Apple Promises its iCloud will “Just Work”… for everything

iCloud Music icons“It all just works,” says Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

“All” in this case means access anywhere, anytime on any Apple-enabled device (iPhone, iPad, Mac, iPod, iTouch, Apple TV…) to all of your music. And all of your photos. And all of your basic application documents (Pages word-processing docs, Numbers spreadsheets).

The bold promise is that your iTunes music will simply appear on all your devices, and you won’t even have to think about it. And with Apple these days, there no reason to doubt Jobs when he claims it will just work.

It’s no surprise that Jobs announced iCloud at the Worldwide Developers’ Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco on June 6th. What is at least a little surprising is the scope of the announcement, the bells and whistles that will set iCloud apart from competing services offered by Amazon and Google.

One of the key capabilities of iCloud that I wasn’t expecting to see is Match technology. iCloud isn’t just for your iTunes purchased music. The Match feature will also scan your entire library of music (including tracks ripped from CDs etc) and provide you with 256 kbps AAC audio files stored in the cloud… and available on all your devices, just like the music you’ve bought.

Match is something like Amazon’s Cloud Drive, but it sounds much more usable and convenient, since it avoids the tedious process of uploading songs from your computer to the cloud, (typically much slower than downloading, with most ISPs). Better still, you get instant access to a high-quality audio file, regardless of the encoding specs of the existing file on your computer.

The music you buy from iTunes is stored in the cloud for free, and you get 5GB of paid storage space for other content (other audio tracks, files, photos, video, contacts, calendars and more), for $25 per year (half the price of rival cloud services).

Another interesting aspect of iCloud is that it will supercede the Mobile.me cloud platform. If you’re a Mobile.me user, you’ll be delighted to get way more features and capabilities from iCloud, at a much lower cost (iCloud’s $25 annual fee, vs Mobile.me’s $100-plus).

Let’s give Steve Jobs the final word: “iCloud keeps your important information and content up to date across all your devices. All of this happens automatically and wirelessly, and because it’s integrated into our apps you don’t even need to think about it—it all just works.”

I’m loving it :)

Sound Reinforcement Behind the Scenes at Blizzcon

Christine Wu and Band on stage at Blizzcon 2010I don’t often get a chance to talk about my secret passion for World of Warcraft (a massively popular online game) here at AudioWorld. So I was quite pleased to find this opportunity! Electric violinist Christine Wu has posted a great story about the technical challenges she faced with sound reinforcement when she performed as bandleader at last October’s Blizzcon 2010 event.

Blizzcon is a huge annual event put on by Blizzard Entertainment, the game developer responsible for World of Warcraft, in Anaheim, California. It’s the place to be for WoW gamers, and it always includes splashy concert events in the evening, at Anaheim Convention Center. For Blizzcon 2010, one of the main stage events featured a costumed, WoW-themed dance contest, with music provided by a very hot band of L.A. session players, fronted by three electric string players. All led by Christine Wu.

The show came off without a hitch, at least as far as I could tell at the time. I remember thinking what a great job the band did, sounding (and looking) great under difficult circumstances. As Christine puts it… “we have no idea if we’ll play 10 seconds or 2 minutes of each song… but I’ll have no feed from the show’s producers or a talkback mic to talk to my band, which is going to present a MAJOR challenge.”

That turned out to be almost the least of her problems. Her story of behind-the-scenes at the show details how she used an Apogee GiO guitar interface to hook up her custom 5-string Yamaha electric violin with her Mac laptop, Logic Audio, and Waves GTR and Pedalboard. This solved all kinds of trouble with software incompatibilities and audio connectivity, and she managed to run solid through a 3-hour show entirely on battery power.

It’s a great story, especially for those of us who were at Blizzcon and enjoyed the whole spectacle without ever thinking what was going on with audio. In fact, I remember overhearing several comments about how great the sound was, better than ever before at a Blizzcon event.

Gratz to Christine Wu, her band, the sound reinforcement crew at Blizzcon… and Apogee Digital for the versatile GiO interface.

Multiroom Audio and Home Theater Systems Installation Business is Booming

Residential Sales through Home Systems Integrators/Installers Grew 18% in 2005

Sales of Multiroom Audio and Home Theater Systems surpassed dealer expectations during 2005, according to the 1st Quarter 2006 Installing Dealer Survey released today by Parks Associates.

Consumer demand for multiroom audio, home theater, and associated control systems was largely responsible for the strong growth in business for the Installing Dealers channel. Audio systems were the single largest product category is 2005, generating more than $2.1 billion in residential sales, with Russound and Denon as the top brands for audio components and SpeakerCraft as the most popular brand of speakers.

