TECHNOLOGY NEWS IN BRIEF




7/9/2017 - B&W 700 series looking good

With B&W's track record, particularly over the last twenty years, you'd have to be very confident that the new 700 Series will be pretty amazing. Here's their new ad, (scroll down) with exploding view sof each driver type.

25/8/2017 - Spotify Ready To Go Public

After signing up Warner Music, BBC Tech News reports that Spotify are reportedly ready to face the future with confidence, addressing artists concerns and ensuring access to all the music, but holding some back from the free service for a while to allow funds to flow to the creators.


8/8/2017 - Schiit Keeps On Growing

"The little company that could" keeps on releasing new and cost-effective componentry. Computer Audiophile has all the latest.

"It's now possible to have an entire Schiit Audio system, not just an audio system, but a no-excuses, built for sound quality, system for $3,697 or $4,396 if using the amps as mono blocks. Seriously, that's less than the sales tax on many of our audio systems."

7/8/2017 - Watch This Space

Apple is said to be working on a watch that is not tethered to the iPhone. Amazing. How did they think of that!


My Article in Sound & Image

The February/March 2017 Issue of Sound & Image magazine is full of good reading including my article at page 70 on the use of subwoofers for music: "Sub judice: is the jury still out regarding the use of subwoofers for music?"


27/3/2017 - Geneva Radios

I've always been a radio fan, and if they are retro-looking all the better. Geneva have revamped their lineup and reissued the various models (S,M,L) as the Classic Series. At the same time they've launched a set of radios (FM/DAB+) with added Bluetooth capability. More at What*HIFI.


14/3/2017 - Polk Buys Denon & Marantz

Just like the recording industry, the hifi industry often sees large takeovers of one group by another. The latest is the Sound United group (Polk and Definitive Technology) taking over D+M (Denon & Marantz).

This will probably not impact on consumers, maybe not even on wholesalers, it's just what the big guys do.


2/3/2017 - TIVO Death Watch

If you use TIVO it will not be usable after 31 October 2017, the company has announced. You might be able to get what they call a "swap-out" discount on a Fetch TV via Harvey Norman, but they informed me that since our unit hadn't connected to the Tivo service during the last six months we were not eligible for that!

In fact I tried to connect last month, but the machine (which has one of the slowest Setup sequences known to man) locked up at the stage of setup where it should be loading their program info, and the spinning wheel kept spinning for a whole day with no result.

We now have the upstairs TV room equipped with a neat Panasonic PVR that has a 1TB hard drive, so no Fetch required for our purposes.

A rather poor end to TIVO's time here, and I've let them know that a bit more communication a bit earlier might have been nice.

P.S. I see that people are still advertising and even succeeding in selling TIVOs and their remote controls on ebay. That might slow down now.


27/2/2017 - Sonos Support Is Great!

Have you had your Sonos system stop playing from Spotify lately? Mine started saying "lost connection to Spotify", which is the typically uncommunicative sort of throwaway line you get from all these smart bits of electronics we now have about the house. So, bearing in mind the age-old advice to "reset", I did just that to my cable modem. That didn't help at all.

I had to ring Sonos today and ask for their advice. They are the easiest support people to get to, and they are always helpful. There's none of the runaround you get from some of the gargantuan and oh-so-smart companies, just a friendly hello and what can I do for you.

Quickly, the problem was pinpointed to the modem/Sonos modules not "talking to each other properly", or in nerdspeak we needed the modem/router to issue new DNS addresses for each Sonos piece. So it was the time-honoured "turn them all off" and then turn them all on again, including the little intermediary Bridge.

We're back in operation again now, hopefully it'll again be a year or more before I need to call Sonos for some support, but at least I know they are there and do a great job.


5/2/2017 - New Process for Manufacturing Vinyl LPs

Like most announcements of this type I think we'll have to wait a year or so to see if it delivers. First machines being delivered soon. Report from WHAT*HIFI.



10/01/2017 - CES 2017 Roundup

I couldn't get too excited about CES this year. Here's a summary from CNET. Main items: better screens with OLED, smart home tech, driverless car tech.


29/12/2016 - Audiophile Switches from iOS to Android

I'm having some issues with some of my Apple products, so this caught my eye. More about my woes later, as it's a long, sad story. This article at Computer Audiophile is for those who want to get superior audio performance while ditching their iPhone and going to an Android one.

But not just any Android phone. Read the article to see why. I may be changing to Android too, but for different reasons!


Now this is News - HEOS to be inserted in some Denon & Marantz Products

Slowly, slowly, like Shakespeare's student dragging his feet towards school, streaming with multi-room capability is being genetically spliced into mainstream products. Yamaha have their new-generation MusicCast going into lots of things, and now HEOS has made its technology available to Denon and Marantz.

While it's easy enough to plug a streamer from Sonos or HEOS into any amplifier, it makes sense for the capability to become embedded. This gives the user a more potent product mix while retaining the features that make those multi-room streamers so attractive.

