Many audiophiles are incensed that the digital outputs on high-resolution disc players are limited to the 16bit/44.1kHz standard of the "Red Book" CD when playing DVD-Audio discs. To read some postings on audiophile newsgroups, you'd think it's a massive conspiracy to prevent people from adding their own processors to the playback chain. Putting as many boxes as possible in an audio system is a constitutionally guaranteed right, isn't it?
At the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2001, Pioneer announced the US launch of the DV-AX10, the first of their long-awaited "universal" disc players, previously available only in Japan. Right out of the box, it plays SACD (two-channel only), DVD-Audio, DVD-Video, CD, and CD-R discs. For two-channel operation—which is exclusively how I examined it—and via its easy-to-navigate menus (footnote 1), I set the DV-AX10 to two channels as the default for all modes, including SACD. Except for hybrid discs, which I'll come to presently, the DV-AX10 is, blessedly, a set-it-and-forget-it machine.
"An amusement park for the mind." That was how, some years ago, one engineer described the Audio Engineering Society's biannual conventions, which alternate between European and American venues. The 111th convention, subtitled "Advancing the Art of Sound," was held at the cavernous Jacob Javits Center on Manhattan's west side in early December. (It had originally been scheduled to take place last September, but was postponed for the obvious reason.)
Although audiophiles may muster little enthusiasm for the home-theater-driven audio marketplace of the 21st century, its prerequisites have inspired manufacturers to cram as wide a range of flexible programming features into as highly resolved a set of performance packages as possible. Thus we're now witnessing a new generation of exceptionally musical electronics with high-end performance targeted at two-channel enthusiasts, but all primped and prepped for integration into an expanded audio-video rig.
Recent moves by record labels to add restricted-use technology to their compact disc releases has raised the ire of many a consumer, leading some to call for boycotts or worse (see this week's Soapbox). Late last year the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM) issued a statement saying that the major labels have gone too far in restricting consumers' "fair use" of copyrighted material.
Last year wasn't kind to UK entertainment conglomerate EMI Group PLC. On February 5, the company issued its second profit warning since September, blaming a slow market for recorded music. EMI is now predicting that pretax profits for the year ending March 31 will total $213.4 million (245.1 million euros, or £150 million), far below analysts' predictions. The news caused an immediate 6.4% drop in the price of EMI shares on the London market.
After more than ten years in development, Sirius Satellite Radio announced last week that it will be officially launching its service with two events in Jackson, Mississippi beginning February 13. Sirius' competitor XM Satellite radio was able to get its service up and running last September.