Digital May Dominate But Analog Isn’t Dead – It’s been 62 years since the long-play vinyl record was invented (not counting RCA’s ill-fated 1931 attempt), and while most music users have moved to the various digital formats, and for awhile LP sales had died back to almost nothing, its sales are now higher than at any time since 1998. 2.5 million LP albums were sold in the U.S. last year according to Nielsen Entertainment. From 2006 to 2007 vinyl sales rose 14%, while CD sales were down 18%. In the first half of last year vinyl albums were only ⅔ of a percentage point of all physical album sales, whereas for the first half of this year they are 1.2% – small numbers but certainly a major increase. The sales of all physical albums globally fell 12.7%. (Vinyl sales outstripped SACD sales some time ago, to the despair of we fans of hi-res and surround.)
Some of the reasons for the vinyl growth in spite of the digital boom: Older audiophiles have long said vinyl albums reproduce the music more accurately, and they make up a large part of the buyers spending money on LPs. And some of those LPs are the premium-priced audiophile pressing reissues of classic rock and jazz, which are burgeoning. The expanding number of 45 rpm 12” reissues are the epitome of two-channel fidelity, at an even more premium price.The younger generation of music fans is also buying vinyl albums due to their historical significance, because they love the album cover art and the extensive liner notes provided. They are also the format of the whole DJ/turntablist movement. Some labels have even made it easy for younger buyers to enjoy their LP artists when mobile. They provide a digital download card with a code that customers can redeem online to get the digital version of the same LP for free. The record industry is working to make the LP vinyl format come alive again, making it more exciting.
Cassette Speakers – Speaking of retro formats, there’s a new product that is trying to tie in with the retro appreciation trend. It’s the chicBoom and RockBoom Cassette Speakers – compact mobile speakers designed to emulate cassette tapes, in bold colors and nostalgic designs. The news release doesn’t give their dimensions, so it’s unknown whether they are the same size as cassettes or a bit larger. Each one has a rechargeable lithium-ion battery good for two hours, plus stereo and USB cables. The chic is obviously for the ladies and the Rock for the gentlemen. Price is $19.99.
Apple Could Revolutionize Networked Audio – Research firm iSuppli says that Apple’s AirPlay technology could revolutionize consumer audio as the firm did with their iPod. AirPlay is a sort of lower-cost version of AirPort Express which is built into speakers, docks or receivers by third-party manufacturers. Music can be streamed from iTunes, the Net, Pandora, Last.fm, etc. to any AirPlay-enabled gear in the home. Many other firms offer networked audio, but most are expensive and not as simple to set up as AirPlay. Users have to Google various error codes and reset firewalls to be able to enjoy their music libraries or Net radiocasts thruout their home. Being able to offer the seamless part of the technology, Apple could become a major force in this market. iSuppli called Apple’s AirPlay “one of the most significant announcements of all.”