Last week, Florida consumer-electronics retailer Sound Advice announced that it has reached an agreement in principle to acquire Scottsdale, Arizona–based Showcase Home Entertainment, LLC, a privately held "upscale" retailer of consumer electronics and custom design services. Sound Advice, founded in 1974, currently operates 24 Sound Advice stores and four specialty stores under the Bang & Olufsen name throughout Florida.
Longtime audiophiles no doubt remember Hafler for their early amp and preamp kits, which offered excellent value for the money. The company soon dropped the kits, but continued production with a complete line of popular amps and preamps throughout the '80s and early '90s, only to hit hard times as the audio recession kicked in.
The recent struggle between the RIAA and Napster may seem like a distant battle rumbling off in some foreign realm, far removed from most audiophiles: about once a week we get e-mails asking why a high-end audio website should even cover such stuff.
For the millions of fans who search the Internet for their favorite music, one thing always required is the name of the artist or song sought. But what if you don't know exactly what you want to hear, and would rather search for the kind of music that suits your mood?
It's bad enough for stores competing with each other for consumer loyalty—imagine how retailers must feel when the largest consumer-electronics company in the world decides to compete with you as well. This grim reality came true for dealers around the world last week, when Sony Electronics outlined its plans for SonyStyle.com, which the company describes as "an information-rich e-commerce website." The site is scheduled to be launched this fall.
According to a new report, the number of adults going online to access music-related content has exploded in the few months, increasing 48% between December 1999 and March 2000. These numbers are based on recent findings released by market analysts Cyber Dialogue, who say that "The dramatic growth in online music users can be attributed to the media's newfound obsession with Napster, Gnutella, and MP3. When combined with a marked increase in online music offerings and the proliferation of file-sharing software, the increase in demand for online music makes perfect sense."
By their very nature, most audiophiles seem perpetually restless, never content with that last tweak. Following in that hallowed tradition, PS Audio has been trying to reinvent the technologies traditionally used in power-line conditioners to optimize those pulses of alternating current that juice our audio systems. The company made waves with the introduction of their Power Plant line of products last year (see previous report); their P300 garnered a very positive review from Stereophile's Robert Deutsch.
With Napster as the little red devil with a pitchfork prodding them on, the third-largest record company in the world, EMI, making good on its earlier announcement, last week became the first major label to begin releasing music online. In a move the company hopes will silence the critics who say that Napster has become successful because the big labels have provided no Web-based alternatives, EMI put over 100 albums and 40 singles online "through all the normal retail websites."
Information released last week by NPD Intelect reveals eye-opening statistics about digital audio recorder formats. The numbers show that, from January to May 2000, unit shares of digital recording sales in retail stores were 30.8% for CD recorders (not including computer-based systems), 40.9% for MiniDisc recorders, and 28.3% for MP3 recording devices (also not including computer-based systems).
With new high-end audio formats hitting the shelves and MP3 and Napster dominating the online music news, developments in the world of radio have taken a back seat lately. But two announcements this week offer a peek at where the broadcast business might be headed.