CD Recorders, DVD Changers Hot Items for Fall

Electronics dealers may have a great autumn if they load up on dual-well CD recorders and DVD carousel changers, two of the hottest audio fashion items. Major manufacturers like Kenwood, Onkyo, Denon,, and Harman/Kardon have all announced plans to deliver recorders and DVD changers by October, in time for the holiday season.

The growing popularity of DVD has induced many companies to remodel their CD carousel changers—long one of the best-selling categories in consumer audio—into DVD machines. Yamaha and Sony already have DVD changers on the market, and Onkyo dealers should soon have a 6-disc machine on their shelves. DVD players can play back both DVDs and standard CDs, letting music fans mix the formats.

Most interesting of all the new products are two similarly purposed but very different products from Harman/Kardon and Hewlett-Packard. Dual-well CD recorders—a category owned until recently by Philips—are coming from most of the major makers, but H/K's CDR 2 will be the only one offering quad-speed dubbing onto CD-R discs. Accommodating CD-Rs, which can be purchased in bulk for less than $1 each, is a serious departure from standard practice in the consumer-electronics industry. Most home recorders will allow recording only to CD-Audio discs, which are functionally identical to CD-Rs except for an embedded "flag" that tells the recorder the disc is acceptable, but cost many times more due to tariffs imposed by the music industry.

The CDR 2 ($799 list) will be equipped with 24-bit/96kHz PCM DACs, and during the recording process will bypass its own sampling-rate converter to preserve DTS and HDCD encoding. The machine can also write to CD-RW (rewriteable) discs at twice the normal speed.

Computer giant Hewlett-Packard is taking the opposite course with its $299 HP CD-Writer Music, a device intended specifically for creating music CDs with a computer's CD-ROM drive. Due out the first week of September, HP's new machine comes with its own software, said to vastly simplify the task of compiling music from both MP3 files and ordinary CDs. MP3 and CD tracks can be mixed in the same compilation, according to advance publicity. A nice touch is an included label maker for discs and jewel cases. The Writer Music connects to a computer through a USB (universal serial bus) port.

But here's the catch. HP departs from standard computer-industry practice in making the CD-Writer Music usable only with CD-Audio discs. The device will not write to CD-R or CD-RW discs, a move intended to reassure the music industry that HP doesn't support piracy. (HP's other CD burners, like the popular 8110, do write to CD-Rs.) "One of our main concerns was to honor copyright law," said HP product manager George Prokop. "We really think this product meets end-user needs and concerns of the recording industry and artists."