One billion dollars in 1997---thatÆs the Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Association's first-ever estimate of the high-end industry's factory-sales volume. The number could be as high as $1.4 billion, according to a CEMA projection for the entire industry based on sales data of a representative sample of 32 companies. The results of the survey were published March 23 on CEMA's website.
PARA, the Professional Audio-Video Retailers Association, is bringing its annual management conference to the Hyatt Regency in Hilton Head, South Carolina, this week. The five-day event, running April 22-27, will focus on improving retail strategies. Representatives from more than 600 retailers, suppliers, and industry publications are expected.
Responding to continued softness in the audio market, the Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Association (CEMA) has finalized plans to hold its first annual Audio Industry Summit at the Westin Hotel O'Hare in Chicago, Illinois, May 29-31. CEMA audio company members will congregate in an effort to formulate strategies they believe will lead the category back to long-term prosperity and growth.
Recently, Analog Devices announced the worldÆs first High Definition Compatible Digital (HDCD) decoder chip with 32-bit internal precision. The ADSP-21061 SHARC programmable digital signal processor will enable HDCD decoding to be incorporated into a wide variety of consumer audio and home-theater products, according to an AD press release dated March 26. The SHARC DSP can perform up to 150 million operations per second, and includes one megabit of onboard memory, six DMA channels, and two serial ports. The highly integrated decoder is claimed to perform HDCD decoding without external memory.
Recently, Sound Advice, Inc., a specialty retailer of high-end consumer electronics, announced plans to open five to six stores in Florida over the next 18 months. The company expects that two to three of the stores will be in operation by the end of this calendar year, with the balance to be opened in 1999. Sound Advice is also exploring other ideas, such as smaller-format specialty stores in upscale malls and other high-end retail locations that feature high-quality brand names.
On April 8, Nordic Entertainment Worldwide announced that it has adopted ARIS Technologies' MusiCode audio watermarking system. The Napa, California-based company operates the Downloadable Music Site, one of the Internet's most extensive music archives. MusiCode is an attempt to discourage piracy by embedding signals in recorded music, which can later be extracted for tracking the recordingÆs origin.
On April 7, Carver Corp. announced an agreement in principle for the sale of 3 million shares of restricted Common Stock of the company to one of its preferred shareholders, Renwick Special Situations Fund, L.P., for $375,000, or $0.125 per share.
"Digital audio quality at analog prices." ThatÆs how Cirrus Logic's Crystal Semiconductor division introduced a chip that may bring a new level of audio performance to a much wider audience. On April 6, Crystal announced its CS4334, an 8-pin, small-outline D/A converter. The 24-bit CS4334 will support sampling rates of up to 96kHz, and is being marketed as a low-cost, high-quality solution for computer, automotive, and portable audio applications, as well as DVD systems and set-top converter boxes. Crystal claims the new chip is the industryÆs smallest delta-sigma DAC.
At the recent WinHEC '98, NEC Electronics Inc. made available prototype sample units of 1394-to-POF (plastic optical fiber) repeater boxes that extend transmission of video, audio, and textual data over long distances via plastic optical fiber and copper media. NEC Electronics, one of the first companies to demonstrate this technology over plastic optical fiber and copper and wireless media, is also one of the first to demonstrate transmission speeds of 200Mbits/s over plastic optical fiber.
Not long after the single-disc CD player was introduced, the multidisc changer followed, with products from companies like Sony and Pioneer. Shortly after the changer was introduced, it became the most popular version of the new hardware format. In the past eight years, changers have consistently outsold single-disc machines. The high-end market was characteristically slow to embrace changers, but companies like California Audio Labs have been successful in this category with products like the CL-10, a five-disc carousel changer.
High-end journal The Abso!ute Sound, long rumored to be circling the drain, has been officially revived. According to a press release dated March 24, TAS will be operated under a new company, Absolute Multimedia, owned by Tom Martin, a vice-president at Dell Computer. Martin has reportedly arranged serious financing for the new venture, which will be based in Austin, Texas.
Call it the comeback kid. Only a year ago, electronics retailer Best Buy Company was on the brink of disaster. Reeling from rapid expansion---34 new stores in two years---and suffering from an industry-wide sales slump, the retailer was said to be close to defaulting on some large-scale loans. Customers were being offered no-interest long-term credit as an inducement to buy anything on the sales floor.
The performance of deep bass is one of the most perplexing questions we face. Timeless as the search for eternal youth or the meaning of life, the quest for truly satisfying deep bass has engaged generations of philosophers and inventors. Until recently, the subject was primarily one of conjecture, opinion, and hypothesis. Even so, almost no hard science had been devoted to this enduring issue.
Editor's Note: I received an e-mail from Leonid asking for advice on audio cables a few weeks back, and we quickly began discussing the local audio scene in his hometown in Russia. I asked him to describe it for me; what follows is his report.---JI
Telecommunications giant American Telephone and Telegraph announced March 16 that it too, now, has technology for digital music delivery. AT&T's system, called a2b music, is based on MPEG Advanced Audio Coding.