afternoon there was a conference titled "Download Music Off The Web". It
was hosted by Barry Willis of Stereophile and the
other speakers were Roger Dresslker of Dolby Labs,
Andrew Keen of the now defunct Audiocafe.com, David Touve Noizebox.com, Todd Moore of RioPort.com, Michael Fremer of the now
called The Tracking Angle, and Chris Phenner of Tunes.com.
Michael Fremer feels music downloading from the internet is good for audio because the
more compressed music is, the worse the sound quality. Because the "now"
generation will get accustom to this, they will later desire better audio when they
experience it. Michael also seems to feel that music is now more the
"background music" of the lifestyle of today's kids. Andrew Keen agrees
that if one loves music they will also love higher sound quality. David Touve agrees
that MP3 is not "CD sound quality". In the end everyone on the panel
discussion seemed to agree, and rightly so, that MP3 (MPEG 1 Layer 3) does not equal
"CD sound quality". MP3 is a great way to find new music/bands and, in
turn, make CD purchasing decisions of accordingly.
David feels that MP3 downloading will eventually become outdated as newer
download/compression schemes become available. My personal feelings are that as there is
built a wireless network, we will subscribe to transmitted data (music, video,
information, etc) and receive these signals from small devices accordingly.
Even now Microsoft and others are looking for ways for the consumer to centralize their
digital data needs.
WARNING: Long ranting by me below:
Let's look at what one of the largest software manufacturers are doing. Microsoft
has an operating system (OS) called Windows CE. This is a very stripped down OS that
can do things from basic word processing and presentations to e-mail, surfing the web and
playing MP3 files. Now for me to make my point. Windows CE devices are already
appearing on units from refrigerators to car stereos. Windows CE is also on small
handheld devices (handheld and palm-sized devices) to home set-top boxes. With these
devices we can right now use wireless systems to send and receive data. For now the
data rate (also referred to as bandwidth) is slow. Eventually we will have the
ability to access all of our data through higher quantity data bandwidth transfer rate on
a world-wide satellite network(s) or other means. No longer will we need to own hard-drives per se
because all our data will be stored on very large network servers (what most website data
is stored on today). The advantage of this is that no matter where one travels, s/he
can use a universal personal data presentation device where one's personal audio, video,
etc. will be easily accessible. Of course "hard-wired" linking such as
those through fiber optics will have a faster transfer data rate than wireless, though
wireless data transfer rates will be more than sufficient for most to eventually all
What all this really means basically is that i live in New York, can be in Singapore,
and access my music/movie collection through what will then be a standardized LCD touch
panel enabled audio/video device or the like. No longer will i need to take all the
current physical data storage devices as i do now (and those who have seen me during trade
shows drag over 30 lbs. of these devices know i will be a very happy man here). Even
now in good ol' 1999 i can use my wireless network to access my e-mail and other internet
needs. My AutoPC, handheld PC, palm PC, laptop computer, and home computer systems
are all synchronized so that my appointments, address book, e-mail, and other important
data files are always current and up to date on all devices! i am
not talking the future here, this is now!
The future will make data transfer faster and more seamless. Instead of my
needing many hard drives for data storage, virtually none will be required (as it will be
on a server accessible via a wire/wireless system). Alas, my humble apologies for
rambling here. Maybe the past week of lugging around over 30 lbs. of data devices
has made me tired and wish for a better way of handling my data needs. Remember, CDs
and DVDs are nothing but data storage devices. Our music and movies are encoded to
digital data, stored on a device (CD or DVD) and then the data is decoded on hardware
accordingly. Imagine a world where you will never need to own a physical medium like
CDs if you so choose. What's more, as better technology is available it is
seamlessly upgraded on the world's systems all through the inventions of better software
encoding/decoding (hardware will by then be so fast at processing data that processing
rates will be moot and things will be done through software). Even now with our slow
500 MHz computers, DVD data can be enjoyed through virtually pure software decoding.
As Doc Brown said in the movie Back to the Future, "The future is what
we make of it. So make it a good one." End of Steve's rant. My
humble apologies for being long-winded here.
Melos' new tubed CD/DVD
player called The DVT ($1,795) uses two 6922 tubes in the output stage for DVD digital
signal quality with tube analog output sound. (Humor) The Melos comes in any color
you desire, as long as it's black of course.
Manley Labs were showing their new killer digital
WAVE. The WAVE is a digital to analog unit which also offers 100% analog inputs and
remote controllable volume too! This is like a do-all connect-all digital DAC preamp
and even the couch potatoes will love the wireless remote control capabilities.
