Neither Verance nor Digimarc have made friends in the consumer world, as they continue to develop and implement watermarking technologies used to restrict the use of digital media, such as DVD-Audio and CD discs. Audiophiles, in particular, are resisting any form of restriction technology, such as watermarking, that alters the digital data on a disc at the expense of audio fidelity.
Texas Instruments says it is on a quest to provide "high-performance audio solutions" for the home entertainment market. To prove it, last week the company announced its first stereo analog-to-digital converters supporting the Direct Stream Digital (DSD) specification and the Super Audio CD format (SACD).
Most folks have enough room in their homes (some college students excepted) to easily place 100W amplifiers without regard to size or heat. But in the car, high-powered amps have always been relegated to the trunk or under a seat, often requiring creative solutions for anything with real heft.
Hard-disk–based audio systems having been gaining traction in recent months, with a half-dozen consumer electronics companies announcing or selling products. These new components model what savvy computer users have been hacking together for years—a software-controlled music library based on hundreds or thousands of CD or MP3 files stored on a hard disk.
Yet another variation on restricted-use compact discs appeared last week, when Phoenix-based SunnComm announced an agreement with Nashville's Sunbird Records that also includes revenue sharing. Sunbird says it is preparing to release country music singer Len Doolin's Once in a Lifetime on November 1 using SunnComm's new "Expanded Experience CD" (CD3) technology in an effort to restrict use of the disc on computers.
Times are tough in the online audio delivery market, with long-established start-ups struggling to keep pace with competing formats from Microsoft as well as the ever pervasive MP3. Particularly hard hit has been Liquid Audio, which along with competitor Real Audio, has for the last few years attempted to create the de facto standard for online music commerce.
DVD-Audio and SACD are offering record companies a chance to re-release their back-catalogs of "classic" material once again. But the results will not necessarily resemble the CD re-releases of the last two decades. Artists, producers, and labels now have an opportunity to go beyond the standard "re-mastered for (insert new format here)" process when updating an older title for DVD-Audio or SACD. For better or worse, they can entirely remix the master tapes for multi-channel surround sound.
Whenever we run a poll asking readers what record companies can do to reduce piracy, one of the most common gripes is that CD prices are too high. Apparently the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM) and major music retailers across the country agree. They also are looking for better-sounding formats to goose sales.
Although it announced support for SACD in early September, the world's third-largest record label, EMI Music Distribution, says it is also gearing up for a full slate of DVD-Audio titles. While the company has numerous new releases available, these will be the first to come from its back catalog.