The music business is a $13-billion-a-year industry, but the high-end audio industry reaches only a tiny fraction of the music lovers that number represents. "Everybody loves music, so why don't they love specialty audio?" was the question addressed to a group of industry experts at one of a series of AudioCafe.com-sponsored panel discussions on Friday, January 7, at the Alexis Park, during the 2000 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
High-end audio in trouble? That's been the consensus the last few years, but the sheer number of new products at this year's Consumer Electronics Show hints at a steady trend in the opposite direction. New developments in power conditioning abound, and several brave companies are even testing the SACD/DSD and DVD-Audio waters.
It's been a tough year for some of the audiophile record labels, as witnessed by the demise in late November of Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab (see previous story). The shock of MoFi's sudden departure even prompted Kimber Kable's Ray Kimber to fire off an e-mail to everyone within virtual reading range, urging them to buy a few audiophile CDs and LPs right now, before it's too late.
In a move that is sure to enrage users of blank digital media, Canada's Copyright Board has finalized plans to add a levy of 5.2 Canadian cents on CD-Rs and CD-RWs, 23.3 cents on audio cassettes over 40 minutes in length, and 60.8 cents on MiniDiscs and recordable audio CDs. In a market in which blank CD-Rs used for computer backup typically cost less than C$1 each, this represents an increase of at least 5% per disc. Interestingly, DAT tapes are excluded from the tax, as they are not seen as a threat to the music business.
We're still waiting to see even one official US release of DVD-Audio software, but reports are trickling in that the recording industry is nonetheless planning for the multichannel high-resolution audio landscape. The latest bit of news comes from mastering facility Future Disc Systems, which announced last week that it is now mastering DVD-Audio projects, and will soon be ready for high-resolution surround sound.
The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) is reporting that factory-to-dealer sales of audio equipment posted strong gains in October, rising by 8% over last October's sales figures and eclipsing the $1 billion mark for the first time since 1995. The CEA says that growth occurred in all segments of the audio market except portable audio, sales of which remained consistent with last year's levels.
Any FM-radio DJ who was on the air in the US through the late '70s and early '80s will tell you that the song most often requested was easily Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven." Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird" popped up regularly, but it was never a contest. So it comes as no surprise that Zep's epic hit would make the list of the 10 songs included in the "Millennium Mix" being presented this month by Dick Clark. (Never mind that the millennium actually ends December 31, 2000.)
Audiophiles have been hit hard lately, as DVD-Audio's release schedule has succumbed to piracy concerns and Sony has so far refused to allow digital outputs on SACD decks. (Only digital outs for CD playback are allowed.) You can listen, but don't touch. But at least there are still no such restrictions on CD players that would inhibit the use of their digital datastreams . . . for now.
As reported last March, loudspeaker manufacturer Von Schweikert Research closed its doors after a disastrous flood hit the factory (see previous report). Many thought this was the end of the story, but last week, Dr. Edward Gonzaga, of the Gonzaga Investment Group, announced the formation of a new version of the company, to be named Von Schweikert Audio.
Last August, we reported that brick-and-mortar retailer Tweeter Home Entertainment Group had aligned itself with online retailer Cyberian Outpost to leverage each company's respective strengths, both on- and offline. The trend continues as, last week, brick-and-mortar retailer Harvey Electronics announced that it has reached an "agreement in principle" with CoolAudio.com (see previous story) to merge the two companies through an exchange of common stock.