In the MBL room they had a new digital transport. Their
new unit is a full reference-quality DVD/CD player called the mb11621 ($14,900). It
comes in a deluxe gloss black case with gold colored legs and top accents. Like
virtually all the MBL products, this unit is truly visually stunning! Of course
their speakers are extremely unique too. Definately worth checking out!
the Dynaudio room they were using an entire Mark Levinson system. On the top is
their No 39 CD Transport while just below it is the No
32 Reference Controller preamplifier. At the bottom is the No 30.6
Digital to Analog Converter. Guess we can simply call it a basic Levinson "rack
system". (Humor) Coming soon to a Circuit City and Best Buys near you.
The sound in the Dynaudio room was very dynamic and full of life! Stop by the
Hi-Fi '99 Speakers page to see what all this great digital gear was hooked to. The
new Dynaudio speakers are not to be missed!
conference announced their SACD format.
Reynolds of Philips gave the initial presentation. He discussed key issues such as
copyright protection and data packing (compressing the data on the disc). Direct Stream
Digital provide "analog-like" characteristics according to Mr. Reynolds. Direct
Stream Transfer was designed specifically for DSD to insure no loss of data. The
compression scheme used for the SACD is claimed to be about 2.3 to 1. There are three
options for the manufacturing of the SACD software.
Options of SACD software include having only a single layer high definition option or
having two layers with one being "red book" CD and the other being the high
definition SACD layer. The two layer option will play on upcoming SACD players as
well as standard CD players on the market today.
Sony has officially released their V1.0 standard book called the "Scarlet
Book". Sony and Philips are planning for three phases of release. Releasing
product, then offering appropriate digital interfacing, and conquering the world.
Ok, i just added the conquering the world bit. Just seeing if you were paying
attention :-) .
SACD authoring can be accomplished on a simple 266 mHz computer with proper hard drive
storage devices. In fact there are quite a few mastering facilities working with DSD
while Philips is now manufacturing these dual-layer hybrid discs. We saw some discs
yet they did not hand any out. Of course even if they did hand some of the discs
out, no reviewers have a SACD player to play them on.
Mike Fiddler of Sony came to the podium and spoke about Sony and Philips renewal of
their commitment to the music industry. My mind seems to be thinking about how they also
know their CD "cash cow" is coming to an end. To clarify, Sony and Philips
make money off every CD right now. This all ends in a year or so. The revenue they
receive each day is, needless to say, staggering! Therefore of course they are
probably scrambling for another "cash cow".
SCD-1 (right) is the
first SACD disc playback unit offered on the market with a retail price of $5,000.
It is slated to be available starting in the third quarter of 1999 with 40 music titles
The SCD-1 uses watermarking and other means for copyright protection. The
internal circuitry uses various digital filters, dual discrete optical pickups and the
analog audio stage is dual mono.
Of the forty titles planned, classics such as Miles Davis Sketches of Spain
and Kind of Blue will be included. Billy Joel's 52nd Street is
planned as well. After the launch Sony plans on releasing 10-12 titles per month.
Bob Woods of Telarc came to the podium and thanked Sony for including Telarc within the
the fold of labels included in the initial releases. Sony owns Legacy, Columbia, and their
own titled recordings by the way. Bob also requested that the audio industry not to go to
"war" over this issue of SACD. Why does all this remind me of the Beta vs. VHS
formats. SACD is mainly Sony and Philips, DVD-Audio is everyone else. Things
that make you go hmmmm... As for me, the only real benefit i can tell is the CD
layer that gives backward computability (avoiding the sound quality/reproduction issue of
DSD vs. DVD-Audio). Also, Sony said they planned no computer interfacing for
personal computer systems. By the way, Sony's SACD is not a recognized official
format by the WG-4 in DVD offering. In other words, Sony and Philips is doing this on
their own accord.
"Telarc's first releases will be 100% DSD" Bob said. Surround might be
available on SACD the 3rd quarter of 2000.
During the questions and answer time, Michael Fremer asked about the software price
differences. Alas, they never commented about a specific "street price" of the
music titles. Len Schneider asked about the manufacturing costs and Mr. Reynolds claims it
is similar to DVD dual-layer. Upon further inquiries later in the Q & A session,
$24.95 to $19.95 is Bob of Telarc's guess at the "street price" of the SACD
Sony/Philips has no retailers or distribution in line at this time! In other
words, they are awaiting for reviews to help spur the market interest which, in turn, may
help Sony/Philips sign distribution retail.
As for copyright protection specifics and copying discs thereof, there was no direct
answer due to their "sensitive" nature according to Paul Reynolds. In the end
the content provider can decide about if, and how many copies can be made of their
software. The SCD-1 does not output a direct digital stream (read: no digital output what
so ever for the DSD stream). It does have digital output for 16-bit/44.1kHz digital
output (plus analog output).