Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you. This is especially true for music lovers who have begun to fear that record companies purposely corrupt the data on audio CDs in an effort to restrict their use as a source for copies or MP3 files.
"An amusement park for the mind." That was how, some years ago, one engineer described the Audio Engineering Society's biannual conventions, which alternate between European and American venues. The 111th convention, subtitled "Advancing the Art of Sound," was held at the cavernous Jacob Javits Center on Manhattan's west side in early December. (It had originally been scheduled to take place last September, but was postponed for the obvious reason.)
At the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2001, Pioneer announced the US launch of the DV-AX10, the first of their long-awaited "universal" disc players, previously available only in Japan. Right out of the box, it plays SACD (two-channel only), DVD-Audio, DVD-Video, CD, and CD-R discs. For two-channel operation—which is exclusively how I examined it—and via its easy-to-navigate menus (footnote 1), I set the DV-AX10 to two channels as the default for all modes, including SACD. Except for hybrid discs, which I'll come to presently, the DV-AX10 is, blessedly, a set-it-and-forget-it machine.
Although audiophiles may muster little enthusiasm for the home-theater-driven audio marketplace of the 21st century, its prerequisites have inspired manufacturers to cram as wide a range of flexible programming features into as highly resolved a set of performance packages as possible. Thus we're now witnessing a new generation of exceptionally musical electronics with high-end performance targeted at two-channel enthusiasts, but all primped and prepped for integration into an expanded audio-video rig.
Last year wasn't kind to UK entertainment conglomerate EMI Group PLC. On February 5, the company issued its second profit warning since September, blaming a slow market for recorded music. EMI is now predicting that pretax profits for the year ending March 31 will total $213.4 million (245.1 million euros, or £150 million), far below analysts' predictions. The news caused an immediate 6.4% drop in the price of EMI shares on the London market.
Recent moves by record labels to add restricted-use technology to their compact disc releases has raised the ire of many a consumer, leading some to call for boycotts or worse (see this week's Soapbox). Late last year the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM) issued a statement saying that the major labels have gone too far in restricting consumers' "fair use" of copyrighted material.
All available statistics demonstrate that the Internet is still a growing phenomenon, one destined to play an increasingly important role in the distribution of information and entertainment. Recently published studies by Jupiter Media Metrix, Inc., a division of Jupiter Research, show that Internet usage has achieved greater than 50% penetration among US households, giving it what researchers call "mass-market status." Jupiter describes "online consumers" as people who have computers and Internet service provision in their homes, as opposed to having Internet access through a computer at work. "Online users," for the sake of the studies, were defined as people who use the Internet at least once per month.