Perhaps it’s an anomaly, but perhaps it’s a sign of things to come: Scottish high-end audio gear maker Linn has announced that, as of 2010, it will no longer manufacturer CD players. Instead, the company will focus its efforts on digital streaming systems that focus on “Studio Master Quality” downloadable material, which can be offered at substantially higher bitrates and resolutions than the CD-standard 16-bit, 44.1KHz samples used in compact discs.
The company will continue to support its existing CD players and audio systems, so current customers need not worry. And that’s probably a good thing, since the company’s current CD player has a retail price in the neighborhood $6,600.
Audio enthusiasts have often noted that the CD format seems to be in an inexorable decline:not only have physical sales of CDs tanked due to the proliferation of online music stores and Internet piracy, but higher-quality audio formats have begun to gain momentum in the market. Couple those formats with the greater penetration of broadband into homes and businesses, and suddenly streaming very high quality audio via the Internet becomes a real possibility.
Linn plans to continue production of turntables for playing back vinyl records—and, yes, believe it or not, good quality vinyl always offered higher sound quality than CD audio, if not the same theoretical dynamic range. Linn’s Sondek LP12 turntable has been on the market so long it is has effectively become a yardstick against which audiophile turntables are measures—at least if your yardsticks are in the $2,000 range.