When I compiled the votes HI-FI '98 attendees had cast for "Best Sound at the Show," the ultimate winner was the room and system assembled by Los Angeles retailer Christopher Hansen 2---the latest Evolution 2 version of the mighty Martin-Logan Statement electrostatic speaker system, driven by multiple VTL Wotan two-chassis tube monoblocks. Cabling was Cardas Neutral Reference, and the digital front end was by Wadia---a 270 CD transport and the new 27i digital decoding computer---with some tonal shaping courtesy of a Z-Systems Transparent Tone Control. Component stands were from pARTicular.
A dream I have had since I discovered the pleasures of music is to possess a time machine. Not a fancy one, just a small device that would allow me to escape modern music-making and drop in to hear what must have been some of the greatest musical experiences of all time. Classical music presents no problems: Off to 18th-century Leipzig on Sunday, of course, to hear J.S. Bach play the organ in church, after an early 19th-century Saturday evening spent in Vienna listening to Beethoven improvising at the pianoforte. During the week it would still be Vienna, but forward 80 years or so to hear Brahms premiere one of his chamber works after afternoon cocktails at the Wittgensteins', with perhaps a trip to England's Three Choirs Festival just before the Great War to hear the first performance of Elgar's Dream of Gerontius. And the time machine would have to have transatlantic range—I couldn't miss Mahler conducting the New York Philharmonic around the same time. But with jazz and rock—music that is reborn every time in performance to a greater extent than in classical—there is a bewildering choice of live events from which to choose.
In the September 1998 installment of "Fine Tunes," I wrote about the benefits of using nearfield listening to minimize your room's effect on the sound of your system. What you hear at the listening position should be first-arrival sounds from the speakers rather than chaotic reflections—in-phase and out—from the room. Allen Perkins of Immedia, importer of Audio Physic speakers, has written a white paper entitled "Principles and Techniques of Speaker Placement." It's provided to all purchasers of Audio Physic speakers. Essentially, it's a primer on nearfield loudspeaker placement (footnote 1).
The development of digital AM-radio technology moved a step closer last month when the Fraunhofer Institut Integrierte Schaltungen) (IIS) signed a consortium agreement for the development of digital AM radio with several international radio broadcasters, network operators, and manufacturers.
Hilary Rosen, president and CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), must feel like Sisyphus playing an endless game of "Whack-A-Mole." Her job recently has been to patrol the digital world for music copyright violators, especially those pesky pirate MP3 websites on the Internet. It seems that each time they find and eradicate a horde of copyright violators, hundreds more pop up faster than you can say "information wants to be free."
Last week, USA Digital Radio, a partnership formed in 1991 with CBS Corporation and Gannett Co. Inc., announced the filing of a Petition for Rulemaking with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) seeking to permit digital radio broadcasting using In-Band On-Channel (IBOC) technology. The petition begins the process of acceptance of the USA Digital Radio IBOC system as the DAB transmission standard for the United States. According to a statement from Digital Radio, "the IBOC technology being developed by USA Digital Radio offers the most comprehensive digital radio transmission solution in history, and represents the most exciting change in broadcasting since radio's invention over 70 years ago."
An audio system even Nero could love: Pyrotechnical effects have apparently gotten slightly out of control with Philips Consumer Electronics MX920 speaker systems, 25,500 of which have been recalled due to fire hazards from overheating voice coils. Four such incidents have been reported since the MX920 went on sale in June 1997. No one has been injured, and property damage has been limited to one scorched rug.
If you own a Sonic Frontiers product, rest assured that parts and service will be available for it well into the foreseeable future. Sonic Frontiers International---the front company created by Paradigm after it acquired the apparently struggling maker of high-end amplifiers, CD players, disc transports, and DACs at the end of August---will honor all valid SF warranties, and will support the existing network of dealers and distributors, according to an announcement made two months ago.
On October 1 and 2, engineers, marketing executives, and journalists filled the Hyatt Regency conference center near the San Francisco airport for the DVD-Audio Forum. A long afternoon of technical lectures left us numb. "Therapy for insomniacs" is the only way to describe the seemingly endless Power Point presentations. Microsoft's Power Point seems to be the standard format at all large gatherings, and it's as soporific as hearing a professor read from a textbook.
Running close on the heels of the 105th AES Convention in San Francisco, the DVD Forum held its conference two days later in the posh Hyatt Regency near the SF Airport. Attended by a variety of computer and consumer-electronics industry folk who manufacture and sell DVD discs and hardware, more than half of day one was devoted to the emerging DVD-Audio format. Although the presentations became highly technical at times, the sheer variety of possible formats and applications for DVD-Audio became apparent. Whether this is a blessing or a fatal flaw, all agreed that the consumer will ultimately determine DVD-Audio's fate in the next 2 to 5 years.