Will new audio formats drown out the CD?
US recording industry gives Super Audio CD, DVD Audio a big push
Buying music these days is like staking your entertainment dollar to one in a circle of fast-spinning tops: Several similar-looking formats appear poised to replace the standard compact disc. So how to tell which is the "best" and, more important, which will be the last to fall?
Millions of CD recordings are sold in the US each year about 882 million in 2001 alone. But consumers' interest in the reigning audio format is flagging. Last year, sales fell for the first time since 1983.
The drop-off did not go unnoticed by music stores, which reduced their CD orders by 7 percent during the first half of this year, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.
The group attributes the decline to technology-savvy consumers who now "rip" (download) songs from the Internet or "burn" copies using a computer or CD recorder.
One result: Music companies are scrambling to find a more secure alternative to the CD.
The pitch to consumers, many of them feeling quite comfortable with the standard discs they now have: New, protected formats also offer richer sound.
"The [standard] compact disc is a format that has come to the end of its run," says Jerry Del Colliano, publisher of Audio Revolution, an audio-video industry magazine.
Two new music formats are considered likely successors. Super Audio CD (SACD) and DVD Audio (DVD-A), say most experts, offer big improvements in sound quality over standard CDs (depending in part on the quality of the rest of a listener's audio system, and even the types of music he or she favors).
Both technologies also offer copy-protection as a standard feature. Only some CDs are now locked against duplication.