To say right now that there is a revolution is perhaps putting it strongly, but that as of March 1 a new era dawns in the Dutch "sound world" is unmistakable.
On that date, the compact disc enters the stores. This means that from then on the consumer will have sound equipment at his disposal (at least if he is willing to pay quite a lot for it) that is unparalleled in quality.
The compact disc is a small record, twelve centimeters in diameter. It contains about an hour of music on one side. The other side is not playable. That music is digitally recorded and scanned by a laser beam.
The system of the compact disc is the same for the whole world. In other words: virtually all manufacturers around the world make their equipment and records in such a way that brands don't really matter anymore.
On any player of any brand -in contrast to video recorders- any compact disc can be played.
Get used to it
The quality of the compact disc is extremely good. Messages to the effect that the quality could be questioned were unfounded.
"Of course, the new sound takes some getting used to. There is no noise at all and that means that the familiar sound of the starting noise of a record and the coming down of the needle cannot be heard.
Also the channel separation is much stronger than before and it is possible to hear the blowing of some instruments by the musicians. But all these things make the music more pure and honest.
The question that now arises is: will this compact disc make it with the public? The answer seems to be unequivocally "Yes."
At its introduction late last year in Japan, interest proved so great that there was a huge demand for playback equipment as well as records. And in the Netherlands, too, consumers seem to be very interested in it.
Philips, which developed the system together with Sony, says the response from both the trade and consumers is very encouraging. Philips has set the production of playback equipment at its factory in Hasselt, Belgium, at 10,000 units per month for now.
However, that number could soon be increased to 25,000 per month. Philips' playback device costs 1995 guilders. Philips is releasing two types and it is expected and two more types will be added during this year.
Of course, a number of Japanese manufacturers (including Sony) will also be releasing compact disc players on March 1, giving buyers a wide choice. As far as records are concerned, things do not look unfavorable for the customer either. The manufacturers of playback devices have made sure that with the arrival of the devices there are also plenty of records.
Polygram (in which Philips has a fifty percent stake) will immediately come out with 160 records in early March, divided into all kinds of repertoire groups. According to this record company, the demand is already so great that, the supply will probably not be sufficient at first.
This year Polygram will whiten twenty to thirty new titles every month. This means that by the end of the year the company will have a catalog of about six hundred titles.
Other record companies, such as RCA and CBS, are also coming out with CD records soon. It can be expected that by the end of this year more than a thousand different titles for the compact disc will be on sale.
The records of Polygram, ziin quite a bit more expensive than traditional gramophone records. A CD record from the classical repertoire will cost 46.50 guilders and the public price for the popular repertoire is 39.50 guilders per record.
In addition to the Netherlands, the compact disc will also go on sale in France, West Germany and England on March 1. One month later Belgium, Switzerland and Sweden will follow and another month later Austria, Denmark, Finland, Italy and Spain.
For now, the compact disc will not replace the traditional phonograph record and its associated playback equipment. According to the manufacturers, the new system should be seen as "a new sound carrier that can function alongside existing ones." However, it is possible that in many years (perhaps ten or fifteen) the compact disc will be as common as the turntables and vinyl records of today.