There are several easy ways to start arguments among music fans: ask for a list of the most significant albums of all time, or who the greatest songwriters are, or the best bands, or ask which albums sported the all-time greatest covers.
These are perilous times for the independent audio dealer. With customers being siphoned off by large megastores and, eventually, the Internet, success will favor the dealer with a few clever tricks up his or her sleeve. One of those tricks for dealers in Dallas, Texas is a new group formed by Stephen Slaughter of The Audio Consortium.
Music fans who use their computers to organize their CD or MP3 music libraries have found the CDDB music database, now owned and operated by Gracenote (see previous story), to be an essential part of their audio world. If you use CDDB-enabled hardware or software, the artist, album title, genre, and track titles will automatically display when you put a CD or load an MP3 file into your computer or compliant player.
For any good battle, it helps to have several key ingredients. First, there has to be an underlying conflict that cannot be settled with diplomatic ease---it is especially important that both combatants covet the same property. Second, each side has to set a propaganda machine in motion to create the appearance of a noble struggle for the good of "the people" that transcends the simple fight for turf control. Third, the outcome of such a battle should have implications stretching far into the future. And finally, these days it helps if the press notices.
The quest to secretly track music fans continues: Royal Philips Electronics and Digimarc announced last week that they have signed a new agreement that extends the licensing of Digimarc's digital watermarking patents to include audio applications as well as a broader range of video applications.
One of the hot items audiophiles were able to score at last month's 2005 CES was a hybrid SACD that Ray Kimber was handing out. Labelled IsoMike Tests 2005A, the disc is beautifully packaged and sports dozens of recorded snippets of vocal music, string quartet, piano, marching band, orchestra, blank pistol, and a local janitor.
Stereophile readers tend to exhibit above-average interest in the art and science of reproducing music in the home. Those whose interest extends back up the recording chain and into the recording studio may want to take a look at the Prestige Studios of the World website, developed by an Internet company looking to show off its digital wares.
Within the confines of the cozy analog audiophile kingdom, things couldn't be better: Turntables, cartridges and phono preamps can be found in abundance, while mounds of new and used vinyl can be scored by the truckload.