How many more years before cd's become passe?

Below is an article celebrating the 25th anniverary of the cd. It also seems to think that the cd may be on its way out as the music medium of choice and that its days are numbered.

Compact Disc celebrates 25th anniversary By TOBY STERLING, Associated Press Writer

It was Aug. 17, 1982, and row upon row of palm-sized plates with a rainbow sheen began rolling off an assembly line near Hanover, Germany.

An engineering marvel at the time, today they are instantly recognizable as Compact Discs, a product that turns 25 years old on Friday — and whose future is increasingly in doubt in an age of iPods and digital downloads.

Those first CDs contained Richard Strauss' Alpine Symphony and would sound equally sharp if played today, says Holland's Royal Philips Electronics NV, which jointly developed the CD with Sony Corp. of Japan.

The recording industry thrived in the 1990s as music fans replaced their aging cassettes and vinyl LPs with compact discs, eventually making CDs the most popular album format.

The CD still accounts for the majority of the music industry's recording revenues, but its sales have been in a freefall since peaking early this decade, in part due to the rise of online file-sharing, but also as consumers spend more of their leisure dollars on other entertainment purchases, such as DVDs and video games.

As the music labels slash wholesale prices and experiment with extras to revive the now-aging format, it's hard to imagine there was ever a day without CDs.

Yet it had been a risky technical endeavor to attempt to bring digital audio to the masses, said Pieter Kramer, the head of the optical research group at Philips' labs in the Netherlands in the 1970s.

"When we started there was nothing in place," he told The Associated Press at Philips' corporate museum in Eindhoven.

The proposed semiconductor chips needed for CD players were to be the most advanced ever used in a consumer product. And the lasers were still on the drawing board when the companies teamed up in 1979.

In 1980, researchers published what became known as the "Red Book" containing the original CD standards, as well as specifying which patents were held by Philips and which by Sony.

Philips had developed the bulk of the disc and laser technology, while Sony contributed the digital encoding that allowed for smooth, error-free playback. Philips still licenses out the Red Book and its later incarnations, notably for the CD-ROM for storing computer software and other data.

The CD's design drew inspiration from vinyl records: Like the grooves on a record, CDs are engraved with a spiral of tiny pits that are scanned by a laser — the equivalent of a record player's needle. The reflected light is encoded into millions of 0s and 1s: a digital file.

Because the pits are covered with plastic and the laser's light doesn't wear them down, the CD never loses sound quality.

Legends abound about how the size of the CD was chosen: Some said it matched a Dutch beer coaster; others believe a famous conductor or Sony executive wanted it just long enough for Beethoven's 9th Symphony.

Kramer said the decision evolved from "long conversations around the table" about which play length made the most sense.

The jump into mass production in Germany was a milestone for the CD, and by 1982 the companies announced their product was ready for market. Both began selling players that fall, though the machines only hit U.S. markets the following spring.

Sony sold the first player in Japan on Oct. 1, with the CBS label supplying Billy Joel's "52nd Street" as its first album.

The CD was a massive hit. Sony sold more players, especially once its "Discman" series was introduced in 1984. But Philips benefited from CD sales, too, thanks to its ownership of Polygram, now part of Vivendi SA's Universal Music Group.

The CD player helped Philips maintain its position as Europe's largest maker of consumer electronics until it was eclipsed by Nokia Corp. in the late 1990s. Licensing royalties sustained the company through bad times.

"The CD was in itself an easy product to market," said Philips' current marketing chief for consumer electronics, Lucas Covers. It wasn't just the sound quality — discs looked like jewelry in comparison to LPs.

By 1986, CD players were outselling record players, and by 1988 CDs outsold records.

"It was a massive turnaround for the whole market," Covers said.

Now, the CD may be seeing the end of its days.

CD sales have fallen sharply to 553 million sold in the United States last year, a 22 percent drop from its 2001 peak of 712 million, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Napster and later Kazaa and BitTorrent allowed music fans to easily share songs over the Internet, often illegally. More recently, Apple Inc. and other companies began selling legal music downloads, turning the MP3 and other digital audio formats into the medium of choice for many owners of Apple's iPods and other digital players.

"The MP3 and all the little things that the boys and girls have in their pockets ... can replace it, absolutely," said Kramer, the retired engineer.

CDs won't disappear overnight, but its years may be numbered.

