic optical fiber) repeater boxes that extend transmission of video, audio, and textual data over long distances via plastic optical fiber and copper media. NEC Electronics, one of the first companies to demonstrate this technology over plastic optical fiber and copper and wireless media, is also one of the first to demonstrate transmission speeds of 200Mbits/s over plastic optical fiber.
Not long after the single-disc CD player was introduced, the multidisc changer followed, with products from companies like Sony and Pioneer. Shortly after the changer was introduced, it became the most popular version of the new hardware format. In the past eight years, changers have consistently outsold single-disc machines. The high-end market was characteristically slow to embrace changers, but companies like California Audio Labs have been successful in this category with products like the CL-10, a five-disc carousel changer.
High-end journal The Abso!ute Sound, long rumored to be circling the drain, has been officially revived. According to a press release dated March 24, TAS will be operated under a new company, Absolute Multimedia, owned by Tom Martin, a vice-president at Dell Computer. Martin has reportedly arranged serious financing for the new venture, which will be based in Austin, Texas.
Call it the comeback kid. Only a year ago, electronics retailer Best Buy Company was on the brink of disaster. Reeling from rapid expansion---34 new stores in two years---and suffering from an industry-wide sales slump, the retailer was said to be close to defaulting on some large-scale loans. Customers were being offered no-interest long-term credit as an inducement to buy anything on the sales floor.
The performance of deep bass is one of the most perplexing questions we face. Timeless as the search for eternal youth or the meaning of life, the quest for truly satisfying deep bass has engaged generations of philosophers and inventors. Until recently, the subject was primarily one of conjecture, opinion, and hypothesis. Even so, almost no hard science had been devoted to this enduring issue.
Editor's Note: I received an e-mail from Leonid asking for advice on audio cables a few weeks back, and we quickly began discussing the local audio scene in his hometown in Russia. I asked him to describe it for me; what follows is his report.---JI
Telecommunications giant American Telephone and Telegraph announced March 16 that it too, now, has technology for digital music delivery. AT&T's system, called a2b music, is based on MPEG Advanced Audio Coding.
The DVD Forum's Working Group 4 (WG-4) is expected to deliver the "0.9" version of its official DVD-Audio specification this month, with "1.0" to follow shortly. While information is scarce, it appears that WG-4 is talking about four different kinds of disc, each of which will be playable on one or two of three different kinds of players. And that doesn't include Sony's and Philips' "Super Audio CD" proposal (see Peter van Willenswaard's report on SACD a couple of weeks back on the website), or the Classic Records-led "DAD" format, which uses the provision of the DVD-Video specification for 24-bit/96kHz audio data. (DADs will play on DVD-Video players that have appropriate D/A sections---also see the past item on the web site.)
More than 50 independent music labels ("indies") have signed on with Liquid Audio, the leading provider of music downloads over the Internet. The announcement was made March 19 at South by Southwest (SXSW), an annual music and media conference in Austin, Texas.
The Lenbrook Group of Pickering, Ontario, Canada announced March 25 that it will acquire Sonic Frontiers of Oakville, Ontario, Canada. This acquisition, effective May 1, 1998, is an extension of Lenbrook's commitment to enhance its position in the international specialty A/V segment of the consumer electronics industry. A new company, Sonic Frontiers International (SFI), will be formed to leverage Lenbrook's strengths with Sonic Frontiers' market position in the high-end segment of the audio business.
On March 20, at the CeBIT '98 convention in Hanover, Germany, several leading manufacturers of CD-ReWritable (CD-RW) drives and media announced that the market for CD-RW products has grown much faster than originally predicted.
On March 17, Recoton Corporation announced that it has licensed the NHT brand name to Vergence Technology, Inc. NHT is a name known among audiophiles for its line of loudspeaker products for home audio. Vergence intends to utilize the NHT brand name on its new line of products designed specifically for the pro audio and professional home music markets. Planning for this marketing agreement has been in development for many months with Vergence Technology's Chris Byrne and Ken Kantor, who were also the founders of NHT.
Concluding its six-year evaluation of Digital Audio Radio (DAR) systems, the Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Association (CEMA) filed its final report last month with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The report, "Technical Evaluations of Digital Audio Radio Systems: Laboratory and Field Test Results, System Performance, Conclusions," is available to the public from the FCC and through CEMA's website.
In a move sure to startle a few record retailers, English recording artists Massive Attack will make their much-anticipated new album, Mezzanine, available in its entirety on the Internet weeks before the May 12 in-store release date. The album will appear in stages over the course of two weeks via a special page on Virgin Records America's web site.