The quest for new speaker technologies has resulted in some novel approaches to the reproduction of sound, as witnessed by products announced in the last few years by NXT and 1 . . . Ltd. (See previous story.) Some of Stereophile's readers may also recall that, back in May 1996, American Technology Corp. shook things up in the audio world by announcing what the company described as its "breakthough" new technology, the much-debated HyperSonic Sound (HSS). This was followed up in February 1997, when ATC announced the introduction of its Stratified Field Technology SFT, which company literature touted as "a significant improvement over conventional loudspeakers."
One of the challenging attributes of the new DVD-Audio format is the ability to release music in high-resolution multichannel (four or more) sound. For some this will be a thorny issue: Can previously released recordings be remixed to take advantage of the extra channels without sounding gimmicky? Should classical and/or live recordings use the surround channels for concert-hall ambience? How long will it be until consumers even care about setting up their systems to take advantage of more than two full-bandwidth channels?
Last week, eight consumer-electronics manufacturers announced the formal establishment of the Home Audio Video Interoperability Organization (HAVi) to promote the development of products based on the the HAVi 1.0 final specification, scheduled for completion in December 1999. (An evaluation version of the HAVi 1.0 final spec can be downloaded from the HAVi website.) The HAVi Organization was founded by Grundig, Hitachi, Matsushita, Philips, Sharp, Sony, Thomson, and Toshiba, which have been working together for over two years to develop a specification to permit interoperability among networking digital home entertainment products.
On November 16, Technics and Panasonic presented their DVD-Audio Q&A Forum to answer questions online about the new high-end audio format, players, and software. After introductions and an opening orientation about DVD-Audio, the first "questions" appeared, canned, as the panelists read "answers" from their notes. Still, some interesting information came to light.
Feeling the need to hook your audio system directly into a website for music files? Last week, Sony Corporation and Sun Microsystems announced plans to further collaborate to provide digital consumer-electronics appliances with direct access to Internet-based content and services. The companies say that the first phase of this cooperation will involve the development of home gateway software, running on appliances such as set-top boxes (connected to a home entertainment system), that will support a combination of home networking and network server technologies.
Need proof that baby boomers and their attendant interests are having an effect on the frontiers of computer research? Look no further than Triumph PC Online's announcement that it has introduced The John Lennon Artificial Intelligence Project (JLAIP), the first AI-based clone of the late Beatle. The project, initially titled The Plastic Digital Karma Project, has been under development for two years.
DVD-Audio has been getting a lot of press and comments from consumers lately—as in "Where is it?" As we reported back in August, the first players from Panasonic were slated to appear last month (see previous story). But, as with all things worth waiting for, better late than never.
While it's not exactly a stampede just yet, a small dust cloud is rising as several consumer-electronics manufacturers head toward the Internet to sell products. Last week, citing the need to "maintain the highest quality customer service in the new e-commerce era," Denon Electronics joined the online sales herd. In an effort to keep track of e-commerce vendors, the company has announced that it will establish a separate authorization agreement for retailers handling Denon and/or Mission products on the Internet.
These are perilous times for the independent audio dealer. With customers being siphoned off by large megastores and, eventually, the Internet, success will favor the dealer with a few clever tricks up his or her sleeve. One of those tricks for dealers in Dallas, Texas is a new group formed by Stephen Slaughter of The Audio Consortium.
Last week, WorldSpace announced that it has launched what it describes as "the world's largest digital audio broadcast system." The new system is based on a satellite radio service that recently began transmitting a wide array of multilingual radio programming across the entire African continent.