As expected, the Recording Industry Association of America held a press conference last week to announce the formation of the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI), with which they hope to develop Internet downloading technologies for music. The move comes after a rough year for the music business, which has seen thousands of unauthorized websites offer copyrighted material for free using the MP3 audio format.
I admit to being a little surprised at the results of our Discs or Downloads poll a couple of weeks ago. More of you (65%) see a future for downloads as a viable music medium than I would have expected. As reader Mike Garner put it, "As bandwidth and storage continue to become cheaper, audiophile quality music downloads are inevitable." "Downloads save you trips to the shop or having to wait for shipping when you shop online. We'll soon be loading the data into a music server anyway," adds reader Ola Roll.
In an Internet world, the audiophile's quest for sound quality via high-resolution formats like DVD-Audio or SACD might be the last gasps of a dying generation. New media and technology companies like Liquid Audio, Diamond Multimedia, and RealNetworks are betting that the new generations of music lovers care more about how music is distributed, stored, and manipulated than about how it ultimately sounds. Les Garland, one of the founders of MTV and VH-1, has stated that "Technology fueled the growth of the market for music during the time when we pioneered music on cable. The Internet is having a similar effect, tenfold, driving artists and consumers to embrace digital media."
The Internet is beginning to pose quite a dilemma for high-end audio manufacturers, especially ones with limited distribution in major markets such as the US. Do you risk alienating potential bricks-and-mortar dealers in an effort to gain widespread exposure by offering your products online? Or do you slowly build distribution through the traditional stores that for years have been high-end audio's haven?
Last week, Capitol Records announced that it will release expanded DVD and VHS editions of Endless Harmony: The Beach Boys Story. The documentary, produced by Stephanie Bennett and directed by Alan Boyd, made its US television debut on VH1 in 1998. A soundtrack CD of Endless Harmony, originally released to coincide with the VH1 airing, is also available.
We'd have to go back to September 2005 to recall the last major changes
made to our website. It was then that we began adding our forums and
blogs, which moved slowly at first, went through some growing pains, and
finally became some of our most popular online destinations. About a
year later, we made other minor revisions, altering the look and feel of
our site to make it friendlier, more attractive, and easier to use.
These were all great moves, but the nature of the Web demands
near-constant renewal. The time had come for some tube-rolling. Or, if
you prefer, we needed to augment our physical media with a high-res,
lightning-fast, computer-based system. Look at it however you like.
The situation was clear: We were overdue for a facelift.
We all know that audiophile products are dangerous to the pocketbook, but one high-end audio manufacturer is notifying its customers that one of its subwoofers may be dangerous to the listener's health as well.
Several recent surveys on the Stereophile website have uncovered a surprising trend among audiophiles: Many of you are heading online to both used- and new-product vendors to make equipment purchases that have traditionally been made at specialty audio retailers.
Sim Audio's Lionel Goodfield notes that CDs are still major parts of most audiophile music collections, so he wanted to develop a player to maximize the format's potential while keeping costs under control. The result is the Neo 2600 for $2,000 that features a floating transport and borrows much of its technology from the company's more expensive 650D from the Evolution Series.
The 2600 also has SPDIF and AES/EBU inputs and can be upgraded for $1,000 with an internal 32 bit DAC that also adds a USB input. Available in black, silver and 2-tone.