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Weekly AUDIO NEWS for Nov. 28, 2001

Affordable Audio Products Sales Up - According the latest figures from the Consumer Electronics Association, the September sales of modest home-theater-in-a-box systems showed a 95% increase over the same period last year. Sales of compact audio systems also showed a 42% increase, and about the same for portable headset CD players. Striking a balance between an audio experience and a limited checkbook was cited as the reason for the sales increases in these areas despite a downturn in audio sales in general for the month.

Sony SACD Home-Theater-in-a-Box Introduction - The DAV S500 DVD Dream System from Sony ($600) is the first to combine a player handling multichannel SACD, DVD video, and both CD-R and CD-RW along with 44.1 CDs. The complete system also features a 5.1 surround receiver, tuner, five small speakers and a sub. This should be a major factor in expanding general consumer appreciation of the SACD format and help to ensure its success.

DVD Burners Create More Format Fights - Now that CD burners are almost as ubiquitous as cassette recorders, DVD recorders - both computer-oriented and stand alone, have hit the market at from $1500 to $4000 SRP. The problem is that each manufacturer has adopted a different format and they are for the most part not compatible. Pioneer uses the most common format - DVD R/RW. As with CD burners, the R disc is a write-once-only media while the RW disc can be erased and re-written many times - Pioneer says as many as a thousand times. Of course the RW discs cost more than the R discs.

Panasonic's DVD burner can make DVD-R discs too but its main format is DVD-RAM, which is compatible with most computers but unplayable on any current stand alone DVD player. Philips has their own unique format - DVD+RW, which does play in most DVD players but is not sanctioned by the official DVD Forum. Some of the recorders allow recording in either a high-quality mode but with the shortest playing time (normally about an hour) - or in a manual mode that can cram up to six hours of material on a single DVD but at lowered image quality. However, the image quality of even the slowest speed greatly surpasses VHS quality. And don't try to cram a bunch of DVD movies that you rent onto a recordable DVD - they are all encrypted, thus preventing digital copying.

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