Sales of recorded music declined by 9.2% on a monetary basis and 11% on a unit basis worldwide during the first half of 2002, according to recently released figures from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI). The drop is a continuation of a long slump that began in the mid-1990s, blamed by many music industry executives on the widespread use of CD burners and the popularity of downloading tunes on the Internet. Others acknowledge that increasing competition for consumers' time and money—especially films on DVD—is eating into music industry profits.
For years, we've seen attempts to disguise loudspeakers as paintings. A pair of announcements last week highlights the ongoing drive within the consumer electronics industry to find new ways to hide speakers within other objects.
Amplifier of the year? We'll have to wait until the votes are tallied in the December issue, but Paul Bolin reviews the Halcro dm58 monoblock power amplifier and reveals what the fuss is all about. As Bolin notes, "the sheer audacity of Halcro's claims generated much curiosity and interest."
Media critics may be right: If record companies had spent as much effort building a digital distribution network as they have fighting digital piracy, they might actually be making money online instead of complaining about it. This is the conclusion of a new report from KPMG and the Economist Intelligence Unit.
When it was suggested that I call in on speaker manufacturer RBH Sound during a planned trip to Utah in the fall of 2001, my response was "Who is RBH?" To my embarrassment, the speaker company had not popped up on my radar screen since it was formed in Los Angeles in 1976. However, I had certainly heard some of the speakers they had manufactured for other companies, most notably the McIntosh models of the early 1980s, with their line arrays of dome tweeters.
Revolutionary is a word that's tossed around all too lightly in the world of audio. The understandable impulse to tout every new development as a quantum leap forward in sound reproduction has made it difficult to sort out the evolutionary from the truly groundbreaking. And there's not that much left to do in amplifier design that is worthy of being described as "revolutionary," or so it seems. Vacuum-tube circuitry has been thoroughly understood since the late 1940s, and 40 years of development of solid-state has rendered it, in its finest implementations, a worthy competitor and alternative to the venerable tube.
Rarely has the debut of a new loudspeaker company and its inaugural model created as big a buzz as did Lumen White and their Whitelight speaker at the 2001 Consumer Electronics Show. Driven by Vaic tube amplifiers in one of the larger corner rooms at the Alexis Park Hotel, the big Whitelights had a look and a sound that attracted continuous crowds. Of the questions among audio cognoscenti that I overheard at the end of each day, two of the most common were "Hey, did you hear those Lumen Whites?" and "What? Can you speak louder?"
If you peer back into audio history, you'll discover that long-term formats are generally established at the mass-market level and then perfected or re-invented by those with audiophile inclinations. One could argue that SACD and DVD-A are attempts at turning that rule on its head. But the slow start exhibited by both formats (with the copy-restriction issue a new and rather large stumbling block) indicates that, once again, the mass market needs to get involved before we can really move forward.
Not all Washington lawmakers are on the Hollywood payroll. Some even risk offending Big Entertainment by upholding their sworn duty to protect their constituents' interests. Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) is such a legislator.