With Napster as the little red devil with a pitchfork prodding them on, the third-largest record company in the world, EMI, making good on its earlier announcement, last week became the first major label to begin releasing music online. In a move the company hopes will silence the critics who say that Napster has become successful because the big labels have provided no Web-based alternatives, EMI put over 100 albums and 40 singles online "through all the normal retail websites."
By their very nature, most audiophiles seem perpetually restless, never content with that last tweak. Following in that hallowed tradition, PS Audio has been trying to reinvent the technologies traditionally used in power-line conditioners to optimize those pulses of alternating current that juice our audio systems. The company made waves with the introduction of their Power Plant line of products last year (see previous report); their P300 garnered a very positive review from Stereophile's Robert Deutsch.
Information released last week by NPD Intelect reveals eye-opening statistics about digital audio recorder formats. The numbers show that, from January to May 2000, unit shares of digital recording sales in retail stores were 30.8% for CD recorders (not including computer-based systems), 40.9% for MiniDisc recorders, and 28.3% for MP3 recording devices (also not including computer-based systems).
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).
With new high-end audio formats hitting the shelves and MP3 and Napster dominating the online music news, developments in the world of radio have taken a back seat lately. But two announcements this week offer a peek at where the broadcast business might be headed.
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.
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.