SACD partisans Sony and Philips continue to release new disc players that also decode DVD-Video, but not DVD-Audio. And arch-DVD-A supporter Meridian, as well as companies such as McIntosh, are releasing DVD-A and DVD-V players that don't do SACD. But there are exceptions, notably Pioneer, who debuted the first widely available "universal" player, the DV-AX10 SACD/DVD-A/CD player, last year.
It's been a long wait, but we're finally starting to see high-bandwidth IEEE 1394 digital audio connections on the back of DVD-A/SACD players (see related story), as first hinted at by Yamaha five years ago. A key ingredient for getting the beleaguered 1394 (or FireWire or iLink) format moving was the inclusion of copy-protection protocols that restrict unfettered consumer use of the digital audio content.
The entertainment industry has been crying wolf about the impending death of its collective livelihood since the first recording device hit the market decades ago. In spite of those dire predictions, reel-to-reel tape decks, cassette recorders, and VCRs hardly dented sales, and may in fact have contributed to unprecedented world-wide growth.
There's no question that restricted-use or copy-protected CDs are finding their way onto retailer shelves and into unsuspecting consumer hands—often with frustrating results. What is in doubt in many consumers' minds is how to recognize a restricted-use disc before purchase.
Joe Abrams has an impressive audio resume. "I've been on the manufacturer's side of the desk since 1979," he says. That's when he started as national sales manager for Monster Cable. A few years later found Abrams as director of sales at Sumiko, and then in 1987 he started as VP of sales at Threshold. In 1991 Abrams joined cable start-up Tara Labs and quickly helped them establish a dealer network before moving on to MIT.
Chip manufacturer ESS Technology is no stranger to audiophiles interested in new formats. It was responsible for one of the first "universal" SACD/DVD-Audio decoding chips and more recently was the supplier of a special-purpose chip for Linn's SACD "Silver Disk Engine" designs.
The music industry's worst nightmare is coming true: feeble attempts to shackle compact discs with "protection" are falling prey to simple felt pen hacks. And it's too late to build use-restriction and tracking technologies directly into CD players and existing computer CD drives.
Earlier this year, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) tried something a little different and ran the 2002 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas during the week, starting on a Tuesday, instead of in its normal slot over the weekend. The hope was that the show would not compete with the normally crowded Las Vegas weekends, and would offer showgoers more flexibility in finding hotel rooms and taxi cabs.
The escalating "anti-piracy" technology battle being fought by record labels has caught the attention and provoked the ire of consumers, who are finding their fair use rights quickly eroding away. But computer manufacturers are also feeling the effects of recent music-company attempts to restrict the activities of music fans, since many computers fail to play the altered discs.
Last week's online poll indicates that many Stereophile readers have an ongoing affinity for the retro design style of older audio gear. Several respondents say they find the warm glow of tubes and backlit displays seductively attractive in a darkened room, while others pine for the days of analog dials and softly lit meters with gently bouncing needles.