Looking at the current digital scene is enough to confuse and confound just about anyone this side of Stephen Hawking. One can choose from standard "Red Book" CDs (16-bit/44.1kHz), DVD-As, DADs (24/96 DVD-Vs), SACDs, combination audio-video players and changers, upsamplers, oversamplers, and every possible agglomeration of the above. As the audiophile-grade universal player remains vaporware, if you want to keep moving forward you have to choose among the various format combinations. Ayre Acoustics' Charles Hansen made his decision back in 1998—DVD-Video—and has spent the last four years refining the end result, now known as the D-1x.
Despite its name, the Panache is not made in France, but here in the States, by Portal Audio, headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina. The company is owned and run by Joe Abrams, a longtime veteran of high-end hi-fi who was once closely associated with Threshold.
Some people believe that high-end audio is mostly fluff whose cost, compared to standard professional studio electronics, is not justifiable. Moreover, they argue, if the music has been piped through any number of studio devices before it gets to your home, you can't expect to get more out of it than the studio devices will pass. Just as the argument is made about the final 6' of power cord, how can one Over-The-Top device make up for the foibles of those that precede it?
Michael Fremer investigates the Parasound Halo JC 1 monoblock power amplifier, exclaiming, "The 5-to-1 ratio of cost to retail price suggests that the "raw" cost of the JC 1 is about $600—a number almost impossible to believe, given the superb build quality and sheer heft of this powerhouse monoblock." And then there is the sound.
One might assume that the mutually dependent businesses of electronics manufacturing and retailing would track each other in perfect unison. That's often true, but they can sometimes get wildly out of sync with each other. It's one of the great economic mysteries.
The Wiz may not be long for this world. On Monday, February 10, Cablevision Systems Corporation announced that it would sell or close its remaining 17 consumer electronics stores, all in the New York metro area, New Jersey, and Connecticut. The announcement came only a few days after Circuit City announced major cutbacks of its workforce and the elimination of sales commissions.
The quest to secretly track music fans continues: Royal Philips Electronics and Digimarc announced last week that they have signed a new agreement that extends the licensing of Digimarc's digital watermarking patents to include audio applications as well as a broader range of video applications.
Start policing your employees' use of file sharing networks or we sue you. That was the threat from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to Fortune 1000 companies last week as the organizations announced the publication and distribution of a guide "to assist US companies in preventing copyright abuse on their computers and networks."
The very last review I wrote for Hi-Fi News & Record Review (these days just plain Hi-Fi News)—before crossing the Atlantic to take up the reins at Stereophile in May 1986—was of KEF's then-new flagship speaker, the Reference 107. That rave review appeared in the English magazine's July 1986 issue, and was followed by equally positive reports from Stereophile's writers.