Weekly AUDIO NEWS for Oct. 22, 2003

“Bit-Grooming” of Cable Video - In a disturbing article in the November Stereophile Guide to HT Joel Brinkley discusses the data reduction carried out by most of the cable companies on their digital video distribution - both NTSC and HDTV. TCI started the trend some years ago, saying they ran tests showing consumers were perfectly happy with VHS-level image quality - about 50% of the resolution of a standard 480-line NTSC program. So most cable companies now do that; if they showed the original resolution they couldn’t cram as many digital channels into their cable. Now with HDTV the practice continues - many cable operators cut back by about 25% the maximum broadcast data rate. (Satellite providers also bit-groom but not as seriously.) So it appears that only with OTA (off-the-air) HDTV reception using a roof-mounted antenna and OTA-capable receiver would you be getting the full 1080i resolution of the best of HDTV. [That’s what I have but I wouldn’t wish the pain and hassle to achieve that on any of our dear readers...Ed.]

Fantasy Records Goes SACD - The largest jazz catalog in the world (plus Credence Clearwater) - Fantasy Records - has announced they will be releasing ten SACD discs now and nine more in early 2004. Among the artists represented will be Dave Brubeck, Vince Guaraldi, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Wes Montgomery and Albert King. All will be hybrid discs but there are no multichannel versions in the list - in fact three of the releases will be mono only. The Fantasy announcement followed closely on the release of the first batch of 30 multichannel SACDs from the jazz label Concord Records.

DVD-A Authoring Software for PCs
- Minnetonka Audio Software of Minnesota has introduced software to allow amateurs and semi-pros to record 192K/24 stereo or 96K/24 5.1 multichannel on any PC with the proper sound cards. DiscWelder Steel is the “lite” edition of the software, and DiscWelder Chrome is the “heavy” version. Even on-screen visuals and navigation are handled by the new software.

Allegro Distributors Sued for Copyright Infringement - Portland (OR) classical and jazz CD distributor Allegro was ordered by a jury to pay nearly one million dollars to a Los Angeles producer of New Age CDs whose nature sounds and ambient drones they lifted as though in the public domain and re-packaged on their own label with titles such as “Morning in the Forest.” At least 890,000 CDs using the copyrighted material were sold by Allegro without paying producer Suzanne Bell Doucet any royalties. About one-third of the payment represents unpaid royalties and the rest redresses “damage to reputation.” (U.S. copyright law does not recognize plain sound effect recordings, but this material was more than just sound effects.)

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