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Is Apple Killing Off High-End Audio And Home Theater? Print E-mail
Thursday, 29 March 2007
The social impact of Apple’s iPod can’t be denied. In one modest handful of technology anyone can carry around and or play any one of 10,000 of their favorite songs, TV shows, movies and beyond. It has changed the way people listen to music as well as the way they buy it. Downloadable music has become a three billion dollar per year business as compared to nine billion per year for the domestic sales of Compact Discs. In fact the iPod is likely the most important thing to happen to recorded music since the CD. But all isn’t well in the world of consumer electronics – especially at the high-end. Apple, known in the computer world as the high-end solution with entry level computers that start at $2,500 (without a monitor), have taken the idea of buying and viewing music and movies to the ghetto, and along with it has gone the profit margins for specialty dealers as well as many of America’s best independent record stores. Music from iTunes, even to the untrained ear, sounds significantly worse than it does on CD, yet an iPod seems to be the audio source of choice over DVD-Audio, SACD, Blu-ray or HD DVD. More importantly, the music from iTunes is recorded in stereo and not in any of the popular surround sound formats that tried to gain a foothold on the failed audio disc formats of DVD-Audio and SACD. Flat HDTVs are one reason to head to the stereo shop (one dealers can’t seem to make any money on), but why buy a new pair of speakers when all you listen to is stripped down music on your iPod? For many consumers the little earphones that come with an iPod are just good enough, which is leaving the audiophile business, and in many ways the music business reeling in pain and failing to reach their next generation of clients. A generation Apple isn’t really reaching with a high performance solution either.

Amazingly Apple’s new “TV” also ignores music and movies in surround, despite its claim to be an HD product. The video quality of a $13 movie downloaded from Apple is as low as 320x240 in most cases which is about half of that of a traditional DVD, which is sold for about the same price. While you need a widescreen TV to use Apple’s TV, expect the video to look less than film-like with the low-resolution they are selling even when compared with DVDs.

If convenience and style are your main buy triggers, Apple has you more than covered. If you are looking for a more engaging audio-video experience, Apple hasn’t done much to help further the cause of HD video or high-resolution audio. If the likes of Music Giants are trying to sell higher resolution audio by the download – why can’t Apple? Where is the leadership in the world of surround sound when selling basically a wireless router with a video output and calling it HD? Apple’s products are dominant in the production of HD content at the studio level thanks to Macintosh computers, Final Cut Pro, Protools and Sonic Solutions, which are all Mac based solutions. Why can’t Apple take the same high-resolution, high-end attitude towards the retail products they sell on iTunes and in their stores? The impact as seen with the iPod could help shape the way people get more emotion from their music and movies thus resulting in additional sales of both software and hardware. Apple has the power, money and background to lead in the world of high-end convergence. Now all they have to do is step to the plate and hit a home run.

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