Not that I'm down on things like Sonos Connect Amps - they do a very good job indeed - but I've said before that one of the great things about the Connect or the Link is that you can play them back through the system of your choosing.

This latest development just makes that simpler. You buy the system of your choosing, and it's there. Well, not quite, not yet, but it's on the way.

Naim have been including the streaming functions in their Uniti range for a few years now, and they are about to release a new generation. What Marantz and Denon are doing is take an off-the-shelf solution!


22/11/2016 - They All Laughed When I said Retro Was cool ...

But it has indeed played out that way. Here's the latest instance: JBL brings back Retro - at a price!

26/8/2016 - Spotify's Future in Negotiations

Spotify is an excellent streaming service and I use it quite a bit. However, there is talk about it having a few knotty problems to sort out with the record labels if its future is to be secure and a float to be successful.

26/7/2016 - Windows 10 Gets Big Tick

Rob Enderle, who has been writing on technology for the Tech News website for ages, tells us that Windows 10 is not just good, it's a whole new ball game. Furthermore, the new CEO of Microsoft is a switched on guy, no dinosaur. Good. I'm using Windows 10!

24/7/2016 - VCR - End of An Era

News that the very last manufacturer of VCRs is closing down production takes me back to the very first machine that we bought - a Sanyo Betacord, late 1970s. It came along a few years after the 22" AWA colour TV, and was a technological marvel for us back then. On a screen that size it was hard to tell the recording from the original broadcast!

The earlier Philips 2000 recorders wilted under the onslaught of the Japanese with their two standards, Beta and VHS. VHS won out not because it was better, but because it was easier to license.

Before long there were the hifi stereo models, which for audio purposes outperformed reel-to-reel, owing to the head to tape speed they achieved by virtue of the rapidly rotating heads and angled scan across the wider tape.


Fish Fine Music Box Sets at Bargain Prices

I get a weekly email from these guys, and they often have hugely tempting box set deals for as little as $2 a disc. If you're a classical fan as I have been over many years (plus jazz in my case) there'll be something here for you.

12/5/2016 - Arcam To Step Up Australian Presence

Distribution of Arcam in Australia moves to Advance Audio Australia. Press Release is here.

5/5/2016 - Tannoy to Close Scottish Factory

High-end products will continue to be manufactured in Europe, but the majority of their ranges have already moved to their own factory in China. What*HIFI have a good article on the company's 90 year history.


4/5/2016 - Bowers & Wilkins Sold!

EVA Automation has purchased B&W according to reports such as this one. The deal may not bode well for the exclusive top-end products, which are not such a good fit with the modern trend to minimalist home automation and wireless audio products. B&W does both high end and smaller wireless gear, but the high-end is not of much interest to your modern, more portable oriented yoof market.

Other may have shared and expressed this concern, as Gideon Yu has been careful to say there'll be no downgrading of quality. More on that at this What*HIFI report.


19/4/2016 - iPhone to go OLED?

There is a report that Apple is ordering 100 million 5.5" OLED screens for 2017 delivery.


14/4/2016 - LG's OLED TV Range Imminent

Just when large screen TVs have become cheap enough for anyone to buy, the manufacturers have found a new way to make them more expensive again! Well, sort of new. OLED has been talked about for a long time, and has been slow to actually come to market.

The foodgates are about to open as LG releases details of their quite extensive range of OLED TVs, priced from around $6000 to $50,000 and due to hit the shops by mid year.

23/2/2016 - Philips To Market OLED in 2016

"Philips couldn’t care less about 3D and is planning to beat LG at its own OLED game - that's the surprisingly forthright verdict from the launch of the company's 2016 TV line-up." Read more ...

And 3D is dead as far as Philips and LG are concerned.

11/2/2016 - UHD Blu-ray Players Arrive in USA

Now we're all getting into UHD TVs, time to go the next step and get a UHD Blu-ray player. Now that they have arrived in the USA (in limited quantities)I guess we can expect some here before too long, but the downside remains the lack of much in the way of titles! That's always the problem with new formats.

11/2/2016 - 3D TV Being Scaled Back

A lot of people were underwhelmed by 3D TV, and rumours of its failure in the marketplace have been around for a while. The latest news is that LG & Samsung are gradually leaving it out of their range, although it will continue to be available in premium models.

2/2/2016 - Yamaha's MusicCast Advances Further with Control App

The reborn MusicCast system from Yamaha has taken another big step with the new controller app! This is starting to look like a real contender.

See my piece on this system at the Custom Install page.


2/2/2016 - Bristol AV and Audio Show

What*HIFI has a good roundup of products making their debut at the 29th annual Bristol Show. Some of the turntable products have me wondering!


26/1/2016 - Pure DAB Radio in Retreat

Imagination Technologies is to sell their Digital Radio business (Pure) due to declining profits. Stand by for an article updating where DAB+ is up to here in Australia.


30/12/2015 - Are Tablets in Decline?

With sales down by around 15-20% there are some who say that the tablet phenomenon has peaked. Is it because phones are preferred? Is it lack of new features? The PC Authority has a look at this and finds three main reasons for the decline.

