Providing another boost to the nascent DVD-Audio market, Zoran Corporation, a provider of integrated circuits (ICs) and software for digital video and audio applications, announced last week the availability of a new DVD decoder IC chip, the Vaddis IV. Zoran says the chip is optimized for fourth-generation DVD players and will include integrated DVD-Audio decoding. According to the company, the new Vaddis IV decoder enables the design of flexible and advanced---yet affordable---new DVD players.
In a tersely worded press release, Carver Corporation announced that on Wednesday, May 12, 1999 it filed a voluntary petition under Chapter 11 in United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Washington. The cause of the filing was "an accumulation of unpaid debt and resulting legal actions filed by creditors. These actions created the prospect of an inequitable distribution of payment to creditors and prevented the Company from being able to operate as a functioning business entity. In October of 1998, the Company ran out of working capital and laid off the remainder of its workforce. Subsequently, at the invitation of the Board of Directors, Robert W. Carver, the founder of the Company and former CEO, stepped in to take over."
Last week, the Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Association (CEMA) announced its forecast that Internet sales of traditional consumer technologies to online households should reach at least $14 billion by 2002, representing 13% of total industry volume. CEMA also revealed that consumer research shows interest in buying consumer technologies online should grow by at least 135% in the next two years. The study found that the vast majority of online shoppers opt to consummate the purchase online instead of at a retail store because of price.
Plenty of noteworthy new audio products are making their debuts here at HI-FI '99. EveAnna Manley has unveiled her prototype DAC/preamp, the Wave, featuring an UltraAnalog-based 20-bit D/A converter and a tube line-stage. With four digital inputs, four analog inputs, a processor loop, and three variable outputs, the fully remote-controllable unit should appear at dealers in late summer at a suggested price of $7000. Manley says an optional 24/96 pop-in circuit board is in the works.
Following the Sony/Philips jump from the starting line with Wednesday's SACD announcements, the DVD-Audio camp quickly came up to speed at the HI-FI '99 press luncheon with their plans for players and discs to appear this fall. First up at the podium was Jordan Rost from the Warner Music Group. Contrasts with the SACD position were established from the start when Rost made it obvious that, unlike SACD, DVD-Audio seeks to embrace not only high-end audio, but also various forms of video, and even Internet interactivity. Rost even went so far as to say that DVD-Audio discs could "play on CD players if a hybrid disc is feasible and desired," thus possibly deflating Sony's insistence that backward-compatibility is what sets SACD apart.
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."
Last Month, music labels, distributors, and retailers met in Las Vegas for the 41st annual National Association of Recording Merchandisers convention to wrestle with several new issues wrought by the digital age. NARM Chairperson Rachelle Friedman set the tone for the event when she stated in the keynote address that "for the music industry, the 21st century and the impact of the Internet have already thrust themselves upon us."
Every week we get an e-mail or two from online readers begging for a state-of-the-art set of searchable weblinks on the Stereophile website. Starting this week, your e-prayers have been answered. The Stereophile website now sports one of the Internet's most comprehensive set of qualified audio and video links---as of last count, they number more than 2500. The database is searchable in a variety of ways, and also groups similar categories.
Last week, RealNetworks announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire privately held Xing Technology, a developer and provider of MP3 software. Xing has been developing standards-based digital audio and video encoding and decoding technology since 1990, but eventually ran into trouble competing with other Internet-audio startups such as RealNetworks and Liquid Audio.
As first reported April 8 in EETimes, Sony has made known its plans for the first generation of Super Audio Compact Disc (SACD) players, to be released in Japan this May. For the last several months, Sony has been suggesting that the SACD format would be going head to head with the competing DVD-Audio format, despite overtures from the DVD-Audio Working Group to join in a single all-encompassing specification.