Some optimists in Washington, on Wall Street, and elsewhere predicted that the Asian economic crisis wouldn't reach the United States. But in late August, the financial flu infecting that part of the world, and the ongoing monetary instability in Russia, finally affected North America. As of Friday, August 28th, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was hovering just above 8000, down from a record high of 9337.97 on July 17th. The market decline has affected the whole economy---traditional industries as well as hot-ticket ventures like Internet stocks.
I think I've finally figured out the secret of Stereophile's success. You, cherished reader, don't read this mag because it's chock full o' reviews of tantalizing audio gear (even though it is). And you don't read this mag because JA and RL strive so hard to keep the literary quotient as hi as the fi (even though they do). And I know you don't read this mag cuz trusting yer own sensory input is a mighty scary proposition indeed so you look to Stereophile as to a Holy Bible that eases your Earthly burden by telling you, Ah say Ah say TAILING YEW what to buy (do you?).
In this age of $70,000-plus "flagship" designs, perhaps $25k is no longer an obscene amount to pay for a pair of loudspeakers. Still, it's mucho dinero. What makes a speaker worth this kind of bread? Does the product's intrinsic value really warrant such a lofty cost, or is it merely a matter of pricing at what the market will bear? The answers to these questions requires careful examination of not only the speaker, but also of the buyer's own soul, priorities, and pocketbook.
Looks like it might be a while before a profitable formula jells for selling music over the Internet. News this week indicates that one of the largest music retailers, Tower Records, is finally ready to challenge the market, while online distribution pioneer N2K will be scaling back operations until things steady a bit.
The latest music-piracy statistics have just been released by the RIAA, bringing to light several new wrinkles in the ongoing struggle to protect the owners of music copyrights from those who illegally copy and sell protected works. Released August 21, the report details the new problems brought about by CD-R technology and MP3 files distributed via the web.
The Federal Communications Commission is fighting an epidemic called "microradio." The agency has closed 250 unlicensed stations in the past year, most of them low-powered urban pip-squeaks with less than 100W of power and broadcast radii of 10 miles or less. The typical microradio station offers an off-center perspective on local, national, and world events to a listenership of a few hundred people, and loses money in the process.
In June, while the Recording Industry Association of America was collecting fat settlements from unauthorized CD compilers, its Canadian counterpart was busy shutting down Purple Dot, a custom-disc operation in Calgary, Alberta. The Canadian Recording Industry Association e-mailed a cease-and-desist order to 18-year-old Robert Clark, owner and operator of Purple Dot, which had been advertising on the Internet in the Yahoo! directory.
In last month's edition of this new column, I wrote about those of us whose systems are out in the breeze in the Family Room, at the mercy of wives, Significant Others, curious children, cats'n'dogs, and nonaudiophiles who, for the life of them, can't figure out what it's all about. I met a chap the other day whose wife said to me, "Oh, you suffer from the same audiophile disease." I hastened to inform her that I am the disease, and suggested that her husband was pursuing a noble path for the love of music—no bad thing, in my view. She remained unconvinced.
Up from the deep: Torrance, CA-based Wherehouse Entertainment announced last week that it will purchase Blockbuster Music from Viacom Inc. for $115 million. The merged operation will have 598 stores throughout North America, second only to Minnesota-based Musicland. The deal comes at the end of a prolonged slump for the music industry, one that was particularly hard for Blockbuster.
As with past HI-FI Shows, we asked visitors to HI-FI '98 to vote for the room that offered what they thought to be the best sound. The ballot in the Show Guide asked visitors to list the best, second-best, third-best, and worst sounds, for which I allocated 3 points, 2 points, 1 point, and -1 point, respectively. Any exhibitor that received more than 0.7% of the total votes cast is listed in the Table. I've tried to include both the exhibitors and the brands demonstrated, as listed in the Show Guide and in our report text in the September issue of the paper Stereophile. My apologies if I've left anyone out.