A good part of each day around here is spent perusing the internet for all things audio: manufacturer sites, audio news, newsgroups, equipment reviews, etc. What's found ranges from the good-intentioned to the well-financed, and much of what's out there also represents the labors of love many audiophiles lavish on their favorite hobby.
Some optimists in Washington, on Wall Street, and elsewhere predicted that the Asian economic crisis wouldn't reach the United States. But in late August, the financial flu infecting that part of the world, and the ongoing monetary instability in Russia, finally affected North America. As of Friday, August 28th, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was hovering just above 8000, down from a record high of 9337.97 on July 17th. The market decline has affected the whole economy---traditional industries as well as hot-ticket ventures like Internet stocks.
Last week, WorldSpace announced that it has launched what it describes as "the world's largest digital audio broadcast system." The new system is based on a satellite radio service that recently began transmitting a wide array of multilingual radio programming across the entire African continent.
The recent struggle between the RIAA and Napster may seem like a distant battle rumbling off in some foreign realm, far removed from most audiophiles: about once a week we get e-mails asking why a high-end audio website should even cover such stuff.
Imagine yourself a recording artist just signed to a contract with one of Sony Music's record labels. You put out a couple of albums and start a website using your own name (say, for example, www.bobdylan.com). But the music wind starts blowing in a different direction, your contract comes up for renewal, and, either through your manager's insistence or that of one of Sony's big cheeses, you decide to leave the label and sign with someone else.
While a relative trickle of copy-restricted CDs have been released in the US, European labels have been more likely to experiment with lock-down technology. Russia is battling extreme piracy, as its culture and mass communications minister, Aleksandr Sokolov, reported to his government last week, asserting that pirated wares account for 80–90% of the overall audio and video sales in that country.
In some ways, entrepreneurs resemble the folks who fix your roof: When they see a hole somewhere, their job is to find a way to fill it. Long-time high-end audio veterans Mel and Howard Schilling and Doug Goldberg say they have spotted a hole in the audio market and are getting ready to launch a new company to fill it.
In his January "Sam's Space" column, while writing about the system he used with Sutherland's Director line stage (p.32), Sam Tellig wrote "For the most part, I used now-discontinued XLO interconnects and speaker cables. XLO itself has been discontinued, alas. I do miss its founder, Roger Skoff."
In May, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) sued XM Satellite Radio over the Pioneer Inno portable player, which has a 1GB recording capacity, but no way of porting the recordings outside the player.
There was at least one story we missed at last week's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and that was the announcement of two new plans to provide 5.1 music surround: XM Satellite Radio announced the addition of two 24-hour surround channels to its line-up and download service; MusicGiants announced its intention to add 5.1-channel "high-definition" audio files to its premium subscription service.
Extra-terrestrial radio is poised to celebrate Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's 250th birthday. From Wednesday January 25 through Friday, January 27, XM Satellite Radio will broadcast live performances by many of the most celebrated Mozartians of our time direct from the Carolino Augusteum, a 17th-century castle and former home of the Archbishops of Salzburg that overlooks the Salzburg Cathedral and the Mozart Platz. Artist interviews and sound portraits of the Salzburg milieu will spice up the proceedings.
Promising technology, interesting programming, and good business plans may not be enough to keep satellite radio services XM Radio and Sirius Radio aloft. Both companies are struggling with massive financial problems as they scramble to gain subscribers.
On August 18, XM Radio invited the press to Manhattan's Rainbow Room to announce its latest product offerings. The locale was not unintentional, according to Chance Patterson, XM's vice president for programming operations, "This building [30 Rockefeller Plaza, headquarters of NBC] was at the center of radio's first flowering, and XM represents radio's future."
This week, XM Satellite Radio launches Classical Confidential, a series of hour-long artist profiles. Modeled after XM's Artist Confidential series, in which listeners can get to know high-profile artists "up close and personal," per XM, the new show's first installment features an hour with Sony BMG's favorite male violinist, the sweet-toned, extremely gifted Joshua Bell. Subsequent shows will feature the magnificent mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli and conductor Leonard Slatkin.
XM Radio held a press conference in New York City Thursday, April 18. The event was heralded with great secrecy—attendees were enticed with promises of "major news," but no one leaked details beforehand, and the press arrived expecting something juicy indeed.