In a move that is sure to enrage users of blank digital media, Canada's Copyright Board has finalized plans to add a levy of 5.2 Canadian cents on CD-Rs and CD-RWs, 23.3 cents on audio cassettes over 40 minutes in length, and 60.8 cents on MiniDiscs and recordable audio CDs. In a market in which blank CD-Rs used for computer backup typically cost less than C$1 each, this represents an increase of at least 5% per disc. Interestingly, DAT tapes are excluded from the tax, as they are not seen as a threat to the music business.
Do high-end cables make an audible difference? Or are they cosmetic enhancements, like fancy wheels on high-performance cars? The New York Times, the nation's foremost newspaper, took up the issue in a December 23 piece in "Circuits," its weekly technology section.
Despite the recent defeat of DVD-Audio's copy-protection scheme (see previous story), Pioneer Electronics has decided to move forward with its plan to release two models of its high-resolution players in Japan. The announcement was made December 14 by company executives in Tokyo, who said that delaying the format's launch at this late stage could do irreparable damage to its acceptance by music fans. Super Audio Compact Disc, a competing format developed by the Sony/Philips alliance, is already beginning to win converts.
We've all heard of the entrepreneur who liked a product so much that he bought the company. Such bold steps are sometimes wildly successful. Case in point: Mark Levinson and his high-end startup, Red Rose Music.
Almost beaten to death in the past couple of years by salesfolk, pundits, and journalists, "convergence" has been applied to the coming-together of audio and video, analog and digital, hardware and software, information and entertainment, and Democrats and Republicans. Among all these merging trends, the audiophile community rarely hears about the convergence of pro audio with the High End.
A common question in the audio newsgroups these days is, "Have you tried the new PS Audio Power Plant, and what did you think?" Stereophile's Robert Deutsch takes a seasoned look at the new product in his review of the PS Audio P300 Power Plant. Does it live up to all of the hype, and is it true that the P300 is "audaciously original in concept, yet makes so much sense that you wonder why no one ever thought of it before?" Mr. Deutsch explains.
We're still waiting to see even one official US release of DVD-Audio software, but reports are trickling in that the recording industry is nonetheless planning for the multichannel high-resolution audio landscape. The latest bit of news comes from mastering facility Future Disc Systems, which announced last week that it is now mastering DVD-Audio projects, and will soon be ready for high-resolution surround sound.
The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) is reporting that factory-to-dealer sales of audio equipment posted strong gains in October, rising by 8% over last October's sales figures and eclipsing the $1 billion mark for the first time since 1995. The CEA says that growth occurred in all segments of the audio market except portable audio, sales of which remained consistent with last year's levels.
Last week, Cello Technologies (formerly Cello Music & Film Systems) announced that it had acquired San Francisco Bay area custom installer and retailer The Audible Difference. According to a statement issued by Cello, The Audible Difference was founded in Palo Alto in 1976 and serves over 10,000 clients in the Silicon Valley area, and has 30 employees, "all focusing on audio design and home-systems design engineering, integration, and automation technologies."
Although advertising copywriters would have us believe otherwise, there is not a lot of true innovation in audio. Most audio products are based on well-established principles, perhaps refined in detail and execution. Of course, some products do take novel approaches, but they tend to be too off-the-wall to be taken seriously, or simply don't do the job as well as more conventional products. What's really exciting is to encounter a product that is audaciously original in concept, yet makes so much sense that you wonder why no one even thought of it before (footnote 1).