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."
The most common complaint about record companies: CD prices are too high. In fact, many blame Napster's runaway success on the insistence of "greedy labels" on pricing discs at $15 or higher. Apparently BMG Direct, a division of BMG Entertainment, has put two and two together and found it equals $9.99.
Mastering engineer Denny Purcell let out a long sigh. "Does anyone in this room really believe that any of this is going to do any good?" he asked. Of the eight or nine people—each with decades of experience in the music and/or audio industries—hanging out at Georgetown Masters Studios in Nashville for SDMI's Phase II listening tests, no one said "Yes." The consensus: The watermarking issue will probably be dead and forgotten within a year.
Following on the heels of its announcement last week of the first commercially available DVD-Audio disc (Swingin' for the Fences, by Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band), Silverline Records says that Aaron Neville will become the first major artist to release an album in the format. Silverline expects that, on October 24, Neville's solo album Devotion will be released on DVD-A. The disc will also include audio tracks compatible with standard DVD players.