Industry Roundup

XM on a roll: Recent marketing efforts appear to be paying off for XM Satellite Radio. On July 2, the satellite radio startup announced that it had exceeded the 2.1-million subscriber mark during the second quarter. More than 418,000 new subscribers signed up during that period—over twice the number recruited in the same quarter last year. XM-compatible products are appearing at an ever-increasing number of retail outlets, leading some observers to believe that the company may have a fighting chance in the long run.

Onkyo universal changer: Many audio purists still cling to the notion that single-disc players are inherently better than changers, but many music fans know how much fun changers can be. For them, Onkyo has introduced the DV-CP802, a six-disc progressive scan DVD changer claimed to be "compatible with nearly every disc format in use today, including DVD-Audio and multichannel SACD high-resolution audio formats." The DV-CP802 features a blue-illuminated tray for disc recognition, a 108MHz/12-bit video D/A converter for superior video clarity and detail, and advanced progressive scan component video output with 3-2 pulldown capability. In addition to the component video output, there are both composite and S-video connections for compatibility with nearly all televisions, and all video outputs are continuously active.

Audio performance is what will really excite audio enthusiasts: 192kHz/24-bit audio DACs with Onkyo's "Vector Linear Shaping Circuitry" (VLSC) for "smoother, more detailed analog output," and a proprietary "Direct Digital Path" for maximum fidelity with Dolby Digital, DTS, and PCM audio signals at the rear-panel digital outputs. A full array of multichannel analog audio outputs includes a defeatable second set of surround channel connections for use with 7.1-channel home theater systems. The DV-CP802 is compatible with DVD, DVD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW, JPEG/Picture CD, and CD-R/RWs encoded with MP3 or WMA files. The DV-CP802, which is available in either black or silver, has a suggested retail price of $500.

Walkman vs iPod: Not content to sit back and let an upstart have all the fun with portable audio, Sony Corporation has launched a product intended to go head-to-head against Apple's iPod. On July 1, Sony announced its first portable music players equipped with miniature hard disk drives (HDD). The 20GB NW-HD1 Network Walkman should be available in mid-August for around $400. Sony claims the HD1 as "the world's smallest" HDD portable audio device, about the size of a credit card holder.

The larger 40GB VAIO Pocket will ship in September, with a projected retail price of about $500. The VAIO Pocket has a 2.2" color screen and a "jog dial" interface. Both new players are USB 2.0 compatible and boast long battery life—20 hours per charge, according to a Sony announcement.

Short battery life has been among the few legitimate complaints by iPod users, and the cause of at least one lawsuit. Sony's players won't support iTunes, of course, but rather the Sony-developed formats ATRAC, ATRAC3, and ATRAC3plus. They will also play MP3, unprotected WMA, and .WAV files translated into Sony formats using "SonicStage" software included with each player. Sony made its announcement as part of its 25th Anniversary celebration of the first Walkman, a portable cassette player.