How music finally recovered from CDs

Ken Ishiwata worked on the earliest CDs and is now working on digital music systems such as the forthcoming Marantz Consolette, right

From The Telegraph:

From vinyl to cassettes, through to CDs and now to iPods and MP3 players, music has never been more convenient. But does it sound better? In the view of one of hifi’s most respected personalities: no. “Sound quality has gone down for the average user over the last ten to 15 years,” says Ken Ishiwata.

A 30-year veteran of the hifi industry, Ishiwata was the godfather of the first CD players to offer sound close in quality to their analogue predecessors. A key audio engineer at Marantz, he worked at the firm before it was bought by Phillips to bring out the first CD players.

Only now, he says, is digital music turning the corner and beginning to sound as good as vinyl did. He says that at the beginning of each cycle of innovation, the audio industry has consistently sacrificed quality for convenience, and then left others to pick up the pieces.

“If you go back to the Sixties or Seventies, people just wanted the function – a refrigerator, a washing machine – now people want the lifestyle”, he says. “So we had great analogue sound – but our industry needs something new every 15-20 years. Back then they had the cassettes, they were quite popular but they reached a peak so they had to come up with something new. Sony and Philips got together and came up with the CD in 1982 – all new quality was possible, but we decided to come up with reasonable technology for the price. We designed the specifications so that it could be affordable for $100.”

Only recently, says Ishiwata, have CDs really matched the quality of what they replaced. “Of course initially all audiophiles rejected CDs. British companies like Linn were laughing, saying ‘We’re never going to introduce the CD’.”

Continue reading the rest of the story on The Telegraph