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January 2006
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
The Show Is Over
Article By Steven R. Rochlin
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T.H.E. Show 2006   CES 2006 (Consumer Electronic Show)

  With our pre-event and live coverage of the Las Vegas CES and T.H.E. Show complete, we will soon be posting additional reports in the days to come. There was a very upbeat feeling this year as worldwide economic stability helps consumer confidence. Also apparent at the show were some very impressive products from China. Decades ago many of us recall the words 'Made In Japan' meant less than the very high reputation they enjoy today. The same can now be said for China. This is not to say other countries should be discounted or ignored.

Made in America, the UK, Italy, and other places also have merit. There appears to be no single country with a solid advantage over another. America is respected for craftsmanship and technology. Hopefully you have enjoyed the stunning handcrafted wood wrapped loudspeaker creations from Italy. Then there is UK's Naim and Linn, two manufacturers that are right at the cutting edge of high-end with new products to fill retailers shelves. The 2006 Las Vegas shows truly brought to the forefront that the United States and Britain are no longer the sole providers of high-end audio gear. United States manufacturer of both high-end audio and professional gear Manley Labs had a shirt at the show that said "Made in Chino, not China," as the word play was for retailers that know the quality of Manley Labs' Chino California facility can produce.

The hardware side had the usual bizz, yet this year it was various software that also took center stage in a higher than usual amount. Sure Blu-ray hardware was being launched, though the very few software titles for Blu-ray being what they are, i have decided to write about music. For those who have decided analog is not their cup of tea, simply skip down to the section titled Digital Downloads. 

 

Analog Everywhere
Years ago it was the Windows Everywhere mantra that was thrust upon computer geeks such as myself. For this year's Las Vegas events i would alter that saying to Analog Everywhere. Discounting the LVCC with mainstream media and the mind-boggling array of Internet ready digital devices, the high-end audio sector touted analog stronger than i have seen in many years past. Those of you who have already enjoyed reading my live coverage of CES and T.H.E. Show, two totally separate reports as separate entities operate each show, there was a staggering array of turntables in many rooms. It appears that with the new digital formats on the horizon and the inevitability of doing away with hard formats for software --  as Internet downloads become more prevalent -- vinyl replay was the format of choice for many exhibitors.

Within one hour after the Classic Records press conference, Enjoy the Music.com had all the details available online. Am sure you are familiar with the many classical, jazz, and rock titles available on vinyl from Classic Records. This year's press conference demonstrates how strong the market is for vinyl as many new products will be available for analog lovers around the world! And we must remember that Classic Records is but one of many companies offering vinyl in 2006.

Of course software is great, provided there is hardware to support it. Unlike digital formats with their perceptible limited lifespan as upgrade-itus and better decoding chips become available, turntables have enjoyed decade after decade of success. At the 2006 show were many new turntables, tonearms, and cartridges. There were so many new analog products that it would take more days than the show allows to properly cover them all! As an analog junkie myself, with over 8,000 records, three turntables, four cartridges, five phonostages.... my love for analog is quite obvious. Proprietary formats like Sony's SACD, or the industry standard DVD-Audio, are perhaps more fleeting. This is especially true as compared to their vinyl counterpart.

 

The Hobby As An Active Sport
So what is the attraction with analog? To my ears analog sounds more.. analog. Sure there are digital titles that have been remastered and beat out the original vinyl, yet in my home there are more vinyl titles that easily outperform their digital counterpart. Still, i can not help and wonder if digital replay has become boring. You take the disc out, put in in a slot or on a platter and it disappears. The only real interaction seems to be with a remote control and i get about the same enjoyment in use from the dummy box (TV), as my grandmother called it.

Unlike digital formats, analog provides us all the ability to either 'set and forget' or truly delve deep into tweaks. Sure you could freeze your digital discs or use some type of cleaning/polishing agent in hopes of enhancing your musical pleasures. There are also demagnetizers that may make sense and are cheaply obtained at Radio Shack/Tandy. There are also digital disc copy device and edge cutters too. Lest we not forget Super Secret Magic Chips for those who may have more money than brains in this writer's opinion. But when it comes to digital, you can not really make laser changes on the fly or other tweaks. At least not the normal audiophile.  