At our place the tablets are in use every day, but the old(!) first generation iPads are struggling and are now being replaced by good secondhand third generation ones. There is still no way my smart phone cuts it as a reading device except when I have no other option.


15/12/2015 - Brilliant New Classical Music Streaming Service

The people who run Jazz Radio.com have opened up a new streaming service for classical music. Read more at the Music Page.

18/11/2015 - B&O's 90th Birthday

B&O attract admiration and scorn in equal measure. Admiration from people who like their designs and find the sound perfectly ok, and scorn from those who feel that sound has been compromised in order to present slick looks.

Whichever group you fall into, there's no doubt that B&O have propduced some stunning designs over a very long period. They've also produced some highly developed and excellent loudspeakers in their top-of-the-line products, and they are releasing another one as a special event to mark this anniversary.

I am an enthusiast for B&O of a particular period, and you can see some of the systems I have on my Retro page. for a detailed article on this birthday, with some early history of B&O - it was all radio back then - see this page at What*HIFI.

17/11/2015 4k TV and Sources Update

This update from WHAT*HIFI is UK-oriented, but gives an idea about time-frames and likely sources of material. Now that the screens are becoming more common and affordable, what we're going to watch is the critical factor. Of course, there's also the upscaling of existing sources which helps.


12/11/2015 - TVs Continue to Improve - HDR Next!

OK, so I'm a little behind the wave with my UHD (4k) TV, but I'm a semi-scrooge and usually wait a bit until prices become less frantic. Having just got that baby in and running, now we're told that it's already about to be superseded by HDR sets. Yes, you may well ask, but in a nutshell it's about control of light and dark (contrast), and colour, and fine detail, using micro-specs of things called quantum dots.

Read all about it at the Wall Street Journal.


28/10/2015 All Music, All Rooms ...

Panasonic joins the multi-room music tidal wave. "All music, all sources, all rooms ..." they say; and soon, the way everyone is jumping on the bandwagon, it'll be "all brands"as well!


16/10/2015 - NBN Plans Taking Shape

The Australian today has some firm figures on how many connections will become possible over the next three years and in which states. The total is an impressive 7.48 million connections! Adding this to the recent successful launch of their satellite, which will service remote Australia (and we should admit that this was always going to be the practical solution, not FTTH) gives confidence that they really will achieve a widespread, faster system - much of it by 2018 and most (they say 100%) by 2020.

15/10/2015 - Panasonic's UHD Blu-ray player & recorder

Hey, even I now own a 60" Panasonic screen that can do 4k. It's about time they got rolling with the 4k discs. I know, I thought it wouldn't happen and that Blu-ray would be the last disc format. But even though we now have faster download speeds, the amount of data for a UHD movie is a challenge.

So here's good old Panasonic, slotting in a rather pricey machine (on the Japanese market only, for now) just in time for Christmas - and while the Japanese just love all the xmassy things, they aren't even a Christian country! Never mind.

10/10/2015 - Sonos Not Resting!

In a more crowded field of wireless wannabees, Sonos knows it has to continue to evolve. Plans for new features and hardware are talked about here by Tom Cullen, who we once met when visiting Australia, nice guy and on the ball.After all, he was one of the founding fathers of Sonos.

9/10/2015 - Richter Speaker Warranty Extendable to 10 Years!

John Cornell, the current head of Richter Speakers, has announced that they are extending the warranty from 5 years to 10 years, provided that owners register their new purchase within 14 days. This is indeed a vote of confidence in the quality of their product.

It should always be noted, however, that warranty doesn't usually cover over-driving. This can be done with any amp, and is probably often done with amps whose output is (on paper) lower than the rating quoted by the speaker manufacturer. The missing bit of info is that a 50w amp can blow a 100w speaker when it is used stupidly/unwisely. Toast your speakers at your peril, for most manufacturers will not honour situations where drivers have been carelssly or recklessly and obviously burnt by over driving.

After forty plus years mucking around with audio, I have yet to cook a speaker - in whole or in part.

15/9/2015 - Amazon's 4k TV Box

While Apple have copped a bit of disappointed commentary for not having 4k capability in their new TV widget, Amazon have stepped up to fill that space with a TV box of their own!

10/9/2015 - Apple TV Update

I have to admit that it's the handiest streaming "entertainment" thing (after Sonos) that we have in the house. It's perhaps attractive for some people that they upgraded it to make it do more apps, and to incorporate the genius function and find more stuff like the stuff you found before!

People are already expressing disappointment that it doesn't do 4k, and that the optical out has gone. Having HDMI and ethernet connections are the main game these days, so I'm not worried about the optical. As for 4k, they will probably add that next year, when 4k screens are being being bought by more people, and there's more material available - and an annual upgrade is good for business!

9/9/2015 - OLED Price to Drop!

In another "you heard it here first" IFA announcement, Panasonic's Masahiro Shinada (head of their TV division) said that OLED will become more affordable over the next few years.

7/9/2015 - Unenthused by IFA?

