February 2000—We are now comfortably past all the millennial hype, which, by New Year's Eve, really had risen to a nauseating fever pitch. But it's hard not to look back to the times, the places, and, most of all, to the faces and personalities that populated the last hundred years.
Merger mania in high-end land: Loudspeaker manufacturer Hales Design Group and digital audio manufacturer Wadia Digital Corporation are joining forces to create what the companies' executives are calling "new digital products for the new millennium." The announcement was made February 14 at Wadia headquarters in River Falls, Wisconsin.
According to figures just released by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), revenues from manufacturer-to-dealer sales of audio products in December 1999 totaled nearly $568 million, a 6.3% increase over the previous December. CEA reports that the strong month's sales pushed year-end revenue totals to their highest mark in four years: total audio shipment revenues in 1999 surpassed the $8 billion mark for the first time since 1995, growing by 2% over 1998.
Markus Sauer is in a ponderous audio mood: "When several listeners each play music they like on the system, their reaction should be more uniform. But it isn't. What irks me is that, while we seem to be able to agree pretty well on how a system sounds, there seems to be no consistency of emotional reaction to this sound . . . " Sauer works through this troubling aspect of being an audiophile in "God is in the Nuances." "This journal has seen a number of thoughtful ruminations on what it is that attracts us to music or to a given audio component, and how we should describe that attraction." Now it's Sauer's turn.
Satellite radio got a boost toward wider market acceptance on February 16, when Sirius Satellite Radio and XM Satellite Radio announced an agreement to develop a unified standard for satellite radios. The current batch of satellite receivers can pick up transmissions from one of the providers, but not both. The next generation of receivers will expand the technology's reach by enabling reception of both companies' broadcasts.
This spring, downloadable digital music from EMI may begin popping up everywhere, if a new arrangement with Supertracks goes as planned. The two companies have created what they believe is a secure system for downloading music to computers, portable players, and to CD burners at kiosks in shopping malls. The news follows by only a couple of weeks an announcement that Warner Music and EMI will merge their operations under the larger umbrella of AOL Time Warner.
DVD-Audio has kept a low profile since its misfired "launch" late last year (see previous story), but has popped up again at this week's Audio Engineering Society Convention (AES) in Paris. Pioneer is demonstrating its latest generation of universal DVD players, recently released in Japan, using a new DVD-Audio disc, some of the contents of which were encoded using Meridian Lossless Packing (MLP) technology to enable high-resolution surround sound.
The best defense is sometimes a good offense. MP3.com has taken that old advice to heart by counter-suing the Recording Industries Association of America for what it calls "unfair business practices." On Monday, February 7, MP3.com filed a complaint against the music-industry organization in San Diego Superior Court, alleging that the RIAA and its president, Hilary Rosen, have conspired to undermine the Internet music company's stock price by promulgating information to stock analysts just prior to suing for copyright infringement.