Record labels seeking to revive the format have experimented with hybrid CD-DVD combos and packages of traditional CDs with separate DVDs that carry video and multimedia offerings playable on computers.

The efforts have been mixed at best, with some attempts, such as the DualDisc that debuted in 2004, not finding lasting success in the marketplace.

Kramer said it has been satisfying to witness the CD's long run at the top and know he had a small hand in its creation.

"You never know how long a standard will last," he said. "But it was a solid, good standard and still is."


Associated Press Business Writer Alex Veiga contributed to this report from Los Angeles.
I don't think 'dueldisc' means SACD and if that's true, the fact that SACD isn't even mentioned in this article does not bode well for that format, unfortunately.
I'll be a user for many years considering what my front-end cost me with upgrades etc.
They will become passe when all the old dinsaurs die off, or the day that the Apple whiz kids find a way to make MP3 sound like music instead of electronic hash...whatever comes first. In the interim, I will keep hording vinyl.
jim is happened last friday at 1am.....lp's have been passe for a couple of decades, but i suspect both formats will 'keep on keeping on' as long as someone's buyin' em
Interesting article. LP's were eclipsed in 1988. The CD will soon be eclipsed by downloads or perhaps they already are?
The audio cassette actuall eclipsed LP's first. It seems there will probably be no more than a 15 year lifespan for a dominant format from henceforth with the speed that technology is moving nowadays.
They are gone from brick and mortor stores already. It's internet now. Then they will survive at least in the manner of vinyl.
The portable usb input will be in your cars in 3 years.
what is the purpose of this question ?

is it to imply that one should buy as many as possible in the event that they are eventually unavailable ?

i question the value of this thread.
The diameter of a CD equals the diagonal width of a cassette tape. I remember reading about the invention of CD many years ago: The president of Philips or some department head was asked by his staff on what size the new disc should be in; he picked up a cassette tape by its diagonal corners, and the rest is history.

I, too, have invested substantially into my CD-based digital front-end, as well as a precious music library. I don't intend to spend another ten years and another fortune on yet another new format to replace my music, especially when many of them are personal "indispensables" and were of negligible commercial success during the original releases, thus will unlikely be reprinted in any format, and I suspect many audiophiles share this sentiment and have certain such discs in their collections.

Some CD player manufacturers are aware of this sentiment, thus producing progressively more advanced and better-sounding CD players for us. CD players are sounding better and better at continuously lower price points, and I don't doubt that in a few years something will come along sounding superior to my 47 Lab PiTracer.

The big question is whether CD will still be the viable and preferred format of a good majority when that happens.

Constantine Soo
How many more years before cd's become passe?

Passe to whom? Audiophiles? Probably a long time. Average college and high school student? The time has come.

When the time comes for you, are you going to get rid of all your CD's? I know many audiophiles who are kicking themselves lately because they dumped their vinyl when this new perfect medium came along.

Constantinesoo: I have always been under the impression that the diameter of a CD was based upon being able to fit all 72 minutes of Beethoven's 9th on the disc. I have read this more than once; your reason is a new one on me.

I would say about ten years ago. That is when I dumped my crappy sounding cd collection and hence bagan a triumphant return to vinyl.
I think CDs will be around for awhile, simply because so many people have so much of their music on CDs. Also, as others have previously mentioned, it seems that some manufacterers are realize this and are making better sounding players. Before people count CDs out, remember how years went by with people saying "vinyl is dead"? As we all know, the last couple of years there as been a big interest and re-surgeents in "vinyl". Now granted the "general public" will be content with the "quanity over quality" of whatever format (MP3) that allows them collect huge amount of music, most of which they probably won't listen more than nano-second. But for those of us, who care, we'll either be listening to vinyl, or if we have CDs, listening to them on better players with upgraded DACs, transports, ect.
At least until uncompressed music files are widely available online, at a reasonable price. We are far away from that. I think some sort of physical medium will be around for a long time if only to serve the half of the world that does not access to high speed internet.

I also think that DRM is going to really hold down the growth of online downloads. It is just too restrictive. I won't buy anything with DRM.

I just wish we could move to a better quality level than the CD, but I don't see that happening.
hi s7horton:

i think that by questioning the importance of the question :

"how many years before cd's become passe?"

i raise two issues.

first, what is the utility of opinions on this subject ?

second, if you cannot solve a problem, why waste time discussing it ?

it is obvious that audiogon members cannot prevent the demise of the cd, if that is its ultimate fate. why not accept it and discuss a topic which is more relevant to the enjoyment of listening to music in one's home ?
Hello Seasoned, thank you for your comment. I believe the notion of fitting a Beethoven 9th into the Compact Disc medium was championed by the late Herbert von Karajan, the conductor.

