My father could not resist buying electronic and photographic gear. As soon as he heard about a new Polaroid camera, or a new weather radio, tape recorder, or color television, he'd go shopping. He'd be even more eager to buy an updated version of what he already had, particularly if this meant there was a story to tell. He'd buy one for himself, and sometimes he'd give me and my three brothers one of our own for a birthday or Christmas gift. (I often thought he took more pleasure from giving to us than he did from getting his own.)
I've heard my share of Krells, Levinsons, Rowlands, and the like in other people's systems—expensive solid-state amplifiers are not my usual beat. With the exception of an inexpensive Adcom a few years back, for more than a decade I've owned and reviewed only tube amps. In fact, until the $7500 Ayre Acoustics V-1 showed up, I'd not had one in my system. Similarly, I'd had only tube preamps until I reviewed the Ayre K-3, which so impressed me that I asked to hear the more expensive K-1—and ended up buying it.
Flat frequency reponse in an audio component is good, right? Well, maybe not always, explains J. Gordon Holt in Down With Flat! JGH: "Many times in past years I have been impressed by the incredible flatness of the measured high-end response of some speakers. . . . In every such case, I have been equally amazed at how positively awful those loudspeakers sounded—so tipped-up at the high end that I could not enjoy listening to them."
Country music reached the peak of its popularity six years ago, when it claimed 18.7% of the recorded-music audience. Since then, it has steadily declined to its present 14.1%, according to the Recording Industry Association of America's 1998 Consumer Profile. Reasons for the decline include the increasing crossover of country stars into pop and rock styles, a phenomenon that has broadened many artists' reach and made acts like Garth Brooks and Shania Twain household names among folks who may not previously have paid much attention to country. Crossing over, unfortunately, also dilutes the support of traditional music fans. Apart from the twang in the vocals, much current "country" music sounds amazingly like the rock and pop of 10-15 years ago.
It's been a busy week for Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) pioneers Lucent Digital Radio. (See previous report.) The company has announced that a new entity, Lucent Digital Radio, Inc., has been created as a result of an investment by Pequot Capital Management. The new company will be owned by Pequot Capital investors and Lucent Technologies, which will hold a majority ownership stake. Lucent says it will continue to support the new venture and provide ongoing access to research from the company's Bell Labs research and development unit.
Electronics dealers may have a great autumn if they load up on dual-well CD recorders and DVD carousel changers, two of the hottest audio fashion items. Major manufacturers like Kenwood, Onkyo, Denon,, and Harman/Kardon have all announced plans to deliver recorders and DVD changers by October, in time for the holiday season.
Last week, Burr-Brown Corporation announced the development of the DSD1700, which the company says is its first Direct Stream Digital (DSD) audio digital-to-analog converter. According to Burr-Brown, the converter is designed for Sony's DSD technology, which is used in Super Audio CD players, professional DSD processors, and DSD mixing consoles.
The new DV-09 is Pioneer's first DVD player in its Elite line. More than simply an upscale version of a standard Pioneer DVD player, the DV-09 was built from the ground up to be a flagship product. It's also the first DVD player I've seen to have been certified under THX's DVD-player certification program (see sidebar, "THX DVD Players").
Former PolyGram Music Group president Roger Ames has been named to head the Warner Music Group, parent company Time Warner announced August 16. Warner's music division, formerly the top domestic money-earner, has been stagnant in the past few years. Still one of the top five music conglomerates, it now trails Seagram's Universal Music, Bertelsmann AG, and Sony Music in total business, but retains the #2 spot in total number of albums sold, according to the Wall Street Journal. Warner's foreign business is far weaker.