Audio Industry News
11 / 28 / 99
The audience is listening... and the music industry may finally be "getting it" by making
the soon to be release DVD-Audio format backward compatible while keeping within the WG-4 specification. Working on ways to make the upcoming new DVD-Audio fully compatible with current models of DVD-Video players, Warner Music and Universal Music are making inroads to placing
uncompressed 24-bit/96kHz music within their future DVD-Audio releases.
Warner's technology VP Jordan Rost said his company's first DVD-Audio discs will include a compressed Dolby Digital 5.1 mix playable on current DVD-Video players. Meanwhile Universal Music's production director Jim Belcher said his company is "looking at" uncompressed 96kHz/24-bit stereo PCM tracks on its future DVD-Audio discs. This could
possibly spell the demise of and real mainstream acceptance Sony's new SACD format whose only real advantage seems to be the
backward compatibility with legacy systems low bit and sampling rate
16-bit/44.1kHz CD systems.
11 / 25 / 99
It deeply saddens me to
report the following. Enjoy the Music.com received this letter on the 19th yet did
not post it per the request of an employee of Mobile Fidelity. Mo-Fi, as they
are affectionately called, were at that time hoping for last minute financing which
unfortunately never came. What spurred this situation? M.S. Distributing of Hanover Illinois,
the company that distributes some of Mo-Fi's products and also other music and
video labels, went bankrupt taking with them millions of dollars of inventory
from many companies. This includes quite a large sum of Mo-Fi's software.
While M.S. Distributing is trying to work out deals with some of the
companies, this situation was not resolved in time to save Mo-Fi. With the
very fragile economy some "high-end" companies work upon, this might
spell just the beginning as companies become reliant on their distributors (or
other county's sales). This is, perhaps, a wake up call? With the recent flat sales in the
Far East within the past year has given a few manufactures a wake up
call. Now Mo-Fi folds because one of their distributors goes bankrupt. Posted below is the actual letter, word for word, we at Enjoy the Music.com
received on November 19, 1999 from Mobile Fidelity.
November 19, 1999
It is with incredible sadness that Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab announces its
closure after more than 22 years in business. This announcement was made today after
extreme, but unsuccessful, efforts were made to overcome the financial blow dealt by
the events leading up to the abrupt closure of M.S. Distributing's music division.
Mobile Fidelity has remained a small, fiercely independent audiophile label since
its inception in 1977. The company was able to weather and withstand several
economic and industry upheavals throughout the years. As you know, for the past three or four
years, much of the high-end audio industry has suffered through a recession. Mobile
Fidelity, once again, undertook the necessary measures to ride out the downturn -
especially with the anxiously-awaited new SACDs and DVDs with video soon to be in
However, in September of 1999, the closure of M.S.
Distributing's music division
resulted in a substantial percentage of uncollectable receivables for MFSL, plus the
inventory it represented. Without access to the funds or the availability of inventory for
re-sale, the financial devastation was more than our small company could overcome.
Therefore, as of November 19, 1999, the company that changed the way the world
listened to music, itself has closed its doors.
Herb Belkin was a co-founder of Mobile Fidelity and a co-owner until his
retirement nearly five years ago made this statement when contacted: "I am deeply
saddened with the knowledge that the employee-owned Mobile Fidelity - which for so
many years represented a major symbol of quality in the field of pre-recorded music -
was in the end a victim of bigness and mediocrity. 1, along with all audiophiles
every - where will deeply miss the musical efforts of MoFi."
Herb and the loyal employees of Mobile Fidelity wish to thank all of our friends
and supporters throughout the years. Without everyone's belief in our efforts to make
the very best audio reproductions possible, our star wouldn't have shone so bright for
so long. We offer our best wishes to those companies that remain and hope they survive this most challenging era of high-end audio.
We sincerely hope that our memory and legacy will continued to be enjoyed for
many years to come through the hundreds of classic LPs, aluminum and gold CDs, and
even cassettes, that Mobile Fidelity has lovingly remastered for the enjoyment of music
lovers, and for ourselves. It was a wonderful ride while it lasted.
