When Sony first announced their upcoming CD several years ago, they were talking about a price of around $600. A couple of years later the anticipated price had escalated to $800 (for a basic CD player, without remote). The remote-controlled model which we received will sell for $1000 when it starts appearing in stores in March ’83. This is a staggering cost for your John Q Public type record buyer, but a modest outlay for any audiophile accustomed to the idea of shelling out $1000 for a cartridge to put in a $1000 arm on a $1000 turntable and feed to a $1000 preamp. (The CD player’s output is at high level, with flat response. A power amplifier can be driven directly, through a passive volume-control box that can be assembled for about $15.)
At this price though, JQP isn’t exactly going to embrace the CD with open wallet. Its market (besides a few wealthy individuals who’ll buy it for the status value or out of admiration for the high technology it represents), will be serious audiophiles, and its potential success in that quirky marketplace is going to depend on how good it sounds and how much software (program material) is available for it. In fact, the software situation may be the biggest deterrent to its immediate acceptance by a public already primed by the slick magazines to expect perfection from digital audio.
On paper, the software prospects look rosy. Sony will have 16 titles available on the CBS label when the CD system is released here in March. (At the time of this writing, they have about 130 titles on CD in Japan now, most from CBS and Epic, a CBS sub-label). Nippon Columbia has released about 10, but claims to have around 600 digitally mastered titles to draw on for future releases. American CBS plans to participate in the initial software release over here when the first of Sony’s players go on sale, as does Polygram (Philips, Deutsche Grammophon, London) and a number of American audiophile-disc firms