Paradigm's acquisition of Sonic Frontiers, Inc. is only the first step in salvaging the highly regarded brand, according to Bill VanderMarel, Paradigm's Director of Sales and Marketing. The next step will involve infusions of serious amounts of cash to expand the present network of dealers and to develop new products under the new Sonic Frontiers International banner---an amount VanderMarel expects will run as high as two or three times the purchase price of the temporarily defunct Ontario maker of high-end audio electronics. "Paradigm recognizes the necessity of such a sizable investment over the next 12 months to make a serious effort at revitalizing the name," he said.
When I compiled the votes HI-FI '98 attendees had cast for "Best Sound at the Show," the ultimate winner was the room and system assembled by Los Angeles retailer Christopher Hansen 2---the latest Evolution 2 version of the mighty Martin-Logan Statement electrostatic speaker system, driven by multiple VTL Wotan two-chassis tube monoblocks. Cabling was Cardas Neutral Reference, and the digital front end was by Wadia---a 270 CD transport and the new 27i digital decoding computer---with some tonal shaping courtesy of a Z-Systems Transparent Tone Control. Component stands were from pARTicular.
The development of digital AM-radio technology moved a step closer last month when the Fraunhofer Institut Integrierte Schaltungen) (IIS) signed a consortium agreement for the development of digital AM radio with several international radio broadcasters, network operators, and manufacturers.
Hilary Rosen, president and CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), must feel like Sisyphus playing an endless game of "Whack-A-Mole." Her job recently has been to patrol the digital world for music copyright violators, especially those pesky pirate MP3 websites on the Internet. It seems that each time they find and eradicate a horde of copyright violators, hundreds more pop up faster than you can say "information wants to be free."
Last week, USA Digital Radio, a partnership formed in 1991 with CBS Corporation and Gannett Co. Inc., announced the filing of a Petition for Rulemaking with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) seeking to permit digital radio broadcasting using In-Band On-Channel (IBOC) technology. The petition begins the process of acceptance of the USA Digital Radio IBOC system as the DAB transmission standard for the United States. According to a statement from Digital Radio, "the IBOC technology being developed by USA Digital Radio offers the most comprehensive digital radio transmission solution in history, and represents the most exciting change in broadcasting since radio's invention over 70 years ago."
An audio system even Nero could love: Pyrotechnical effects have apparently gotten slightly out of control with Philips Consumer Electronics MX920 speaker systems, 25,500 of which have been recalled due to fire hazards from overheating voice coils. Four such incidents have been reported since the MX920 went on sale in June 1997. No one has been injured, and property damage has been limited to one scorched rug.
If you own a Sonic Frontiers product, rest assured that parts and service will be available for it well into the foreseeable future. Sonic Frontiers International---the front company created by Paradigm after it acquired the apparently struggling maker of high-end amplifiers, CD players, disc transports, and DACs at the end of August---will honor all valid SF warranties, and will support the existing network of dealers and distributors, according to an announcement made two months ago.
On October 1 and 2, engineers, marketing executives, and journalists filled the Hyatt Regency conference center near the San Francisco airport for the DVD-Audio Forum. A long afternoon of technical lectures left us numb. "Therapy for insomniacs" is the only way to describe the seemingly endless Power Point presentations. Microsoft's Power Point seems to be the standard format at all large gatherings, and it's as soporific as hearing a professor read from a textbook.
Running close on the heels of the 105th AES Convention in San Francisco, the DVD Forum held its conference two days later in the posh Hyatt Regency near the SF Airport. Attended by a variety of computer and consumer-electronics industry folk who manufacture and sell DVD discs and hardware, more than half of day one was devoted to the emerging DVD-Audio format. Although the presentations became highly technical at times, the sheer variety of possible formats and applications for DVD-Audio became apparent. Whether this is a blessing or a fatal flaw, all agreed that the consumer will ultimately determine DVD-Audio's fate in the next 2 to 5 years.
Day Four at AES. The crowds were somewhat thinner, but the convention floor was still buzzing, still incredibly busy right up to 4pm, the official break-down time. I spent a couple of hours strolling the floor with Vacuum Tube Valley's Eric Barbour, who works another side of the thermionic street as an application engineer for Svetlana, the Portola Valley, CA-based importer of Russian-made tubes. Svetlana will soon be making the ubiquitous 12AX7 and other popular tubes in its St. Petersburg factory, he told me. Instability in Russia has hindered production recently, but Eric said all such problems have been solved. He also mentioned that VTV has moved to new offices and should soon be published quarterly. I stood by as he made a sales call at the Millennia Media booth.
Cats vs. dogs, Wile E. Coyote vs. Roadrunner, Spy vs. Spy, Analog vs. Digital. It seems that some battles will never end, and so it is with flux vs. bits in the professional recording industry. The Audio Engineering Society (AES) conventions dazzle showgoers with the latest audio recording and processing gear, mostly digital, and this year's show is no exception. The big buzz heard 'round the hall were higher sampling and quantization rates for future music formats such as DVD-Audio. But off-site, at the nearby ANA hotel (great choice of venue---just add LOG) in downtown San Francisco, key industry heavyweights were holding a meeting to discuss the future of analog recording technologies.
HDCD and Pacific Microsonics appear to be on a roll these days. The HDCD process, developed to coerce 20-bit performance out of the 16-bit CD format, is gaining several new licensees and is also appearing in more devices, as evidenced by several recent announcements. The company is also looking ahead to future DVD formats with an agreement intended to couple HDCD benefits with higher sampling rates.
For years, credit cards have allowed people to earn points toward air travel and automobiles, so earning credits for audio and video gear seems a no-brainer. Last week, Sony Electronics and Citibank launched the Sony Citibank Card, a co-branded credit card that allows consumers to earn points toward the purchase of a variety of Sony entertainment and merchandise.
James Bongiorno needs your help. The legendary electronics designer, whose pioneering work with fully complementary solid-state amplifiers has become part of engineering's standard lexicon, is battling liver cancer.
Saturday, September 26, thousands of enthusiastic audio-savvy attendees began swarming through the massive cavern of the Moscone Center's North Hall in San Francisco. They will continue to swarm until late Tuesday, September 29, the last day of the 105th Audio Engineering Society Convention. The convention has attracted hundreds of companies whose products are extravagantly displayed in the huge space beneath the Yerba Buena Gardens. Demonstrations of new products and technologies also take place in smaller rooms off the main floor. Research papers are being presented in meetings throughout the four-day event.