As a side note, this also comes just as Mo-Fi released their first SACD
disc whose own controversy is a story unto itself. In the end we here at
Enjoy the Music.com are devastated at hearing on Mo-Fi's
demise. Arguably the world's best remastering facility is now no more. The
folks who brought us the UHQR and Anadisq 200 vinyl plus possibly the best
sounding The Wall on CD. Of course there is also Muddy Waters, The
Who, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, B.B. King, Cream and too many more to
mention here. We wish all past employees at Mobile Fidelity the best and hope
the music loving community gathers together to pay homage to the late great
remastering label that has brought so much musical joy to many people all
around the world.
11 / 23 / 99
Downloading of free
music is proven to boost actual software sales by popular internet website
CDNow. CDNow reported that sales of Sugar Ray's 14:59 went from
number 35 to number 9 during the 30-day free song download promotion. In fact
Todd Rundgren's The Very Best of Todd Rundgren gained 110% due to this
same type promotion on their website. There were other obvious sales
increases due to the free streaming of music. Enjoy the Music.com
is now in the heart of this new revolution by offering the entire
new Metallica CD S&M online for free!
There is expected to be new "Watermarking" as part
of the CD Red Book standard. With the constant battle to fight software
pirating, a new type of protection for normal CDs is soon to reach the
streets. While this seems like a good idea (to the RIAA at least), there seems
no real way to secure and protect CDs therefore making this new specification
dead in the water (mark) as it were.
The new very small SanDisk postage stamp sized memory has
reached new heights of offering 64MB of storage capacity! This reporter feels
that one day we will need absolutely no moving parts as our music will be sent
via wireless technology or sold on memory chips. These new 64MB cards can hold
roughly one full hour of "near CD quality" MP3 music. Meanwhile Sony
is trying to offer their own MP3 player using their proprietary "Memory
Stick" technology (which Sony claims will be shipping over 3 million units by the end of 1999). This could
spell disaster for the product as most MP3 devices use standard SanDisc and
Smart Media memory cards. It is still very noteworthy that Sony has also
joined the portable MP3 fray. Who will win the memory card race is anyone's
guess as the consumer seems to only want a simply single standard to use in
devices from digital cameras to portable MP3 devices.
11 / 22 / 99
None other than DiMarzio, with over twenty years of experience in guitar pickups, are now offering very high quality audio, video and speaker cables!
These new "High Definition Audio Cables" are claimed by Dimarzio to
stunningly faithful sound reproduction. They use 12-gauge for speaker cables or 16-gauge
within the interconnects and balanced line cables while the wire itself is oxygen-free high-conductivity (OFHC)
copper. A Teflon dielectric insulation is also employed to minimize the interaction
between the two conductors inside the cable. On the video side of things their
new cable is claimed to "dramatically improve picture sharpness, resolution, contrast and color quality when
used to connect your VCR or DVD player to your TV monitor". Their video
cable is a precise 75 ohm and therefore cal also be used for digital SPDIF
duties. Unlike other manufactures who offer various levels of cable, DiMarzio
offers only one version of each cable made to their high standards.
We all all now hearing about web enables cellular phones, but
what about MP3 music from your wireless phone device? The folks at Micronas,
makers of high-quality chips for audio and video needs, are now having their
chips embedded within personal wireless phone devices. Already used within the
popular Diamond Multimedia Rio and other devices, MP3 will soon be coming to a
phone near you! With higher demands of e-mail and web-ready devices in strong
demand, various companies also see the benefit of adding MP3 playback to the
list of features too. Expect even more devices, such as a wider variety of
palm and handheld type devices, to be MP3 enabled in the near future as well.
11 / 19 / 99
To help Dan D'Agostino pay
for his new Ferrari 360 his company, Krell,
just showed their new $25,000 420 lbs. Master Reference Subwoofer. This
self-powered unit contains a Krell Class A amplifier that produces 2000 watts
of power yet has a footprint of less than four square feet. Krell claims this
unit is capable of reproducing a 20 Hz tone at 120 dB. Rumor has it Fabio is
buying four of them. Two for his sound room and two more for under his bed.
The dual fifteen inch woofers with a three inch front to back excursion should
help Fabio during those long hard nights.
The Krell Master Reference Subwoofer includes "user
selectable high and low pass crossover points, filter type, slope, level, and phase for each of four selectable presets. In addition, there is a factory setting for use with home theater
systems. There are many ways to control the Master Reference Subwoofer including the hand held remote control that comes with the subwoofer, Krell-Link, 12 Volt DC trigger, RS-232, and base band RC-5 via wired connection."
Expected worldwide availability is slated for the first quarter of 2000.
