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Weekly AUDIO NEWS for January 15, 2003

Largest CES Event Ever - The 2003 International Consumer Electronics Show, which ended Sunday, had over 116,000 attendees viewing 2283 exhibits in the Las Vegas venues. Visitors came from 128 countries to see cutting edge technology in many different areas. The theme of wireless convergence was a strong one, multi-use products were widespread, and HDTV was the star of home theater exhibits. Zenith announced over 40 different digital devices, Garmin International launched amazing features in its hand-held GPS unit, and Archos showed a 40GB hard drive media player that records and plays MPEG-4 video, MP3 audio and JPEG images. Improved-resolution plasma video displays were unveiled, with DLP, LCD and a new one - OLED (organic light emitting diode) - displays competing at more reasonable price levels.

An effort to connect almost everything to the Internet was another theme at CES. The Bernina sewing machine, for example, has a USB connection and modem to download patterns and stitches, and the Japanese have even introduced a Net-connected toilet! Bill Gates, in his annual CES talk, flogged Smart Personal Objects Technology (SPOT). In a nutshell, SPOT passes on realtime information such as traffic, weather and stocks from the user’s PC to a wristwatch using the same technology. Sort of a Dick Tracy wristwatch on steroids.

In Specialty Audio, mostly at the Alexis Park Hotel and the San Remo, some highlights included the Teac Esoteric DV-50 universal player ($8000), the Fosgate-Audionics AV preamp with a small video display for navigating DVD-As without needing a separate TV monitor, and Pioneer’s digital sound projector - which produces the effect of a 5.1 speaker system in the room from only the four-foot-square stand on which the video display sits. The first prototype blue laser DVD players were shown from three different Japanese brands, the wooden Sonic Holography stands for room acoustic treatment excited tweakers ($1000 a pair), and our Clay Swartz voted the best sound at the show to be the Sound Labs/Atmasphere room, fed from the Marantz 8300 universal disc player (which we will be reviewing soon). For a detailed report on the audio exhibits at CES, visit Enjoy The Music.

Rising Cable TV Charges - Another deregulation disaster is that in the cable TV industry. Nationwide rates have had a 45% increase since deregulation. In some cities, such as Portland, OR, prices have risen as much as 67%. This is much greater than the inflation rate and called by consumer advocates a result of the cable firms’ monopoly power. Although the companies claim costs have risen partly due to charge increases from cable programming sources, many of the cable stations are actually owned by the giant cable monopolies.

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