Without a doubt analog probably holds strong and King for the ability of tweaking. So many variables, and most of them are free for the trying! We analog lovers can adjust tracking force, the weight applied by the needle to the vinyl surface. Another tweak is adjusting vertical tracking angle, the angle of the tonearm from pivot point to where the needle rests on the vinyl. Of course the alignment of the needle as it travels the vinyl grooves is also paramount, and adjustable witha  simple screwdriver. Then there is the accuracy of the turntable platter's speed. Adjusting all the above parameters are free, and we here at Enjoy the Music.com offer a cartridge alignment tool and speed strobe discs (click here) at no cost!

Then there are vinyl disc and cartridge cleaners, various mats you place on the turntable between the platter and the vinyl record, center clamps, tonearm wraps... Some manufacturers such as Linn and Clearaudio offer well thought-out upgrade paths for their products, so as finances permit you can enhance your hardware. There are many other analog tweaks i have not begun to cover! So many variables, in fact, that it makes the digital counterpart seem less interactive... and boring. 

 

Digital Downloads
At the opposite scale of tweaking are digital downloads. CES had numerous companies who provided music downloads of varying quality. From "CD quality," whatever the heck that really is, to the usual lossy compressed formats. What piqued my interest is that a movie download site was up and running. With downloads being about 1GB in size the video quality was between VHS and DVD, plus audio being merely stereo. The point is that a company had faith that there was a market for file downloads being 1GB! This is huge as most CDs are only 500MB, half that of the movie counterpart!

With that said, how soon will it be until many online music services offer uncompressed, or lossless, music downloads? Sure there are a few online retailers who offer that today, but how soon until all of them follow suit? And once that is widely available, how soon until competition dictates higher than CD audio downloads? Competition is fierce in this day and ago of the Internet. Being able to offer music lovers better than CD music downloads may play a key part of their market expansion. Audiophiles need not go to a store to try and find some obscure title, or buy an entire disc to enjoy a single song.

How many of you have certain higher than CD audiophile discs, only to play a single track or two? Now what if that same track was only one dollar and you could download it. Add to that the fact many other great songs from other higher than CD resolution discs were available so that you could enjoy ten songs for the same price of a single hard format disc that merely had two songs you desired.

 

Format Of Choice
Digital... analog... hard format... digital download... Today there are so many different ways to own the music you love. Frankly, my hopes are to simply subscribe to a service with the ability to pick and choose the music i want to hear, have certain playlists, and also enjoy someone else's choices (i.e. a DJ). Never again will i need to pay a major recording label yet another fee for the right to hear Pink Floyd Dark Side Of The Moon, a recording i have over 8 different 'versions' of. Instead, a monthly payment insures the ability to enjoy higher resolution audio formats as they become available. A new codec will automatically download to my music device and these higher resolution recordings will play. With one subscription my home, car, and portable device will all have the same information. Imagine the 'extra' floor space in my home without the need for racks upon racks of software. No longer will my car be filled with jewel cases, or a black book of CDs that get damaged from constant use. And when i decide to go snowboarding, all my music is available. As we always say, in the end what really matters is that you...

 

Enjoy the Music ("Con Te Partiro" right now),

Steven R. Rochlin

 "Quando sono solo
sogno all'orizzonte
e mancan le parole,
si lo so che non c'e` luce
in una stanza quando manca il sole,
se non ci sei tu con me,
Su le finestre
mostra a tutti il mio cuore
che hai acceso,
chiudi dentro me
la lace che
hai incontrato per strada.

Con te partrio'
Paesi che non ho mai
veduto e vissuto con te,
adesso si li vivro'
Con te partiro'
su navi per mari
che, io lo so,
no, no, non esistono piu'
con te io li vivro'.

Quando sei lontana
sogno all'orizzonte
e mancan le parole,
e io si lo so
che sie con me,
tu mia luna tu sei qui con me,
mio sole tu sei qui con me.

Con te partiro'
Paesi che non ho mai
veduto e vissuto con te,
adesso si li vivro.
Con te partiro,
su navi per mari 
che, io lo so,
no, no, non esistono piu',
con te io li rivivro.
Con te partiro'
su navi per mari
che, io lo so,
no, no, non esistono piu'.
con te io li rivivro.
Con te partiro'
Io con te."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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