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Weekly AUDIO NEWS for Dec. 5, 2001

MP3 Replacement Out Now - MP3 has become a rousing success in less than four years, with over 250 million computers around the world able to play MP3 files plus many millions of portable MP3 players in use. However, there are limitations in the codec which prevent it from equaling even average CD quality. Efforts to improve MP3 have resulted in a new version known as MP3Pro, which is available as a free download for Windows at the Thomson Multimedia website as well as others. Compatibility with the original MP3 is retained but there is improved high frequency performance along with twice the playback time. It is said that MP3Pro at a 64 kbps rate sounds better than standard MP3 at a 100 kbps rate. Mac and Linux versions will be out before the end of this month.

New Encryption Technologies Impact CD - With Napster pretty much out of the way, the major record labels are rushing to put new copy protection technology into most or all of their CDs. BMG wants to use the MediaCloQ process at pressing plants in Germany, Spain and the UK. The process was first used last year in the U.S. on a Charley Pride CD and elicited complaints about problems in playback as well as allegations that the code had been quickly cracked. Another copy-protection process, Midbar, has so far been used on one million CDs for the European market and is planned next for the U.S. market. A substantial portion of the European CDs were returned because consumers said they wouldn't play in their car decks and/or on some home players.

High End Manufacturers Prefer Not to Sell Affordable Components? - In the latest issue of BOUND FOR SOUND publisher Martin DeWulf asks where the excitement has gone in high end audio. He feels that manufacturers are producing fewer and fewer really exciting products lately. Also that the retro movement shows a current distrust of the latest technology, and that many high end names simply prefer not selling affordable components because they have more mark-up and less shipping/distribution expenses when they sell just a few cost-no-object components instead of many reasonably-priced ones. He calls for educated listeners who know how to optimize under different conditions and at all price points instead of what he calls "ego audio."

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