The CD is dead, long live the…

Those creators of the future Gartner have posted a valediction for bidding mourning for the CD. The precogs say that this should be the last christmas for the format: 2008 Should Be the Last Christmas for Retail CDs. Having spent a most pleasant time with the people at Dada Records in Chiswick just before said Xmas I do hope not. Whilst Dada specialise in CDs, there is still a certain pleasure from actually going shopping for music and one amplified by the vinyl shopping trip. But say Gartner, the profits of physical media spell the end of industry practices:

As a percentage of total revenue in the U.S. market, physical media (CDs, LPs, DVD-A and so on) have gone from 91 percent of revenue in 2005 to 77 percent in 2007 and there is also evidence that physical retailers are even reducing the physical floor space dedicated to CDs.

Instead Gartner say, the makers of CDs should abandon the traditional launch, release digitally first and then burn content to order. But what then of the LP? I wish too, but does Gartner’s bell toll the final end of vinyl and the arrival of digital lossless formats such as FLAC? Nano technology aside, LPs are of course still beng released and are getting heavier – 200g plus Japanese imports. Manwhile lossy MP3s still dominate in the overall market.

So what’s going on? Maybe the best barometer is a site such as Linn Records. Linn are offering music in 3 formats – CD, Vinyl and Download. As a hifi manufacturer Linn produce the whole top-end gamut from record players to digital streamers. My Well Tempered turntable already hosts a Linn Archive cartridge (now the Arkiva) and if I ever had to replace the Tempered deck then the Sondek LP12 would be top of my list. Top of my wish of wish lists would be the Klimax DS.But, a big but, at $20,000 a pop, it’s not likely to be in next year’s Xmas goody bag. For this year, I’ve still got some £5 blues CDs to listen to, courtesy of Dada.

Are Gartner right? This is my precog moment…All said, vinyl aint about to disappear, it’s far too high fidelity. Digital will prevail. But the CD? The death knell for the compact disk is when network distribution takes its next leap into uber-broadband and the home becomes a network. People will want HD quality video as downloads and easy streaming across their living spaces. Given the currently immense bandwidth that this takes it will still need a choice jump in bandwidth to become fully effective and accepted. This will/is happening. For musical formats this is fab as it heralds FLAC etc as transportable. All we need then is storage tech to continue its unstoppable trajectory and the 1st fully lossless iPod will be out. A few thousand albums stored in FLAC on a portable player will be fun. That then will see the final end of the MP3. What will be of note at that point, will be the reaction of all those who realise that their entire music collection is in a legacy format. Possibly, maybe, they won’t believe their ears.

Dada Records phone number: 020 8747 9790


Geekbrief.TV : Vinyl, Kloss and no FLAC

They really should know better, in fact I’m sure they do know better, but such is the grime of corporate sponsorship that such items get promoted. In the same show that features Henry Kloss‘ legendary Tivoli Model One, a radio that looks so nice that Paul Smith used to sell it; GeekBrief TV go and plug USB turntables. These things are like a bonfire of the vanities for vinyl and should not, never in any circumstances be brought into any proximity with your analogue software.

Back to Henry Kloss and the Tivoli and what makes them both special. Henry Kloss liked music, good quality music and getting the best from available technology. So he runs counter to today’s MP3 drive, where superb technology is driven in reverse in order to maximise profit and convenience, at the expense of the musicality and tone. In this older aim, our Henry co-collaborated with Ray Dolby to make Dolby B and tried to transform an audio format invented for dictation, the cassette tape, into something the ears can enjoy. He also designed the AR Legend Turntable, a high quality yet affordable device, that I used to proudly own and only sold on eBay only a few years back when I needed the space.

The Tivoli is Kloss’ swansong. Brought out of retirement to create it, Kloss re-evaluated and redefined what FM radio stood for. The end product is simply nice. The tuning dial is on a 5:1 ratio to make precise tuning simple but the real genius of this device is what it does to an FM stereo signal – it get rids of it. Well OK, what it does is double the fidelity by combining the stereo signals into one good quality mono one. The result is a joy. And it knocks the socks of the poor shoddy compromise (at least so far) that is DAB.

Back to Geekbrief, what I’d like to see the delectable Cali present is a bit more on the state of the art analogue tech and the contender for the audiophile crown with the digital upstart FLAC. Maybe next time they’re in San Jose the T-Shirted Diva and Co,  could buy a bag of fish and chips and pop round the corner into The Analog Room, to have a good listen to some musical biscuits. What I’d really, really like, what I really really want, would be a GeekBrief TV show comparing high-end TT with with top-end FLAC, & not seen a peep on FLAC in their archives….

More on FLAC and other such guff in later post. In the meantime I’ll close on another lament. According to Wikipedia (as reliable as Flynn), when Kloss died his lifetime collection of audio equipment ended up in a house-clearance sale…