After establishing a reputation for building small, magnificent-looking, very expensive, stand-mounted loudspeakers, the Italian manufacturer Sonus Faber has hit the ground running. First came the moderately priced ($3500/pair) floorstanding Concerto Grand Pianos, and now the company's "statement" loudspeaker, the Amati Homage--a $20,000/pair visual stunner that earns its keep almost by looks and touch alone.
The high-end audio industry may be in a slump, but the public's appetite for recorded music appears as voracious as ever. MP3, the hottest upstart in the digital audio market, got a big boost in late June when Diamond Multimedia Systems Inc. announced the next generation of its popular Rio digital music player, the Rio PMP 500, due to arrive in stores this fall.
Wednesday, June 23, was an auspicious day for Musicland Stores Corporation. That day the Minneapolis, Minnesota-based music and video retailer took its sales online. Four websites, each mirroring one of Musicland's four divisions, went live simultaneously with a promotional contest offering customers the chance to win daily and weekly prizes and a $10,000 grand prize---including a Sony home entertainment system. Participants can also win a trip for two to the World Wrestling Federation Summer Slam in Minneapolis on August 22.
Are audiophiles and recording engineers natural adversaries? From the many slings and arrows hurled back and forth between the camps, it would certainly seem so. Robert Harley asks, "But are recording engineers less concerned about sound quality than are audiophiles? If so, why? Isn't someone who has devoted his life to recording music more caring than the hobbyist audiophile? If not, why not?" Read his analysis of the issues in "A Clash of Values?" Also included is a lively volley of readers' letters.
The Internet is beginning to pose quite a dilemma for high-end audio manufacturers, especially ones with limited distribution in major markets such as the US. Do you risk alienating potential bricks-and-mortar dealers in an effort to gain widespread exposure by offering your products online? Or do you slowly build distribution through the traditional stores that for years have been high-end audio's haven?
The National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM) has released its Annual Survey Results for the 1998 business year, indicating that gross dollar volume for all music products grew by 10%, to $9.69 billion, with the CD market (83.3%, or $8.1 billion) continuing to build on its dominance. The report reveals that DVD sales "literally exploded in 1998," up a staggering 400% to $259 million.
Collectors will go to to any lengths to track down the objects of their obsession. Record collectors, a particularly extreme species, are known for their incredible attention to detail and their astounding capacity for absorbing vast quantities of minutiae.
Earlier this month, DirecTV announced that it is investing $50 million in XM Satellite Radio in an effort to capitalize on direct satellite-to-receiver broadcasting technology, which is intended to provide listeners in the car and at home with up to 100 channels of music, news, and entertainment available in North America. Additional XM investors include General Motors, Clear Channel Communications, and a private investment group.
Almost every audiophile, whether hobbyist or professional, has taken a stab at building loudspeakers. Combine the fundamentals of cabinetmaking with some basic electronic theory, connect a few good drivers to a well-designed crossover network, and you're on your way to pretty good sound. And now, with widely available resources like crossover design software and high-quality prefabricated cabinets, the task is easier than it's ever been.
The MP3 audio format has been rapidly gaining a solid reputation in the last several months. Portable products such as Diamond Multimedia's Rio have hit the market, and websites (typified by MP3.com) have gained financial success. (See related story.) But one area that has so far lagged is MP3-based playback and recording equipment for using the files at home without moving a computer next to the stereo.