CD-Recorders, MiniDisc, and MP3 Running Neck, Neck, & Neck

Information released last week by NPD Intelect reveals eye-opening statistics about digital audio recorder formats. The numbers show that, from January to May 2000, unit shares of digital recording sales in retail stores were 30.8% for CD recorders (not including computer-based systems), 40.9% for MiniDisc recorders, and 28.3% for MP3 recording devices (also not including computer-based systems).

NPD found that, because consumers are more comfortable with CDs and the dual-deck approach to home recording, CD recorders are rapidly gaining popularity. In addition, NPD explains that "the MiniDisc recorder gives consumers the option of recording digitally at home or on the go, while the MP3 recorder takes it a step further" by replacing tapes and discs with small memory cards, or built-in memory with no removable media at all.

The NPD report also found that, when it comes to portable players, most buyers now choose digital formats, although the analog market is "far from dead." Approximately two out of three portable music players sold this year at retail were digital, according to the research. NPD claims that personal CD players are the fastest-growing category, with year-to-date sales up 41% over 1999. The MiniDisc player is next, up 37% from last year, trailed by CD boombox sales, which increased by 16%. Surprisingly, the up-and-coming MP3 player is reported to be growing fast, but has yet to seriously challenge its competition.

According to NPD's Jim Hirschberg, "there is no reason why three digital formats can't coexist at the same time. Back in the 1970s, three analog tape formats (open-reel, cassette, and 8-track) all existed at the same time, before cassette eventually won out. We expect to see several digital formats find their own audiences."

As expected, as more and more consumers go digital, analog portable music players such as the headset stereo and the radio cassette player are losing market share and sales, according to NPD, having captured only 34% of this year's portable music-player market compared to last year's 44%. Headset stereo sales are reported to have decreased 7%, and radio cassette-player sales are down 30%.