Daniel Cooper of Engadget thinks that this year's IFA show "has proved to be a disappointment. The event has been marked by risk-averse and conservative product showcases -- a sentiment that may sound whiny and entitled coming from a member of the tech press, but it's not meant to be. If companies can't create compelling, must-have products, then they simply won't survive. The existential threat these tech companies face is two-fold: consumer apathy and content with the status quo. For most consumers, innovation takes a back seat to products that are merely good enough."

Now, just last week I decided that way too much of what I was reading about in the Tech press was about trivial or mundane stuff, things that are hardly going to get the world excited. There's a lot of "we can do that too", or "ours is slightly better this year".

You might be excited by so-called Smart Watches that need a particular phone in order to deliver, or others which are glorified pulse-monitors. I'm not, any more than I'm excited by yet another company deciding it can do multi-room audio, or make yet another portable HD audio player, or another set of headphones. Apart from OLED coming of age (we hope!) there doesn't seem to be much to get excited about.

3/9/2015 Panasonic at IFA show has 65" 4k OLED TV

It appears that UHD OLED is getting a head of steam up, with Panasonic entering the fray. While we have no doubts about the superior picture quality of this technology, it'd be good to have some reassurance on the longevity of the screens.

23/8/2015 Yamaha's Musicast Returns

Musicast is back. It was launched originally as a group of dedicated products to achieve a wireless music distribution system, back in 2003. You had to have the server and the client systems. The reborn Musicast is more like "home sharing". See more details in Products.

8/8/2015 - Ultra HD Blu Ray

This is a necessary prop for the 4k screens, arriving late but not too late. In store by Christmas?


14/7/2015 - Sonos App & Performance Update 5.4

Following beta testing phase, the new controller app iteration 5.4 will now start to roll out. Hopefully there will not be any major glitches, although there have been some mentions of Spotify integration not running smoothly. The main features will be (i)a tune-up for the Play:1, (ii) less dependency on ethernet connection, and (iii) some changes to playback features in the app itself.

For more info see the Sonos blog and the dedicated update page.


4/7/2015 - Devialet Phantom Reaches the US Market

These powered speaker systems are extraordinary to look at, and according to reports are just as amazing to hear. Packing plenty of power and high technology, they are now cheap at $US2000-2400 per unit. Some commentators foresee difficulty in selling numbers at that sort of price level, but this is true of most high-end audio.

Read more at Tech News World, see also our previous posts on this company on the Products page.

9/6/2015 - Apple's Music Streaming Service

A great new service, or ho-hum? What*HIFI's summary is here. My main concern is the bit about having all your downloaded itunes tracks PLUS your ripped CDs stored remotely so they can be streamed back at you, if that's what is happening. I've been concerned for a while that updates to iTunes have done some weird things like no longer recognising my discs when I import them into the library. This means extra work adding the track titles. It just doesn't make sense uless they want to degrade that part of the system, and reduce your self-sufficiency. It tips the balance towards streaming.

I'm pleased that they will have humans curating the streamed radio channels. This is essential to get the right mix going, and one reason why I like Jazz Radio and Smooth Jazz radio streams.

When it comes to the crunch, however, I'm already on Spotify at 320k versus the 256k on offer from Apple, and they have an astonishing range of the sort of music I'm interested in. Changing horses at this time, plus changing the way the iTunes library is managed, hasn't that much appeal.

6/6/2015 - The Wagner Ring (Solti) 16CD for $70 - 2012 remaster

I have this set on LP. It is famous and still sounds good, one of those immortal Decca recordings. I mention the new edition on CD as it's great value for money, but you'll need to preorder via the linked page right away to get it. Limited edition!

Pleased to see that they are using humans to curate the selections for the radio channels. This is a make-or-break issue. A badly curated channel gets switched off pronto around here.

But the cruncher is that Spotify Premium already has an amazing selection of things that I'm interested in (including a huge classical list), plus 320k quality, and I can't see a benefit in changing horses now. Those stories about trying to knobble the opposition by paying the record companies to withdraw support are a bit distubing too.

2/6/2015 - New Dolby Atmos (plus DTS:X) Receivers from Onkyo

Onkyo has released two new 7.2 channel AV receivers as part of its 2015 line-up. Unique to Onkyo's current line-up, the new models offer both Dolby Atmos® and DTS:X™ object-based surround sound technologies. the TX-NR646 ($1499) and TX-NR747 ($1899) - are an extension to their Onkyo Dolby Atmos® range of AV receivers.

See more details on the Products Page.


2/6/2015 - Linn Finished With Pre-amps

As a follow-on to their cessation of CD Player production Linn have announced they are stopping production of pre-amplifiers as well. They probably agree with Naim that all we are going to need is a streaming device which is also an amplifier, and that everything will be sources through that.


27/5/2015 - Is Apple Smart Home About to Take Off?

The trend in custom fitout of so-called "smart home" or "home automation" is like everything else, commoditisation. That is to say, off the shelf bits that make the process easier. Apple look like entering this space with their Homekit line and a new Home App, and we may hear more about this at their next big release session.

