Paul Bolin exclaims, "Looking at the current digital scene is enough to confuse and confound just about anyone this side of Stephen Hawking." Bolin's review of the Ayre Acoustics D-1x DVD-Video/CD player is here to clear things up.
It's tough to know which CDs, SACDs, and DVD-Audio discs have been restricted through watermarks or other "copy protection" techniques. This has created a thriving underground community, with websites such as Fat Chuck's devoted to sussing out the corrupted audio products and posting notification to consumers.
In October 2000, during Napster's prolonged courtroom agony, Bertelsmann AG alienated fellow music industry plaintiffs by investing $50 million in a strategic partnership with the file-sharing upstart. At the time, Bertelsmann hoped to leverage Napster's technical expertise and fame to give Bertelsmann Music Group the inside track with Internet music distribution.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.