While a relative trickle of copy-restricted CDs have been released in the US, European labels have been more likely to experiment with lock-down technology. Russia is battling extreme piracy, as its culture and mass communications minister, Aleksandr Sokolov, reported to his government last week, asserting that pirated wares account for 80–90% of the overall audio and video sales in that country.
Music industry executives widely believe that "ring tones"—snippets of favorite tunes—and music downloadable to cell phones will be the next big trend, perhaps one that could help restore some luster to the industry's tarnished bottom line. "Music-related products for PCs and mobile phones are on pace to deliver as much as $500 million in combined revenue in the US for 2004, according to Nielsen SoundScan figures and analysts' projections," reported Brian Garrity in a mid-December issue of Billboard.
Paul Barton, founder of PSB Speakers International, is an icon of the North American speaker industry. A talented designer who has for many years produced innovative and cost-effective designs at a range of prices, Barton does not let time stand still, constantly updating and revising his designs. But what makes him unique, in my view, is that, unlike the designers at most North American speaker companies, whose successful affordable designs are trickled down from their more expensive models, Barton, like the British designers, seems to get most of his excitement from his budget lines. His original PSB Alpha was, in its day, the most significant entry-level speaker made in North America since the original Advents of the 1970s.
New experiences are some of the most pleasurable parts of being an audio reviewer. Despite being involved with the High End for longer than I care to think about, I had never had the experience of owning, living with, or reviewing a pair of electrostatic speakers, be they full-range or hybrid. I'd heard various Quads plenty of times at shows and in the homes of audio buddies, but in my own listening cave? Never.
I am biased in favor of Paradigm loudspeakers. I've used them for 10 years; they offer good sound and good value, properties they share with a number of other Canadian makes who have taken advantage of Canada's National Research Council facilities in Ottawa. In fact, the first components I bought specifically for what is now my multichannel system were Paradigm Esprit/BP speakers, which had impressed me at a Stereophile show. When I took the step into multichannel and found that there wasn't a matching center-channel speaker for the Esprits, I replaced them with Paradigm's Reference Studio/60 v.2s. But while the smaller Reference Studio/20, and the larger Studio/100 have both been reviewed in Stereophile, the Studio/60 had not. The release of the v.2's successor, the Reference Studio/60 v.3 ($1699/pair), was an opportunity to fill that gap.
Loudspeaker cabinet design has been strongly influenced by home theater. Large floorstanding cabinets, required for reproduction of bass frequencies, are being replaced by tall, graceful towers with small footprints. While these slim speakers fit more easily into home décor and living spaces, to fill out their bass response they depend on being used with the subwoofers that are standard in multichannel systems.
Long-simmering disputes about peer-to-peer file sharing, or P2P, will finally come to a boil sometime next year. On Friday, December 10, the US Supreme Court agreed to examine whether online services Grokster Ltd. and StreamCast Networks, Inc. are liable for copyright infringement. Both services enable users to share music and other forms of copyrighted material, and both derive revenue from advertising.
A local body shop owner explained to me recently how the center brake light that began showing up on the rear deck of cars a few years ago killed business for him and his pals. Seems that all of a sudden, folks weren't rear-ending each other as often.
The future is still bright for satellite radio. On December 8, XM Satellite Radio Holdings, Inc. announced that it had signed a deal with Toyota Motor Corporation to begin factory-level installation of XM receivers in 2006. The most popular brand of automobile in the world, Toyota is the last large automaker to commit to either XM or its competitor, Sirius Satellite Radio.