Cool headline, eh? You probably assumed that some online or satellite service is offering a cornucopia of freebies. And these 264 new digital audio channels are indeed both free and ad-free—but they're available over the air. You've heard of HD Radio, the digital terrestrial broadcast format sneaking onto the airwaves alongside analog signals of 700 stations nationwide, but perhaps you hadn't heard that the HD Digital Radio Alliance is also rolling out hundreds of totally new HD-2 Multicast channels in 29 markets. There's a variety of music and talk formats with names like Extreme Hip Hop, Future Country, Classical Alternative, and Chick Rock. And you can hear 'em with a variety of HD Radio products including the HD Radio version of the Boston Acoustics Receptor Radio (pictured) and other products from ADA, Alpine, Day Sequerra, Eclipse, JVC, Kenwood, Panasonic, Polk, Rotel, and Yamaha. HD Radio can be a table radio, a car radio, a surround-receiver feature, or a multi-zone multi-tuner. Someone please send me one.
For my money, the first-generation shuffle was the most boring iPod ever. Somehow, though, the absence of a screen seems more forgivable when the player shrinks to the size of a slightly obese postage stamp. That's the second-generation iPod shuffle and it shipped today after having been announced in September. It runs its one gigabyte of flash memory for 12 hours per charge. The one available color is silver and the price is $79. Even those of us who already have an iPod (I'm trying to hold the line at one) may be sorely tempted to add another one. You might want to keep one in your other suit. Or your second-favorite handbag. Or in all dozen pairs of faded, ripped, stained Levis. Or something.
Can mediocre audio gear hinder your relationship with music? The guys in 3 Doors Down say yes. Not that they aren't doing well--their CDs sell in the multi-platinum range. But they agree with the audiophile community that lack of exposure to good audio equipment hurts listeners and musicians alike. Three members of 3 Doors Down were kind enough to take questions from Home Theater, including lead singer Brad Arnold, guitarist Matt Roberts, and guitarist Chris Henderson.
Most TV makers are presenting 3D as a desirable new feature for upper-echelon sets. Sony is taking a more aggressive approach, at least in the Japanese market. In 2011 nearly all models 40 inches and up will be 3D capable, relegating 2D to a minority of smaller models.
Look out, Dolby and DTS. The 3D Audio Alliance, a consortium put together by SRS Labs, is developing a new "object oriented" surround standard that would rethink surround sound as it's currently constituted.
The 3DAA standard would focus not on channels but on objects within the soundfield, specifying their location and movement. The playback system -- whether stereo, 5.1, or 11.1 -- would then deploy the objects as well as possible within their inherent limitations.
While 3DTV has captured the imaginations of some consumers, most are unmoved, an online poll by Vision Critical shows. Only five percent of Americans, two percent of Britons, and one percent of Canadians have a 3DTV set at home.
Moreover, the skeptics are not likely to turn into purchasers within the next six months. They include 81 percent of Americans and Britons, and 95 percent of Canadians. This is despite high levels of awareness, with more than four out of five consumers in each nation familiar with the technology.