21/5/2015 - Windows 10 Gets Closer!

An email from Microsoft just hit my inbox, inviting a closer look at Windows 10. Having disliked 8 and 8.1, I'm going to be very happy (I hope!) to move on and try 10.

UPDATE: more on the free upgrade for Windows 7/8/8.1 users from Ars Technica.


16/5/2015 - DGG Releasing Back Catalogue on Vinyl!

Some of my first LPs, bought with scarce cash while in first year uni, were Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft (DGG). They were so good I still revisit and play those versions on CD or via Spotify, but I don't have those original LPs any more - although I do still have quite a few DGG LPs in my collection.

Hit the link for a scan through what DGG are now reissuing. Use the little yellow slider button below the cover pictures and it'll do a "cover flow" for you.

15/5/2015 - 4k Blu-ray on the way!

Late this year, around September in overseas markets, the first 4k Ultra HD Blu-ray players will arrive. Priced at about 3 times normal players to begin with, you might be able to plan for a price drop by mid-2016, which will also give time for the software (discs) to ramp up. They say that the discs shouldn't be much more than the normal price.

Movies have been produced using digital processes and at 4k standard for some time now, so the catalogue is ready. Read more at What*HIFI.

It has been mentioned before, but at what size screen do you start to get the benefits of 4k? Geoffrey Morrison of CNET really went for this topic boots and all. His article is provocatively titled Why Ultra HD TVs Are Still Stupid and he has a lot of good info there. What's the answer?

Well, if you're using the usual size of screen in your living room, that is to say from 42"/106cm up to 60" or 65" (and I notice that 55" seems to be very popular) then the benefits are not worth paying much extra for. If on the other hand you have a larger screen (these are more often found in home theatre rooms) in the 80" to 120" size range, then you might get a benefit - depending on how far back you sit. The eye can only perceive so much resolution at normal viewing distances.

The bottom line, says Morrison, is that the manufacturers can do 4k and 84" screens more easily with existing technology than going the next big leap forward, such as with OLED. I'd say it's a good interim upgrade for people with big screen home cinemas, but not the end of the story. Home theatre and hifi is truly a never-ending story.

7/5/2015 - New Battery For Smart Watches

Battery life is the Achilles Heel or weak spot in mobile smart stuff, from phones to tablets to the new breed of watches. The CEO of Swatch has just announced that they'll have a revolutionary new battery that will take a smart watch's life out from the couple of days at best to a whole six months!

7/5/2015 - Apple Pushes for No Free Music Streaming

Now that Apple have decided to enter the streaming space, they are seeking to stop other companies from offering a "free" tier. See report at What*HIFI.

They're thinking that this will increase the number of people who'll then pay for streaming. One snag in this line of logic may be that anyone knowing that (hypothetically) Apple had just made their free Spotify "no longer available" might be averse to signing up with Apple. This time around it's a much more open market than when iTunes had the game sewn up.

23/4/2015 - Windows 10 Release Date

In a seemingly inadvertent statement AMD has (allegedly!) nailed late July as the date all of us 8.1 users are hanging out for.

20/4/2015 - Norway to Shut Down FM Radio in 2017

Apparently they plan to make way for DAB+, saying it offers (a) more variety (true) and (b) better sound (not true - only better than AM). Australian FM broadcasters have parallel broadcasts in DAB+, but the government so far has said it's up to them when they shut down their FM. Since we have not seen DAB+ reach beyond major cities to date, that could be some way off.

More on the DAB+ roll-out in Australia on the Radio Page.


2/4/2015 - New Compression Helps 4k TV Streaming

Imagine if your average 25mbps internet connection could stream up to three 4k channels simultaneously! The cleverness of modern multi-core processors and some very clever people working on compression algorithms has led company V-Nova to claim that they can reduce the amount of data needed for 4k streaming by a huge amount.

Full report and video presentation on this can be found at BBC Technology.


1/4/2015 - Tidal Incoming!

While selling itself on the basis of HD audio, or perhaps simply "better than some of the others" at CD quality, Tidal will have a hard time shifting me away from my comfortable combo of (i) Jazz Radio.com for a steady stream (30 streams actually) of jazz in lots of flavours, and (ii)Spotify for things I go searching for - and they have a huge classical library as well as all the rock/pop tracks and albums.

Tidal has also sought to differentiate itself in the already crowded market by saying it's owned by the artists. That's fine, but all the ones they wheeled out at launch were mass-market popular artists, and most of them are worth millions anyway! This is essentially advertising spin, and it might work with the masses, so good luck to them.

Getting down to practicalities, What*hifi has a review of the system, including what devices (including mobile ones) you can stream it through. As I've said before, insisting on the highest quality for on-the-move listening is a bit curious, but it has been at the heart of the HD audio push too.

I noted the little escape clause in brackets in their intro: "Tidal launched as a new music streaming service that followed in the footsteps of Qobuz, by offering CD-quality lossless music streams, offering a noticeable leap in quality (on paper at least) over the typical 320kbps offered by the likes of Spotify and Deezer."



