DVD-Audio has been "almost here" for so many months that it seemed almost anticlimactic when the first players finally emerged on dealer shelves this week. Late in May of this year, Panasonic announced (see previous story) that they would be releasing two players, one under the Panasonic banner and the other under the company's Technics brand, in July. It looks as if they've finally made good on their promise.
Judging from the e-mails we get, some folks wonder why Stereophile's website continues to cover the advance of such lo-fi formats as MP3 as well as the problems encountered by companies like Napster as they tangle with the music business. But consider this: a new study reports that the market for digital music players will grow to $6.4 billion in 2005—more than 34 times 1999 shipments—which is also nearly 80% of the $8 billion reported for sales of all audio products, including portables, from last year (see previous article).
Back when DVD players were first released in the US, Classic Records was among the first companies to exploit the fact that early machines, though intended for the video enthusiast, could play a 24-bit/96kHz audio recording as well as movies (see previous story). These early high-resolution discs, which Classic called DADs, were intended to hold us over until DVD-Audio (then thought to be just around the corner) would finally hit the market. More than two years later we're still waiting for DVD-A, but Classic intends to be ready when it finally appears.
CD changers holding hundreds of discs at a time have found their place in a sizable percentage of consumer homes, and have proven especially useful in the custom installation market. Fans of these mega-changers love to drop their discs into one place, never having to crack open a CD case again. Drawbacks, however, include not being able to easily move the disc from home to car or portable, and the mechanical whirring and clanking the machines make as they slowly plow through the user's playlist.
When spying this press release a couple of days ago, I had to read it twice—this was too good to be true. A couple of years back in the September 1997 (or as JA likes to put it: Vol.20 No.9) Stereophile "Industry Update," I had reported on the then-discovered "synchronicities" phenomena: playing certain classic rock albums, when sync'ed up with certain classic films yielded several uncanny coincidences twixt music and screen. Watching and listening this way could lead one to almost believe that the albums were created as soundtracks to the films.
Tired of the controversy over whether expensive audio cables might make a difference in your system? The best approach would likely be to try a few sets with your own equipment and room and see for yourself. But cost has prevented more than a few audiophiles from spending quality time with the pricey stuff.
Remember FM radio's effect on college campuses years ago? Free music, usually without commercials (college stations are largely non-profit), and very flexible playlists made or broke new bands. Fast-forward to 2000. Students now spend most of their time downloading MP3 files for free over the Internet for playback on their computers. As before, new artists often benefit from this phenomena, but record companies are increasingly seeing the students as pirates rather than consumers.
Waiting for the Holy Grail of DVD-Audio? Even with players still distant on the horizon, one can now begin building a DVD-Audio music library with discs compatible with current DVD-Video players. At least that's the strategy offered at the recent High End 2000 show in Frankfurt, Germany this past week.
Last year, Stereophile's Barry Willis took a trip to Ogden, Utah, to report on what was then a secret speaker project being conducted by Kimber Kable's Ray Kimber and designer Eric Alexander. After informal listening, Willis noted that, while not being able to completely nail down what the "under development" DiAural crossover circuitry was doing, something new was certainly in the air.