One of the challenges facing audio equipment manufacturers as we enter the Internet age is how to handle online retailing of products to consumers. A manufacturer that has so far shunned mail-order in favor of bricks-and-mortar retailing runs the risk of alienating its established distribution base by jumping online ("mail order with a web address"), where traditional territorial sales boundaries are often rendered meaningless.
Last week, Peavey Electronics and Digital Harmony announced a licensing agreement that they say aims to revolutionize audio production, music publishing, and distribution. By licensing Digital Harmony Pro technology, Peavey says it plans to create the pro-audio industry's first non-proprietary 1394-equipped digital audio products and systems.
Recently I found myself on the phone with Linn's chief design engineer, Bill Miller, talking about switch-mode power supplies. Affable Mr. Miller was ensconced in Linn HQ in Glasgow, Scotland. After a bit I inquired if Head Man Ivor Tiefenbrun was about the manse, and was quickly handed over. "You're such a cheeky guy. Why'd you call it the Klimax?"
Sudden awareness of free digital downloadable music on the Internet sent the music industry into a panic last year. The Secure Digital Music Initiative, a coalition of record labels, software companies, and electronics manufacturers, worked overtime developing standards for encrypting music in an attempt to thwart piracy. Preliminary guidelines for copyright protection were issued in June. Most recently, the SDMI completed a series of listening tests intended to find the least intrusive form of encryption. The organization seemed to present a united front in the anti-piracy war.
When it comes to power, VTL's Luke Manley is definitely in the "more is better" camp. But when Lonnie Brownell sat down to listen to the VTL ST-85 tube power amplifier, he elected to start with a single amp and go for more power later. Lonnie writes: "How's about I go with just one amplifier for a while? After all, that's what most people would buy, at least at first. Then I can drop in another one and see what that does." But in the end, was one enough? Brownell tells all.
The Walkman is 20 years old. As part of its celebration of one of the most successful audio products in history, Sony has introduced its first personal music player with the capability of downloading music from the Internet. The new Walkman employs Sony's "memory stick" technology to store audio files as large as 32 megabytes. The latest Walkman, which was unveiled last week in Japan and New York, is expected to retail at approximately $400 and should appear in stores in January.
Last week at the Audio Engineering Society Convention in New York City, Sonic Solutions announced that it plans to introduce what it says is the world's first digital audio workstation based on Sony's new Direct Stream Digital (DSD) technology. Sonic says that the new system, SonicStudio HD-DSD, is being developed in cooperation with Sony Corporation and will provide the recording industry with a mastering tool for the new Super Audio CD (SACD) format.
Last week, Cirrus Logic unveiled two new Crystal digital-to-analog converters that the company says will support both dueling high-definition audio standards: DVD-Audio and Super Audio CD (SACD). As a result, the new DACs should enable the creation of universal DVD players for both the mass and high-end audio markets. The new DACs are the CS4397 "SuperDAC," which the company describes as a "high-performance audio DAC on a single chip" with 120dB dynamic range performance; and the CS4391, a lower-cost DAC also supporting DVD-Audio and SACD and sporting a 108dB dynamic range.
When we reviewed Pioneer's flagship Elite DV-09 DVD player in our September 1998 issue, it blew us away so much that it garnered an Editors' Choice award (see the February 1999 issue) as the best DVD player we had reviewed up to that time. This opinion has not changed in the intervening months, but at $2000, the DV-09 is more than many home-theater fans can afford (or justify) for a DVD player. The Elite DV-05, introduced earlier this year, provides many of the features and most of performance capabilities of the DV-09 at a more affordable price.
Call me sentimental, but I'm sad to see turntables disappear. They were my original calling. Back in 1973 or so, when a kid from my neighborhood insisted that I see his brother-in-law's "fantastic stereo," I was entranced by a huge Pioneer receiver and walnut AR3a speakers. But most alluring by far was the Marantz turntable. Its brushed stainless-steel controls and gleaming, chromed tonearm made it look like some delicate and expensive scientific instrument. Compared to the all-in-one plastic unit I played my Partridge Family records on, the mere sight of it put me on the audiophile path. (And I mean just the sight of it. We weren't allowed to touch.) Eventually, his brother-in-law played a record for me—Gordon Lightfoot's Endless Wire. Since that day, I can chart the passage of my life according to the turntables I've owned—if it's VPI, this must be Chicago.