It's no secret that Dolby Laboratories doesn't aim its audio compression technologies at the high-end consumer audio market. After all, Dolby excels at finding ways to get maximum performance out of limited-bandwidth environments such as the audio cassette, or the space alloted for 5.1-channel soundtracks on DVDs.
In addition to fostering the exchange of audio files, peer-to-peer websites may be sharing the problems of increased legal liabilities and bandwidth drains for businesses which allow employees to access file-sharing sites from corporate networks.
One of the most significant trends in audio, witnessed at the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, is the emergence of the music server market. Pioneer, Panasonic, Marantz, Meridian, Onkyo, Rotel, Philips, Linn, and others have emphasized audio products that can be networked with each other and the Internet, and are able to share content throughout a home. Pioneer even suggests that networks will not necessarily involve a PC, but instead consist of dedicated music-server-like components.
A recent online poll indicates that a majority of Stereophile's online readers still don't like the idea of using computers when it comes to enjoying music. If a new report accurately predicts the future, they might as well get used to the rest of the world's booting up their tunes.
CD changers holding hundreds of discs at a time have found their place in a sizable percentage of consumer homes, and have proven especially useful in the custom installation market. Fans of these mega-changers love to drop their discs into one place, never having to crack open a CD case again. Drawbacks, however, include not being able to easily move the disc from home to car or portable, and the mechanical whirring and clanking the machines make as they slowly plow through the user's playlist.
Audio Research is showing their new replacement for the CD7, the Reference CD8 CD player shipping now at $9,995. They've taken a Philips Pro-2 transport and attached it with isolation pads to a machined aluminum I-beam which in turn is bolted to a machined aluminum bottom plate.
Audio Research is replacing the CD8 with a new player this year that will use similar proprietary filters and upsampling to that of the company's Reference DAC. There are also additional digital inputs on the back to accept USB, SPDIF, Toslink and AES/EBU 24/192 connections. The new player is shipping later this month and will retail for $13,000.
I'd file this one under DAC/preamp/streamer, with plenty of features and more to be announced. What we know: based on the company's DAC 8, there will be six digital inputs including all the usual suspects as well as wired and wireless networking, vTuner and UPnP. The DAC can upsample to 24/192 and includes a front panel display for control info and selected meta-data via DLNA/UPnP networked devices. Price will be around $15k.
Audio Research Corporation is often considered one of the greybeards of the hi-fi business, having begun its audiophile life way back in 1970. Even so, the company, often noted for its tube equipment, is proving that it can still make a run at the cutting edge of amplifier design.
The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) is reporting that factory-to-dealer sales of audio equipment posted strong gains in October, rising by 8% over last October's sales figures and eclipsing the $1 billion mark for the first time since 1995. The CEA says that growth occurred in all segments of the audio market except portable audio, sales of which remained consistent with last year's levels.