It's a sobering thought: it was the computer manufacturers and software developers, not the consumer electronics industry, who enabled the biggest audio format since the CD to become popular. The format, which hasn't done much to impress audiophiles, but has greatly enhanced the portability of music, is MP3 and CE manufacturers are only now trying to catch up with products that take advantage of its widespread use.
Love it or hate it, MP3 users are a huge new market, as yet untapped by the music industry. Portable digital compressed-audio players, whether employing Flash memory or compact hard drives à la Apple's iPod, are estimated to begin reaching critical-mass sales numbers around 2006, with an installed base of 24 million units by 2007. Most observers agree that this dramatic growth has been driven, in large part, by the vast quantity of no-fee music that is available in the format, as well as the players' ease of use and flexibility.
Taking the measure of the Chord Electronics DAC64 D/A processor, John Atkinson finds nice things can come in strange packages. "Such is the pace of development in digital technology these days that it is hard not to become convinced that digital playback is a solved problem." But, as JA discovers, not all solutions are identical.
The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has initiated its planned appeal of a ruling by the Librarian of Congress that establishes a royalty rate for all Webcasters, including traditional radio stations that stream their programming on the Internet.
US Senator Joseph Biden has introduced a bill that would give law-enforcement agencies stronger tools to pursue copyright violators, and would give copyright holders stronger grounds for suing pirates.
Such is the pace of development in digital technology these days that it is hard not to become convinced that digital playback is a solved problem. The measured performance aberrations are so low in absolute level—and, more important, so low compared with the typical threshold of human hearing—that it is difficult to see why digital components should sound different from one another.
I don't know who originated the idea of "desert island" recordings. I do know that for many years there was a BBC radio program in the UK that asked celebrities to list their choices. While reading quite a few of those lists, I had the sneaking suspicion that the respondents either hadn't entered fully into the spirit of the task, or were tailoring their choices with a view to what the radio or reading audience would think. (Interior monologue: "I am an anorak-wearing viola da gamba player. Hmmm. Birth of the Cool had better be on my list. London Calling, too, just to be safe.")
As some readers may suspect, more music is heard in the automobile than in the home. Taking a clue from this trend, many high-end audio companies are finding their way into your car, and factory installed systems are getting better and better. Examples include the Mark Levinson audio system found in cars from Lexus, the debut of Lexicon's L7 surround system in a BMW at the 2002 CES, Linn's partnership with Aston Martin, Harman's partnership with Mercedes Benz, and the Dynaudio/Dolby Surround systems found in several of Volvo's cars.