As the saying goes, there are lies, damn lies, and then there are statistics. Statistics can be used to help understand what goes on in the world, but, as any marketing exec or PR company knows, they can also be manipulated to tell a particular story.
Axiss Distribution was on hand to display new products from Olasonic including a CD transport and DAC (shown in photo). Axiss' Arturo Manzano explained that Olasonic is a Japanese company comprised of ex-Sony engineers who had worked on SACD development. The products are made in China and come in white or black finishes while retailing for $800 each.
With the show spread out between a half dozen hotels, and Las Vegas one of the most inefficient cities to move around in, it's tough to see everything. I simply ran out of time before getting over to the Bellagio to see Olive, but Kal Rubinson was able to make it one morning.
His photo above shows the company's new O6HD which is described as a "music server for audiophiles". On top is a modest 10.1" touch screen and inside is a fully balanced differential DAC design that can run at 24bit/192kHz. There is also a headphone jack and slot for ripping discs under the lip on the front. Internal storage is 2TB and it has both balanced and unbalanced analog outputs in addition to HDMI, USB, Ethernet and WiFi which supports the free iPad/iPhone apps. Price is $4,999.
Olive and Thiel have teamed up with the help of zöet networking technology from a company called Bicom, and have created a complete media server/powered speaker system. Included in the system is a 2TB Olive 4HD music server which has been specially outfitted with an audio networking system using ethernet cables for connecting to the speakers.
Wes Phillips, Stephen Mejias, and Kal Rubinson join San Antonio, Texas retailer Galen Carol on the way to the Venetian. As Galen explained to us, high end retailing is a bit of a challenge, but still viable to dealers that take care of their customers and offer old fashioned service.
As I walked into "The Hi-Res Audio Experience" ballroom, I scanned the room and noted several high resolution audio vendors along the walls. Then I noticed an odd symmetry to the arrangement: the PCM distributors and labels were lined up on the left, while all of the DSD folks were lined up on the right.
I was wishing this wasn't symptomatic of greater divisions between the two HD audio worlds, but when someone in a DSD booth asked if I'd be back for the big PCM vs DSD battle the next day, with a gleeful glint in his eye, I realized this might be shaping up as a format war after all. I sure hope not.
The DSD exhibitors included Native DSD Music, Blue Coast Music and representatives for Acoustic Sounds new download web site: Super Hi-Rez. In all fairness it should be pointed out that Super Hi-Rez offers both DSD and PCM HD downloads, though the numbers of titles seem heavily weighted towards DSD at this point.
While Napster was thriving a few short months ago, the music business was noisily seething and quietly plotting. How could they put the digital audio genie back into the content-control bottle? Although Napster has since been gutted, the labels have identified the unprotected CD as the source of their woes, and now it's payback time.
Last week Microsoft entered the Internet audio fray by announcing the release of their Windows Media Technologies 4 platform, which the company claims introduces a "new standard for CD-quality audio" on the Internet. Windows Media includes Windows Media Player, Windows Media Services, Windows Media Tools, and Windows Media Audio SDK.