By Jill Goldsmith
NEW YORK (Variety) - As consumers
eagerly download music from the Internet, Sony Corp. moved in the
other direction Tuesday when it unveiled a costly player and trio
of components for its new Super Audio CDs.
In addition to the Internet, Super
Audio will also compete with DVD audio in an increasingly crowded
Sony president and CEO Nobuyuki
Idei acknowledged that the costly Super Audio systems are designed
for a small group of pure audiophiles willing to fork out many
thousands of dollars for a wider range and clarity of sound.
"We know it is not a big market,"
Idei said at a presentation Tuesday, but it's a "quality" market
where Sony expects to make a profit.
Buyers will certainly be scarce
unless the price dips. The new top-of-the-line Super Audio player,
out this month, costs $5,000, while a slightly less sophisticated
model will debut in October for $3,500. Dedicated speakers cost
$8,000 each and an amp runs $6,000. As Super Audio rolls out, a
Sony spokesman said the equipment is likely to come down in price,
but stressed that it's not meant to compete with the traditional
Sony plans to offer 40 titles this
fall in Super Audio format, including Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock,
Weather Report, Mariah Carey and a range of classical offerings.
Super Audio CDs are expected to cost about $25 each.
"The thinking is that this is a
class, not a mass product. It's aimed toward the upper-end of the
music-enthusiast market, however small that might be. Once it's
established there, the feeling is it will become more acceptable
to a larger audience," the spokesman said.
Super Audio system has a few other
drawbacks. It has no recording capability and isn't compatible
with what will become its biggest competitor, DVD audio discs --
the next-generation discs that are supposed to replace CDs.
DVD players are expected to cost
between $1,000 and $2,500, and discs about $20. Business is
expected to be so big that Sony Music is planning to sell them
too, along with all the other big music companies.
One advantage Super Audio has over
DVD is that its discs can be played on a regular CD player and
traditional CDs work on a Super Audio player.