Following the Sony/Philips jump from the starting line with Wednesday's SACD announcements, the DVD-Audio camp quickly came up to speed at the HI-FI '99 press luncheon with their plans for players and discs to appear this fall. First up at the podium was Jordan Rost from the Warner Music Group. Contrasts with the SACD position were established from the start when Rost made it obvious that, unlike SACD, DVD-Audio seeks to embrace not only high-end audio, but also various forms of video, and even Internet interactivity. Rost even went so far as to say that DVD-Audio discs could "play on CD players if a hybrid disc is feasible and desired," thus possibly deflating Sony's insistence that backward-compatibility is what sets SACD apart.
It's been five years since David Wilson's X-1/Grand SLAMM speaker system invaded our audio consciousness with its 500W power capacity and very high (95dB/W) sensitivity (footnote 1). Capable of an earsplitting 123dB at 1m, with a bandwidth to match, this was one speaker system that refused to be ignored. The X-1 has since evolved to $70,000/pair Mk.II form. It now provides some flexibility of tonal balance for different room acoustics, and is distinguished by greater subtlety in its differentiation of timbre. Beneath the X-1 in Wilson's range comes the WATT/Puppy ensemble, now in its 5.1 iteration (footnote 2). The WATT/Puppy has survived for over 10 years, and sets a benchmark for the Wilson line at its $17,270 system price.
BILL LLOYD: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants Koch LOC-CD-8035 (CD). 1999. Bill Lloyd, Scott Baggett, prods., engs.; Brad Jones, prod.; Robin Eaton, Marshall Crenshaw, engs. AAD? TT: 56:46 Performance ****? Sonics ****
Strange but true: Stereophile editor John Atkinson once sold a tweak amplifier after being startled by not being able to identify it in a blind listening test. "Convinced by these results of the validity of the Consumer Reports philosophy, I consequently sold my exotic and expensive Lecson power amplifier, with which I had been very happy, and bought a much cheaper Quad 405---the biggest mistake of my audiophile career!" says JA of the experience.
The MP3 digital music format continues to gain momentum. Only two weeks ago, Thomson S.A., the international electronics conglomerate (parent of RCA and ProScan), announced a 20% investment in MusicMatch, Inc., the San Diego, California-based maker of management software for the upstart format. Last week Thomson took a further radical stance by announcing RCA's own MP3 player, the Lyra, to a gathering of more than 400 dealers at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas.
In an Internet world, the audiophile's quest for sound quality via high-resolution formats like DVD-Audio or SACD might be the last gasps of a dying generation. New media and technology companies like Liquid Audio, Diamond Multimedia, and RealNetworks are betting that the new generations of music lovers care more about how music is distributed, stored, and manipulated than about how it ultimately sounds. Les Garland, one of the founders of MTV and VH-1, has stated that "Technology fueled the growth of the market for music during the time when we pioneered music on cable. The Internet is having a similar effect, tenfold, driving artists and consumers to embrace digital media."
Our report two weeks ago on Grateful Dead Productions and its dispute with MP3 sites was tainted by some bits of misinformation. Dave Rosenberg, webmaster at OtherOnes.net, has pointed out that his site did not receive a cease and desist order, but was asked to remove any Grateful Dead logo. Rosenberg was appreciative of the publicity the issue has received. "Thank you for publishing and making known the problems Deadabase is currently facing from Grateful Dead Productions," he wrote.
The Rounder Records Group, one of the largest independent record labels in the US, has signed on with Liquid Audio for digital music distribution on the Internet. As of April 28, Rounder will offer a substantial portion of its catalog for sale by digital download.
Upstart digital audio format MP3 received some heavy-duty validation with the announcement on Wednesday, April 27 by Thomson Multimedia SA that it has made a 20% investment in MusicMatch Inc., a maker of MP3 player and management software. "Jukebox," as the software is known, is used to play, encode, and manage MP3 files. Thomson makes RCA, ProScan, and Thomson brand electronics.