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Weekly AUDIO NEWS for June 11, 2003

SACD Announcements at HE2003 - Both DVD-Audio and SACD camps held press events at last week’s San Francisco Home Entertainment Show. At the latter Sony’s SACD maven David Kawakami observed that for the majors in the recorded music business in general “Things are deteriorating faster than anyone imagined.” Good news for the SACD camp is that major pop artists are being made available in the new hi-res format. The 22 Rolling Stones SACD reissues have been a great success, Atco is next offering a Sam Cooke SACD series, and Sony announced 15 Bob Dylan releases coming up, with some in multichannel versions. Several plants capable of pressing hybrid CD/SACDs are now in operation, turning out 150,000 discs daily and correcting the formerly embarrassing situation of Sony Music being forced to release all of their new format discs in SACD-Only versions.

Sixty record labels have now issued over 800 titles on SACD, and about 50% of them are multichannel. David Chesky feels that multichannel in either format is useful “because it forces people to sit down and listen attentively on good equipment rather than thru $10 speakers on a computer while surfing the Net.” New labels announcing their first SACD releases included Harmonia mundi, Concord Records, Blue Note and Fantasy.

DVD-Audio Announcements at HE2003 - Representatives of several other labels besides Warner Bros. made presentations about their upcoming DVD-A releases at a press event in the Dolby Labs Screening Room in San Francisco. Dolby licenses the MLP (Meridian Lossless Packing) technology used in DVD-A to enable up to six channels of master-quality 96K audio to be carried on the discs in addition to Dolby Digital 5.1, video and still materials. (Other combinations of channels/resolution allow for as much as two hours of 192K stereo on a single disc side or even 13 hours of standard 44.1K stereo - all the Beethoven Nine on a single disc!)

BMG/RCA, Vanguard and Nimbus were among announced new additions to the DVD-A camp. Nimbus, known for their pioneering Ambisonic UHJ surround catalog of recordings, said they will be releasing 30 DVD-A titles converted from Ambisonic to 5.1. Among specific albums coming up are three Frank Sinatra classics, a new Steely Dan, Donald Fagen’s “Kamakiriad,” Annie Lennox’s “Bare,” a Santana, a Sarah McLaughlin, and an encore to the acclaimed Silverline DVD-A by the Big Phat Band. About 550 DVD-A titles are currently available in the U.S.

HE2003 Overview - From $10 audio accessories displayed by Music Direct to the $44,000 V.Y.G.E.R. Italian turntable (that’s with all the trimmings but without a cartridge!), the San Francisco audio and home entertainment show displayed and played a wide variety of audio and visual goodies. An interesting aspect was that analog turntables - not SACD or DVD-A - were the predominant music source in many of the HE2003 exhibit rooms. A couple unique introductions were Harmony's extremely-universal remote which connected to a personal web page to offer utmost convenience and flexibility, and a so-far-experimental acrylic rear-projection screen which could be suspended in midair and had a quality of 3D depth unlike any other projection surface. A speaker at the Monster Cable press event urged the high end industry to engage younger generations by offering more computer-based music systems such as the hard drives for cars which are popular in Japan. For more details and photos of HE2003 visit the Enjoy The Music site.

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