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I have noticed a dramatic decline in the overall variety of available RedBook CD Players over the past 2-3 years as well as the near-extinction of stand-alone transports. I understand this is largely due to Sony, Phillips, Pioneer, and possibly others discontinuing the manufacture of redbook transport mechanisms (particularly their higher-end versions) as well as the ascendancy of SACD/DVD-A and the ongoing mainstream obsession with HT. My question (which will reveal my ignorance regarding this subject) is what are the barriers to someone developing and manufacturing a high-quality transport mechanism? There appear to be several potential factors, but I don't understand why they could not be overcome. First, customer demand for CD only machines has undoubtedly decreased somewhat, but these forums are full of people who are using DVD players exclusively for CD playback. I know this provides sonic satisfaction for many, however functionality and convenience are compromised by the need to connect to video in order to access any playback functions other than loading the disc and pressing "Play" and it seems pointless (particularly with high-end models) to pay for the video circuitry when it will never be used (it appears at least one company, TEAC, has addressed this and now offers an audio-only version of one of their universal players, at reduced cost); I know I'm not the only one here with this thought process. Also, I understand that actually manufacturing a transport involves significant amounts of machining and "custom" mechanical/optical parts as well as programming of the logic/control circuits, and by necessity this must occur on a reasonably large scale in order for the manufacturer to see a return on its investment and at the same time be affordable to customers; I can imagine this would require a substantial R&D budget to get off the ground, but this does not seem insurmountable to me. It seems to me one solution would be for various high-end companies to pool their resources and start a new company specifically for the purpose of building CD transports (and other difficult-to-source sub-assemblies); with numerous companies investing, economy of scale would permit the construction of such assemblies by a sort of "high-end parts cooperative" at reasonable per-unit cost. This seems to be win-win for all involved. The high-end manufacturers are assured of ongoing availability of quality parts at reasonable cost which will not be the limiting-factor in the overall quality and reliability of the complete unit. We the customers can then feel much more comfortable about spending four figures on a CD player because we don't have to worry about the cheap, plastic Sony/Phillips drive mechanism compromising the otherwise excellent build quality and performance expected of a CD player costing thousands. I can't believe I'm the only person who has thought of this, which leads me to believe there are other factors I am unaware of that preclude this becoming reality. I welcome any response, critique, explanation, or other comment, particularly by a manufacturer or other "insider" and thank you in advance for taking the time to read and respond.
"...the ascendancy of SACD/DVD-A"
Haven't noticed that lately - I'd say it's more the requirement for DVD video replay and the ascendancy of PC drives.
DVD drives seem to lack the fullness and depth of good CD transport mechanisms which tends to emphasise detail in the midrange, and this combined with spurious jitter measurements demonstrating superiority to older CD mechanisms may lead some (most) consumers to think DVD drives are indeed superior when they're barely adequate in my humble opinion.
In my opinion, there is no need for companies getting together to come up with a new transport. PHILIPS has licensed VAM-1202/19 for manufacturing and is now in many CDPs. PHILIPS can license an already very well proven CDM-1 mk2 or CDM-4/19.
Actually Philips is one of the main reasons that so few high-end manufacturers build CD players any more.
Sure, they still sell drives (through a third-party company), but anybody that knows any better tries to avoid using them. One problem is that Philips is constantly changing their models. This not only necessitates frequent product redesigns, but also leads to huge problems with replacement parts. On top of this, the firmware for these drives is apparently supplied by the third-party company rather than Philips themselves, and can be quite buggy.
Companies pooling ressources is actually a good idea theoretically and probably the only way for them, operating on a niche market and in small quantities, to come up with a completely new transport. Now, the practicality of this is another matter, as you would have to get competitors to agree on one design, and somehow "share" one technology which would make each of them slightly less distinct from the others. I know they're already all using the same transport, but most also claim tweaking it with "in-house" secrets in order to preserve some individuality. Plus the future of the "pool" would be uncertain (some might go out of business, or drop out, or suddenly decide that the transport is not that important), and what then of the future of the new transport?
Esoteric does offer to license their transport but in a quite vicious way, imposing manufacturers to buy 50 of them cash, which is a way to make sure they'll have to sell their CD player at least twice the price of a similarly positioned Esoteric player.
Also, a lot of manufacturer, as per Charles Hansen's response to a previous thread, feel that the money is better spent in other components.
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