Investors have shown an inexplicable willingness to foot the bill for MP3.com's $53.4 million settlement with Universal Music Group. In the four days following the announcement of a settlement on Tuesday, November 13, the now fully legitimate Internet music site watched its stock surge to four times the value it had only a month before. Shares of MP3.com closed Friday, November 17 at $9.42 each, triple the per-share price on the morning of the announcement. The stock had sunk to a 52-week low of $2.50 per share on October 11.
In his very English way, Sony's then managing director for the UK, Tim Steele, was getting a touch, er, desperate. His oh-so-cultured voice rose a smidgen as he resorted to a direct selling of the benefits of what he was talking about. "Look, you're all sitting on riches," was his fundamental pitch. "You can sell music-lovers your entire back catalog all over again—at a higher price!"
Although Philips invented the Compact Disc, it was only when Sony got involved in the early 1980s that it was decided—at the prompting of conductor Herbert von Karajan, a close friend of Sony's then-president Akio Morita—that the CD should have a long enough playing time to fit Beethoven's Ninth Symphony on a single disc (footnote 1). Even if the conductor was using very slow tempos, and even given the minimum pit size and track pitch printable at the time, the 16-bit data and 44.1kHz sampling rate they settled on gave them a little margin.
Over the past two decades, enough advances in the high-end audio industry have trickled down to aspiring audiophiles that we now enjoy a level of high-value, high-resolution performance that would have seemed unattainable even just a few years ago. Still, immersion in a profound musical experience remains an ephemeral goal to potential converts, given the level of expertise that seems necessary to assemble a truly audiophile set of separates.
When CDs were becoming popular, Neil Young made no secret of his disdain for the sound of digital. Interviews from the period quoted him as saying that the sound "left him cold," and he would rather listen to an LP, thank you very much. To this day, his new CD releases also appear on vinyl, but with the advent of DVD-Audio, sampling and quantization rates have improved—enough, apparently for Mr. Young's approval.
Two top executives at Bertelsmann Music Group will depart in the wake of the company's recent settlement of its lawsuit against Napster. Citing irreconcilable differences with parent company Bertelsmann AG over company strategy, BMG chief executive Strauss Zelnick and chairman Michael Dornemann announced their resignations Sunday November 5.
For the music industry, copyright and royalty litigation is like an endless war fought on many fronts. During early November, as four of the industry's "Big Five" continued their pursuit of the file-sharing service Napster, a parallel trial in US Federal Court in New York against music archiving-and-accessing site MP3.com by Universal Music Group entered its penalty phase, that segment of the proceeding in which aggrieved plaintiffs seek to extract money from guilty defendants. Other plaintiffs in the trial—Sony Music Entertainment, BMG, Warner Music, and EMI—have all settled with the San Diego-based Internet service for an average of $20 million each.
The Comdex trade show, taking place this week in Las Vegas, is flushing out scores of convergence consumer electronics products, in addition to the more traditional computer fare. Apogee Technology, formerly Apogee Acoustics, a name familiar to many Stereophile readers, is among the dozens of companies announcing technology for the modern consumer electronics marketplace.
Larry Greenhill writes: "I can't resist reading about a company's flagship loudspeaker—the price-no-object product that embodies the most advanced ideas from a company's research and design department . . . The cost? Don't ask." Six years in development, the Dynaudio Evidence loudspeaker is just such a cutting-edge product. So, Greenhill explains, "when the opportunity arose to review the Evidence, the flagship speaker from Danish company Dynaudio, I eagerly agreed." His verdict awaits.
Chip Stern writes, "There is something enduring and reassuring in the classic audio verities." The Vandersteen 2Ce Signature loudspeaker is certainly considered one of those timeless classics. But how does a speaker released in its first incarnation more than 20 years ago hold up by today's standards? Stern lends his modern ear to the task and includes notes from Richard Vandersteen himself.