Industry Roundup

Xd on its way: NHT has begun shipping its Xd DEQX Calibrated DSP speaker systems to dealers, according to an announcement made January 24 by parent company the Rockford Home Group. A high-tech twist on the old satellite-and-subwoofer scheme, the Xd consists of a pair of two-way acoustic satellite speakers; an XdW bass module with two opposing 10" drivers powered by an internal PowerPhysics 500W amplifier; and an XdA outboard processor/amplifier that includes a DEQX-calibrated DSP engine and four PowerPhysics One-Cycle Sound amps.

Many months in development (1, 2, 3), the Xd was one of the best-sounding products on display at the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES), demonstrated as both two-channel and multichannel systems. "We're working closely with our partners, DEQX (Digital Equalization and Crossover) and PowerPhysics, to ensure that our end-users achieve the same remarkable level of accuracy as that experienced by the media who sampled the system earlier this year," NHT managing director Chris Byrne told This Week in Consumer Electronics (TWICE). A 2.4GHz digital wireless option for the bass module should be available soon.

HD Radio: As many as 2500 US broadcasters could be delivering HD Radio within the next four years, according to reports appearing in mid-January. Broadcasters sought support from manufacturers at a CES press conference, urging them to ramp up production of HD receivers and tuners. The 2500 stations include most of the stations owned by large conglomerates and 309 public broadcast stations, according to iBiquity Digital president Robert Struble. There are 13,500 radio stations in the US.

On Saturday, April 16, Broadcast Electronics will host the 4th annual Las Vegas HD Radio seminar during the upcoming National Association of Broadcasters convention. The seminar at the Las Vegas Convention Center will cover "cost-effective solutions for converting station clusters; benefits of generating HD Radio coding from the studio; preparing for HD Radio text services and secondary audio, including wideband STL options; the latest in surround sound; and installation tips from BE engineers," states an announcement.

The traditional radio industry continues to lose ground to the Internet, satellite radio, and other forms of entertainment. HD Radio may appear too late for a turnaround. Viacom, Inc.'s Infinity Broadcasting, Inc. recently began pitching the value of radio advertising to potential advertisers, leveraging bad-boy pop stars Iggy Pop and Dave Matthews, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal by Sarah McBride. Clear Channel Communications, Inc. has taken another approach by reducing the number of commercials on its stations. The absence of commercials is one of satellite radio's biggest draws. As McBride points out, "Large numbers of ads can lead listeners to change stations or ditch the radio altogether for CDs or satellite radio."

XM moves into home market: Thirteen major consumer electronics makers will begin delivering XM-ready home audio and video devices in 2005 and 2006, according to recent announcements from XM Satellite Radio. New products from companies such as Boston Acoustics, Crosley, Denon, Eton, GPX, Harman Kardon, LG, Onkyo, Orient Power, Pioneer, Polk, Thomson, and Yamaha will include boomboxes, combination disc players/receivers, and home-theater-in-a-box systems (HTiBs). New XM-ready products will work with a $49.95 miniature outboard XM tuner built into a flip-up home XM antenna, which will plug into proprietary XM connectors on home entertainment products. The new combo tuner/antenna will considerably reduce the price of admission for new XM subscribers, according to the company. Among recent XM licensees are Panasonic, Pyle, and Audiobahn, which have all begun shipping XM-ready head units for the automotive aftermarket.

In addition, on January 18, Washington, DC–based XM announced its acquisition of Effanel Music, Inc., a New York company specializing in mobile recording, remote broadcasts, and live music concert productions. "Bringing Effanel into the XM family is a strategic fit because live content plays such a central role in XM's programming," said XM president and CEO Hugh Panero. "With Effanel, XM now has a built-in mobile recording and broadcast division that enables us to air—in digital sound—live music, sports, and entertainment events from anywhere in the world."

Legal front: Two Chinese manufacturers have sued electronics giants Philips, Sony, Pioneer, and LG Electronics over DVD patent royalties. Normally on the receiving end of lawsuits brought by industry trade groups for failure to pay royalties, the Chinese charge that the defendants violated US antitrust laws in the licensing of patented technologies, according to Junko Yoshida in the January 26 issue of EE Times. DVD manufacturers Wuxi Multimedia and Orient Power Digital Technology are seeking "refunds for royalty payments made by Chinese DVD player makers over the past three to four years, plus a punitive claim that would triple the refunded royalty payments," Yoshida mentions, quoting other reports. The defendants' trade group charges a fixed royalty of $5 for each DVD video player or DVD-ROM player sold on or after July 1, 2002. Chinese manufacturers assert that such royalties are no longer feasible with player prices continuing to drop. Progressive-scan DVD players can be found almost everywhere for prices as low as $29.

In other legal news, the US arm of the IEEE has filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the US Supreme Court, seeking a solution to the persistent copyright problem that would protect intellectual property while promoting technological innovation. The brief states that the IEEE believes that "a careful balance must be struck between copyright incentives for authors to create works of authorship and the right of the public to benefit from technical means to reproduce and distribute those works." The brief was filed in relation to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios vs. Grokster, an ongoing lawsuit over peer-to-peer file sharing.