Hard-copy music libraries are becoming passé, at least across the pond. eBay surveyed 1000 households in the U.K. and found that £17.2 billion, with a b, worth of CDs will have been ripped to MP3 by year-end. What's happening to them? The Guardian reports that charity shops are being "inundated with donated CDs, as more and more people trim their collections—or even get rid of them altogether to free up space." Of course, for those of us who like our music uncompressed, or just want to stay up to date with the latest codec, this avalanche of cheap CDs is a buying opportunity reminiscent of the days when faddish listeners dumped perfectly good LPs. Do you really want to eviscerate your music library? Go ahead, make my day!
You know the folks at the Consumer Electronics Association are riled up when they send out a press release with a head like "Back to School with Baloney." The low-end luncheon meats in question are being packed into collegiate lunchboxes by the Recording Industry Antichrist of America (I have decided to make this a recurring reference) at campusdownloading.com. CEA, the media-activist group Public Knowledge, and the Computer and Communications Industry Association issued this joint communiqué laced with italic outrage: "The RIAA back to school message is 'Beware of anything free.' Ironically, it applies most aptly to the free 'educational' DVDs that RIAA is peddling to students and to the bogus legal advice on RIAA's 'Campus Downloading' website.... The 'FAQ' posted by the RIAA in support of its campaign dismisses the copyright law's Fair Use doctrine as applying only to productive or scholarly works. It suggests, contrary to explicit Supreme Court precedent, that Fair Use has no application to the home recording of entire works." The statement points out inconsistencies in the RIAA's stance on copying for personal use: "The RIAA's freeDVD...says that it is OK to make a CD copy for yourself, but is criminal to do so for a friend.... Where in the AHRA [Audio Home Recording Act of 1992], or in any court decision, does it say that purely personal recordings are legal, burning or emailing a single song for a friend or family member is criminal?"
Powered-subwoofer specifications have long been a minefield of inconsistency. How deep, how loud can they really play? Consumers may shop with greater confidence now that the Consumer Electronics Association has delivered its long-awaited sub specs. Given the catchy name CEA-2010, the document commands that subs be tested "in a calibrated anechoic [non-echoing] chamber, in a suitable ground plane environment, or in a large calibrated room." Test tones, with one-third octave spacing, are at these frequencies: 20, 25, 31.5, 40, 50, and 63 Hertz. The specs don't cover power ratings, but it will be great for consumers to get standardized information on the acoustic output of powered subs. The end result on spec sheets should look like this:
Gary Shapiro of the Consumer Electronics Association—who often looks like he needs a shave but is otherwise a perfectly respectable individual—is making a renewed push for HR1201. The Digital Media Consumers' Right Act of 2005 was introduced by Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA) more than a year ago. The bill would directly write into law the Supreme Court's 1984 landmark Betamax Decision, which sanctioned recording for personal use. "For innovation and for consumer freedom, the doctrine originally announced in the Betamax case is the Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independence rolled into one," Shapiro declared in a press release from the Home Recording Rights Coalition. In a CEA press release based on Shapiro's remarks to a Cato Institute meeting, he also took some interesting shots at the presumed sacredness of copyright: "The content community has undertaken a slick public relations and positioning campaign to distort the law of copyright to make it seem as if it is a subset of the law of real property. What they totally ignore is that the United States Constitution accorded patents and copyrights a different treatment allowing Congress to grant patent and copyright terms for limited times.... It is not only intellectually disingenuous to treat copyright as a real property, it distorts the debate so that fair use becomes less relevant and consumer rights...become marginalized to the point of vanishing." If you'd like to put your oar in the water, please do.
The Consumer Electronics Association hosted a Line Show in midtown Manhattan for the second consecutive year. Our colleagues at TWICE covered the economic forecast while we did a walk-through. Anthem, long known for its pre-pros and multichannel amps, unveiled four receivers. They range from the MRX 300 ($1000) to the MRX 900 ($4000). All have Anthem's own room correction.
This company demonstrated a filter that fits over a small screen, like the PSP shown, and shows 3D content without the need for glasses. You have to play with the viewing distance until the image snaps into focus. To be used with YouTube, games, etc.
Eton's Soulra is a fairly ordinary iPod docking speaker product with a twist: It's got a solar panel that can charge in about 10 hours, providing 4 to 5 hours of play time. It's water-proof, sand-proof, and $199.
Mitsubishi's L75-A91 is the latest generation of its LaserVue rear-projection technology. The 75-inch set is up 10 inches over its predecessor, costs $1000 less at $6000, and exceeds Energy Star standards by 50 percent. Mitsubishi has been supporting 3D since 2007 in its DLP models and offers an adapter for use with 3D ready sets that will convert formats supported in HDMI 1.4a.
The MusicLite uses 2.4GHz wireless technology from Eleven Engineering in its combination Sylvania LED lightbulb and Artison powered speaker. Use your choice of iPod or USB dongle to send signals to the MusicLite. The system can address up to four zones. Shipping in September for a price yet undetermined.
Sonos has long been the noninvasive multi-zone audio technology of choice for many. Its latest move, not surprisingly, is an iPad controller that works much the same as its iPhone/iPod controller. The free app lets you slide between rooms playing different content or link all rooms with the same content.
This maker of toothbrush sanitizers now offers a model for personal electronics such as phones, iPods, headsets, earbuds, etc. They can get dirtier than the bottom of your shoe, we were told. The ultraviolet device takes three minutes to remove 99.9 percent of nasties such as salmonella, strep, flu, etc. Available in September for $100.
At the Vizio booth we got a look at the XVT3D654SV, a 65-inch LED-backlit LCD TV with passive 3D technology. Pros: High light output, the glasses can be manufactured for pennies. Cons: Less resolution than active-shutter 3D. The technology is baked into the panel so the set can be used only for passive 3D. Shipping and price not available. Also introduced: other new LED sets and wi-fi Blu-ray players.
I'm looking for a lead. Let's see, famous people named George. OK, my pick is George Harrison. Asked what he called his then-unusual Beatle moptop, he replied in a magnificently deadpan manner: "I call it Arthur." In similar spirit, Chestnut Hill Sound calls its iPod-centric compact audio system George.
Cinematic cognoscenti who want to catch the latest indie films without driving to an art house are in luck—at least if they're Comcast subscribers. The cable giant has inked an agreement with IFC Entertainment to offer IFC in Theaters. IFC is a division of Cablevision-owned Rainbow Media. The arrangement will bring four to five independent titles per month, including two with same-date VOD and theatrical release. The price is $5.99 each and all titles will be in standard definition (though Comcast's non-IFC VOD operation does offer other titles in high-def). Coming attractions include:
Analog TVs are obsolete. Yet, shockingly, most major retailers still carry them. Some folks in Congress would like to see archaic displays labeled this way: "This TV has only an analog broadcast tuner and will require a converter box after Feb. 17, 2009, to receive over-the-air broadcasts." If that seems reasonable, then you're in agreement with Reps. Joe Barton (R-TX), Dennis Hastert (R-IL), and Fred Upton (R-MI), who are brewing up legislation to require the warning. I would add something along the lines of "Aren't you a little embarrassed even to be looking at this thing?" but hey, I'm not an elected official. According to TV Week: "Besides the warning, the legislation would require cable and satellite service providers include information in bills notifying customers about the upcoming digital transition, would require broadcasters to file regular reports detailing their consumer education efforts and would require the Federal Communications Commission to create a consumer outreach effort and also file regular updates about how many consumers had redeemed coupons for converter boxes."