In this issue's "Letters" column, you will find comments from readers who are bothered by what they perceive to be this magazine's emphasis on reviewing very expensive technology. Yes, we do cover a lot of cutting-edge technology, and it is, of necessity, expensive. But our experience has been that that technology invariably trickles down to products that real people can actually afford.
I visited the Revel room on the last day of the January 1999 CES, expecting another dynamic demo of their Ultima line. Instead, I found a pair of floorstanding Performa F30s connected to a rack full of the best Mark Levinson electronics. Deeply impressed by the dynamics and clarity of this first model in the new Performa line, I called Revel's Kevin Voecks as soon as I got back to New York City, but was told that another Stereophile reviewer had already got first dibs on the F30. Would I be interested in one of the other Revels? Well, yes, sure, but...
The continuing legal attacks on Napster, the free file-sharing software, and on MP3.com, the downloadable music site, have spooked investors, according to the financial press. MP3.com's stock got hammered hard, dropping by about 40% almost immediately in the wake of a recent decision by US District Court judge Jed S. Rakoff in favor of the Recording Industry Association of America's copyright-violation complaint against the Internet startup.
MP3 may be under constant attack by audiophiles, and by music-industry attorneys in the courts, but the format shows no indication of disappearing. Santa Clara, CA–based S3, maker of the Rio portable audio player, has reason to believe that MP3 has plenty of growth potential. The company is going after licensees for the Rio to make knockoffs, and has plans to produce Rio-type players for home and car audio this summer.
In early June, Toshiba will institute a new retailing program that embraces the Internet but favors traditional retailers. The electronics manufacturing giant will have "a defined group of Internet retailers" that will be built on a base of traditional retailers, according to an announcement made in late April. Later, the program will be expanded in stages to include Internet-only retailers. The announcement follows an announcement by Sony Corp. late in January that Sony would begin direct Internet sales this year.
Bothered by bounce? Jonathan Scull offers some solutions for turntable owners with problem floors in "Fine Tunes" No.20. He also describes how impoverished audiophiles can make their own low-cost anti-vibration shelves. Stereophile readers respond with their own experiences—and a warning.
It's mating season for entertainment-industry giants. Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group are in talks to develop a jointly operated subscription music service for the Internet, according to a report the two companies issued in the first week of May. The news followed by only a week an announcement of a possible merger between record clubs Columbia House and BMG Music Club.
"Here's somebody who just loves to sing." Over the telephone, Peter Guralnick sounds sad, incredulous. "But he's unable at the end of his life to force himself into the recording studio—the fear of completion, fear of exposing your untrammeled idea to execution. What a terrible thing to lose that ability, that faith in yourself."
No artist in the history of sound recordings has a more confused recorded legacy than Elvis Presley. Thanks to several generations' worth of ruthless avarice by his label, the constant machinations and eventual fire sale by his manager, Col. Tom Parker, and his own pathetic sloth, due in part by a 20-year addiction to prescription drugs, Elvis's recorded catalog is an absolute disaster: cut and pasted, issued and reissued as both budget and full-priced collections, exploited beyond all recognition. Keeping track of Elvis's catalog is one of, if not the most, labyrinthine discography in rock 'n' roll history. When all the foreign issues and reissues of his work are taken into account, it is, (speaking from recent experience) an endeavor which severely tasks the human capacity for tedium.
Reader Bill Huey reminded me recently that I'd promised to cover pre-War buildings that have hot and neutral electrical service but no ground. Why the rush? Bill was about to move into just such a dwelling. (Hey, never mind the furnace and the roof—what about my stereo?!)