Audio News for July 12, 2011

by | Jul 12, 2011 | Audio News | 0 comments

Mini-Disc Dies Out – Sony’s line of digital MiniDisc Walkmans never dominated the portable audio market, though they had a few million adherents in Japan and some people who are always eager to get into any new technology.  No matter how dumb: 8-track, for example?  The sampling rate was poorer than compact disc’s. Sony struggled to keep up production of the little optical player and recorder combos for almost two decades after its start in 1992.  The first model was the MZ1.  Now there are many cheaper digital portable alternatives, so the MD has now gone the way of the cassette and laserdisc, and will no longer be made. (Incidentally, though Sony stopped production of the cassette Walkman some time ago, you can still find many different Sony and other brands of new cassette portables on Amazon and eBay. There’s even one with a USB port to feed directly into your computer for transfer to digital.)

Sumiko Acquired by Fine Sounds SpA – Italian high-end audio conglomerate Fine Sounds SpA is the new owner of Sumiko, the manufacturer and distributor of high end audio products based in Berkeley, CA. They handle Sonus Faber speakers, REL Acoustics, Pro-Ject Audio, SME, Sumiko phono cartridges and Okki Nokki record-cleaning machines.  Fine Sounds is the owner of Sonus Faber, Audio Research and Wadia Digital.

Classical Music News
– Soprano Valentina Nafomita from Moldova won the Singer of the World prize at the biannual BBC Cardiff competition. More than 600 singers from 68 countries competed, and among the judges were Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and Marilyn Horne.  The controversial opera Beached, by Brough and Hall, will be performed this weekend in the UK, involving 300 students of a school in Bridlington. It had been pulled because portions of the libretto referred to homosexuality, and the school thought it would damage the children’s morals, but due to public reaction to the ban it was reinstated.

Bit Rot – is also known as bit decay or data decay, and refers to either the gradual decay of storage media or software programs over time.  The latter implies that software can wear out or rust just like a physical tool. There is also the problem of the physical material onto which the data is stored breaking down. Mag tape and floppy discs can literally rot, especially in warm humid conditions. There were problems with newer oxide formulations on recording tape falling off the tape medium backing with time, separations of layers or other damage occurring with laserdiscs, and CDs pressed at certain plants (primarily in the UK) at one time suffered from “bronzing” – which eventually made them unplayable.

However, bit rot usually refers to flash memory or data stored on discs, chips or hard drives gradually decaying over many years. Flash memory and EPROMs store data using electrical charges, and these can slowly leak away due to improper insulation. Semiconductor RAM is thought to sometimes be altered by cosmic rays. Software rot, or more accurately dormant code rot, is when digital code gradually loses correctness as a result of interface changes in active code. Sometimes such malfunctions are called memory leaks or software bugs.  Some operating systems have been found to lose stability when left running for long periods, and must be occasionally restarted to remove resident errors that have built up due to software errors.  There are special archival-quality recordable CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays, but even they do not usually have the life expectancy of commercially-pressed discs, where the pits are physically there on the disc surface.  Regardless, the general idea here is that nothing lasts forever.

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