There's good news on the download front. Two sites, one in the UK and the other in the US, are gearing up for major expansions of their catalogs. Both offer DRM-free files in both lossless and high-quality (320kbps) MP3 formats.
Well, I cannot say that I saw everything at the 2008 CEDIA Expo, nor can I say that my dreams came true. However, my major expectation for this show was to see that the major high-end manufacturers had bitten the bullet for HDMI and HD audio. I am happy to say, almost all have: some with products ready to ship; some with availabilities before the end of the year; and some with prototypes and promises for the 2009 CES in January. To list and illustrate them all would take more energy than I can conjure at this late day but here are a few.
Multichannel/surround is the default mode at CEDIA, of course, but there are interesting two-channel products to be found. Perhaps the most surprising was from McIntosh, released in celebration of the company's impending 60th Anniversary. Would you believe a mini-system from McIntosh? Well, it looks like a McIntosh but look at it. It consists of a two-channel preamp/amp (75wpc) with a prominent tube stage and characteristic McIntosh power transformer. Docked underneath is an SACD/CD player, and a pair of speakers complete the ensemble. Price is expected to be in the $6000$8000 range.
While most of the speakers at CEDIA seem to be designed for concealment, from on-wall to in-wall and, even, behind-wall in the case of the Stealth Acoustics designs. The latter mount in the wall but with the expectation that the installer will plaster over them. As a result, no pix from me but you can imagine what they look like by viewing your own wall.
The first day of CEDIA, like the first day of CES, is clogged with highly structured press conferences by the major international electronics companies and, since the show floor is not yet ready for primetime and there is the minute possibility that they might actually say something interesting, all the press faithfully parade from one to the next. Sure, I am little less enthusiastic than most since my, and, I hope, our interests are focused on audio, much less so on video and progressively less and less on home integration and central vacuum systems.
On August 14, Logitech International announced that it intended to acquire privately held Ultimate Ears for $34 million in cash. "Ultimate Ears is a perfect fit for Logitech and our audio business," said Gerald P. Quindlen, Logitech's president and CEO. "Since its inception, Ultimate Ears has been driven by innovation, close ties to its customers, and the desire to enable an immersive audio experience. Logitech's success has been built on using a deep understanding of our customers to create products that let people immerse themselves in their pursuits."
Let's do the It's a Wonderful Life exercise, shall we? Imagine what popular music would sound like today without Jerry Wexler. Aretha Franklin would have never returned to her gospel roots, Ray Charles would have continued imitating Charles Brown and Nat Cole, Stax would have been a tiny regional record label, and denatured white covers of R&B songs would dominate the charts. In fact, the music we know today as rhythm and blues would still be called "race music"Wexler having coined R&B while working at Billboard in 1949.
PSB came to New York in late July to debut its new line of loudspeakers, giving journos an advance peek at them before the official launch at the CEDIA Conference in early September. Paul Barton, showing a lot of emotion for a normally reserved Canadian, was frankly in love with the four new loudspeakers.
T.H.E. Show, aka The Home Entertainment Show, has put out a welcome mat for members of "authentic Audiophile Societies throughout the globe."1 Scheduled for January 911, 2009, in Las Vegas, the same dates as the Consumer Electronics Show down the road, T.H.E. Show has for the first time offered members of audiophile societies paid access to over 100 anticipated active-display suites in both the St. Tropez and Alexis Park hotels.
On June 11, Recording Industry vs the People, Ray Beckerman's popular blogspot site covering the recording industry's ongoing series of litigations, revealed that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) had voluntarily and "without prejudice" filed a motion on May 27 to dismiss its ongoing complaint, Warner v Cassin, which maintained that posting files to a peer-to-peer network was distribution of those files, whether or not actual distribution occurred. This is known in copyright law as "making available."
It has been an action packed week on the judicial copyright battlefield. One June 11, a federal district court upheld the first sale doctrine , ruling in UMG v Troy Augusto that sales of promotional CDs did not constitute a copyright violation.
Some musicians are remembered for a single remarkable album; some are remembered for a hit song—Bo Diddley will always be remembered for a beat. That eponymous beat—a rhumba-inflected Bomp a-bomp-a-bomp, bomp, bomp—may well have been "the most plagiarized rhythm in rock," as Rolling Stone claimed in 2005.
Sometimes, wonderful things go unnoticed. Thus did Stereophile miss that, in June 2007, at its 31st annual conference, in London, UK, the International Audio Engineering Society issued two Awards of Excellence in the category of Professional Engineering. One, which we learned about from a Minnetonka Audio press release, went to Dorian Records (see the May 2008 issue of Stereophile, pp.14–15). The other went to AIX Records of Southern California. The award is for John Gorka's The Gypsy Life, one of more than 50 high-resolution recordings available from AIX in DVD-Audio/Video surround sound and on two-channel CD. Most interesting is that both AES awards were for DVD-Audio projects.