One of Britain's most prestigious hi-fi firms has signaled what could be the beginning of the end for CDs. Linn Products, which has the Royal Warrant, is to stop manufacturing CD players as demand plummets because more and more people are downloading music online instead. Founder Ivor Tiefenbrun, who set up the firm to sell turntables in 1972, said customers 'recognized the limitations of CD players'. He added: 'People want better control of music and the ability to enjoy it in any room of their home. 'People are not buying new CD players. The success of the iPod means people are used to downloading music.' Instead, the company is focusing on digital music streamers - wireless devices to connect your home computer and hi-fi system. This allows music fans to play any tracks downloaded on the computer or MP3 throughout the home.
A Linn spokesman, which is based near Glasgow, said that these digital players outsold CD players this year for the first time. But he added that although this spelled doom for home CD players, CDs themselves were still useful as a way of recording and storing music. Tom Dunmore, of the gadget magazine Stuff, said other hi-fi firms would follow Linn's lead, adding: 'I think we will see a lot of other people following suit.'
It is almost 30 years since CDs began to be sold commercially, replacing vinyl records and cassette tapes as the music format of choice by the late Eighties. The British Phonographic Industry trade body says 2009 is set to be a record year for single sales. More than 117million tracks had been bought by the end of October, before the Christmas run has even begun. Of these 99 per cent were legal digital downloads.
For albums, CD sales are still the preferred option but experts say their market share is slumping. In 2008, there were 137million album sales, made up of 123 million CDs, 10.3 million digital downloads, while vinyl records, cassettes and other formats accounted for around 300,000. Just two years ago, there were 154million album sales, of which CDs accounted for 151million, and digital for 2.7million. But in a final twist vinyl looks set to outlive the young pretender to its throne.
Top DJs prefer records, because of the flexibility of the format for mixing, while audiophiles enjoy its 'warm' higher quality of sound compression. Demand is such that Scottish-based Linn, whose top systems cost more than £100,000 pounds, is continuing to make turntables. The CD is not the first technology to be made obsolete in the digital age. Its little brother the DVD pushed stalwart VHS cassettes out of the living room and consigned bulky players to the dustbin. And sales across the board have suffered as digital downloading has taken hold, with millions downloading movies and music for free, while paid for downloads are booming.
Adam Liversage, spokesman of the British Phonographic Industry, said the move could be significant. He said: 'This is a very interesting development. Typically it is the high end audio manufacturers that do drive things forward in audio. 'There will always be early adopters who look to take up the latest technologies in the music scene. 'For example the introduction of multi-channel SACD's at the millennium offered a higher level of quality, and they are popular with the higher end users. The fact they are playable on the Playstation 3 has made them more accessible.'
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