Recognizing that high-end audio is anything but plug'n'play, Jonathan Scull examines the details of getting the best from alternating current in "Fines Tunes" #8. As Jonathan writes: "Bill Gates would have you believe we live in a plug'n'play world. Apple has proselytized same since day one. But I'm here to tell you it just isn't so for high-end audio."
On January 17, we reported a new service by MP3.com in which it would store, on its site, digital copies of tunes purchased by music lovers for them to access from any location. Beverly Hills attorney Ken Hertz, who sometimes consults with MP3.com, said he would be "surprised if the recording industry didn't sue," despite glowing statements from MP3.com chief Michael Robertson about all the benefits and new sales the recording industry would enjoy from his venture into uncharted waters.
This journal has seen a number of thoughtful ruminations on what it is that attracts us to music or to a given audio component, and how we should describe that attraction. The "Letters" pages have been filled by readers who have taken us to task for not adhering to rigorous scientific methods in the evaluation of components, those rigorous scientific methods usually being equated with double-blind listening. Other readers have praised the magazine for its stance that an educated listener in a familiar, relaxed environment will be more accurate in his or her assessment than an average of trained and untrained listeners in unfamiliar, stressful circumstances. Overall, sonic descriptions from diverse reviewers in different publications show a remarkable consensus of observation (not opinion).
After 53 years of publication, Audio magazine, owned and operated by Hachette Filipacchi Magazines, is closing its doors this week. Often rumored to be on the ropes, the magazine had recently attempted a new editorial direction and artistic facelift.
The buzz about digital audio downloads from the Internet would lead one to think that the only way we'll be buying music in the not-too-distant future is through the Web. But the reality this past holiday season looks quite different. Reuters is running stories saying that there was "No Santa for the Internet Music Industry," and record companies attempting to get online are having a tough time (see related item). MP3 for Dummies author Andy Rathbone states bluntly: "It [the digital music business] hasn't taken off as much as analysts expected," and EMI Records' Jay Alan Samit laments, "this year, over a billion songs were downloaded. None of our artists got paid."
At the moment, music fans who want to add to their collections by trolling the Internet are limited to bootlegs of dubious quality and legality, low-resolution shareware from innumerable unsigned bands, and teaser samples intended to help sell CDs by mail. Despite the subject's near-constant presence in the media, sales of downloadable music amounted to only about $1 million in 1999—as compared to total music sales of approximately $13 billion. The trickle of business is in large part due to reluctance by the music industry to open up its vaults because of a lack of copyright protection.
At this year's recent CES in Las Vegas, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) announced the first 50 inductees into its Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame, chosen from the nominees by a panel of 11 media and industry professionals.
In "Working in the Front Line," Martin Colloms writes: "A committed audio equipment reviewer operates at the front line of audio subjectivity. How is it possible to do this successfully, when a similar task undertaken by an industrial laboratory or test house would take five times as long, cost ten times as much, and deliver a verdict of arguably poorer relevance?" How indeed . . . Colloms explains himself.
San Diego-based MP3.com, a premier website for distributing the music of unsigned bands, has announced a new program called Beam-it, via which copies of commercial CDs will be stored at the site. The copies will be instantly available to customers who have purchased the music from affiliated online retailers, company officials said. About 40,000 CDs have already been archived on the site.
On January 14, anyone calling Naim Audio heard an Elgar recording, and visitors to the Naim website forum learned the sad news that founder and managing director Julian Vereker had died. The company—indeed, British hi-fi as a whole—is mourning the loss of one of its brightest and strongest personalities.