Although MP3 files may not entirely deserve all the scorn heaped on them, it is widely accepted that it was the proliferation of those files that put the whammy on high-end audio. Despite the availability of higher quality formats like CD, SACD and DVD-Audio, conventional wisdom says the convenience of MP3 led consumers to dumb down their audio expectations. Now, is it possible that an old-school audio company and a brand name largely associated with cassettes could lead the way back to high audio quality?
It comes as no surprise to you that smartphones are taking over the world. Alexander Graham Bell’s invention is swiftly achieving total domination, 138 years after its invention. Of course, today’s smartphones are a far cry from “Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you.” But I digress.
I offer you a data point demonstrating how firmly smartphones are in charge: Specifically, I offer the premise that smartphones will be a primary factor that drives adoption of 4K televisions. That’s right - your phone will persuade you to buy a new TV.
As you probably know, the Supreme Court took a dim view of Aereo, and ruled that its activities were illegal because Aereo violated broadcasters’ copyrights. In response, Aereo pulled the plug. Literally. Within hours, it notified its subscribers that the jig was up, and that it was shutting down. Signals went dark, and remaining subscriptions will be refunded. R.I.P. Aereo. But wait a minute.....
Seat 9D is an aisle seat. The front cover of the Safety Instructions in my seat-back pocket advises me that, "Final assembly of this aircraft was completed in Brazil." I wonder why that is relevant. Should that make me feel more secure, or less? Are Brazilians good, or perhaps lacking, when it comes to assembling airplanes? In any case, I look around me to find the nearest exit. Then I notice that almost everyone on board has a consumer electronics device in their hands.
It’s often said that generals fight the last war. If the previous war was fought in trenches, you train and equip your armies for that kind of conflict. Then the enemy drives its fast-moving tanks around the ends of your fortified line, and before you know it, is eating croissants in Paris. So you re-equip and retrain for massive tank battles in the hedgerows
of Europe, and suddenly you’re wading knee-deep in rice paddies in Vietnam. It’s tough on us troops.
The same could be said of the record and movie industries...
I am so very, very, very disappointed in you. You recycle. You installed solar panels on your roof. You put up a wind turbine. You voted for Al Gore. You phased out incandescents. You bring your own hemp bags to the grocery store. You compost. You ride a bicycle to work. You water your xeriscape with gray water. You have a Greenpeace bumper sticker on your Prius. And then you have to go and ruin it all. You play a DVD. You traitor. I hate you.
I am deeply disappointed that many of you are still viewing a 1080p display. I mean, seriously. Why don’t you just take two rocks and bang them together and consider yourself technologically advanced? Don’t you realize that you are missing all of the nuance in the picture? Frankly, with such a low resolution, can you even tell if the display is turned on or not? 1080p is a joke. I want you to take your phone and just drop it in the toilet right now. That’s right - we’re talking about phone displays.
The decades-long transition from home loudspeakers to earbuds as the preferred listening technology is well documented. Now we have another data point to help us examine the question of whether the same downward spiral is happening to television screens. The short answer is: Yes. The long answer is: Yes, and quickly.
Editor’s Note: The following article appears in the May 2014 print edition of Sound & Vision.
How Was Your Day?
Friday afternoon, McCarran Airport. The International CES ends today. Some bitter-enders are still at the convention center, but for me, the show is over. With a mixture of relief and regret, I toss my press pass into a recycling bin. As I wait for my boarding call, I pull out some notes, trying to make sense of what just happened.
Beats Music is a new subscription music service that is an offshoot of the wildly popular hardware company (mainly headphones) founded by Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre. Beats Music is a logical extension: if people love the headphones so much, maybe they’ll extend the affection upstream and into content selection. Recently launched (January 21), the early numbers for Beats Music are in....