Last week, the Recording Industry Association of America released its annual demographic survey of 3051 music purchasers in the United States. "Several interesting profiles emerged in 1998, including the boom in R&B and Gospel, as well as the sharp decline in Rock sales," said Hilary Rosen, RIAA president and CEO. "Demographic shifts also continued, with women outbuying men for the second year, and a drop in purchases among 15-to-29-year-olds, contrasted by significant growth among those age 35 and older." Last month, the RIAA released its annual year-end shipments statistics, which revealed the size of the domestic sound-recording industry in 1998 to be $13.7 billion.
On a very special Saturday night in early September—late winter in Australia—I was deeply moved by hearing Brahms' Symphony 1 in the concert hall of the Sydney Opera House complex. Perhaps it was Marek Janowski's fiery, inspired conducting, but I keep recalling the hall itself. Earlier that day, I had photographed—first from my hotel room, later from a ferry—the huge, nesting sail-like roofs, covered with a million white ceramic tiles, that enclose an opera theater, concert hall, and restaurant. Twenty-five years in construction and costing over $107 million, the Sydney Opera House is described in my Fodor's '98 Australia guide as "the most widely recognized landmark of urban Australia." Attending the concert that night—all 2679 seats were occupied—I found the acoustics lovely, dark, and rich.
I literally dropped everything when Rega's new Planar 25 turntable arrived a few weeks ago. I'd heard the 'table compared with the Planar 3 at designer Roy Gandy's house when I visited Rega last fall—see "Analog Corner" in the January '99 Stereophile—and was anxious to audition it in my own system and tell you what I heard.
What fascinates me about the High End are the electric personalities behind it. Manufacturers typically invest so much of themselves in the products they make. It's a divine madness—they do it because they have to. They're driven to it with a real sense of mission and excellence. But God forbid you criticize any of their offspring...ooo-la-la!
Montreal audiophiles are a hardy lot. Last winter, the city experienced the most devastating ice storm in its history, with power lines demaged to the point that almost the entire city was plunged in darkness. At the time of the 1998 Festival du Son et de l'Image (aka the Montreal Audio/Video Show), residents were still recovering from the effects of the storm. Did this calamity stop the show? No way! By all accounts, the 1998 show was the most successful in the event's 11-year history. I missed it myself, but I made sure that I wouldn't miss the next one.
Owners of Apogee Acoustics loudspeakers are apparently being left to twist in the wind by a/d/s/, the company that took over Apogee and subsequently shut it down (other than to apply the brand to a range of switch-mode power amplification modules). Service will no longer be available for the ribbon speakers, according to Apogee owner Matt Carnicelli.
First with CD players, then digital preamps, and recently amplifiers, digital technology has ground inexorably through the audio chain. Several companies have been developing ways to shorten the analog path or remove it entirely. Meridian's "digital" loudspeakers come to mind, as well as the amplifiers from manufacturers Spectron and TacT.