The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) is reporting that factory-to-dealer sales of audio equipment posted strong gains in October, rising by 8% over last October's sales figures and eclipsing the $1 billion mark for the first time since 1995. The CEA says that growth occurred in all segments of the audio market except portable audio, sales of which remained consistent with last year's levels.
Last week, Cello Technologies (formerly Cello Music & Film Systems) announced that it had acquired San Francisco Bay area custom installer and retailer The Audible Difference. According to a statement issued by Cello, The Audible Difference was founded in Palo Alto in 1976 and serves over 10,000 clients in the Silicon Valley area, and has 30 employees, "all focusing on audio design and home-systems design engineering, integration, and automation technologies."
Although advertising copywriters would have us believe otherwise, there is not a lot of true innovation in audio. Most audio products are based on well-established principles, perhaps refined in detail and execution. Of course, some products do take novel approaches, but they tend to be too off-the-wall to be taken seriously, or simply don't do the job as well as more conventional products. What's really exciting is to encounter a product that is audaciously original in concept, yet makes so much sense that you wonder why no one even thought of it before (footnote 1).
Convergence is a widely used buzzword in today's consumer-electronics industry. However, other than using my PC's soundcard in the office to play back MP3-encoded music and plugging the Mac in my listening room into my reference system in order to experience Riven with the highest possible sound quality, I've kept a low profile in this area.
Phase One of the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) will incorporate watermarking technology for DVD-Audio from Verance Corporation. The agreement was announced at a meeting of the SDMI in Hawaii early in December. Verance Corp. was formed recently by the merger of ARIS Technologies Corporation and Solana Technology Development Corp. ARIS's technology was announced a few months ago as the SDMI's choice for watermarking.
Any FM-radio DJ who was on the air in the US through the late '70s and early '80s will tell you that the song most often requested was easily Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven." Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird" popped up regularly, but it was never a contest. So it comes as no surprise that Zep's epic hit would make the list of the 10 songs included in the "Millennium Mix" being presented this month by Dick Clark. (Never mind that the millennium actually ends December 31, 2000.)
Loudspeaker manufacturer B&W has been extremely aggressive in the past two years in reining in abuses of its dealer agreements. Last year, the company cut off many dealers and stocking distributors in an attempt to tighten control over its distribution. Now, as a result of a program announced November 22 by KnowledgeLINK, many B&W dealers will be able to take sales online in complete compliance with their dealer agreements. Rotel dealers are also participating.
Audiophiles have been hit hard lately, as DVD-Audio's release schedule has succumbed to piracy concerns and Sony has so far refused to allow digital outputs on SACD decks. (Only digital outs for CD playback are allowed.) You can listen, but don't touch. But at least there are still no such restrictions on CD players that would inhibit the use of their digital datastreams . . . for now.
There's nothing like a new high-resolution format to get an audiophile's interest, and this year saw two major announcements. But with DVD-Audio stalling, attention is sure to focus on Sony and Philips' new SACD format. Jonathan Scull jumps right in with his review of the Sony SCD-1 Super Audio CD/CD player. As J-10 notes: "Rarely have I anticipated the arrival of a review component as I did the Sony SCD-1 Super Audio CD player." But does it live up to the hype?