Mark Fleischmann

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Mark Fleischmann  |  Feb 28, 2007  |  0 comments
An unexpected legal snafu may have makers of music players and ripping software shelling out bigtime for MP3 or possibly even abandoning the popular audio codec. At the heart of the storm is Alcatel-Lucent, a networking-equipment company and heir to the legacy of Bell Labs. Alcatel claims that Bell brought two key patents to the table when Bell joined the Fraunhofer Institute of Germany and Thomson of France in developing the MP3 format as the audio soundtrack of the now-forgotten MPEG-1 video standard. This claim is a surefire money maker. Alcatel has already persuaded the federal district court of San Diego to hit Microsoft with $1.52 billion in damages for the use of MP3 in the Windows Media Player. That's half a percentage point of the value of all Windows PCs sold. Ironically, WMP didn't begin supporting MP3 till 2004 with Version 10; before that MP3 ripping was a third-party plug-in. Microsoft will appeal, arguing that one of the two disputed patents does not apply to WMP and the other was covered when Gates & Co. paid Fraunhofer $16 million to license MP3. Before you get all giggly and anti-Redmondian, consider the fact that iTunes also offers MP3 ripping, and that iTunes purchases in AAC account for only a tiny percentage of all iPod-stored content. If Steve Jobs wants to keep his gravy train rolling, he'll have to fork over too. As will every purchaser of every MP3-compatible product. Pray for Microsoft.
Mark Fleischmann  |  Feb 02, 2010  |  0 comments
Is it against copyright law to host a Super Bowl party in your home? The law does indeed kick in for screens above 55 inches and more than six loudspeakers. But further clauses may give party-loving homeowners some wiggle room.
Mark Fleischmann  |  Jan 10, 2012  |  0 comments
Not much has emerged from the Denmark-born Jamo speaker brand since its acquisition by the Klipsch Group, now itself acquired by Audiovox. But that's changing with a bevy of new Jamo products including the MS25 satellite speaker shown here. What a civilian might identify as a tweeter firing into a spoon is actually Jamo's implementation of OmniPolar technology acquired along with Mirage. This new design was reshaped by authentic Danish designers. There will be no new products labeled Mirage, bringing an end to the historic Canadian speaker brand. The product development guy who briefed us punctuated his presentation by saying "Mirage is a brand, OmniPolar is a technology"—a technology living on under another banner.
Mark Fleischmann  |  Jan 03, 2014  |  4 comments
For some, tower speakers are an article of faith. Many audiophiles wouldn't consider going without them—either folded into a 5.1+ system or as a standalone two-channel system. For some of those listeners, owning a pair of towers is the right decision, and I wouldn't be foolhardy enough to try talking them out of it. But for others, floorstanding speakers are just one option among many, and not necessarily the best one. In some primary systems, smaller-scale monitors or satellites would be more appropriate; for some secondary systems, soundbars or standalone audio products make more sense. As I discussed in a previous blog, choice of speaker size depends on both needs and personalities.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Nov 04, 2016  |  3 comments
Soundbars are not for everyone. But they are for an increasing number of people, with unit sales having risen from 1.3 million in 2010 to 12.9 million in 2016. I review soundbars and soundbases as well as satellite/subwoofer sets and orthodox speakers, so I know what it's like to live with one. I must admit it wouldn't be my first choice for a primary audio system. But the following scenarios don't apply to me...

Mark Fleischmann  |  Mar 12, 2007  |  1 comments
A new royalty structure approved by the federal Copyright Royalty Board has webcasters quaking. Formerly they paid the music industry's SoundExchange between 6 and 12 percent of their revenue. But under the new royalty structure, they'll pay $0.0008 to stream one song to one listener, rising to $0.0019 in 2010. That may not sound like much, but it would amount to 1.28 cents per listener per hour, more than estimated current ad revenue of 1.1 to 1.2 pennies per hour. And that's just for starters. Rates would continue to rise every year. More bad news for small webcasters: There would also be a minimum charge of $500 per year per channel. And the new rules don't apply to songwriter publishing royalties, potentially an additional expense. Whether all this will kill web radio as widely predicted remains to be seen. But the fledgling medium will certainly have to find a more lucrative business model if it wants to survive. So, a speculative question: Just how much would you be willing to pay for Internet radio?
Mark Fleischmann  |  Sep 24, 2010  |  0 comments
These three-channel LCR bars from Artison deliver the center channel from the top, and the left and right channels at the bottom. Without grilles they're only 1.8 inches deep. The Masterpiece is $2500, the Portrait $1800, and the Sketch $1200.
Mark Fleischmann  |  Aug 13, 2008  |  1 comments
If you live anywhere near the Wedge Gallery in Asheville, North Carolina, check out the paintings of Ruth Whiting. She's every nerd's dream--a painter who finds inspiration in cables! Says Whiting: "My work can be seen as a product of my fascination with the sublimely ordinary. For some time now I have set myself the task of revealing the beauty and heroism of mundane objects. I think of my paintings as lenses through which insignificant items, usually thought of as nothing more than functional, can assume the roles of heroes. My paintings do not attempt the illustrative role of myth, and yet there is a level upon which a giant orange extension cord that writhes through the nave of a quiet church demands a mythic justification. Thus, rather than propose a narrative, I attempt to create a situation that calls for an explanation. Electrical cords are like the connective tissue of our technological lives yet most of the time all we do is trip over them. This is a show dedicated to glorifying the dreams of extension cords." See showrooms here and here. This page includes clickable larger images. All oil on paper, the paintings are for sale at prices ranging from $130-500.
Mark Fleischmann  |  Nov 15, 2013  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $699

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Supports lossless formats
Great-sounding headphone out
May be used as standalone DAC with a PC
Minus
Rudimentary touchscreen DAC use limited to 96-kHz or lesser files.

THE VERDICT
The AK100 successfully ventures beyond the iTunes universe to open a world of high-resolution portable playback.

Is Apple the biggest obstacle to progress in portable audio? The iPod has been around a full dozen years, and the iPhone for half that, yet even today the Apple ecosystem fails to support 24-bit audio file formats. All Apple-supported file formats—even the best of them, Apple Lossless, AIFF, and WAV—are limited in iOS to 16 bits. That’s not high rez, that’s mid rez. Forget about playing your growing library of 24-bit FLACs. Leaving the Apple ecosystem can be painful because the company’s touchscreen and clickwheel devices are so ingratiating. But leave you must if you want better sound in your pocket, and the Astell & Kern AK100 may be on your list of destinations.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Apr 18, 2016  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $499

AT A GLANCE
Plus
A&K’s most affordable player
Same Wolfson DAC as in classic models
Flatter form factor
Minus
DSD converted to PCM
Less than intuitive GUI

THE VERDICT
The Astell & Kern AK Jr is the least expensive music player from the company that has defined the state of the art in pocketable audio.

Visit the Apple Website and scan the banner across the top: Mac, iPad, iPhone, Watch, TV, Music, Support. Where’s the iPod? You’ll have to hit Music and scroll down a bit for the link to the iPod page. There you’ll find the surviving touch, nano, and shuffle players, but no high-capacity hard-drive-based models or even the iconic click wheel. Apple (and to be fair, Apple isn’t alone) recognizes that most people now use phones for onthe-go listening.

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