On the diameter of the CD, I read about the "cassette tape" story from an overseas audio magazine in the late 80's, and it has been in my mind ever since.

Constantine Soo
Post removed 
If one day the demand for CDs has dropped so much that all studios, record companies and pressing plants decided to stop producing CDs altogether, then all of us will have no choice but to adopt the prevalent format of the day.

In hindsight, even though vinyl is no longer supported by major labels, an astronomical number of LPs continues to be available on Audiogon and eBay for any novice collector to build up a substantial library of collections. The same will happen to CDs, too.

In addition, the more optimistic of me believes that companies of the high-end audio industry will continue to produce superlative-sounding CD players at increasing affordable price points, as long as we are still around.

Constantine Soo

So what determines a problem cannot be solved? mrtennis-the arbiter of all things nebulous?

Will not discussing it determine if there is a solution?

Did I waste time in philosophy class?

Why am I even answering this?
I think that the death of CD is sooner than you think. I just sold my very good player (Esoteric X-01 Limited), since it didn't have a digital input. As far as Im concerned, it will be a doorstop fairly soon. I've shifted to a computer-based solution. Since I've had it set up for all of 12 hours, it's a little early to make any predictions based on this experience, but I will anyway. From a convenience standpoint alone, it far surpasses CD and kills vinyl. At my dealer, his setup was superior to his CDP, through a very good and well set-up system. When higher-res downloads become more readily available, CD's are doomed.

Davidf Shapiro
first, what is the utility of opinions on this subject ?

second, if you cannot solve a problem, why waste time discussing it ?

why not accept it and discuss a topic which is more relevant to the enjoyment of listening to music in one's home ?

Did I miss the thread where Mr Tennis was crowned the arbiter of what are the important topics to be discussed?

So I take it Tennis will propose the next relevant topic?

What a blowhard.
Mrtennis....if this thread holds no interest for you, you are certainly welcome to look elsewhere on Audiogon for something that you feel that is worth discussing.
For me the death of cd has been exaggerated (like most of you I am at the consumer level; however, if I worked in the music recording/distribution industry I might have a different opinion).
I have had my squeezebox for about a year. I love the convenience and think the sound quality of the stock unit (with a linear ps) is amazing. Surely THE most revolutionary audio value this century. I recently added an outboard DAC, a brand new DAC1 from Benchmark. A noticable improvement...but...around the same time i purchased a Marantz SA15S1. Performed lots of listening tests (sb3 transport, SA15 trasport, SA15 redbook SA15 SACD, different cables). Long story short, the Marantz outclassed the best sound I could get from the DAC1. I returned the DAC1, and decided to sell the SA15, in order to purchase a new Marantz SA11. I know the DAC1 is not the end all be all of DAC's, but it does represent near state of the art at its price point. I bought the DAC1 to push this issue of going totally wireless network server based music. In the end I fell in love again with cd's. I like the notion of playing an album, instead of frantic song by song point and click thru the music server (that's what has happened to me with the SB3...listening to whole albums faded out) I started looking at my liner notes again. I started buying more cd's. I still love the squeezebox for what it is, but for me the network player thing is simply another method to hear music. For that it's wonderful, but (to wrap up), whatever fate awaits cd's means very little to me. I know I love them and will continue to seek them out, good and bad in the years to come, and when/if my favorite artists no longer record to cd, i'm sure the next big thing will be just fine.
David, I love my cd player. But, I am looking for a viable computer-based solution also. I have been reading the forums here for alternatives. Some sound very interesting. I am going to study the different offering over the next 12 months before I make my move. I will still purchase cd's as a music source, my cd player may be on its way out if I can find a high quality sounding computer based system.
Let's keep the discussion an inspiring and educational one, and just state our opinion on subject matters and not insult others for theirs. We all have equal rights to voice our viewpoints, and no one should think he is smarter or dumber than the next Audiogoner, although a little dosage of caffeine is known to boost one's confidence in his own stupidity...

Constantine Soo
"and no one should think he is smarter or dumber than the next Audiogoner".

We can see you're a newbee.
Nothing wrong being a newbee, one only gets to be one a few times in his lifetime, and each time it is a precious experience. Yes?