11 / 18 / 99
Soon we will all be able to record
our own 24-bit/96 kHz or better audio DVD discs... inexpensively! Panasonic has announced plans to offer two
DVD-RAM (recordable DVD) drives. These units are capable of storing 4.7GB and are expected to ship in mid 2000. Combined with high-quality sound cards like those from
Digigram, consumers can now record their own very high resolution music with the possibility of software
"upsampling" coming into the software market making many things possible. Of course
videophiles can also make their own movies too using currently available software! This spells not just convergence, but the ability of the consumer to improve upon the original software!
Rotel Electronics now offers three new products! Their new "affordably-priced" five disc CD player model RCC-955 ($599.00) combines the same sonic attributes and build quality found in Rotel's critically-acclaimed single play models with the convenience of a carousel transport. Internally, the unit employs high current operational amplifiers, precision resistors, and tight tolerance capacitors. An oversized custom-made "EI" core transformer, properly oriented for minimal flux
leakage, serves as the foundation of a segmented and highly isolated power supply featuring
high-current regulators and "low ESR" capacitors. The transformer boasts separate
secondary windings for digital and analog stages to increase interstage isolation and enhance signal purity. The Pacific Microsonics remarkable PMD-100 decoder/digital filter is used and HDCD decoding is
accommodated for as well. The Burr-Brown PCM-69 DAC chip is also used. A coaxial digital output is also provided for.
Rotel is also offering their new RVD-985 ($699) DVD-Video/CD player with "advanced audio and video circuitry", Dolby Digital and DTS pass-through capability. The RVD-985's advanced multi-voltage switching power supply is fully isolated on its own circuit board. High current voltage regulators and low-ESR capacitors supply power to all circuit stages while further isolating them for minimal interference. This also includes the actual placement of the parts. A die-cast optical sled supporting the laser assembly is electro-magnetically driven for precise positioning and minimal vibration. Digital audio capability includes high speed single-bit D/A converters with 24 bit/96 kHz resolution. Video processing uses a 10-bit, 27MHz video D/A converter, augmented by "Video Fine" capability, processes disc data for maximum resolution. This unit offers three video output formats: component, S-video, or composite. The RVD-985 outputs NTSC or PAL video at the touch of a rear panel switch.
Lastly, Rotel's new5-channel amplifier, the RMB-1095 ($1,999), is rated at 200 watts RMS per channel with all five channels driven into 8 ohms. Output increases to 320 watts RMS per channel at 4 ohms and remains stable down to 2 ohms. Because of the prodigious output capability and the consequent potential for tripping marginal circuit breakers, special "current absorbers" minimize initial over please turn-on surges. Once operational, the amplifier's sophisticated "over current" protection circuit with front panel LED indicators guards against potentially harmful operating conditions. "Supply Side"
DesignTwo heavy-duty 1.2 kVA toroidal transformers manufactured by Rotel, each with multiple secondary windings. One transformer feeds Left and Right channels only, while the second provides proper operating voltages for Center, Left Surround, and Right Surround outputs. High current regulators and a total of eight 22k µF British-made Slit Foil capacitors with quick discharge characteristics comprise the balance of the massive supply. Five-way gold-plated binding posts and has both balanced (XLR) and single-ended (RCA) inputs are included.
The "Big Five" are obviously nervous as free music tracks are widely available on the Net from sites such as
MP3.com and AMP3.com. How long until the old guard realizes they are losing money by not making their catalogue for sale over the internet? Well the industry's old guard are now laying the framework for selling singles through kiosks in retail outlets such as
Virgin Megastores... and online too! The industry has been hesitant to return to singles because the margins are so small when they like to sell their "10 song" package
(which usually has only one or two "good songs") for $13-16. The upside for record labels is that packaging costs are eliminated while distribution costs are very economical as compared to their current legacy system. Liquid Audio and Microsoft are two of the main players in pay-for-play encrypted digital music and now
EMI's senior vice president Jay Samit says the company plans to start selling singles through retail stores, allowing consumers to download tracks to play via their PCs, handheld digital music players and eventually car stereos. "E-tail or physical retail--it makes no difference to us," Samit said in reference to the plan. Planned pricing is estimated at approximately $2 per song.
