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Weekly AUDIO NEWS for June 19, 2002

Seven Percent Increase in Audio Sales - Manufacturer-to-dealer sales of audio products grew by over $579 million during April 2002, a 7% increase on the same month in 2001. Audio systems and aftermarket autosound products made up the majority of sales. In-dash CD players were the largest audio category, and sales of power amps increased by nearly 20%.

Improved WMA Trounces MP3 - In a test of digital codecs for computer use carried out by Sound & Vision magazine, the latest version of Windows Media Audio scored above both RealAudio and MP3 at the 128K sampling rate. Next best was RealAudio at 132K. MP3 did poorly. None of the three achieved anything like "CD quality," but the higher-quality AAC - used primarily by Liquid Audio so far - was not included in the tests.

From Sheet Music to Screen Music - Singer Harry Connick Jr. has received a U.S. patent for his invention of a system whereby performers can read their music directly off computer screens while playing, instead of printed-out music. Copyists are thereby eliminated with a great savings of time and labor, and at outdoor performances gusts of wind can no longer threaten musical havoc.

Symphonies Doing Their Own CDs - The London Symphony Orchestra has already sold 30,000 of the tenth of its self-produced CDs, Berlioz' opera Les Troyens. The San Francisco Symphony began a similar venture with their release of Mahler's Sixth Symphony (to be reviewed here next month), and James Levine is thinking about doing the same thing with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. An SF Sym. spokesman said the large record companies may be no longer necessary - "we can do it ourselves more efficiently."

Crude Copy-Protected CDs Found Unplayable - A number of recently released standard CDs in the U.S. employing new copy-protection schemes have been found to be unplayable on many portables and in-dash players, plus some have been found to get stuck in computer CD drives and cannot be removed without disassembling the computer! Most of the titles are pop, but the soundtrack to Star Wars Episode 2 is included. The Campaign for Digital Rights organization suggests collectors let retailers know they are losing sales by offering such discs which are in violation of the Red Book standards for compact discs.

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