Audiophiles know that cleaning up their AC supplies can yield a cornucopia of sonic benefits, including a quieter background, better retrieval of detail, and a subjectively wider dynamic range. The phenomenon is so well-recognized that it has spawned an entire industry devoted to making electrical conditioners, line filters, noise suppressors, and specialty power cords.
Hard-disk–based audio systems having been gaining traction in recent months, with a half-dozen consumer electronics companies announcing or selling products. These new components model what savvy computer users have been hacking together for years—a software-controlled music library based on hundreds or thousands of CD or MP3 files stored on a hard disk.
Sony describes the $700 TA-P9000ES as "a pure audio multichannel preamplifier equipped with two inputs for 5.1 analog multichannel audio sources, enabling selection, volume control, and amplification." A relay with twin gold-plated crossbars switches the two six-channel sources. Then follows a class-A solid-state push-pull amplifier in discrete configuration. Separate transistors, resistors, and capacitors populate the printed circuit boards. An oxygen-free copper shield surrounds each channel to prevent crosstalk between the channels. In addition, there is a relay-controlled gain stage offering 0, +6, and +12dB amplification.
Yet another variation on restricted-use compact discs appeared last week, when Phoenix-based SunnComm announced an agreement with Nashville's Sunbird Records that also includes revenue sharing. Sunbird says it is preparing to release country music singer Len Doolin's Once in a Lifetime on November 1 using SunnComm's new "Expanded Experience CD" (CD3) technology in an effort to restrict use of the disc on computers.
Record stores are devoting a diminishing amount of space to classical music, to the dismay of music lovers. Online distribution may offer hope for the genre, according to an in-depth report by Anthony Tommasini in the October 21 edition of the New York Times.
As reported last week, the US Justice Department has launched an anti-trust investigation of the music industry's strategy for online distribution. The probe intensified during the fourth week of October, with investigators presenting at least 10 "civil investigation demands" (CIDs) to participants in the music industry's nascent Internet ventures, MusicNet and pressplay.
Kalman Rubinson says he "anticipated the installation of the TacT Audio RCS 2.0 digital equalizer/preamplifier with mixed emotions." Would his hard work at setting up the perfect listening environment be rendered irrelevant in the face of digital signal processing? Or would the future of audio unfold at his feet?
A heavy second-quarter loss for Sony Corporation is only part of the gloomy financial picture for the consumer electronics industry. The numbers are down worldwide for manufacturers and retailers alike, and aren't expected to rebound until spring 2002 at the earliest.
Times are tough in the online audio delivery market, with long-established start-ups struggling to keep pace with competing formats from Microsoft as well as the ever pervasive MP3. Particularly hard hit has been Liquid Audio, which along with competitor Real Audio, has for the last few years attempted to create the de facto standard for online music commerce.
People come to high-end audio with different needs and expectations—some fairly reasoned, some slightly more highfalutin. Some listeners want to get as close as possible to an immersion experience, be it of a live performance or of some more idealized studio ecstasy. Others are enraptured by the status and sex appeal of big, hot-rod components, and simply dig gear—much as they might dig the visceral rush of a high-performance car. Still others compulsively upgrade their equipment in search of some unattainable perfection. But no matter the initial motivation, all roads eventually lead back to a love of music.