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High-End Audio Industry News

03 / 31 / 05

Rubycon Black Gate  Rumors of my death are highly over rated... and so the saying goes. The recent buzz concerning Black Gate capacitors being phased out within a few months was partially true. While speculation of this news from the Japanese manufacturer may have been to increase short-term sales of their Black Gate capacitors, it appears the company is now stating they will produce Black Gates for the next two to three years before phasing them out. Many do-it-yourself and tweak audio enthusiasts substitute electrolytic capacitors for those from Black Gate as many consider it the world's best part for the job at hand. It has been claimed that the Black Gate has a much lower level of third harmonic distortion, nearly 30dB lower than solid aluminum, tantalum, or organic semiconductor types. It is also claimed that Black Gates have a much longer usable lifespan that standard capacitors. Various equipment manufacturers, including Audio Note and Wavelength Audio, use Black Gates within their designs to insure the highest of sound quality.

 

03 / 30 / 05

Musical Fidelity Limited Edition kW SACD pPayer  Musical Fidelity has announced their new limited edition kW SACD player ($8,995). With only 500 units being produced, this second-generation unit includes dual layer choke regulation, "Class A" tube and transistor stages, and Burr Brown DACs. The DACs are configured as dual mono twin differential upsampling at a rate of 24-bit/192kHz, then is processed via 8x oversampling. A claimed low jitter rate of less than 135 pps and 128dB signal to noise ratio (linearity of 0.1dB at 100dB) insures accuracy. The hybrid tube/transistor output stage operates in "Class A" mode for the highest of fidelity.

 

03 / 29 / 05

Chesky Records  Audiophile music label Chesky Records is now offering 15 percent off on their entire product line including new releases. New releases include Area 31 SACD ($16) featuring soprano and orchestra. Jazz Latinas is a an anthology of female voices featuring Leny Andrade, Badi Assad, Ana Caram, Marta Gomez, Graciela, Lucrecia, Rosa Passos, and Xiomara. Other new releases include Grammy Award winning Portraits Of Cuba by Paquito D'Rivera and Grammy nominated Inolvidable by Candido and Graciela.

 

 

Singapore NoiSING DIY Audio GatheringEnjoy the Music.com now offers Singapore's NoiSING DIY Audio Gathering show report online! Report by Christopher Tan, the two-room show offered many enthusiasts space to display their high efficiency loudspeakers, vacuum state amplifiers, and tweaked out digital players, transports, etc.

 

03 / 28 / 05

Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)  The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), a trade group that represents approximately 90 percent of all legitimate sound recordings produced and sold in the United States, has released 2004 sales figures. Total music sales are up 4.4 percent with a 3.3 percent increase of value as compared to 2003. This positive trend is the first after four consecutive years of decline. Virtually every category shows loss, including CD single, cassette, LP/EP vinyl, DVD-Audio and SACD, though bright spots include a staggering 66 percent increase in DVD music video sales. CD sales were up 2.8 percent, DVD-Audio fell 20.6 percent, SACD sales fell 39.6 percent, and vinyl LPs/EPs declined 11.9 percent. The year 2004 marked the first year of RIAA's accounting for downloading a digital music (single) file. With 139,400,000 digital music singles and 2,400,000 digital albums sold in 2004, online music appears to outsell many other formats combined. Complete details of the RIAA's report can be downloaded by clicking here (Adobe Acrobat file).

 

03 / 25 / 05

Combak Corporation Royal Stage Model RS-15ANV equipment rack system  Combak Corporation now offers their new Royal Stage Model RS-15ANV equipment rack system. The Art of Rack system consists of various parts to enable consumers to construct their very own custom unit according to their desires and requirements. Beautifully finished wood platforms can be combined with gold or black metal supports and stacked upon each other as needed. Wood platforms measure 450mm x 560mm and can hold equipment upwards of  150kg. Two different support leg heights of 200mm and 260mm are available in both gold or black.

