Audio News for January 25, 2011

Used Smartphone Market Grows – Many consumers are checking the options in the used cell phone market, which has many great deals. Today’s smartphones are essentially mini-computers that also make phone calls. They promise web browsing, digital music file and video file playback, report reviews, instant messaging and many other features. Generally smartphones use an open operating system and allow you to add apps – often free – in the same way you add apps to your desktop computer. There are no strings attached, cancellation fees or extended contracts. Most of the used smartphones come able to work on various networks and are completely refurbished.

LCD Inventory Builds as TV Sales Slow – Research companies have reported a buildup of LCD panel inventory by the major TV brands, with sales slowing significantly, except for smaller TV models. The prices of panel LCD TVs are stabilizing because there is little inventory pressure to push the prices down. Most brands have high inventories of LED-backlit LCD TV displays, and this early this year will put more focus on promotion of them before the new models come online in March. The makers of TV panels expect the largest drop, falling 9% month to month.

High-End Audio Makers Embracing AirPlay – More home-audio suppliers have begun to offer Apple’s AirPlay wireless-audio technology, which selects and streams unprotected as well as Apple-protected music files via wi-fi or Ethernet directly from iTunes applications. Tune selection can be made remotely via wi-fi from an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. Music can be streamed from a networked PC or Mac to multiple AirPlay speakers simultaneously to create a wireless multi-room audio system with separate volume level controls for each speaker, using new components from Bowers & Wilkins, Denon and Marantz. (Whereas using Apple’s gear by itself, only one AirPlay speaker at a time is able to play back the music.) The B&W product is their iPod speaker/dock, the Zeppelin Air, a 2.1-channel device. It ships next month at $599. McIntosh will have a tabletop AirPlay stereo speaker system it expects to ship in the fall for around $2000.

Dolby Refines PC Audio – One of two Dolby audio technologies will soon be furnished as part of some PCs and laptops to enhance users’ audio experience. Dolby Advanced Audio v2 offers virtual surround on the built-in speakers, a volume leveler, volume maximizer, graphic EQ, audio optimizer and audio regulator. They work together to keep the audio volume leveled and as high quality as possible considering the tiny amps and speakers – whether watching YouTube, play a DVD or listening to an MP3 file. Dolby Home Theater v4 goes further in offering a surround decoder, surround virtualizer for either the stereo speakers or headphones, dialog enhancer, volume leveler, volume maximizer, intelligent equalizer, graphic EQ, Dolby Digital output, audio optimizer, and audio regulator. Dialog and voices will be more prevalent, and audio can be streamed to users’ home theater over SPDIF or HDMI, encoded into a Dolby Digital format. Stereo content can be converted to 5.1 or 7.1-channel surround sound. A special application will allow users to customize their listening experiences on their PC.  The first laptops with the new technology will be the Aspire Ethos line from Acer.

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