I had an epiphany the other night. (Hope Rabbi Lichtenstein won't be too upset.) Kathleen and I were watching the Antiques Road Show on PBS, and, during a break, I started channel-surfing. I know, it's obnoxious—but I feel compelled to hop around and keep up the sense- and info-pounding barrage we've come to take for granted and, in fact, rely on. In a way, channel-surfing is a perfect symptom of our information-overload society: click Geraldo, click Robin Byrd, click Jazz Channel, click Weather Channel. We're bombarded, we're inundated, we're . . . let's face it, we're overwhelmed. The Internet, e-mail, phone calls—lots of information, and little time to process it.
Audiophiles eager to try DVD-Audio will have to wait just a bit longer. Matsushita Industrial Electric Co. and Japan Victor Company have decided to hold back their new DVD-A players, in the wake of the widely publicized decryption of the format's copy-protection scheme by a Norwegian computer hacker. The hacker published his workaround of the encryption on the Internet late in November.
As reported last March, loudspeaker manufacturer Von Schweikert Research closed its doors after a disastrous flood hit the factory (see previous report). Many thought this was the end of the story, but last week, Dr. Edward Gonzaga, of the Gonzaga Investment Group, announced the formation of a new version of the company, to be named Von Schweikert Audio.
Last August, we reported that brick-and-mortar retailer Tweeter Home Entertainment Group had aligned itself with online retailer Cyberian Outpost to leverage each company's respective strengths, both on- and offline. The trend continues as, last week, brick-and-mortar retailer Harvey Electronics announced that it has reached an "agreement in principle" with CoolAudio.com (see previous story) to merge the two companies through an exchange of common stock.
The quest for new speaker technologies has resulted in some novel approaches to the reproduction of sound, as witnessed by products announced in the last few years by NXT and 1 . . . Ltd. (See previous story.) Some of Stereophile's readers may also recall that, back in May 1996, American Technology Corp. shook things up in the audio world by announcing what the company described as its "breakthough" new technology, the much-debated HyperSonic Sound (HSS). This was followed up in February 1997, when ATC announced the introduction of its Stratified Field Technology SFT, which company literature touted as "a significant improvement over conventional loudspeakers."
Since 1992, Stereophile has named a select few audio components its "Products of the Year." In doing so, we recognize those components that have proved capable of giving musical pleasure beyond the formal review period.
One of the delights of being published by a multinational conglomerate that grows through acquisition, as Emap Petersen does, is that Stereophile finds itself in interesting company. Like La Nouvelle Revue du Son in France, for example, edited by the legendary Jean Hiraga, who turned me on to the sonic importance of wires and passive components almost 25 years ago. And Mojo, an English music magazine tightly targeted on baby boomers like me, who bought their first stereo systems in the '60s to better appreciate the progressive rock we lived and loved by. (I wonder if turn-of-the-millennium college students gather 'round a new G4 Mac to get off on MP3s the way, 30 years ago, we gathered 'round our precious vinyl.)
Unlike the imposing mbl and Burmester DACs that I review elsewhere in this issue, the Mark Levinson No.360 is New England conservative in appearance. Its operation was simple to master despite the sophistication and flexibility on tap. Flanked by Fasolt and Fafner, the Levinson No.360 seemed as amiable as Freia.
One of the challenging attributes of the new DVD-Audio format is the ability to release music in high-resolution multichannel (four or more) sound. For some this will be a thorny issue: Can previously released recordings be remixed to take advantage of the extra channels without sounding gimmicky? Should classical and/or live recordings use the surround channels for concert-hall ambience? How long will it be until consumers even care about setting up their systems to take advantage of more than two full-bandwidth channels?