SACD partisans Sony and Philips continue to release new disc players that also decode DVD-Video, but not DVD-Audio. And arch-DVD-A supporter Meridian, as well as companies such as McIntosh, are releasing DVD-A and DVD-V players that don't do SACD. But there are exceptions, notably Pioneer, who debuted the first widely available "universal" player, the DV-AX10 SACD/DVD-A/CD player, last year.
It's been a long wait, but we're finally starting to see high-bandwidth IEEE 1394 digital audio connections on the back of DVD-A/SACD players (see related story), as first hinted at by Yamaha five years ago. A key ingredient for getting the beleaguered 1394 (or FireWire or iLink) format moving was the inclusion of copy-protection protocols that restrict unfettered consumer use of the digital audio content.
When a well-respected analog disc-mastering veteran like Stan Ricker says that the Alesis MasterLink ML-9600, a hard-disk-based digital recorder/CD burner, is "the best tool in my mastering bag...done right it can sound better than all but the absolute top drawer analog," you take the endorsement seriously. Progress is possible. Mastering tool, CD burner, 24-bit/96kHz recorder, audio reviewer's best friend—the versatile MasterLink is one of the coolest products I've ever had my hands on.
Using personal computers to listen to music may be heresy in some audiophile circles, but the practice is definitely on the rise. Recognition of the fact has led at least one maker of computer motherboards to introduce a model with a vacuum-tube audio circuit.
Kal Rubinson gets in shape for some heavy lifting to review the B&W Signature 800 loudspeaker. "The Signature 800 is part of B&W's Prestige line, which represents the best that B&W can do with present loudspeaker technology," reports Kal, who watched with anticipation as a team of four hefted the 275-pound beauties into place.
There's no question that restricted-use or copy-protected CDs are finding their way onto retailer shelves and into unsuspecting consumer hands—often with frustrating results. What is in doubt in many consumers' minds is how to recognize a restricted-use disc before purchase.
The entertainment industry has been crying wolf about the impending death of its collective livelihood since the first recording device hit the market decades ago. In spite of those dire predictions, reel-to-reel tape decks, cassette recorders, and VCRs hardly dented sales, and may in fact have contributed to unprecedented world-wide growth.