Installing dealers had total sales of $7.3 billion to residential customers in 2005, an 18% increase over 2004’s $6.2 billion, according to Parks Associates’ 1Q06 Installing Dealer Survey.

“Multiroom audio exceeded our estimates by nearly 9%, and home theater sales beat expectations by about 8%,” said Bill Ablondi, director of home systems research at Parks Associates. “There are several factors driving this demand. More affordable systems are broadening the market to include more midrange homes, more builders are aggressively marketing entertainment amenities, and, most importantly, more home buyers want to incorporate entertainment systems into the infrastructure of their home.”

Installing dealers are also optimistic about the potential for growth in 2006, according to 1Q06 Installing Dealer Survey. Nearly 40% of dealers expect to see their businesses grow by more than 20% in 2006, and 30% project growth of 11-20%. Only 4% expect to see a decline in business in 2006.

“The installing dealer channel is expanding, both in numbers of integrators/installers and in the sales each firm generates annually,” Ablondi said. “We’re seeing the evolution from a custom-only channel to one which is beginning to embrace pre-packaged systems in an effort to expand its reach in the market.”

The 1Q06 Installing Dealer Survey is part of Parks Associates’ Installing Dealer ePanel Program, which collects regular feedback from electronic systems integrators, designers, and installing dealers across the U.S. Surveys are conducted online, and each client assists in developing the questionnaire. The ePanel program is an affordable, efficient, and accurate way to increase understanding of the installing dealer channel.

Denon’s New DVD-5900 DVD-Audio + SACD Multichannel Universal Player Dream Machine Due In Stores Soon

Denon USA will follow up the success of its popular DVD-2900 universal/combo DVD-Audio + SACD multichannel player, introduced earlier this year, with the launch later this month (September 2003) of an up-scale model, the DVD-5900 ($2,000 US).

Think of a desirable audio feature, and Denon's new high-end DVD-5900 ($2,000 US) universal multichannel player almost certainly has it covered

Like Denon’s top-of-the-line DVD-9000 player, which handles DVD-Audio but not SACD discs, the new DVD-5900 features a proprietary Denon Link output. Denon Link provides direct digital transfer of multichannel DVD-Audio signals to the similarly-equipped Denon AVR-5803 audio/video controller/receiver.

The DVD-5900 will also sport a proprietary (and defeatable) PCM- and DSD-compatible IEEE-1394 (Firewire) I/O port, featuring Denon’s exclusive new Clock Synchronized System. This port will apparently work with upcoming Denon IEEE-1394-equipped products, to support direct digital transfer of multichannel audio from both DVD-Audio and SACD sources. When switched ‘off’ the ports are ‘Universal Standard,’ according to Denon’s preliminary information.

Audiophile buyers who have been disappointed by the compomised quality of the SACD format’s DSD output (Sony’s proprietary Direct Stream Digital method) from earlier universal multichannel players will be pleased that Denon is using a Sony second-generation CXD-2753 DSD decoder board in the DVD-5900. This means full-resolution SACD output, with no conversion of the DSD bitstream to PCM format.

Pure SACD/DSD output is also supported by 24-bit, 192-kHz PCM/DSD 1790 audio digital-to-analog output convertors (DACs), custom built to Denon specifications by Burr-Brown, that decode both PCM and DSD signals discretely with no down-conversion of DSD.

On the other hand, Denon also allows you to choose to convert the DSD output from SACD discs to DVD-Audio’s PCM bitstream format, in order to take advantage of options that are not supported by DSD: variable bass management crossover points (40/60/80/100/120Hz rather than fixed 100Hz), and adjustable delay time and channel levels.

On the PCM/DVD-Audio side, Denon indicates that DVD-5900 uses the new ESS Vibrato “Chroma Bug Free” DVD-Audio/MPEG decoder.

Like the DVD-2900 before it, the DVD-5900 also offers full digital bass management for both DVD-Audio and SACD output, using dual Analog Devices Melody 100 ‘HammerHead’ processors. This important feature means easy integration (and proper full-range playback) with the vast majority of multichannel audio receivers and controllers that do not apply their own bass management features to multichannel inputs.

The new player also comes loaded with support and decoders for an impressive array of audio formats and standards, including Dolby Digital, DTS Surround, HDCD, MP3, Windows Media Audio (WMA), SRS TruSurround, and something new labeled “AL24 Processing Plus” for all 6 channels.