11 / 17 / 99
While the older generation
might be far behind the technology curve with the internet and full home
electronics convergence, Sony has (wisely) chosen to make their new Playstation
2 incredibly versatile. The new unit includes the standard Universal
Serial Bus (USB) plus a PCMCIA slot and IEEE 1394 ports. To further the capabilities of this machine a DVD-Rom drive is also included. Sony has once
again taken the game machine into an entirely new level. Bravo!
SRS Labs and WWW.COM have decided to join forces
and enacted a new cross licensing partnership to deliver audio and video over
the internet. Both companies will use WWW.COM's over 200 stations of music featuring over 250,000
11 / 8 / 99
The Gotham City Audio Society will hold its 7th annual audiophile flea
market Sunday afternoon. November 21 from 2:00 to 5:30 PM at 145 West 84th Street in New York City. For further information or to reserve a
table call the club's hot-line (212) 629-1933.
A totally new tube is now available for those with a glowing
need in their music. Electro-Harmonix new EL34EH is first in a line of premium quality tubes by
Electro-Harmonix. According to their press release "The EL34EH provides the smooth response and exceptional linearity of the classic Mullard and
Telefunken types." The tube itself uses gold plated grids, a uniquely tuned bi-polar cathode cover that optimizes
electron focus to the plate, precision alignment, and a secret tri-alloy plate material that
is claimed to "virtually eliminate distortion and odd-order harmonics."
11 / 5 / 99
DVD's Content Scrambling System (CSS) has been cracked and pirate downloads could be close at hand. Just as the Windows Media player's security encryption has been cracked
to unprotect previously protected data so has the codes used on DVD discs. A Norwegian groups
of programmers have breached Hollywood's digital defense against the copying of digital video discs, CSS. "This opens a whole can of worms," said Michelle Abraham, senior analyst with multimedia-market researcher Cahner's In-stat Group. "The movie studios will be hard-pressed to stop this." Jerry Giaquinta, spokesperson for Sony Pictures said "At this stage, we are assessing the matter..."
Of course Sony and other studios are keeping a close eye on this matter to insure their property is protected. "One part of the (CSS) algorithm is really weak," said Stephenson, who analyzed the source code and found additional holes that the original program has not exploited. "The slowest attack that I have to break the encryption takes less than 18 seconds on my PC ... a Pentium III." The one saving grace is that DVD-Video movies use a large amount of data and therefore downloading a complete movie via the normal 56kbs interconnect connection would simply take days (unlike MP3 audio which is a matter of minutes). Is the new security
code for MP3 called SDMI far behind?
11 / 4 / 99
Corporation, the folks behind Sovtek vacuum tubes and manufacturer of Electro-Harmonix sound
effects, has acquired the Reflector vacuum tube factory in Saratov Russia!
This facility is the world's largest vacuum tube factory and currently supplies to New
Sensor's specification the highly respected Sovtek 12AX7LPS, 5881 WXT, EL34WXT, 6550WE,
KT88, EL84, 6922, 6B4G and other tubes. Sovtek tubes are prized for their smooth musical
tone, linearity and low microphonics. There are plans for a brand new line of premium Electro-Harmonix
tubes that New Sensor Corporation claims will rival the Mullards and Telefunkens of the sixties!
MIT cables once again is touting their audiophile quality
cables. In fact Skywalker Sound's Stage E uses MIT's proprietary cabling and
AC power treatment. MIT's Bruce Brisson says "We're proud that so many
professional engineers in the film industry recognize the performance benefits
of MIT products and we'll continue working with them to improve film sound ---
and MIT's consumer products". MIT cables have been used in films such as,
but not limited to Terms of Endearment, The River, Back to the Future, Who
Framed Roger Rabbit, The Abyss, Dick Tracy and A Few Good Men.
11 / 02 / 99
Coming from the critically
acclaimed manufacture Danish Audio ConnecT
(DACT) comes the new CT2-xxk-6 six channel stepped attenuator (seen here). DACT claims improvements are obtained by using their new six
channel model in Audio/Visual systems since their new product helps to "reduce distortion, increased bandwidth, more details, better dynamics and much more."
The CT2-xxk-6 is available in 10kOhms, 50kOhms and 100kOhms (part numbers CT2-10k-6, CT2-50k-6 and CT2-100k-6).
DACT also offers 20kOhms, 250kOhms and 500kOhms on special request basis.
September/October 1999 News
July/August 1999 News
June 1999 News
April/May 1999 News