Classical FM Under Siege – Classical music programming – once the mainstay of FM radio – is rapidly disappearing from the nation’s airwaves in the U.S. Once there were commercial classical stations in nearly all major cities, but such cities as Miami, Detroit and Philadelphia have lost theirs and it appears the next on the list will be classical-music-centered Boston. WCRB there is being sold and like many other classical station sales, the new format will probably be rock or all talk – which are supposed to attract a larger listening audience. It’s surprising that about a dozen commercial “concert music” stations are still on the air, but most have survived only by programming what Peter Schickele parodied as “All Pachelbel, All the Time.” That would easily describe the “top-40 warhorse” offerings of San Francisco’s commercial outlet, whose ratings have often bested all other stations on the dial!
Public radio has also been affected, as many stations switched to all talk/news to emulate the high ratings gained by KQED-FM in San Francisco which had been one of the most powerful all-classical stations in the country. Another leading NPR station – WGBH-FM in Cambridge, MA – has reduced the amount of classical programming to less than half of what it offered 20 years ago. NPR’s flagship daily two-hour classical program Performance Today is not carried in such major cities such as San Francisco, Seattle or Denver. There is almost no classical programming on AM radio any longer for commuting relaxation. While the two digital satellite services are gaining new paid subscribers at a rapid rate, and both offer several classical channels, neither they nor the struggling new HD Radio digital terrestrial format are aimed at audiophiles. They all use bit-rates far too low for even CD-quality results, let alone hi-res reproduction, and the recent addition of a channel or two in surround sound is only a compatible matrix technology – not discrete 5.1. If for listening in vehicles or for background music, the satellite services are serviceable.
iHome Music Server Offers MusicGiants’ Hi-Res Downloads – An agreement between the only hi-res music download service offering content from all major record labels, and a leading maker of home music server entertainment systems now allows users access to the highest fidelity digital downloads and even discrete 5.1 channel surround (later this year). Audio Design Associates, a specialist in custom installation of high-end home systems, makes the Multi-Center entertainment system, based on a Windows XP Media Center Edition PC. Their systems permit networked PCs, web tablets and PDAs to purchase music downloads, navigate libraries and control the audio entertainment in multiple rooms of a home. The agreement with MusicGiants will provide the highest-quality music available over the Net, including libraries of the four major labels as well as independents. The audio technology used is WMA.