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Audio News for September 30, 2016

New Roku Express Competition to Google’s Chromecast – It is only $30 and does everything the current Roku Stick does, including best-in-class app selection, cross-platform search and simple interface. Plus it’s plenty speedy and comes with a remote control. For an additional $10 you get a cable to output analog audio and video. This Express+ is designed for those who want to add streaming to older TVs without HDMI connectors. The $130 Roku 4 is its UHD-capable streamer and there is a recent $80 Premiere model which is minus a few extras but still accesses more UHD apps than other streamers. The Premiere+ model is $100 and accesses high dynamic- range video from streaming apps. Its remote uses Wi-Fi technology so you don’t need to point it as with the other cheaper models. There is also an Ethernet port for wired internet connections. Roku’s best streamer is the Roku Ultra ($130), which offers everything found on the Premiere+ and is beefed up with a few more ports and a full-featured clicker, plus gaming support and a cool remote finder function. The UHD models support Dolby Atmos. All models are fanless and you can use headphones to listen privately with any of these.

Physical CDs Not Dead Due to Downloading – Nearly 141 million CDs were sold in 2014. True, the numbers are going down, and vinyl is increasing, but CD sales continue to greatly surpass LPs. Not being compressed, it is lossless. A good CD player can sound better than streaming lossless files, and online CDs are nearly always much cheaper than downloads. Streaming cannot come close to the sound of a well-recorded CD on a good player. The CD format isn’t going away anytime soon. Then there are SACDs and Blu-ray audio for true surround for music.

The Latest at Bell Labs – The famous lab, who was responsible for so much of our present technology, and where tomorrow’s tech is born, is now run by Nokia smart phones of Finland. Augmented reality is one of the areas they are working on. The tracking motion of our heads is something like 100 times more sensitive than our other senses. Net gear must deliver AR images with minimal delay to avoid motion sickness or missing data. Nokia hopes to see a goal of a response time of just a millionth of a second, starting in 2020. It will bring a resolution as big as the arrival of telephones in the first place. It will give everything from AC power outlets to factories instant wireless access to massive computing power, to make everything more enjoyable, creative and productive. Headquartered in Murray Hill, NJ, Bell Labs is working on other things too: one is high-speed short-range antennas responsive enough to remotely pilot a toy race car, and fiber-optic networks reaching speeds of as high as a terabit per second – 1000 times faster than Google Fiber.

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