What initially took form in college dorm rooms and computer geeks' homes only a few short years back looks ready to break into the mainstream audio market this year. Hard-disk–based audio systems are becoming more common as both consumer electronics and computer manufacturers rush to bring products to market.
Well known in the European audiophile community, British hi-fi manufacturer Cyrus Electronics is preparing for the introduction of its brand in America. The company says it plans to use the upcoming 2002 Consumer Electronics Show next month to scout out US dealers and introduce several new products.
It seems that all of the forces in the music industry have lately been conspiring against the music lover and audiophile. The record labels and their hired gun, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), have so far blocked digital outputs on high-resolution audio players, insisted that watermarks be inserted into both high- and low-resolution audio data, and have even started to restrict consumer's fair use of compact discs and digital downloads.
For any audio company to be successful, it needs to cover what my business school teachers used to call the "Four Ps": Product, Price, Promotion, and Place. In other words, success will follow if a company can slice up its resources to properly promote the right product at the right price and make it available in the right places.
Sam Tellig loves 'em and consistently sings their high-quality/low-buck praises as a cheapskate favorite ($6.99 per CD!). And now, classical music label Naxos of America is blazing new paths with its announcement last week that it and Liquid Audio have inked an agreement to digitally distribute downloads of selected Naxos recordings to leading retail and music web sites in the Liquid Music Network.
Dolby Laboratories was demonstrating its new Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) consumer encoder, which the company says complements its professional AAC encoder, at this year's New York AES Convention. Dolby says it will license the encoder to enable "high-quality AAC encoding" for CD-rippers, hard disk–based jukebox products, Internet-based music distribution systems, portable players, and other digital audio products aimed at the consumer market.
Record label attempts at restricting the potential uses of their CDs have hit another bump in the antipiracy road. Music label BMG had announced earlier this year that it would try to find ways to restrict its CDs, in an effort to stem piracy and the trading of MP3 files. But those plans appear to have backfired, so far.
In the race to get satellite radio to market, XM Satellite Radio was the first to hit the air this past September. But competitor Sirius says they were saving the best for last, and has now announced that its official launch date will be as early next year as February 14, with initial broadcasts reaching Denver, Phoenix, and Houston.
They don't turn over quite as fast as computer equipment, but mass-market audio component product cycles typically last about a year, until the next Consumer Electronics Show comes around. High-end audio products, however, enjoy much longer life spans—sometimes stretching to several years.