With its new Walkman music player, Sony has broken with its tradition of promoting its own proprietary formats. The NW-HD3 will let users import and export tracks in the MP3 format, a concession to the format's near-universal popularity and an admission of the failed appeal of Atrac, Sony's own music-playing software. MP3 compatibility should give the player appeal to a wider audience than a Sony-only machine.
Concord and Fantasy: Berkeley, CA–based Fantasy Records has been sold to Concord Records of Beverly Hills in a deal valued at $83 million, according to a December 4 report from Billboard. The music enterprise of film producer Saul Zaentz and partners, Fantasy is well known for its huge catalog of works by jazz greats Count Basie, John Coltrane, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Ella Fitzgerald, Thelonious Monk, Joe Pass, Oscar Peterson, and Sarah Vaughan, as well as soul and blues stars the Dramatics, Isaac Hayes, Albert King, the Staple Singers, and Johnnie Taylor.
Mastering engineer Denny Purcell let out a long sigh. "Does anyone in this room believe that any of this is going to do any good?" he asked. Of the eight or nine people—each with decades of experience in the music and/or audio industries—hanging out at Georgetown Masters Studios for SDMI's Phase II listening tests this past October, not one said "Yes." The consensus: the watermarking issue will probably be dead and forgotten within a year.
Tweeter's new look: Tweeter Home Entertainment Group is entering the first phase of a massive makeover—with redesigned stores and a new marketing approach emphasizing custom installation and media-server–based home-theater products. The company will de-emphasize individual components and pitch its services toward women, who make most decisions about home entertainment and home décor. The company's pitch will be "We can untangle your mind," a reference to the widespread frustration with semi-compatible and often incomprehensible technologies. Over the next 18 months, Tweeter will consolidate its various regional chains under a single brand name, with a prototype 14,500 sq. ft. store in the Las Vegas suburb of Summerlin, NV to be launched at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show (CES).
One of the most enduring obstacles confronting audio engineers has been how to generate powerful low bass without the need for large loudspeaker enclosures. It's been generally accepted that really effective low bass means moving large quantities of air, which in turn means large drivers in large cabinets. Large loudspeakers, unfortunately, don't meet the approval of many dcor-conscious homeowners. It's a longstanding problem for music lovers, home theater fans, and custom installers.
DualDisc has apparently stumbled hard right out of the gate. Earlier this year, test marketing of the DualDisc in Boston and Seattle indicated that music fans would eagerly accept the new format, one that combines standard Compact Disc audio content on one side with DVD (audio and video) on the other.
Grokster, Ltd. plans to expand its Internet file-sharing services to include leveraging users' computers as sources for music streaming, according to news reports from Silicon Valley on Monday, November 15.
Karmazin joins Sirius: The satellite radio service gained some serious traction in its recent acquisition of former Viacom, Inc. president Mel Karmazin. Just one month after signing "shock jock" Howard Stern to a multimillion-dollar contract, Sirius signed Karmazin to a five-year contract, bringing him in as its new chief executive officer. Joseph Clayton will relinquish the CEO title but remain chairman of the board. Karmazin departed Viacom in June and began discussions in earnest with Sirius after the satellite service landed Stern, in a move Karmazin described as "brilliant." Karmazin had previously dismissed the potential of satellite radio, but now believes it could be huge—larger, perhaps, than the growth he helped nurture at Infinity Broadcasting, which he took from a few stations to more than 200. Sirius stock rose more than 10% on the day Karmazin's contract was announced.
Credit-card amps: Miniaturization could change the look and feel of many audio products. On October 29, Austin, TX–based D2Audio announced its new line of MXS amplifiers, each only 1.5" tall with a footprint no bigger than a credit card. Intended for use with in-wall or on-wall loudspeakers, MXS amps can deliver up to 125Wpc into 8-ohm speakers or up to 250Wpc into 4-ohm speakers, with THD+N of <0.1% at full-rated power from 20Hz to 20kHz. Dynamic range is specified at "up to 145dB." The tiny digital amplifiers have programmable DSP features and 93% power efficiency, thereby eliminating the need for large heatsinks, and are said to sound as good or better than many traditional designs. Two-channel modules can also be used for bi-amping, according to the manufacturer.