Strange but true: Stereophile editor John Atkinson once sold a tweak amplifier after being startled by not being able to identify it in a blind listening test. "Convinced by these results of the validity of the Consumer Reports philosophy, I consequently sold my exotic and expensive Lecson power amplifier, with which I had been very happy, and bought a much cheaper Quad 405---the biggest mistake of my audiophile career!" says JA of the experience.
The MP3 digital music format continues to gain momentum. Only two weeks ago, Thomson S.A., the international electronics conglomerate (parent of RCA and ProScan), announced a 20% investment in MusicMatch, Inc., the San Diego, California-based maker of management software for the upstart format. Last week Thomson took a further radical stance by announcing RCA's own MP3 player, the Lyra, to a gathering of more than 400 dealers at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas.
In an Internet world, the audiophile's quest for sound quality via high-resolution formats like DVD-Audio or SACD might be the last gasps of a dying generation. New media and technology companies like Liquid Audio, Diamond Multimedia, and RealNetworks are betting that the new generations of music lovers care more about how music is distributed, stored, and manipulated than about how it ultimately sounds. Les Garland, one of the founders of MTV and VH-1, has stated that "Technology fueled the growth of the market for music during the time when we pioneered music on cable. The Internet is having a similar effect, tenfold, driving artists and consumers to embrace digital media."
Our report two weeks ago on Grateful Dead Productions and its dispute with MP3 sites was tainted by some bits of misinformation. Dave Rosenberg, webmaster at OtherOnes.net, has pointed out that his site did not receive a cease and desist order, but was asked to remove any Grateful Dead logo. Rosenberg was appreciative of the publicity the issue has received. "Thank you for publishing and making known the problems Deadabase is currently facing from Grateful Dead Productions," he wrote.
The Rounder Records Group, one of the largest independent record labels in the US, has signed on with Liquid Audio for digital music distribution on the Internet. As of April 28, Rounder will offer a substantial portion of its catalog for sale by digital download.
Upstart digital audio format MP3 received some heavy-duty validation with the announcement on Wednesday, April 27 by Thomson Multimedia SA that it has made a 20% investment in MusicMatch Inc., a maker of MP3 player and management software. "Jukebox," as the software is known, is used to play, encode, and manage MP3 files. Thomson makes RCA, ProScan, and Thomson brand electronics.
Last week, CDDB announced a newly designed, more user-friendly website for its large database of audio CD information. The database resource now provides free information on more than 360,000 CDs, which the company describes as the world's largest online CD music database. There are over 40,000 entries in the classical CD database alone, with rock logging three times as many entries at 126,000. The database gains about 500 new entries every day. Users can search by artist, album, or song title, and then cross-reference titles to other artists or discs.
Reuters has reported that Sony Corporation is experiencing a 20% drop in profits this year, brought about by poor showings from audio and video product sales, slow markets, price wars, and a lack of hit records. The report also stated that the electronics sector, which normally generates the bulk of Sony sales, saw operating profits decline by more than half compared to the previous year.
In the latest article to appear in the Archives, Robert Harley comes right out and asks, "How many of you actually read the 'Measurements' sections of Stereophile's equipment reports and understand what's being measured, and why? I suspect that many readers skip over the technical assessment of the reviewed product and make a dash for the 'Conclusion.' "
The night after we got home from the 1999 Consumer Electronics Show in January—see the report in this issue—my dear companion and I attended a performance of Madama Butterfly at San Francisco's beautifully refurbished War Memorial Opera House. It was a Tuesday evening, traditionally a big event for the Opera's benefactors. From our box seats, we had an excellent view of a production musically sumptuous and visually austere—and of a sea of gray and balding heads.