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Weekly AUDIO NEWS for August 7, 2002

The "White Van" Speaker Scam - Unmarked white vans selling speakers have been showing up on the highways and at parking lots, intersections, flea markets and similar locations from Geneva Switzerland to Portland Oregon to Sydney Australia. No city is safe; the scam preys on people with extra cash who are hoodwinked into thinking they are making a steal - perhaps even buying stolen speakers for a song - when in truth it is they who are stolen from.

The pattern is strangely similar worldwide, although companies that have been contacted claim they are entirely independent. A usually two-man team in a usually white van aggressively tries to attract the attention of drivers who pass by. Upon corralling anyone appearing to have some disposable income, they put on a well-rehearsed routine. Often it revolves around their being installers just returning from a job and having been supplied accidentally with an extra pair of speakers they want to get rid of before returning to thewarehouse. They have uniforms and show delivery invoices, business cards and even supposed reviews of the speakers from slick magazines (none of which actually exist). They may subtly give the prospective buyer the impression this is a shady deal of some sort, resulting in the bargain price. Some of the speakers look like the illustration above.

The prices are listed in the invoices and reviews at $1000 or more a pair, and the driver often asks the mark what he would be willing to pay for the speakers. Buyers have paid from $200 to $1000, and sometimes the drivers request a bit of extra "beer money" for getting them such a deal. Upon getting home and hooking the speakers up, buyers quickly discover they sound terrible, but few take advantage of the three-day return policy that is U.S. law, and often the addresses or phone numbers are bogus. The feeling of investigators is that the white van speaker scam is a concerted international effort since there are so many similarities in the marketing practices. But when distributors are contacted they maintain their legitimacy. For more details on the scam and a list of all the cities in which it has so far appeared, visit Scam Shield.com

Label Lowers DVD-A Prices - 5.1 Entertainment Group has announced a 25% reduction in the SRP of their extensive line of DVD-Audio discs. Their labels Silverline, MyUtopia and Electromatrix will henceforth be priced at $17.98. Their intention is to position the superior music format at a price similar to standard Cds but providing a more enriched music experience. The discs also have Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks for those not owning a DVD-Audio player.

Second Meridian DVD-A Player with Digital Output - Meridian America has announced a more reasonably-priced version of their $30K 800-861 DVD-A/AV preamp combo in the model 598 DVD player and 568.2 AV preamp at $13K. It joins the Accuphase as the only commercially available digital-out hi-res player (the Accuphase is SACD). Meridian's proprietary Smart Link achieves the best possible hi-res D-A processing and their Smart Content navigation software handles every disc format (except SACD) and moreover can be upgraded in the field if any disc turns up that cannot be read by their player.

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