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.
The DVD Forum's Working Group 4 (WG-4) is expected to deliver the "0.9" version of its official DVD-Audio specification this month, with "1.0" to follow shortly. While information is scarce, it appears that WG-4 is talking about four different kinds of disc, each of which will be playable on one or two of three different kinds of players. And that doesn't include Sony's and Philips' "Super Audio CD" proposal (see Peter van Willenswaard's report on SACD a couple of weeks back on the website), or the Classic Records-led "DAD" format, which uses the provision of the DVD-Video specification for 24-bit/96kHz audio data. (DADs will play on DVD-Video players that have appropriate D/A sections---also see the past item on the web site.)
More than 50 independent music labels ("indies") have signed on with Liquid Audio, the leading provider of music downloads over the Internet. The announcement was made March 19 at South by Southwest (SXSW), an annual music and media conference in Austin, Texas.
The Lenbrook Group of Pickering, Ontario, Canada announced March 25 that it will acquire Sonic Frontiers of Oakville, Ontario, Canada. This acquisition, effective May 1, 1998, is an extension of Lenbrook's commitment to enhance its position in the international specialty A/V segment of the consumer electronics industry. A new company, Sonic Frontiers International (SFI), will be formed to leverage Lenbrook's strengths with Sonic Frontiers' market position in the high-end segment of the audio business.
On March 20, at the CeBIT '98 convention in Hanover, Germany, several leading manufacturers of CD-ReWritable (CD-RW) drives and media announced that the market for CD-RW products has grown much faster than originally predicted.
On March 17, Recoton Corporation announced that it has licensed the NHT brand name to Vergence Technology, Inc. NHT is a name known among audiophiles for its line of loudspeaker products for home audio. Vergence intends to utilize the NHT brand name on its new line of products designed specifically for the pro audio and professional home music markets. Planning for this marketing agreement has been in development for many months with Vergence Technology's Chris Byrne and Ken Kantor, who were also the founders of NHT.
Concluding its six-year evaluation of Digital Audio Radio (DAR) systems, the Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Association (CEMA) filed its final report last month with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The report, "Technical Evaluations of Digital Audio Radio Systems: Laboratory and Field Test Results, System Performance, Conclusions," is available to the public from the FCC and through CEMA's website.
In a move sure to startle a few record retailers, English recording artists Massive Attack will make their much-anticipated new album, Mezzanine, available in its entirety on the Internet weeks before the May 12 in-store release date. The album will appear in stages over the course of two weeks via a special page on Virgin Records America's web site.
You may have noticed recent news items about proposals to deregulate the electrical power industry. You may have received solicitations to sign on with some start-up utility you never heard of, promising 10% to 40% reductions in your electrical bill. The model for this deregulation---if it comes to pass---is the long-distance telephone industry.
On March 12, Energy Conversion Devices, Inc. announced that Sony Corporation has expanded its royalty-bearing license under ECD's proprietary phase-change rewritable optical-memory technology to include advanced technology for use in rewritable CD and DVD optical-memory products. Phase-change technology, invented by ECD, is used in PD and CD-RW rewritable optical-memory discs.
Remember how your Uncle Charlie used to hole up in the basement with his ham radio rig? He'd spend hours down there, tweaking his equipment and chatting in an arcane jargon with fellow hobbyists around the world.
March 9, AKM Semiconductor, Inc. introduced the AK5392, a 24-bit stereo analog-to-digital (A/D) converter based on its proprietary dual-bit delta-sigma technology. The AK5392 reportedly achieves a dynamic range of 116dB, said to be a 15dB improvement over other single-chip alternatives.