UPDATE 8/4/2015

Panasonic announce they are adding the Netflix app to their current range of LCD and Plasma Viera TVs, and also a number of models dating back to 2012/13 - but not mine!

UPDATE: 24/3/2015

26/3/2015 - The latest appraisal from Adam Turner at SMH Tech."A new golden era."

It's here. The Australian does a quick comparison of what all the streaming companies are offering. Which one you choose will depend on which programs are the most desirable for you. I've signed up for the free one-month trial of Netflix, but this first month might be a bit light-on in terms of available programs. I'm a bit hard to please and a limited choice isn't going to convince me to sign up for the paid version.

More on how each of the streaming services functions and how they impact on your monthly download allowance, from Adam Turner at SMH Tech Pages.

8/3/2015 - Netflix to Start, but wait ...

Netflix in Australia starting up 24/3/2015, and it has been eagerly awaited by many people. However, the situation remains far from clear just how we are to access all the things we might like to, due to the fragmentation of the offerings from the various suppliers.

Adam Turner from the SMH offers some up-to-date advice on all this streaming video stuff, as well as tips on how to get Netflix through your Apple TV.


5/3/2015 - Larger iPad Coming?

Rumour has it that Apple will do a larger screen and add USB connectivity in a bid to kick sales along and get more business users onboard doing office tasks. More at The Australian.

28/1/2015 - Sonos Adjusting Controller Interface

Sonos software update 5.3 brings simpler room control and faster access to all your music in the Sonos app for smartphones and tablets. Android users can try it in beta today. More at their blog.

Astell & Kern Desktop Model for HD Audio

What*HIFI have revealed that A&K are to launch the AK500N streamer at the CES. See more at the link.


Meridian MQA To Help High Res Audio Streaming

Meridian Lossless Packing (MLP) was licensed out to various companies and still serves to make decent quality audio practical. Now that HD Audio is on the go, here comes Meridian again with a new process to assist in maintaining high quality while making the transmission (such as downloading or streaming) as efficient as possible without losing the essential nature of the audio.

From What*HIFI - Meridian says this brand new technology "is really about the future of recorded music", with MQA promising to more efficiently package studio master quality files in order to take up less space and allow for streaming as well as downloading high-resolution audio.

This evening [4th December], Meridian Audio launched its Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) technology - stating no less an ambition than to fundamentally change the way we all enjoy music.

Meridian MQA is an entirely new method of digitally capturing recorded music in a file that's small and convenient to download or, crucially, stream, but with none of the sonic sacrifices associated with compressed files.


Polk & Definitive Technology Go Wireless

The list of manufacturers getting into wireless multi-room audio continues to grow, with Polk and Definitive Technology, both significant speaker manufacturers, launching a ten week campaign to hightlight their products.

See the report from Joe Palenchar at Twice.com.

Microsoft Stops Sales of Windows 7 & 8

Windows 8.1 will be the sole system on sale until Windows 10 appears late 2015. WE can hardly wait! Windows 7 continues to be very popular (53%), while XP has fallen from 24% to 17% of users, probably because of hacking fears now it's no longer getting updates.

Why they thought a system like Windows 8 would be a happy fit with desktop PC people remains a mystery, but they've suffered for that error. I've set up Windows 8.1 so I can avoid the tiles as much as possible, and now have Outlook as my default email program, something which again they should have been able to see as an issue. Then being told, on getting Win8, that I had to use Gmail was very poor planning on their part!


Tidal - New HD Audio Streaming Service via Web

Just when we thought this 256-320k stuff was the bees knees in streaming services, here comes Tidal (so far in UK and USA only) with a lossless music and video service.

"Tidal offers its full 25-million strong music library in 1411kbps, 44.1kHz/16-bit, FLAC and ALAC lossless formats, compared to the maximum 320kbps you get from other services such as Spotify."

Of course, what this does to your monthly download limit remains to be seen. Looks like being $US20/month for the service, don't know about here (or when), but that's usually not the main problem. The speed of your connection could be. And their servers. Dropouts on Spotify and JazzRadio.com are not unknown, even with an 80mbps connection - at my place. Your monthly limit might cop a bit of a hammering at 600-800MB per album.

More links: Bluesound adds Tidal (NAD will use this).

First Review of Tidal.


Sonos Sues Denon over HEOS Patent Matters

Brief report at What*HIFI, Sonos is not asking for royalties but wants HEOS to not copy Sonos so closely!

Full story by Joe Palenchar is at Twice Magazine.

"Sonos said it owns almost 40 U.S. patents related to audio technology, and almost 250 patents are pending. The four patents cited in the suit include the “014” patent covering methods for controlling players in a multizone system, including the ability of a controller app to configure and synchronize a group of wireless speakers and adjust the master volume of grouped speakers. The 949 patent covers methods for adjusting both individual volumes and the master volume for grouped speakers. The 080 patent covers methods for pairing two wireless speakers so that one delivers left-channel information while the other reproduces right-channel information. And the 197 design patent covers the “ornamental design for a control strip for electronic appliances.” In this case, Sonos points to the volume up/down button and a separate mute button on the Heos speakers, amp/receivers/ and preamp/receivers."