 

03 / 24 / 05

Crystal Cable Apple iPod  Crystal Cable has created a special interconnect for the Apple iPod. The company's Crystal Piccolo iPod ($399 per meter length) is a two-lead interconnect with 1/8" (3.5mm) stereo headphone jack on one end and a pair of RCA connectors on the other. Like Crystal Cable's standard Piccolo interconnect, the new iPod version employs special silver-gold conductors and Kapton insulation. The cable itself is very flexible for ease of use.

 

03 / 23 / 05

IFPI  According to the IFPI , a worldwide recording industry association with over 1450 members in 75 countries and affiliated industry associations in 48 countries, claims that 2004 music sales were flat compared to 2003 yet also state that 2004 was a great year as sales are no longer on the decline as in previous years. With figures and trends referring only to physical music sales (unless stated), the report can be a bit deceiving as it does not fully account for online music sales and sales of music ringtones for cellular phones. The report generally includes audio formats (singles, LPs, cassettes, CDs, DVD-Audio, SACD, MiniDisc) and music video formats (DVD, VHS, VCD) and states that "Global sales of recorded music were flat in 2004, with a slight reduction in physical audio sales offset by growing sales of DVD music videos and a sharp increase in sales of digital music. Regionally, 2004 saw strong markets in the US and UK and a slowing rate of decline in other major markets. Sales of physical formats declined by 1.3 percent in value (and by 0.4 percent in units) to $33.6 billion." IFPI also states that "Even excluding digital sales, 2004 was the best year-on-year trend in global music sales for five years... Top 10 albums sales globally rose by 14 percent, while the top 50 albums were up 8 percent in value." Of interest is that digital sales rose exponentially and accounted for a reported over 200 million in the four major digital music markets (US, UK, France, Germany). IFPI Chairman and CEO John Kennedy said: "There are now good signs that the pattern of falling sales is behind us, but there is still a long way to go to get satisfactory rates of market growth. On the positive side, digital sales are booming, helping the overall market to its best year-on-year performance in five years, and this growth is set to continue strongly in the coming year. This is testimony to the tremendous progress of the legitimate digital music sector in the last 12 months, as well as to our decisive enforcement actions against illegal file-sharing." Of note is that music DVD sales rose an impressive 23 percent to achieve a value of $2.6 billion dollars.

 

03 / 22 / 05

LAT International SS-1000 MK II and SS-800 MK II Loudspeaker Cable  LAT International has announced two new loudspeaker cables. The SS-1000 MK II and SS-800 MK II ($407 and $432 respectively per 8 foot pair) are said to be significant upgrades over the company's prior "D" models. Improvements include the weaving geometry for the Mark II is done with a planetary cabler allowing engineers more freedom in designing more complex and more effective weaving geometries with higher accuracy and consistency. Another enhancement is in modifying the PTFE Teflon during the wire manufacturing process. Both LAT International's new loudspeaker cable use their proprietary Silverfuse alloy conductor material and all cables come with a 45 day in-home trial period.

 

03 / 21 / 05

Ray Charles Porgy & Bess  Classic Records, praised worldwide for their excellence in remastering legendary music and making it available on vinyl and digital disc formats, has announced many new releases. Alan Parsons Turn of a Friendly Card (AR-8226, $33), Ray Charles Porgy and Bess (JP-1831, $50), Jimi Hendrix Band Of Gypsys (ST-472-200-1, $28 for 200 gram vinyl or $15 for 140 gram vinyl), and Noel Redding The Experience Sessions (RTH-2017-200, $28) to name a few. All the above releases are available on Classic Records' Quiex SV-P 200 gram vinyl and mastered from the original master tapes.

 

03 / 18 / 05

Wavelength Audio The Brick 1.1 USB DAC  Wavelength Audio now offers their new The Brick ($1,750) USB DAC that features vacuum tube output stage. Using the same basic configuration of Wavelength Audio's highly regarded Cosecant, The Brick's DAC is directly coupled to the 12AU7A using a custom MagneQuest iron. A zero type DAC (i.e. passive I/V, no filters, no up/oversampling) is employed to achieve high sound quality. The Brick is fully compliant with USB 1.1 audio specification and does not require any custom drivers or software. Uses include streaming audio from your computer's hard disk, CD/DVD drive, and for streaming internet media. The unit is 6.5-inch square and 3.5-inch high and features a drawn aluminum chassis with the tube inside being accessible via removable lid.

