Industry Roundup

Audio retail revival: Electronics retailers throughout the US are ramping up their commitment to audio separates, according to a June 21 report by Joseph Palenchar in TWICE (This Week in Consumer Electronics). Palenchar describes the new emphasis on audio components as a response to declining margins on "home theater in a box" (HtiB) systems. Through April of this year, factory-to-dealer audio component sales rose 29.8% to $344.6 million, with April sales up 41.9%, hitting a four-year high of $86.9 million.

Audio sales aren't growing as a result of new interest in music, however, but as part of an overall trend toward better sound in home-theater systems, TWICE noted. The best retail results occur when a "live salesperson explains and demonstrates a component-audio-based home-theater system," Yamaha sales vice president Steve Caldero told Palenchar. Astute readers may remember a Stereophile "As We See It" from earlier this year in which this writer predicted a resurgence in audio sales as video margins declined.

Tannoy's new chief: Marc Bertrand has been named managing director of Tannoy North America, Inc. A former vice president of sales and marketing, Bertrand is a 10-year veteran of the company, one of the few with a strong footing in both the consumer and professional sides of the audio industry. The announcement was made in late June by Anders Fauerskov, CEO of TC Group, who described Bertrand's move up as part of a "natural progression for both Marc and the organization." Fauerskov praised what he called "a winning team" and said he had great faith in Tannoy's continuing efforts to sustain its role as a "leading innovator of premium audio solutions utilizing cutting edge acoustic, electronic, and digital expertise."

Velodyne DPS/DSP subs: A company synonymous with deep bass, Velodyne Acoustics has introduced a new line of affordable powered subwoofers with digital signal processing (DSP). In July, two "Digital Power Slot" (DPS) subs from the Morgan Hill, CA–based manufacturer will arrive at dealers: the 375-watt DPS-10, with a 10" forward-firing woofer, and the 400-watt DPS-12, with a 12" driver. Prices are approximately $500 and $600, respectively. DSP allows exceptional control of all subwoofer functions—volume, phase, crossover slope and "hinge" point, phase, EQ, and driver non-linearities. Velodyne previously used DSP only in its top-rung products.

Tivoli's expanded line: Leveraging great success with its table radios, Tivoli Audio is expanding its line with several new products, including a satellite radio receiver, a combo radio/CD player, and a portable radio intended as a companion piece for the Apple iPod, called the iPAL, to be sold for $129.95 through Apple stores and the Apple website. The company's popular Model One mono table radio will be available in two new high-gloss hand-lacquered finishes ($149.99 vs $99.99 for the standard finish).

Due in August, the $299 Sirius Satellite Radio includes a digital alarm clock and AM/FM analog tuner, remote control, and satellite antenna. The $500 Tivoli Audio Music System is a single-box stereo CD player with clock radio, which is meant to go head-to-head against similar products from Bose and Cambridge SoundWorks. Tivoli has also announced a new distribution agreement with Timberland. The outdoor apparel stores will soon carry Tivoli products.

New Grammy for surround sound: The Recording Academy Board of Trustees announced in late June a new category of awards for surround sound productions to be added to the 47th Annual Grammy Awards to be held in February 2005. The new fields include "Production, Surround Sound" and "Best Surround Sound Album." The production award would go to "the surround engineer, if something is created in surround in its initial form, and/or the surround mixing engineer, and the surround mastering engineer," according to Producers and Engineers Wing director Leslie Lewis. Should a re-mastered project win, the surround re-mix engineer would be honored. The category is "open to all surround formats—DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, and SACD—and there are no restrictions on the types of music," noted Pro Sound News. The award is "for all genres," Lewis stated.

An overload of Whitney: As part of a settlement in a CD price-fixing case settled last year, Seattle's Puget Sound Educational Service District has received 1300 copies of Whitney Houston's rendition of the "Star-Spangled Banner." The spine-tingling performance is accompanied by only one other song, a recording of "America the Beautiful." Washington State's school and library system was among the first in the nation to receive CDs from the recording industry as a result of the $78 million settlement in the price-fixing lawsuit. Millions of consumers received checks for $13.86 each.

Some cynics suspected that the music industry might be using the settlement to unload stale inventory. "Really, you can never have too many Whitney Houston CDs," Puget Sound District spokeswoman Karen Farley told The Hollywood Reporter. Her office oversees 35 different school districts, and received a total of 5900 CDs, many of them classical recordings "selected by experts and educators for their lasting significance," according to The Reporter.