Remember FM radio's effect on college campuses years ago? Free music, usually without commercials (college stations are largely non-profit), and very flexible playlists made or broke new bands. Fast-forward to 2000. Students now spend most of their time downloading MP3 files for free over the Internet for playback on their computers. As before, new artists often benefit from this phenomena, but record companies are increasingly seeing the students as pirates rather than consumers.
With multichannel DVD-Audio just around the corner, the surround-sound debate among audiophiles is starting anew. But how far have we come with surround sound in 30 years? J. Gordon Holt wrote "Bye Bye, Quadrifi?" back in 1971, in which he explored the same dilemmas faced by today's audiophile.
The trend of computers redefining the price/performance ratio for digital audio shows no signs of slowing down. A new PCI-slot soundcard has been released by Digital Connection that could help change preconceived notions about the level of sound quality achievable from a computer. The $295 DC Pro 24/96 enables a brand-new function for the PC, playback of DTS 5.1 music CDs, as well as support for 24-bit/96kHz playback and recording, currently available only on high-end soundcards such as the CardDeluxe from Digital Audio Labs and the RME DigiPro/8.
Waiting for the Holy Grail of DVD-Audio? Even with players still distant on the horizon, one can now begin building a DVD-Audio music library with discs compatible with current DVD-Video players. At least that's the strategy offered at the recent High End 2000 show in Frankfurt, Germany this past week.
The Napster saga continues: Last week the Silicon Valley–based firm, which has been very successful with its MP3 file-sharing software, reinstated approximately 30,000 music fans who had signed online affidavits attesting that they had been mistakenly accused of appropriating songs by rock group Metallica. Those reinstated were slightly less than 10% of the 317,000 Napster users who had been booted from the system on May 3 as a result of legal attacks by Metallica.
Last year, Stereophile's Barry Willis took a trip to Ogden, Utah, to report on what was then a secret speaker project being conducted by Kimber Kable's Ray Kimber and designer Eric Alexander. After informal listening, Willis noted that, while not being able to completely nail down what the "under development" DiAural crossover circuitry was doing, something new was certainly in the air.
The Secure Digital Music Initiative's move to establish a copy-prevention technology for commercial recordings has rankled audio engineers, who claim that the audible watermarking technique chosen by the organization could mar high-resolution recordings. Of particular concern are SDMI's testing methods and its rush to get a standard in place without commentary from engineers or the music-buying public.
Music sales over the past two years have increased almost everywhere except near college campuses, according to a recent study undertaken by Reciprocal, Inc., a digital-rights management company. The first quarter of 2000 showed a 12% rise in overall music sales compared to the same period in 1998—except at stores located within five miles of a college campus. Reciprocal reached its conclusions based on figures supplied by sales-tracking organization Soundscan, Inc.