Audio & AV Show, Melbourne

It may be all over now, but you can read about it and see some pretty amazing gear by following the links on our special Show Page.

The annual Sound & Image Awards were presented at a gala dinner during the show, full list here.

Sonos Boost Released

Looks like a stronger form of the Bridge, and is said to enhance your wireless connectivity and reduce the incidence of dropouts.


Denver Audio Show Report

Stereophile's Herb Reichert has a nice roundup of the show, which seems to feature tubed monoblocks and some pretty interesting speakers.


The high-end Astell & Kern portable HD Audio players have added streaming from a NAS. More at What*HIFI.

Thank Goodness! Windows 10 is coming

I'm still puzzled at Microsoft's venture into the tiled courtyard of Windows 8 and 8.1 - which I'm using. To make it tolerable I spend all my time in the desktop to keep it looking as much like Win7 as possible. Adding to the debacle was the initial inability to nominate Outlook as my main email program. Talk about shooting yourself in both feet!

Win10 should make us feel much better. Before we get too excited, Win10 is not arriving until mid (maybe late?) 2015, but hopefully it'll be well debugged on delivery. The tiles have been shrunken and coralled, and it should perform as a properly integrated suite for the home user through to business people, as we're used to from Microsoft. Preview from Engadget.


Michael Fremer Master Classes

Stereophile readers will know Mikey Fremer, the vinyl guru for years. He's coming to Australia for the Australian Audio & AV Show (17-19 October) at the Rialto Hotel, Melbourne.

We've put up a page for this event, and will add to it as things come along. Update: all finished now, see the reports and photos.

Sony Announces $249 Portable HD Audio Player

The cruncher with this one is likely to be what size SD card you can use to bolster the 16GB internal memory, which is not that much in HD terms. But even if you can add a 64GB card, this is a cheap entry to the class of product.

For the same money you can get the well-reviewed FiiO X3, but it has only 8GB internal. It will take a 64GB card.

Technics Goes High Fidelity - Again!

The new SE-R1 Reference amplifier has lovely big VU meters, which are making a comeback in higher-end gear. They're showing the new stuff at IFA Berlin. See more at cnet.

Sonos Goes Wirelesser

The latest software update will allow new users to get going without using a wired-in Bridge. But they advise for existing users that if you're already using a Bridge or other component directly connected via ethernet, there's no need to do the update.

Oh No! Pono!

Or to be more precise, no Pono until some time in 2015, according to this report, which also asks where the music will be sourced from. They may not have seen the release about Omnifone - see down page. It mentions Apple and Samsung as alternatives at lower price - not sure that's true, but you can certainly get your hands on a FiiO X3 for less.

B&W's New CM Range

The CM range is to be upgraded. More models will have the latest "tweeter on top" as per the CM10. B&W have done this with various ranges over the years, not just the 800 series. Some might recall the Silver Signature speakers from B&W's 25th Anniversary year.

Richter's New Speaker Range Arrive

A complete overhaul of the range has been done with consultancy work by Brad Serhan together with ongoing upgrade design by Martin Gosnell. The numerous models are now hitting the shops and as usual will offer excellent performance and finish at the right price.


DG Classics To Do Streaming

Record companies are doin' it for themselves these days, although it's fair to say the idea has taken too long to catch on. DG will start a streaming service which will draw on a marvellous back catalogue. They have recorded spo many top artists over so many years that it will be a good offer at around $5 per month.


Yamaha's New Stereo Amps Preview

Yamaha's retro-look stereo amplifiers (A-S300, A-S500 etc) are to have an update to "-01" models. Power ratings are up, and there'll be plenty of inputs, although digital inputs still not mentioned.



Pono-Omnifone Linkup For HD Tracks

The most-talked-about portable Hi-res music player is Pono, sponsored by (at least for publicity purposes) Neil Young. They have just announced that they're teaming up with Omnifone, who allegedly have built up an unrivalled collection of music at Studio Master quality.

That's good, because the thing that sinks a new format initially is lack of things to play. The question arises, however, whether this is an exclusive arrangement - I'd think not, because anyone with a huge library of music wants to sell it to everyone, regardless of what player they use.


Rdio up to 320kbps

Gradually we see increased audio quality in streaming services, although they are still short of CD quality.


Naim Muso Soundbar Announced

See Products Page for info on this great looking unit.

Chromecast to UK Next - then?

Chromecast is destined to go worldwide, due out in UK soon, but I've not yet discovered an Australian release date. This is a hairy feral cat among the pay TV pidgeons.

UPDATE: latest reporting is that Chromecast puts Australia on the backburner - I think we've experienced that before - since rights negotiations are just too hard here.



Big News Re Chromecast

The Australian newspaper reports that Telstra is planning to get Chromecast up and running here, and make its functionality suit Bigpond's program distribution. This is another destabilising move which is going to discomfort both Free To Air and Pay TV operators.