 

03 / 17 / 05

Quest Sound SQ084  NAT Distribution now offers the Quest Sound SQ-84 push-pull "Class AB" stereo integrated amplifier ($1,000). A quartet of 6V6 output tubes produce 10 watts per channel and are mated with a pair of 6U8 for input and drive stage duties. The 6V6s are transformer-coupled to the load and the output tubes benefit from a built-in self biasing circuit. Quest Sound's SQ-84 also has a headphone jack and a headphone switch and that disconnects the loudspeaker output. Frequency response is from 20Hz to 66kHz with less than 1 percent distortion.

 

03 / 16 / 05

Grammy In The Schools  The Grammy Foundation, founded in 1989 to cultivate the awareness, appreciation and advancement of the contribution of recorded music on American culture, has announced with co-sponsor soft drink 7 Up their 42 Grammy Signature Schools. Each high school will receive between $2,000 to $25,000 in grants in recognition of the school's outstanding commitment to music education during the 2004-2005 school year. "The Grammy Signature Schools program provides an excellent opportunity to recognize schools across the country that support and maintain arts and music programs," said Grammy Foundation and Recording Academy President Neil Portnow. "We salute these schools for their recognition of the positive effects that the arts and music have on our youth, and we wish them continued success. We thank our partner 7 UP for their generous support of this program and music education." The Complete List of 2005 GRAMMY Signature Schools is as follows:

2005 National GRAMMY Signature School ($25,000)
Neuqua Valley High School — Naperville, Illinois

2005 GRAMMY Signature Schools Gold ($7,000 each)
Davidson Fine Arts School — Augusta, Georgia
Flower Mound High School — Flower Mound, Texas
Las Vegas Academy of Performing and Visual Arts — Las Vegas, Nevada
Pioneer High School — Ann Arbor, Michigan
Plano Senior High School — Plano, Texas
South Salem High School — Salem, Oregon

2005 GRAMMY Signature Schools Enterprise Award ($20,000 each)
Canajoharie High School — Canajoharie, New York
Danville High School — Danville, Arkansas

2005 GRAMMY Signature Schools ($2,000 each)
A N McCallum High School — Austin, Texas
Ann Arbor Huron High School — Ann Arbor, Michigan
Auburn Senior High School — Auburn, Washington
Boston Latin School — Boston, Massachusetts
Charleston County School of the Arts — North Charleston, South Carolina
Clear Lake High School — Houston, Texas
Creative Performing Arts School — Cincinnati, Ohio
Douglas Anderson School of the Arts — Jacksonville, Florida
Edina Senior High School — Edina, Minnesota
Garfield High School — Seattle, Washington
Great Neck South High School — Great Neck, New York
Greenwich High School — Greenwich, Connecticut
Hamilton High School Academy of Music — Los Angeles, California
Inglemoor Senior High School — Kenmore, Washington
John Hersey High School — Arlington Heights, Illinois
Kettering Fairmont High School — Kettering, Ohio
Klein Forest High School — Houston, Texas
Ladue Horton Watkins High School — Saint Louis, Missouri
Lafayette Senior High School — Lexington, Kentucky
Langham Creek Senior High School — Houston, Texas
Long Beach Polytechnic High School — Long Beach, California
Mason City High School — Mason City, Iowa
Naperville Central High School — Naperville, Illinois
North Salem High School — Salem, Oregon
Rush Henrietta Senior High School — Henrietta, New York
Smithtown High School — Smithtown, New York
State College High School — State College, Pennsylvania
Syosset High School — Syosset, New York
Traverse City Central High School — Traverse City, Michigan
Valparaiso High School — Valparaiso, Indiana
Waubonsie Valley High School — Aurora, Illinois
William Fremd High School — Palatine, Illlinois
Winston Churchill Senior High School — Potomac, Maryland

 

03 / 15 / 05

  The Online Publishers Association (OPA), an industry trade organization whose members represent the standards in Internet publishing reaching 113.4 million visitors (70.4 percent of the total U.S. Internet audience), has released their 2004 Paid Online Content United States Market Spending Report. In partnership with comScore Networks, the report shows online consumer spending grew to $1.8 billion in 2004, a 14 percent increase over 2003. The largest growth sector was within the Entertainment/Lifestyles category with a staggering 90 percent increase over 2003, from $217.6 million in 2003 to $413.5 million in 2004. "The fact that Entertainment/Lifestyles... were by far the year's fastest growing paid content categories is further evidence that the Web is on its way to becoming a true entertainment medium for U.S. consumers," said Michael Zimbalist, president of the Online Publishers Association. The report also said 19 million U. S. consumers paid for online content in the fourth quarter of 2004, up 2.6 million over the same period in 2003.

