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Weekly AUDIO NEWS for January 29, 2003

Sony Music SACDs To Be Hybrid - Sony Disc Manufacturing has announced its new hybrid SACD pressing plant will be in operation in Terre Haute, Indiana by May. The line will initially produce 15,000 hybrid SACDs per day. Multichannel discs will have both a two-channel mix and the multichannel on one layer and a bit-mapped 44.1 CD version on a second layer, allowing playback on any CD player. Since its introduction Sony Music SACDs have been near-unique as the only SAC-Only discs, lacking the CD layer which was one of the primary selling points of the Sony Philips SACD format.

Naxos Announces Record Sales in 2002 - While the rest of the classical record industry has seen a serious downturn, the most active classical label - Naxos of America - has enjoyed its best year ever. The busy label had a 21% sales increase over 2001 and the distribution company showed a 39% growth over 2001. Naxos also garnered two Grammy nominations - for Barber’s Violin Concerto and Orchestral Music of Chadwick.

Hollywood’s “Digital Armor” - is the phrase used by the New York Times in a recent article on the new and proposed restrictions on consumer use of DVDs, CDs, and digital video telecasts. Larry Kenswil of Universal Music Group said “You’re not buying music - you’re buying a key.” Depending on what you pay or the rules the software enforces, your ability to listen to a piece of recorded music or watch a movie can expire after a day or remain forever. You may be able to copy it once, twice, as much as you want, or not at all - even for time-shifting video programming! You may be able to play a disc on all portable devices, some portable devices or on none at all. Universal, for example, charges 99 cents for a digital music track that may be burned to a CD but cannot be converted to MP3 to carry around on your iPod.

One user downloaded a movie from the Movielink site; then learned that it would disappear from his hard drive 24 hours after he started watching it. Another user found that his new HDTV failed to display HBO and WCBS in high definition due to copying restrictions. Many collectors have found the new copy-protected CDs refuse to play on portables, car decks and computers. Equipment reviewer Gary Merson wrote in his subscription Net newsletter The HDTV Insider: “These copy-protection schemes are a bill of goods. The program providers get the higher profits and we get stuff that doesn’t work right.” The research director for the Consumer Federation of America observes that a handful of people will eventually find a way around the security systems - just as happened with DVDs. Mark Cooper said, “This isn’t going to stop serious hackers. All you end up with here is an inconvenience to the average consumer.”

Long Wait for Films on Net - Speaking of Movielink, the video-on-demand service backed by five major Hollywood studios has been having a few problems with its recent “soft launch.” A test of the new service required a detailed signup, payment of a $3.99 viewing fee by credit card, and freeing up of about 700 MB on the hard drive for the download, which took two hours and 42 minutes for the film A Beautiful Mind using the fastest T1 line - not even ADSL or cable. So if you only have dialup, forget it. After the download was finally completed the movie wouldn’t play because the RealVideo software it uses required yet another update. There is a competing service called CinemaNow which uses streaming video to avoid having to await download of films, but that option is subject to interruptions due to Internet activity.

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