Will High-End Audio Be Only Mouseclicks Away?

Last week, Intel Corporation announced its membership in the DVD WG-4 Audio Working Group, and its support for the proposed DVD audio specification, as the next steps in bringing next-generation consumer-quality audio to the PC platform.

Intel is the first computer-industry representative invited to join the predominantly consumer electronics forum that has been meeting with music-industry representatives for the last two years. Intel supports the proposed WG-4 format as the most cost-effective and PC-friendly, and will provide input to the committee in its efforts to make this an accepted standard.

"We are taking an active role in the multi-industry efforts to help develop new copy-protection technologies that serve hardware, software, and consumer electronics companies," said Dan Russell, director of platform marketing in Intel's Desktop Products Group. "These efforts will also help pave the way for our OEMs and IHVs to implement these new technologies quickly and cost-effectively."

The Audio Working Group is a committee of the DVD Forum composed of more than 30 consumer-electronics and music-industry representatives. Its goal is to create the specifications for the recording industry's next-generation audio format utilizing DVD.

"Support of the WG-4 specification is consistent with Intel's position to drive audio to the next level of convergence, bringing high-quality digital audio to consumer electronic devices," said Russ Hampsten, Intel's audio marketing manager. "The power of Intel's processors will allow us to take advantage of this emerging technology, making the PC a port of choice for DVD audio playback. We have geared our activities toward making this a cost-effective reality for our customers and, ultimately, end users."

Intel outlined its vision of the direction of next-generation PC audio in April 1997 with its Audio '98 Roadmap (reported in Stereophile, July 1997, p.35). Recognizing that better audio enriches the multimedia PC experience, the Audio '98 Roadmap discusses the impact of general trends and highlights specific technology ingredients, such as FireWire, that bring high-performance, built-in, quality audio support to the consumer PC.

The latest update to PC audio, Audio Codec '97 version 2.0, was announced at the September Intel Developer Forum. The AC '97 2.0 specification defines options to help PC OEMs integrate the components necessary to support next-generation audio-intensive PC applications such as DVD, 3-D surround sound, multiplayer games, and interactive music. The specification also defines new extensions supporting modem and docking to help both desktop and mobile manufacturers incorporate these features more quickly and cost-effectively.

"Intel's efforts in DVD audio will accelerate the process of bringing quality audio to the PC and be invaluable to the music and recording industry," said Jac Holzman, chief technologist at Warner Music. Holzman was previously the founder and, for 23 years, chief executive officer and creative head of Elektra Records. He discovered such artists as The Doors, Bread, Judy Collins, Harry Chapin, Carly Simon, and Queen. (And does anyone other than JA remember Holzman's Zodiac Cosmic Sounds album from 1967?)

"The PC will offer many exciting audio options for enjoyment, as well as audio editing capabilities used in the music and recording industry," said Bike H. Suzuki, general manager of the JVC Research Center and chairman of the WG-4 DVD Audio Working Group. "Intel's participation helps the WG-4 address issues relevant to the PC platform, and validates our intent on creating an open standard which is easy to implement and cost-effective for all."