The Passing Parade

There is one date I dread every year: my wife's birthday. After nearly 16 years of marriage, I have exhausted every last iota of my spousal resources in trying to think of a suitable present. Nothing too ordinary, nothing too out of the ordinary, nothing that will trigger those dreaded words, "You did keep the receipt, right?"

This year was different. First, computer catalogs started appearing in my listening room, each opened to a specific page. Of course, I didn't get to be a long-term husband by displaying too much initiative, so I asked.

"I want an iPod. The 30-gigabyte model."

"But you've always hated Macintoshes. Remember when I bought the children iMacs when all their friends had PCs? Years of therapy lay ahead for them, you told me."

"I want an iPod."

I bought her an iPod. It took six weeks to arrive, missing her birthday by a month. But it's the thought that counts, right?

If ever I'd needed persuading about how well Apple understands what nonaudiophile music-lovers desire, this was all it took. As The Economist wrote last spring, not only is the iPod a great product, but for it to come from Apple rather than, say, Sony, is significant. Sony, of course, is hamstrung these days by being both a hardware and a software company. The Tokyo research staff probably still has stars in its eyes, but their dreams must now be tempered by Sony Music's need to keep control of their product. Apple, of course, has no such hobbles, as it demonstrated when it went from nowhere to being, just a month after launching its iTunes service, the largest online retailer of recorded music files.

At Home Entertainment 2003, held in San Francisco in June, this subject was touched on by David Hyman, chief strategist and creative vice president of Gracenote, operator of the ubiquitous CDDB online music database. Hyman was one of HE2003's two keynote speakers, the other being Monster Cable founder Noel Lee, in fine rabble-rousing form as he addressed the current recession being suffered by the audio industry.

Answering Lee's rhetorical question "Where does all the money go?," Hyman said, "The money all goes to computers." However, he argued, lossless compression and the availability of cheap, large hard drives is not so much an attack on audiophile values as an opportunity for high-end manufacturers to lead the way to new products that exploit those properties—which people in record numbers are demonstrating that they value—while establishing a higher standard of sound quality. As Wes Phillips noted in his daily coverage from HE2003, "this is a comforting thought for a troubled industry, but whether or not it proves a prophetic one is something only time will tell."

This issue features HE2003 coverage from Kal Rubinson and Michael Fremer in their "Music in the Round" and "Analog Corner" columns, as well as our traditional "Best Sound at the Show," tallied from the votes of attendees. Our full Show report will appear next month.

There will be two Shows next year: Home Entertainment 2004 "East" is scheduled to take place May 20-23, 2004, at midtown Manhattan's Hilton New York Hotel, site of the successful 2001 and 2002 events, while Home Entertainment 2004 "West" will again be held at San Francisco's Westin-St. Francis Hotel, November 5-7.

Webzines & E-zines
Mention of our website's HE2003 coverage reminds me to bring you all up to speed on our latest online initiatives. Every week, we upload five articles and reviews from Stereophile to our free online archives; more than 900 are now available. You will find almost every full equipment review published in the past five years, as well as a large selection of historic reviews dating back to the early 1960s. And when a product has received coverage from multiple writers, all Follow-Ups are included in the Web reprint.

But more significant, particularly for our overseas readers, is the news that, along with such magazines as PC Magazine, Business Week, and Motor Trend, we now offer a downloadable Stereophile e-zine. For just $15.97, you can get 12 issues of the Stereophile Digital Edition from Zinio (footnote 1). Each issue looks identical to the print publication, except that it's on your monitor. It's a 15MB file, so you'd best have a broadband connection. But once you've downloaded an issue, the Zinio reader software (available for both PC and Mac) not only replicates the page-turning experience of the paper book, but allows you to do keyword searches. You can also share your e-zine with a friend.

The Passing Parade
I was saddened to hear, at the end of June, of the passing of Jason Bloom, founder of speaker manufacturer Apogee Acoustics, who had apparently suffered a fatal fall on Father's Day. Jason sold Apogee to a/d/s/ in 1998 and that company subsequently shut it down, other than to apply the brandname to a range of switch-mode amplifier modules.

In Apogee's heyday in the mid-1980s, no audio show was complete without Jason lovingly playing some of his enormous LP collection on Apogee ribbon speakers. One of my formative high-end audio experiences was my first audition of Apogee Scintillas in my Sussex, England listening room in spring 1985. A second took place that summer, when I listened to prototype Duettas in Jason's Boston listening room, accompanied by the croaking of lovesick bullfrogs in the nearby pond. A third was listening to the Mobile Fidelity reissue of Little Feat's Waiting for Columbus LP in January 1986, in the then listening room of Krell's Dan D'Agostino, through 7'-tall, full-range Apogees directly driven by Krell monoblocks (footnote 2).

Jason and his passion for music will be sadly missed, but this magazine's complete coverage of the Apogee Caliper, Duetta, Stage, and Mini-Grand loudspeakers can be found in our online archives. And lovers of Apogee speakers are well-served by the Apogee User Group website, where you can find my September 1985 comments from HFN/RR, as well as a series of photographs I took in the Apogee factory.

On a brighter note, this issue features the 100th installment of Michael Fremer's "Analog Corner" column, which premiered in our July 1995 issue (Vol.18 No.7). Here's to your mighty pen, Mikey!

"Why do you keep featuring an obsolete technology?" regularly grumble some readers, yet "Analog Corner" rates highly whenever we investigate which of the magazine's features are most popular. And here's an interesting statistic unearthed by Stereophile's webmaster, Jon Iverson, in early July: Sales of vinyl so far in 2003 total 661,000 units, compared with just 234,000 units sold by DVD-Audio and Super Audio CD combined. Makes you think.

Finally, a correction and an apology: Not only did we inadvertently misspell Rosanne Cash's name in our April 2003 "Recording of the Month" review of the singer's Rules of Travel CD, we continued misspelling it in Robert Baird's feature article on her in our August issue, and on that issue's cover as well. This sloppiness does not reflect the high editorial standards aimed at by this magazine. We apologize to Stereophile readers, and particularly to Ms. Cash herself.

Footnote 1: Downloadable Stereophiles begin with the March 2003 issue.

Footnote 2: You can find my report on this visit in the April 1986 issue of British magazine Hi-Fi News & Record Review, one of the last features I wrote for that book before moving to Stereophile.