More Labels Offering Hi-Res Downloads – While many collectors of recorded music continue to compromise the fidelity of their music by resorting to data reduction in order to cram as much music as possible on the drives of their portable audio devices, there is a growing trend in both physical disc offerings as well as downloads toward higher resolution than the now-obsolescent 44.1K/16bit CD format. HDTT, Pristine, Reference Recordings, Chesky, M•A and others are offering hi-res PCM options on disc ranging from 88.2K/24 to 192K/24 stereo. The ranks of labels offering hi-res FLAC or WMA downloads is also expanding. Some are offering on the particular label’s own website, while others are offered by the several purveyors of hi-res downloads from multiple labels, such as the Chesky’s HDtracks and Chandos’ Classical Shop. Some are even offering surround sound downloads. Hyperion Records and BluePort Jazz are among recent additions to the list, the latter’s lossless FLAC files accessed from the Linn Records website. There are several apps for conversion of FLAC and WMA hi-res files to burn your own DVD-Rs for playback as either DVD-Audio or plain uncompressed PCM stereo on your DVD player; just make certain it handles playback of hi-res material without downsampling it to 48K or 44.1K.
Public War Between Apple’s Steve Jobs and Adobe’s Shantanu Narayen – The two CEOs have a major public tech debate simmering over the delivery of video to new portable devices such as iPhone, iPad and video iPod. Jobs gave six reasons why Apple is not using Flash (an Adobe product) on its devices – listing that it caused crashes, quickly ran down the battery, and was a closed system. Narayen not only denied the accusations but swiped at Apple’s OS, saying that not Flash but the Apple operating system was to blame for the crashes. (Sorry, we Apple users can’t agree. Notice there are no Flash banners on this site? It’s because they caused crashes in the past.)
Possible Help for Tinnitus Sufferers – We are all aware of the reduction in frequency response of our own hearing with age, but millions suffer in addition from worse hearing maladies that can cause terribly debilitating effects. The most widespread is probably Tinnitus, sometimes called “ringing in the ears.” Some with the condition hear continuous whistles, buzzes, hissing, clicking, etc. sounds generated inside their heads by their auditory system. It is said to affect some 12 million Americans. Among possible causes are thought to be exposure to loud sounds, certain chemotherapy, head or neck trauma or multiple sclerosis, which changes the auditory nerves. And there is no cure.
However, a company called Neuromonics has a promising new treatment. It uses an iPod-like device delivering broadband noise of frequencies and intensity tailored to each user’s own hearing profile. Relaxing music is also added to reduce the stresses caused by tinnitus. After some months, the system uses systematic desensitization to train the brain the pay less attention to the tinnitus noises – by momentarily changing the audio signal to mimic tinnitus while the user is in a relaxed state. Initial tests have proven encouraging. 80% of the subjects in one test reported reduced disturbance from their tinnitus, which led to better sleep patterns and an improved level of general well-being.
CableCARD Controversy – The CableCARD is a plug-in card for TVs, computers and DVRs, about the size of a credit card, which allows those subscribing to digital cable TV channels to view and record them without using a larger set-top box as provided by the cable company. Naturally, the cable companies have resisted the FCC’s CableCARD rollout across the U.S., but by last year there were over 14 million CableCARDs deployed. A 1996 law required that cable companies allow two-way communication on their networks, but currently few retail components are capable of that. The new management at the FCC wants to foster the adoption of CableCard and has proposed new rules to: ”1) ensure retail devices have comparable access to video programming that is prescheduled…; 2) make CableCARD pricing and billing more transparent; 3) streamline CableCARD installations; and 4) clarify certification requirements.” They are also thinking about a successor to CableCARD called AllVid – a “smaller adapter on the customer’s premises that would present a standard interface to all consumer devices.”