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Audio News for May 20, 2014

AT&T Agreement to Purchase DirecTV OK’d – With no mention of the FCC or Supreme Court in the new release, AT&T is going ahead on purchasing DirecTV’s 20 million U.S. subscribers and 18 million in Latin America for about $48.5 billion. AT&T’s U-verse TV service has about 5.7 million customers, so together they will create a communications conglomerate about the same size as the one that will be created when the Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger is approved. These moves will give both corporations tremendous clout in their negotiations for agreements with content providers, and will probably increase the already exorbitant monthly cable bills for subscribers as well.

Astell & Kern Upgrade Their Hi-Res Audio Portables –  They unveiled two new high-end hi-res iPod-type audio players: the AK100 II and the AK 120 II.  Their prices will be announced later, but the first-generation portables were $799 and $1499, and their is a flagship model, the AK240, at $2500. They also have an entry level model at $699. The DAC has been upgraded in the new models to a Cirrus Logic CS4398, but the two new models convert DSD files to PCM for playback because they lack the processing power of the AK240. Balanced analog outputs have been added to the unbalanced in the original models. Both models support single-rate and double-rate DSD playback, PCM audio up to 192K/24-bit, Apple lossless formats and multiple lossy compressed formats. A MicroSD slot on both supports a 128GB card for memory and the 120 comes with one, with a 64GB card in the model 100. The chassis is now Duralumin and carbon fiber – more durable than the aluminum chassis of the original models.

Cambridge Audio at the Munich High-End Show – debuted five products, including its first compact all-in-one music system and their first two AV receivers with HDMI 2.0 inputs and outputs. The $499 One is an all-in-one system with a CD player, DAC, FM tuner, amp and Bluetooth in a single chassis. It has multiple analog and digital inputs, two 30-watt amps, Wolfson’s WM88728 DAC, and the CD player plays MP3 and WMA CDs. It will accept banana plugs on the speaker terminals and has a low-resonance, acoustically-dampened metal chassis. Their Aeromax 2 speaker ($749 a pair) and their Aeromax 6 floor-standing speaker ($1499 pr.) have both been upgraded in finish, construction and performance. Two drivers are used in the speakers: a full-range balanced mode radiator with honeycomb structure which handles down to 250Hz, and a mid-bass driver which in effect is a dedicated subwoofer. The two AVRs are the Azur 551R V2 ($1099) and the Azur 751R VT ($2199), which feature 60fps UHD video, dual HDMI outputs, six HDMI inputs, 32-bit DSP chips and seven channels of amplification. The 551 is 60 watts and the 751 is 120w. The step-up model also has an asynchronous USB input, 7.1 analog ins and outs, Audyssey 2EQ auto setup and room calibration, and allows two of the channels to be used to biamplify the front left and right speakers in a 5.1 setup.

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