For the ultimate in audio performance, Denon’s Pure Direct Mode allows you to turn off un-needed portions of the player’s video and audio processing path. Purity is further enhanced by the unit’s 3-box, 5-block internal layout, which isolates analog, digital and video circuits.

Other Features and Specifications

  • Plays Audio/Video CDs; DVD-Audio/Video; Super Audio CD; D+/-R/RW (conditional); Audio CD-R; Audio CD-RW; MP3/WMA CD-R/RW
  • Powered by the latest “DCDi by Faroudja” FLI-2310 Decoding Engine – finest available processing for film, video, graphics or mixed-mode content
  • Adjustable Chroma Delay and Level, White/Black Levels, CCS On/Off controls
  • Dual, discrete, Analog Devices ADV-7310 – 216 MHz, 4:4:4, 12 bit Video D/A Conversion system featuring Noise Shaped Video processing (1 chip each Progressive and Interlace)
  • 8x Oversampling Progressive and 16x Interlace output
  • Wideband relay switched component video outputs
  • Variable Black Level (Setup): 0 and 7.5 IRE
  • Passes below-black (PLUGE) on progressive and interlace outputs
  • (1) DVI-D (HDCP) Output with selectable 480p/720p/1080i output (DVD-Forum has not approved DVI output at this time, so this output will not be functional. Once Forum approved, an upgrade will be made available)
  • (2)Component Video outputs, 1 with Gold BNC connections
  • (2)Composite and (2)”S” Video outputs
  • 2X DVD read speed; 4X CD/CD-R/CD-RW read speed; with 8MB drive buffer memory
  • JPEG photo file viewer, Kodak Picture and Fujicolor CD compatible
  • Anamorphic Scaling for 4:3/16:9 Sets
  • 4:3 Squeeze and Zoom Controls
  • RS-232C and Remote in/out ports
  • Glo-Key remote control
  • Dimensions: 17.1″w x 5.5″h x 17.1″d
  • Weight 27.7 lbs.

Denon USA Home Audio Web Site

TC Electronic Reverb 4000 Delivers System 6000 Sound Quality and Presets in a Lower-Cost Package

TC Electronic will soon deliver its new Reverb 4000 processor (due 1st quarter 2003), one of the most talked-about new pro audio products launched at the Winter NAMM show in January.

The Reverb 4000 is a single-engine stereo version of TC’s high-end System 6000 multichannel processor, offering a selection of the best stereo reverbs and presets from both System 6000 and TC’s M5000, plus emulations of classic processors such as the EMT plate reverb.

If you don't need the System 6000's surround capabilities, the lower-priced Reverb 4000 offers the same rich sound and true stereo operation at 24/96 resolution

The new 4000 is targeted at recording studio and live stage applications where you want the rich spaciousness and character of the System 6000, but you don’t need the 6000’s multichannel surround capabilites.

The single rack space module is a true stereo processor, which means you can use its stereo algorithms to enhance stereo source material, or apply discrete processing to two separate mono inputs. It features 24-bit AD/DA converters, and operates at sample rates from 44.1 kHz to 96 kHz.

The back panel is loaded with I/O options, including AES/EBU, S/PDIF, word clock, TOS-Link and ADAT digital I/O, balanced stereo analog ins and outs on XLR, plus MIDI and USB connectors.

TC Electronic is promoting the 4000’s easy-to-use, instant-access front panel interface as a big plus for live venue applications (switch among preset effects with a single button touch), alongside the option of using the supplied ICON software editor for detailed algorithm and preset editing on either Mac or PC (via USB), in workstation and studio environments.

Included in the Reverb 4000’s pallette of reverbs, effects and capabilities: generic reverbs providing ‘polished sustain,’ vintage reverb emulations, true stereo reverbs of several flavours, favourite presets and algorithms from classic TC processors, mono reverbs covering arbitrary formats, credible environments ranging from claustrophobic rooms to outdoor scenarios, and analog domain converter scaling with lots of headroom.

Reverb 4000 Feature Summary

  • true stereo reverbs from the System 6000
  • new pristine stereo reverb
  • favorite presets and algorithms from the M5000
  • realistic environments from a closet to a canyon
  • VSS-4, source-based reverb providing rooms with character
  • classic reverbs providing Polished Sustain
  • vintage reverb emulations including EMT 250
  • instant access user interface
  • 44.1 kHz to 96 kHz sample rates and 24-bit processing
  • one engine, massive SRAM, no compromise design
  • digital and analog wide dynamic range design
  • Mac/PC TC ICON editor program included
  • 24-bit AES/EBU, Tos-Link, S/PDIF, ADAT and analog I/O

TC Electronic Web Site

More Winter NAMM Coverage