CD Recorders Hot Commodity This Season

People love to make their own compilation recordings. That fact helped make the cassette deck the most successful audio format of all time, and it is driving sales of CD recorders, a product category new to most consumers. As predicted last summer, CD recorders have become one of the hottest niches in consumer audio, exceeding MiniDisc machines in total sales dollars. Sales are brisk despite the fact that CD recorders are among the priciest components on the market, ranging from $500 to $600. MiniDisc recorders for home use are priced at about $250 and up.

Electronics retailers are especially happy about the trend because demand is high and supplies are tight, which means few, if any, CD recorders are being sold at discount. Dual-well machines are especially popular, and dealers are having a hard time keeping them in stock.

Until recently, Netherlands-based Philips Electronics NV dominated the CD-recorder market, offering the only dual-well machine. Now Kenwood and Onkyo are shipping dual-well disc dubbers of their own. Other manufacturers will soon follow. Aiwa has announced a mini-system incorporating both a CD recorder and a 3-disc changer. Philips will soon ship a similarly configured system.

A recent survey of consumer-electronics retailers by sales-tracking and reporting service NPD Intelect confirms the trend, which is expected to accelerate during the holiday season, when the bulk of consumer electronics are purchased in the US. A merchandising executive with Florida's Sound Advice audio chain told industry trade journal This Week In Consumer Electronics that he expects sales of CD recorders to triple in the fourth quarter. The category should be relatively immune to the industry's traditional winter slump.

NPD's survey covered about 80% of the bricks-and-mortar dealers in the US, and ignored online and mail-order operations. Retailers like Best Buy, who mix consumer electronics with computer gear on the same floor, haven't noticed as big a surge in CD-recorder sales as specialty audio shops have. CD-burners, the far less expensive personal-computer equivalents, seem to sell better in mixed-inventory situations. Both types are moving well throughout the market. Philips executives announced in mid-September that sales of CD recorders had reached the 1 million mark for the previous 21 months.