It would be easy to blame the popularity of home computers for a recent slowdown in audio component sales, except for the fact that PCs are having a tough season themselves. Maybe all of those audio dollars are being spent to cover losses in the stock market or to buy new PlayStation 2s. Regardless, sales of audio products suffered a bit of a slump this past October compared to last year.
Although it first appeared as an infant technology more than 20 years ago, digital audio amplification may finally be coming of age. Recent months have seen announcements from several companies, including news of Apogee's DDX technology (see previous report) and Cirrus Logic who recently purchased their Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) digital amplification technology from B&W Loudspeakers (see previous report).
According to a recent report released by the International Recording Media Association (IRMA), with the gradual introduction of players for the developing DVD-Audio format finally taking place, the software replication industry can expect an "accelerated growth rate" for DVD-A titles around the world in the next two years.
One of the constraints of the DVD format that is much hated by consumers around the world is the notorious "region code," whereby a DVD disc will only play in a machine that was bought in the country or region that the disc is licensed for. Hollywood claims that this is the only way to protect a work's licenses, which may vary from country to country. But region codes have made it tough on citizens in countries with few DVD releases and world travelers who try to bring home and play discs that they find abroad, leading to the widespread use of "hacks" to circumvent the restrictions.
Widely known for its consumer electronics products and musical instruments, Yamaha actually got its start making pianos 100 years ago. To celebrate this milestone, as well as the 300th anniversary of the piano, the company is introducing its first CD player-equipped, "high-tech" player piano that, it claims, is capable of "singing" along with its piano performance.
Retailers Ultimate Electronics, Sound Advice, Harvey Electronics and Good Guys have all reported strong sales for their most recent quarters, leading into the holiday shopping season. The only sour note was posted by Circuit City, which has stated that earnings are below expectations across all product categories.
Last week, Verance announced that the US Patent and Trademark Office has issued them a new patent intended to prevent the disabling of a watermark on recorded content. The patent is entitled "Method and Apparatus for Preventing Removal of Embedded Information in Cover Signals." The company has recently drawn the ire of audiophiles, who claim that its watermarking methods are audible in high resolution media such as DVD-Audio recordings (see previous report).
Audiophiles are just warming up to the debate on how (or why) they should set up multi-channel audio in the home (see previous story). But perhaps the listening room will ultimately take a back seat to a more obvious choice for a multi-channel environment: the automobile. Several multi-channel products are being announced for the autosound market, including a new Fujitsu DVD player with 5.1 audio.
Last week's Comdex convention in Las Vegas showcased more examples of convergence between the consumer electronics and computer industries, especially in the areas of portable devices, home theater, and digital audio. DVD-Audio also received notice at the show, as chip developer Zoran Corporation announced the Vaddis V, its latest DVD multimedia processor, slated for mass production in spring 2001.
When CDs were becoming popular, Neil Young made no secret of his disdain for the sound of digital. Interviews from the period quoted him as saying that the sound "left him cold," and he would rather listen to an LP, thank you very much. To this day, his new CD releases also appear on vinyl, but with the advent of DVD-Audio, sampling and quantization rates have improved—enough, apparently for Mr. Young's approval.