Radio magazine's sister publication Stereophile, covers CES from a consumer point of view. We have partnered with Stereophile to provide excerpts of its reports.
: Day One
By Wes Phillips and Jon Iverson, Stereophile
John Atkinson [editor of Stereophile]and I made our way to XM Satellite Radio's press conference, where the company announced its new "XM Ready" program, wherein major electronics companies can add a single IC chip to products such as DVD players, boom-boxes, receivers and CD players, making them "XM Ready." All the consumer has to do is add a $49.95 XM antenna and activate an account in order to receive XM programming.
This level of ubiquity, more than any single model, may be satellite radio's "killer app." Perhaps 2005 will be the year satellite radio really takes off. This past year hasn't been too bad though, with Hugh Panero, XM CEO, reporting that today XM has 3,275,000 subscribers, 1.9 million more than a year ago. Panero also mentioned that Dec. 25, 2004, saw the single largest number of activations in a 24-hour period, 50,000.
Not to be outdone by arch rival XM, Sirius staged a press event later in the day to report that the company has officially exceeded its goal of one million subscribers by year end 2004 with 1.1 million listeners signed.
Sirius used the occasion to also reveal the Star Mate, which is about the size of a deck of cards, is a transportable "Plug and Play" unit that can be used in vehicles, boats and homes, and provides access to the company's various music, sports and talk channels.
Featuring a three-line full display, the six-ounce Star Mate has 30 presets and a built-in wireless FM transmitter with 100 frequencies. The Star Mate, including home and vehicle adapter kits, is expected to retail for just $129.95. The company's Larry Pesce commented, "This is the smallest transportable Sirius satellite radio unit to date, and we believe it will be very popular with consumers."
Sirius is also betting that video channels will be popular with consumers, and announced a partnership with Microsoft to collaborate in the further development of video applications using the software giant's Windows Media Video 9 platform. Sirius reports that they plan to offer a video service in the second half of 2006, and expects to devote 2-3 channels of video content designed primarily for children. The company hastens to add that the addition of its video channels are not expected to affect the current audio fidelity of the company's existing channels.
: Day Two
By Wes Phillips and Jon Iverson, Stereophile
Every few years the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show turns cold and wet, and it looks like this will be one of those years. Still, audio is largely an indoor activity, and despite chilly, damp weather, ongoing format turmoil and pressure from home theater, rooms at CES's high-end audio venue, the Alexis Park hotel, are hopping as normal.
Simaudio's Lionel Goodfield was beaming with pride as he beckoned us to his room. A new stack of products waited inside: the Moon Andromeda CD player, Moon P-8 preamplifier and Moon W-8 amplifier. Added together, the total price for Simaudio's trio of sonic goods could buy you a fully tricked-out Mini Cooper, but anyone with their priorities straightened out would no doubt shoot for the Moon(s).
A newcomer to CES, Lipinski impressed with its L-707 Studio Monitors all around. The demo also featured the company's L-150G Sub and a L-505 Studio Monitor serving as a height channel in the rear. Inspired by Dunlavy, the Lipinskis were designed with the pro recording market in mind, but will likely find their way into more than a few domestic environments where detail and sonic precision rule the roost. Pricing for the L707 is $2,295 each with the sub retailing for $2,495.
It was 20 years ago today that Bob Stuart taught the CD to play. Actually, it was 20 years ago last October, but Meridian felt that two decades of high-resolution CD playback were worth celebrating, so the company released the 808 Reference CD Player. "We never stopped receiving customer requests for an 'ultimate' CD player," Bob Stuart said. "We felt we had to honor that level of interest."
The $13,000 808 certainly looked impressive, although it was a bit difficult to hear it in the noisy confines of the Las Vegas Convention Center's South Hall. But when we remember how the original Meridian 208 caused us to re-evaluate our initial perceptions of what was actually on those early CDs, it makes us want to take the 808 home and make it sing.
: Day Three
By John Atkinson
Stereophile columnist Michael Fremer chaired a seminar, "What Happened to Audio," bemoaning the current state of the audio industry, wherein quality music reproduction is treated as an adjunct to the current cash cows of home theater and custom install. (A clue to the problems faced by the audio industry was the fact that only 24 show attendees, including this reporter, attended the session.)
A panel comprised of journalist Ken Kessler, record producer Elliot Mazer, distributor Stirling Trayle, Blue Man Group producer Tod Perlmutter, and satellite audio engineer Geir Skaaden chewed the subject over -- Why don't more end users care about quality? Why don't more record company execs care about quality? Is it the effect of the Ipod? Will the massive data-compression used by XM and Sirius radio dumb down listeners' expections about audio quality? -- to no good conclusion, but with the hope that many of the millions currently listening to data-reduced music will eventually demand more quality. All the panelists agreed that the passion that fuels high-end audio was in sparse supply at the main convention center.