The Recording Industry Association of America has recently been getting press ink by the bucketful for its defense of the music business against the perils of the Internet. But the Future of Music Coalition is urging the US Copyright Office to be wary of efforts by the RIAA to establish itself as the sole and exclusive collection agent for digital performance royalties for sound recordings. Instead, the Coalition has proposed that an independent body would be a more appropriate vehicle to collect and distribute these and other monies, including Audio Home Recording Act of 1992 royalties.
The online music world has been hit by one jolt after another as the record labels go after anyone they can slap with the "music pirate" label. In response, the e-sharks smell blood and are circling. Internet music-distribution company EMusic sent out a press release recently making the assertion that "now that Napster and MP3.com are both on shaky legal ground, many downloadable-music fans are going to be looking for compelling, 'legitimate' alternatives."
It may still be a trickle, but at least a little music relief has reached the parched throats of audiophiles awaiting the arrival of DVD-Audio discs. Last week saw the announcement that Aaron Neville's latest CD release will also hit stores as a multichannel DVD-A on Immergent Records on October 24. This week sees the announcement that another recording legend, Willie Nelson, will soon take the plunge.
Widely assumed to be at death's door, streaming-audio site MP3.com may be on the rebound after reaching a preliminary agreement October 19 to license more than one million songs from the National Music Publishers' Association, Inc. (NMPA) and the organization's primary subsidiary, the Harry Fox Agency, Inc. (HFA). Individual music publishers represented by the Fox Agency must approve the agreement before it can take effect.
John Atkinson shuffles his feet a little and finally mutters, " . . . Convergence." He laments, "I swore I wasn't going to use the 'C' word, but when you're faced with writing about a product that smashes the boundaries between component categories as completely as the CardDeluxe does, you have little choice." JA reviews the Digital Audio Labs CardDeluxe PC soundcard and answers the pointed question: "But it's only a PC soundcard. What's the big deal?"
With $60,000 in award money as incentive, the hacker community is helping the Secure Digital Music Initiative find out just how secure six proposed watermarking technologies really are. On October 12, as SDMI representatives were testing the audibility of three of the watermarks, the organization announced the closure of a month-long challenge it had offered hackers: break the code. According to the terms of the challenge, each defeated technology will mean $10,000 to a successful hacker.
It's easy for us audiophiles to feel neglected. Consider that this year witnesses the debuts of not one, but two new audio formats that should answer the prayers of just about every frustrated audiophile out there: SACD and DVD-Audio. Both approaches represent the state of the art of recording and reproducing music, and finally fulfill for serious listeners the promise that CD teased us with more than 15 years ago.
It's a reviewer's privilege to be able to switch back and forth between tube and solid-state gear (or combinations thereof) as the mood or the assignment moves him. Still, I find I'm inevitably drawn back to the Epicurean delights of triode tube gear. When done right, there's an alluring musicality to it, like the breath of life. However, in any tube vs solid-state contest, the relative tradeoffs between tone and resolution—sweetness and articulation, euphony and frequency extension—must be taken into consideration.
Kalman Rubinson gives a long listen to the 1998 Stereophile Editor's Choice winner, the Z-Systems rdp-1 digital preamplifier. Like many audiophiles, Kal eschewed tone controls in favor of the purist approach—until he met the rdp-1. As he puts it: "Now, the time has come for DSP to give the audiophile some powerful tools to tailor frequency response and to correct faults in the recording."