This week within the Enjoy the Music.com Industry News page we reported on the sales numbers provided by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). They are the largest trade group that represents the Unites States recording industry, including all major recording labels. As the sales numbers show, from January 1 to June 30, 2006, shipments of physical products are down 16 percent. These figures include the usual hard formats such as CD, vinyl records, cassette tape, music video, SACD, DVD-Video, and DVD-Audio discs. The biggest loser is DVD-Video with a staggering 92.6 percent decline, with SACD coming in second worst with a 44.6 percent loss. DVD-Audio is not that far behind with a 35.1 shortfall as compared to the same period in 2005. So what accounts for the overall sales gain when the RIAA combines all formats?
Think digital downloads my friends. Ok, so this is not rocket science as sales of Apple's iPod have skyrocketed and the soon to be available Microsoft Zune will reach the marketplace. iTunes and others are selling a staggering amount of music in the first half of 2006. How much you ask? How does $223,600,000 sound to you? Of course i am not counting the $181,100,000 in mobile (ringtones, music videos for cell phones, etc) or $64,800,000 in mobile music subscriptions. Sales of SACD and DVD-Audio discs combined could only muster up sales accounting for a paltry $7,300,000. Heck, vinyl singles sold $7,700,000 of merchandise during the same timeframe! Kinda makes you want to rethink the whole hard format digital game now doesn't it? Perhaps those vinyl guys know something the SACD and DVD-Audio guys don't?
Why i Do Not Review Digital
"What?" you ask as you think CD is not a lossy compressed format. Well, you are right and wrong. The CD itself is not compressed, but take a look at your CD collection.
Look at it! See all those CDs? Good!
The reality is approximately 99 percent of them have been mastered from a much higher data/sampling tape. During the mastering process all those additional bits were thrown away. Gone, deleted, removed from the face of the CD Earth. You aint never gonna get 'em back kiddo!
Ok, maybe Pacific Microsonics (now owned by Microsoft) HDCD or Sony's Super Bit Mapping technique was employed during the reduction of the bits. The end result is that the best a CD can hope for is perhaps 1985 technology... at best! Dare i mention that Atari's old Jaguar or Sega 32x nearly two decades ago has 32-bit processing... and remember that each additional bit allows for vastly more data.
Sure, we have modern CD players that oversample, just as the video guys had line doubles and now quadrupers and the like. A computer chip/program adds data between the real samples and long ago Theta Digital had a great DSP engine back in the day called the Gen III processor. It is called interpolation. Car guys say "I don't care if you are Jesus Christ, you will not make more power without more air." To paraphrase, "I don't care if you are Jesus Christ, you will not get better sound unless you have more real data.
If you are like me, looking at well over 3,000 digital discs, the reality is truly sad. At least with vinyl you may have a good chance at extracting more data from those grooves. With digital you are stuck with those 1s and 0s. A better laser, better processor, and better cables... nothing will make more digital data magically appear. While there have been better DSP engines and transports that provide more accurate disc reading, why is it that the majority of consumers are not buying SACD and DVD-Audio discs?
These higher storage formats provide a way to have more of those wonderful 1's and 0's, and therefore can provide higher resolution sound. The kids are buying up Xbox 360s and Sony may be betting their life on the success of their new (over priced) system. Speaking of Sony, it appears they are now so busy with Blu-ray promotion that SACD came and went about as fast as Beta and Elcasette. Ahhh yes, all in the name of progress. Can one of you kind readers hand me another proprietary Sony device? You see, am in the bathroom and ran out of toilet paper.
Stop Buying Hard Formats, Demand
USB DACs are gaining ground, and rightly so. Many audiophiles appear to already realize the demise of having a single album on a hard format, instead desiring a large catalog of music stored on a memory chip or hard drive. It is time the audiophile community ignores hard formats and demand the major labels provide high resolution digital downloads. Talking about the not-so-dead-yet-nearly-dead CD (or probably dead SACD format) and hoping for new releases is laughable at best. At worst, it is a direct insult to your intelligence about the ability of higher resolution digital formats and demanding major labels offer them in digital download form.
CD Is Not Dead
Click here for Part II of this article.