 

03 / 14 / 05

Warner Music Group Corporation  Warner Music Group Corporation (WMG), one of the world's largest music companies , has filed for an Initial Public Offering (IPO) with the Securities and Exchange Commission to offer common stock. According to the press release "Goldman, Sachs & Co. and Morgan Stanley will act as joint global coordinators and, together with Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch & Co. and Deutsche Bank Securities, will act as joint book-running managers for the proposed offering. Bank of America Securities LLC and Citigroup will act as joint lead managers." WMG hopes to raise $750 million through sales of common stock on the New York Stock Exchange. WMG labels also include Atlantic Records and Elektra Records (to name a few) with a total of over 38,000 musical artists and accounted for 83 percent of the company's revenue for 2004.

 

03 / 11 / 05

Parasound NewClassic Model 275 Stereo Amplifier  Parasound's NewClassic lines includes five power amplifiers consisting of Parasound's Model 5250 ($2,500) five channel amplifier with 250 watts per channel, Model 5125 ($1,800) with five channels of 125 watts each channel, Model 2250 ($1,200) stereo amplifier with 350 watts each channel, Model 2125 ($700) stereo amplifier with two channels of 125 watts each. Seen here is the Model 275 ($500) stereo amplifier that produces 75 watts per channel into 8 ohms (125 watts into 4 ohms, 125 watts into 2 ohms, and 200 watts when bridged to mono into 4 or 8 ohms). Operating in "Class AB", the NewClasssic Model 275 is designed for efficient, low heat operation with fully discrete circuitry and a pair of toroid transformers capable of delivering 30 Amps peak current per channel. At $500 this unit further adds high value for the dollar with a switchable 20Hz/40Hz (18dB/octave) high pass filter that saves lower frequency power when feeding smaller loudspeakers with limited bass capabilities. The unit also features both a DC trigger input with looping output and adjustable sensitivity audio signal sensing for automatic on/off control and a ground lift switch to reduce the possibility of hum. High quality gold plated RCA inputs and loudspeaker binding posts appear on the rear of the unit. Richard Schram, Parasound's president and founder, said "NewClassic is a no-nonsense line of products designed to meet the needs of professional custom audio-video system integrators and installers, and most of all their customers. These products are the end result of our long history of dedication to sound quality, performance, and build-quality. We back them up with a 10-year parts, 5-year labor warranty."

 

03 / 10 / 05

IsoTek Nova  IsoTek's new Nova (€1,350) is the company's ultimate 'front-end' filtration system, handling upwards of six components. The Nova employs a direct-coupled design with nine-stage series and also parallel filtration optimized for common and differential mode rejection. Great care has also been taken towards reducing insertion losses. IsoTek's Nova is rated at over 4,600 watts of power delivery and main power minimum of 16A is required. The unit includes a triple shielded OFC 20Amp power cord. Specifications are as follows:

Number of outlets: 6 standard 
Type of outlets available: 13A UK unswitched / European / U.S. 
Mains inlet: 16 Amp Neutrik 
Mains voltage: 110 to 264 VAC 
Total Power: (Nominal 230V) 3680 Watts
(Continuous rating of Titan circuit) 4600 Watts
(Transient capability 10 milliseconds) 23,000 Watts
Fusing: Electronic Overcurrent device (16A, with addition suppression filtering). 30mA earth linkage protection, this allows use on radial circuits not protected by RCDs, allowed under British regulations as a cooker circuit
Dimensions: 435mm x 136mm x 360mm (WxHxD) 
Weight (boxed): 12 Kg.