Constantine Soo
The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits.
-Albert Einstein
With all this pontificating about downloads and Squeezeboxes and such, there is one thing EVERYONE is forgetting: CDs are *portable*. I can take one with me and play it at everyone's house or in their car. You cannot do that with a Squeezebox, or vinyl, or anything else out there today.

CDs will not die as long as the players are still being offered in every automobile...

Nothing wrong being a newbee, one only gets to be one a few times in his lifetime, and each time it is a precious experience. Yes?

Constantine Soo

No doubt you're welcomed aboard, and all look forward to your insights.
I have to agree with Snofun3. There is no reason why this is not a legitimate topic for a forum. Tennis, do you know that today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of the vacuum tube? In 1975, when transistors and solid state represented the next big trend in audio, a thread could have appeared asking if and when vacuum tubes would be passe! In retrospect, it turns out that vacuum tubes are still very viable. History often reserves judgement on issues that may seem clear cut to us today.
Snofun3, thank you very much for the welcome. I look forward to exchanging more ideas with you.

given the choice of opining on the life span of cds, i would rather listen to them. think of all the time spent discussing this topic, which could be better spent listening to music.
Why all the complaints about the relevence/utility of this and other threads? If you are not interested in the thread, just don't read/post. What, are you worried about hard disk space of the Audiogon servers?
" If you are not interested in the thread, just don't read/post."

Seems like a real simple concept to ALMOST everyone.
Audiogoners are more polite towards each other and tolerant of differing opinions than participants of other online forums, and I enjoy just being here. I think the Audiogon Staff also deserves credit for their vigilance in keeping this space free of offensive or combative messages.

That said, I look forward to the day when everyone feels equally appreciative towards what we have in these spaces, so that we wouldn't need Audiogon's Staff to do the peacekeeping work.

Constantine Soo

I assume then, that you are checking out of this thread, because any further comment on your part will divert you from listening to CDs instead of talking about them and that would undermine your logic.
Amen to that, the subject is'nt new, but very relevant to all of us. That is in terms of supporting the format with expensive hardware. I am sure CD is more under threat than vinyl, which has become the default Audiophile choice. As with vinyl, there is going to be so many CD's, both new and used, around for so many years, I am sure it is worth buying top hardware still. Putting money where my mouth is, my GNSC modded Opus 21 should be landing soon.
For Jazz and Classical fans, there will be CDs aplenty around for 30 years, if the format closed up today. It is more of an issue in keeping up with new artists. I suspect they will be download based in 5 years.
Hmm, when I first saw this post's subject, I thought it was going to touch upon Redbook vs. SACD vs. DVD-A vs. ???

Is it time for a better resolution (and theoretically sounding) format to surpass Redbook? Will there be enough sourced program material? Certainly home PCs, DVD drives and software today can store the bandwidth necessary to make a Squeeze-like box to handle these hi-rez formats. My big question is, do I keep adding to my 25 year old Redbook CD collection (and I do still have all my vinyl) or start picking up SACDs or DVD-As or the next audiophile format? Then, geez, how much will good enough hardware cost to playback the "new" formats? BTW, I have an Underwood modded Music Hall 25.2 CDP and a VPI Scout with Dynavctor 10X5 just to give you an idea what level my sources are.

So when will Redbook be passe?
Good news. A new type of redbook CD's are on the horizon, and it will be made public soon. I am reviewing the first of such CD's, and will publish my report very soon.

Constantine Soo
I think CD will live on as a niche product in the same way that vinyl does. For the mass market, downloads are eclipsing hardcopy. In addition to the thin, lo-rez stuff on iTunes, high quality lossless downloads from MusicGiants, Naxos and others are finding their feet in the marketplace.

Just a few weeks ago, the founder of Naxos Music went on record as saying “we could live comfortable[sic] if from tomorrow we never sold another CD.”
“we could live comfortable[sic] if from tomorrow we never sold another CD.” that's ominous.
I see quick, easy to use and effortless download of high CD quality as the future for us audiophiles, where if you are not a hardware music format collector(vinyl or silver discs), large libraries/music companies offering an extensive collection of software at moderate prices will be the future.
For enviormental as well as raw material demands, and the advent of better technology (Cd transport being overtaken in sound quality by a HDD)I would say after the next 20 years onwards this will be the way things will be.
Faster and cheaper broadbrand/cable whatever you may call it will be the deciding factor.