The Monsters are Due on Maple Street: In the 1960 Twilight Zone episode with this title, inexplicable power outages and celestial lights cause the citizens of an idyllic American town to accuse one other of being aliens. Fear feeds suspicion, hysteria turns to mayhem, and soon lynch mobs roam the streets and former friends are burning down each other's homes.
For quite a while now, Pioneer and Marantz have stuck their necks out with the few universal SACD/DVD-A/DVD/CD players available. Not any longer, as Onkyo, Teac and Yamaha join the club with new machines, aimed at consumers hedging their bets as to who will win the high-rez format wars.
Following Apple Computer's lead in bringing high-resolution audio to the computing environment, Creative Technology announced last week several audio products intended to facilitate DVD-Audio playback via personal computer. The company is also offering suggestions for making a PC quiet enough for use in a dedictated listening system.
The combination of accessible world music and transparent sound featured on Let Your Voice Be Heard, the CD released in 2001 by male-voice choir Cantus, made it an audiophile favorite. Stereophile editor John Atkinson returned to Minnesota earlier this year to record Cantus for a second time. This time, however, the program was very different: an ambitious sequence of choral works illustrating a musical and poetic progression from grief and sorrow to consolation and joy, following the tragic events of September 2001.
An expanded alliance between one of the High End's most respected speaker manufacturers and one of the most aggressive upscale retailers should bode well for both partners—and for music lovers nationwide.
Hard as it is to believe, next year will be the 40th anniversary of Stereophile's famed "Recommended Components" feature. J. Gordon Holt first set the list to paper when the Beatles were first breaking big in the US, and its April and October appearances have stood as biannual audiophile institutions ever since.
It is shaping up as one of the big battles of the 21st century: content owners (who are not necessarily the artists who create content) versus the consumer electronics industry. On the one hand you have Hollywood with its record companies and the RIAA, and on the other, the manufacturers of products and technologies that facilitate the manipulation and use of digital content.
Perhaps SACD has yet to reach critical mass in terms of consumer and industry acceptance, but halfway through 2002, it appears to be getting closer to that goal. Along with Sony and Philips (Universal Music), EMI is on board, as are many smaller, sound-conscious independent labels such as Chesky, Analogue Productions, Telarc, DMP, Rounder, Opus 3, Songlines, and the resurrected Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab. For now, DVD-Audio, with its screen-driven menus, doesn't appear to be an attractive option for audiophiles not interested in merging audio with video. Perhaps the future will bring universal two- and multichannel playback devices equipped with LCD screens that actually live up to both formats' sonic potential, but I don't believe that day won't dawn any time soon.