 

03 / 09 / 05

AudioReQuest Fusion Special Edition F400P  Award winning ReQuest Inc. now offers their AudioReQuest Fusion Special Edition F400P music server ($8,000). Available in a limited production high-gloss red, this unit is their most feature-packed to date with 400GB hard drive capable of storing nearly 700 music CDs in uncompressed encoding (or up to 3000 CDs worth of MP3 music at 320kbs encoding. The unit also has integration with Apple's iPod/iTunes systems. ReQuest's patented NetSync technology lets the AudioReQuest Fusion share its vast music library with any Ethernet-connected personal computer or compatible device. ReQuest's F400P easily filled the rols for home-wide music server and is fully secure using their ARQLink log-in connection. ReQuest's MyARQ and Java-based software remote allows any Web-browser-equipped PC or Mac manage playlists and act as a secure access point; there's even ARQPocket for handheld PocketPC.

 

03 / 08 / 05

Sony Corporation has made amazing management changes considered highly unusual for a Japan company. January 3rd Phil Wiser was named Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer. Phil Wiser has an M.S. in electrical engineering from Stanford University and spent time at the world-renowned Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA) during his tenure at the University. He also co-founded Liquid Audio back in 1996 and has worked in standards groups such as MPEG, SDMI, and AES. "This is an important strategic move for Sony, as the U.S. is the center of our content business and a critical region as the industry transitions to digital entertainment," said Ken Kutaragi, Executive Deputy President and COO of Sony Corporation.

The staggering change at Sony concerns yesterday's news of Howard Stringer's appointment as Chairman, Group CEO and Representative Corporate Executive Officer of Sony Corporation. In the past it has been the norm for Japanese companies only have Japanese members as their CEO leaders. While other management changes will become effective immediately, the official announcement is scheduled to be held during Sony Corporation's Ordinary General Shareholders' Meeting on June 22, 2005 in Tokyo. Such changes include Dr. Ryoji Chubachi's will be promoted to Representative Corporate Executive Officer, President of Sony Corporation and CEO of the Electronics Business Group. Also of note is Mr. Katsumi Ihara will be Representative Corporate Executive Officer, Executive Deputy President and Group CFO, Sony Corporation. 

The point of these changes appears to be in having more streamlined operations capable of moving quickly with technological changes and better integration of various Sony departments. Naturally this includes their consumer electronics and should also reduce the reported infighting that cased Sony to largely ignore emerging industry trends. Convergence is one of the key's for Sony's success as the company produces both hardware and content. Even though Sony owns all the key elements for success, the company's lack of attention has seen their shares losing a staggering three quarters of their value. Reports have cited one of the problems is Sony's unyielding position with their electronics supporting proprietary formats. As an example, ATRAC instead of industry standard MP3. This action has allowed such companies as Apple to gain large market share with the iPod. Michael Goodman, an analyst at research firm Yankee Group, said "Sony Music didn't want those players supporting something they viewed as the format of pirates. But if you're looking to sell any of these devices, MP3 support is crucial. They made a very Sony-specific position on MP3, and it killed them in the market... They put their desire to continue to use proprietary formats ahead of everything else, and they make these decisions that are in conflict with market forces." Both audiophile press and consumers have observed Sony's insisting on their proprietary SACD format, yet the company refuses to manufacture electronics to support the industry standard DVD-Audio format. There is no official word concerning the company's proprietary ATRAC or SACD format at this time.

 

03 / 07 / 05

  Talon Audio Technologies new Firehawk ($22,000) is the company's latest efforts to design a high performance, high efficiency and compact loudspeaker. The aim was to produce a loudspeaker for single-ended tube amplifiers, the Firehawk project took two years of careful development. The final design features a 1-inch ceramic tweeter and 5-inch ceramic midrange, with a pair of 8.5-inch custom Morel Uniflow high efficiency woofers. With a sensitivity of 94dB and 8 ohms (minimum 7.5 ohms) impedance, Talon Audio Technologies feel they have met their goal. Overall frequency response is a wide 20Hz to 40kHz, dimensions are 42 x 14 x 16 (HxWxD) in an obelisk shape, and weight is 220 lbs. Available finishes include piano black top, front, and sides over textured matte black.

