Weekly AUDIO NEWS for July 30, 2003

Digital Satellite Radio Pros & Cons - The idea of a pay-TV model for radio was first suggested a decade ago and now we have it, with two competing services in full swing: XM Radio, with close to 700,000 subscribers so far, offers 70 music channels (half with commercials) plus 31 news/talk channels for $10 a month; Sirius has 100,000 subscribers and 60 music channels, all commercial-free, plus the talk channels, and costs $13 a month. Both have two or three satellites in operation for excellent coverage up to 200 miles offshore but both require different receivers. Some are removeable from your car for use in the home. Few new cars are yet available with either type of receiver (it took Detroit a dozen years to offer CD players as standard in cars below $30,000).

Both services are struggling in the red, and XM just sold 3% of their stock to the Clear Channel Communications media monopoly. Observers feel such connections will result in more “commercial” music being pushed and less diversity in programming. Users are generally happy with either service due to the huge variety of programming choices and good sound without FM multipath distortion. However, not all audiophiles are pleased with compression and other digital artifacts (i.e.: It’s not really “CD quality”). But it may be difficult to convince a large proportion of the general public to pay $120 or $156 a year for something they feel they get for free now.

Chesky Chides Audio Industry for Thwarting Hi-Res Digital Outs - David Chesky of Chesky Records complains that the consumer electronics and record industries pay SACD and DVD-Audio lip service but continue to block digital outputs on hi-res players due to fear of piracy. He observes that the Internet already has proved that piracy is not predicated on sound quality. He also decries that mastering engineers cannot check their work by A/B-ing production hi-res discs to their mastering systems, except by using 6-channel analog-out players which cannot achieve the ultimate playback quality. Chesky suggests that those who can afford good sound should buy great-sounding hi-res players and software instead of downloading low-res MP3 files.

Ray Dolby Receives Award - The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences will honor Ray Dolby, founder of Dolby Laboratories, with the Charles F. Jenkins Lifetime Achievement Award at an event on September 13. The award is in recognition of his career achievements in practical noise reduction systems to improve audio sound quality. For nearly four decades Dolby Laboratories has been instrumental in defining high-quality audio and surround sound in cinema, broadcast, home audio, cars, DVDs, headphones, games, TV and personal computers.

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