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Duel of the Discs

A Japanese expert's assessment of next-generation DVD machines produces some surprises

5 min read

This seems to be the year when the real fight to the finish over next-generation DVD technology begins. To date, groups led by Sony and Toshiba, championing the Blu-ray Disc and the HD DVD format, respectively, have been locked in a kind of phony war, each maneuvering for position without much actual combat.

To be sure, the Blu-ray camp got off the first shots several years ago with the release of some bare-bones ­recorders in Japan. Then followed a long standoff, as the opposing groups sought to find a technological compromise to bridge their incompatible systems. After last-ditch talks failed last year, the truce came to an end this March when Toshiba Corp. shipped the industry’s first HD DVD players, sparking a barrage of product announcements and releases from the Blu-ray group.

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Deep Learning Could Bring the Concert Experience Home

The century-old quest for truly realistic sound production is finally paying off

12 min read
Image containing multiple aspects such as instruments and left and right open hands.
Stuart Bradford

Now that recorded sound has become ubiquitous, we hardly think about it. From our smartphones, smart speakers, TVs, radios, disc players, and car sound systems, it’s an enduring and enjoyable presence in our lives. In 2017, a survey by the polling firm Nielsen suggested that some 90 percent of the U.S. population listens to music regularly and that, on average, they do so 32 hours per week.

Behind this free-flowing pleasure are enormous industries applying technology to the long-standing goal of reproducing sound with the greatest possible realism. From Edison’s phonograph and the horn speakers of the 1880s, successive generations of engineers in pursuit of this ideal invented and exploited countless technologies: triode vacuum tubes, dynamic loudspeakers, magnetic phonograph cartridges, solid-state amplifier circuits in scores of different topologies, electrostatic speakers, optical discs, stereo, and surround sound. And over the past five decades, digital technologies, like audio compression and streaming, have transformed the music industry.

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