 

03 / 04 / 05

KR Audio Electronics 300B Balloon  KR Audio Electronics has announced their new KR 300B Balloon ($459.99) vacuum tube. With an electrode structure similar to the original and a globe shaped envelope, this tube can be used as a direct replacement within standard 300B amplifiers. If a circuit is specially designed, the KR Audio Electronics power triode tube is capable of producing 15 watts of "Class A" power. The tube itself features a new ribbon filament construction and KR's patented 32 cathode design. The tube also includes a two year warranty.

Specifications:
Pure Class-A Power: 15 watts 
Plate Voltage Average: 450 Volts 
Plate Voltage Maximum: 550 Volts 
Plate Current Average: 100 mA
Plate Current Maximum: 140 mA
Plate Dissipation: 65 Watts
Transconductance: 4.8 mA/V 
Grid Voltage: -95 
Amplification Factor: 3.6 
THD: <0.1% 
Filament Voltage: 5 volts DC/AC 
Filament Current: 1.9A

 

03 / 03 / 05

Zero One Audio Ti48 CD Transport  Zero One Audio's Ti48 CD Transport ($2,480) reads CDs and outputs the digital data to any outboard digital-to-analogue converter (DAC) such as the company's Ar38 ($1,480). The Ti48 incorporates a software-enabled upsampling processor with user setting for various rates up to 192kHz sent via I2S link to the company's Ar38 DAC, or upwards of 96kHz via S/PDIF or TOSlink. Various digital filter algorithms allow tailoring the sound. The Ti48 also includes a built in 240Gb storage for 350 hours of uncompressed CD data that can be organized according to artist or album name and genre. Zero One Audio's Ar38 DAC is capable of decoding signals from 32kHz to 192kHz and 16 bits to 24 bits. The analog output stage employs a passive second-order filter and discrete "Class A" stages. All Zero One products are sold direct to customers and come with a 30-day home audition guarantee.

 

03 / 02 / 05

Klipsch Audio  Klipsch Audio, founded in 1946 by audio pioneer Paul W. Klipsch and known within America as a longstanding high quality loudspeaker manufacturer, has now formed a collaboration to expand their representation around the world. The venture capital firm VantagePoint Venture will be assisting Klipsch with their efforts in representation outside the United States. Since Klipsch has recently acquired Danish audio company Jamo, they will naturally use Jamo's distribution network already in place and further expand the reach of Klipsch Audio products. Klipsch named two new senior executives to the management team from VantagePoint portfolio company Aurora, Inc. John Carter, former chief engineer of Bose Corporation, has been named chief technology officer of Klipsch. The former CEO of Harman Consumer Group, Tom Jacoby, joined Klipsch as chief development officer and vice chairman. "As the market leader, Klipsch has a premier management team, reputable brand and well established distribution, providing the right platform for growth," said Cynthia Ringo, managing director, VantagePoint Venture Partners. "The company is also well positioned to tap into exciting changes in audio technology, readily meeting new demands for high-quality speakers across multiple categories." The impact is quite extensive and will further expand the network's reach of 75 countries with 5,000 storefronts they presently maintain.

 

03 / 01 / 05

Superior Audio Magazine  Enjoy the Music.com now offers the March / April edition of Superior Audio and the March edition of our Review Magazine. Superior Audio offers equipment reviews including WAVAC's PR-T1 line preamplifier, the Art Audio Vinyl Reference MM/MC phonostage, and Verity Audio's Sarastro loudspeaker. Our Review Magazine includes ASL's Phono LUX DT, Dynavector DV-20XH cartridge, the Fi X3 300B stereo amplifier, T+A V10 integrated amplifier & G10R record player, plus Tivoli's Henry Kloss Model Two radio with their CD player. Our very own Joe Audiophile covers "Cool New Stuff, New Cool Stuff, Stuff That's New And Cool, Or How 'bout Just Stuff." Of course the Enjoy the Music.com™ Review Magazine also offers many new music reviews plus editorial articles. See the March/April edition of Superior Audio by clicking here. The March Review Magazine can be seen by clicking here.

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