Google Angling Towards Smart Homes?

The purchase of a company making smart thermostats might indicate that Google is leaning towards smart home technology.

Yep. Ars Technica has more in-depth on this, and they say it's the start of a Smart Home Division within the Google empire, and a highly placed one.


Amazon Prime Air Delivery by Drone

It looks like Amazon are serious about this! Take a look at their page with video of a test flight. They've already tried having drop-off boxes, and I see that Australia Post are doing that too. As time goes by, the push for faster service and less human involvement (read "cost") is getting stronger.

I've been convinced for years that wholesale, retail and mail order have to be telescoped in order to rationalise costs and ensure faster availability of products. If you go to the Articles Page and scroll down to The Big Squeeze, you'll find the most recent example of me pontificating on the subject. I now have to add a new paragraph to it: delivery by drone!

First 4k Ultra-HD Broadcast Test

Sky in the UK say they've done their first test of a 4k broadcast. That's interesting, as we were all wondering where the programs in 4k might be - not on disc, not on FTA.

Lens Switch Service

Sigma go one better then the old Tamron Adaptall gadgetry, and offer (for a fee) to convert your Sigma lens mount from one type to another, say from Nikon to Canon, or vice versa. Cheaper than a new lens, if you have a quality model! In the old days there was a lot less to do, so the Tamron adaptor workd. Now there's a whole lot of electronics involved too.


Foxtel Breakthrough!

Foxtel launches its IPTV package, which allows consumers more flexibility about what they buy from the list, and how long they continue. There are no contracts beyond a month, and changes can be made, other things like sport or movies added for a month at a time. While there's no recording function, there's a catch-up capability.

The basic cost is $25 per month per starter pack and then a further $25/month for whatever you want to add from the other specialised content packs. My first reaction is that this simply breaks it down into smaller bites, but it could easily add up to a big bill again, and the BBC news isn't immediatey visible, although Fox and Sky are free extras. The Foxtel Play site is here, and they are offering a "free" seven day trial but want a credit card number and a deposit!

Apple Close To Radio Launch

Signing up content providers like Warner Music will give Apple the extra material they need to launch their streaming service, which pundits say is close to happening.

News From Computex

A laptop running both Windows 8 and Android, a completely new pointing device which is a mouse-touchpad hybrid, and new tablets and phone-tablet hybrids called phablets. All here.

Napster/Rhapsody Expansion

Napster, once the enfant terrible of the illegal download world, is part of the Rhapsody empire these days, and the company is on a big expansion push - but not to Australia? OK, it's to the Old World, aka Europe, where populations are higher and more densely packed in.

How Stable Is OLED?

The father of LCD technology previews new low power "reflective LCD" and casts some doubts on the colour stability of OLED. Read about these, and how Roche nearly passed on the development of LCDs!

New Ultra-sensitive Photographic Material

Graphene is the key to a new image sensor developed at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore, that is 1000 times more sensitive to light than traditional models.

The Week's Most Stunning Images

Always worth a look, the BBC Tech site rounds up some great photos each week. You can get rid of the captions and enlarge for better viewing.

Is Tech Eating TV? Or vice versa?

It was thought that online entertainment would kill free-to-air and even some cable TV models. Games also take viewers away. But the BBC Technology people seem to think it's a two-way street, and that each area is benefitting, if they play their cards right!


Sanyo Name To Disappear

The post WW2 industrial scene in Japan saw many firms commence on a relatively modest scale, making everyday devices. Sanyo and Panasonic were related by marriage of principals, and later by proprietory (money) matters. But the time has come, as Panasonic suffers profitability issues, to cut Sanyo loose - in fact to lose the brand altogether.

The linked article from Andrew Everard gives a brief overview. It's Sayonara Sanyo!.

55" Curved OLED from LG Imminent!

Have a look at the What HI*Fi video presentation on all the LG goodies about to hit the shops. The OLED screens are the best hope to kick some profit back into TV sets, for a while, anyway. They look brilliant, amazing colour, and under 5mmm thick!

HBO Deal Via Quickflix for Australia!

The Australian rports that HBO have arranged a deal with Quickflix to make their programs available for download in Australia. In other news Foxtel is to have first-run preference for HBO shows.

Twitter Music Service

How many music services are there going to be? The latest rumour is that Twitter are going to have their own. The danger with this is that ultimately the market is fragmented, although as long as the music owners get dividends from each one they won't care. The trick is going to be finding the service that gives you what you want, just as some stores do.

UPDATE: more about this via What*Hifi here. Not sure how compelling this is going to be for those of us who don't actually live on twitter, but I guess they have enogh takers to get it rolling.

Threats To Free-to-air TV

A new batch of channel-hopping ad-skipping apps is emerging, that could take a notch out of TV broadcast earnings, if this report from Reuters is correct.

iTunes Downgrade?

Apparently some don't like the lates iTunes 11, and want to go back to the 10.7 version. The procedure outlined here is probably not for the novice or the faint-hearted, but it can be done.