Industry Roundup

Credit-card amps: Miniaturization could change the look and feel of many audio products. On October 29, Austin, TX–based D2Audio announced its new line of MXS amplifiers, each only 1.5" tall with a footprint no bigger than a credit card. Intended for use with in-wall or on-wall loudspeakers, MXS amps can deliver up to 125Wpc into 8-ohm speakers or up to 250Wpc into 4-ohm speakers, with THD+N of <0.1% at full-rated power from 20Hz to 20kHz. Dynamic range is specified at "up to 145dB." The tiny digital amplifiers have programmable DSP features and 93% power efficiency, thereby eliminating the need for large heatsinks, and are said to sound as good or better than many traditional designs. Two-channel modules can also be used for bi-amping, according to the manufacturer.

ASCAP and Web radio: In late October, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) announced a $1.7 billion agreement with the Radio Music License Committee that would allow 12,000 member stations to stream their on-air broadcasts simultaneously over the Internet for fixed royalties. The largest licensing deal in the history of American radio covers licensing fees for the years 2001 to 2003 and establishes guidelines to be followed through 2009. Previously, ASCAP and broadcasters employed a revenue-sharing agreement that didn't always work smoothly. December 31, 2004 is the expiration date for an agreement between the Digital Media Association (DMA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), requiring webcasters to pay 0.0762¢ per song per listener.

iPods as amenities: Upscale hotels are increasingly providing iPods pre-loaded with thousands of songs for their guests to use, according to a November 4 report from CNET News writer Alorie Gilbert. One such hotel, Manhattan's Dream, provides the players and cables to connect to Bose speakers in each of the hotel's 200 rooms, which also have 37" plasma televisions. Several audio industry pundits, including our own Jon Iverson, predict that the hottest product niche in the coming year will be pre-loaded portable music players.

TARA Labs' shield-free cable: On October 20, Ashland, OR–based TARA Labs announced a new rectangular solid core (RSC) Vector Series of audio interconnect cables which the company claims to eliminate interference without shielding. Although shielding protects signals from the noise produced by radio frequencies and electromagnetic sources, it can "limit the performance of signal-carrying conductors within the cable," according to company founder and cable designer Matthew Bond. "The sound is 'closed in' due to the cable having a shield, and there is a way to get around these problems," he stated.

"The RSC Vector Series of audio interconnect cables without shielding produces open, spacious, and uniquely realistic sound, whether they're used in a two-channel audio-only system or a multichannel home theater." TARA Labs is not the first to produce shield-free cables—many audio hobbyists have been making their own for years, and commercial versions have long been available from companies such as Nordost and Kimber Kable. Even so, TARA's Vector cables "outperform everything in their price category and most of those above," according to Bond. RSC Vector Series audio interconnects are made in the USA and are available now.

Meridian DSP 5200: The British high-end manufacturer Meridian has announced the impending delivery of a new digital active loudspeaker, the DSP 5200. The new model shares the look and technology of its larger siblings, the DSP 7000 and DSP 8000, but stands only 36" tall. The 5200 has a "2½ way" crossover, a 150MIPS (millions of instructions per second) processor, 24-bit/192kHz DACs, and three in-board 75W amplifiers. Meridian says the $10,995/pair 5200 is ideal for accurate music reproduction in smaller spaces, and will be available in December.