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September 25, 2008

The end of music CDs?

Posted: 11:42 AM ET

How I remember those days of vinyl records, 8-track tapes, cassettes, and CDs. Yes, I said CDs. Their days could be numbered as a new music format is about to burst onto the scene. Slot Music, a micro SD card that is about the size of a fingernail, has been developed by SanDisk. Each SD card will hold an album’s worth of music, album cover art, liner notes, and will have extra space for personal files and photos. All songs will be free of copy protection as well.

A slot music memory chip is about the size of a postage stamp.  (From Sandisk)

A slot music memory chip is smaller than the size of a postage stamp. (From Sandisk)

So far four music companies - Universal, Sony, Warner, and EMI –are on board as they hope to add another revenue stream to their bottom line. CD sales dropped 19 percent last year.

Best Buy and Wal-Mart are just two of the big retailers that will carry Slot Music. The new format is expected to be out before the holiday shopping season. Twenty-nine different albums ranging from Usher, Weezer, Akon, and even Elvis will be available at launch.

Micro SD cards can be played in many cell phones and MP3 players. Each album will come with a USB device so you can access the album on your computer. All we need now is a Micro SD player for our cars.

Is this the end for CDs or will Slot Music become just a short fad?

Christopher Piatt CNN Science and Tech

Filed under: consumer tech

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Roan   September 26th, 2008 12:08 pm ET

I really dont see this chip thing as something thats going to last. of course its a clever invention and might be able to replace the CD, depending. but it certanly will not last since we can always download and play our music to our computers, phones, ipods, mp3, etc. which are more convenient and preferable.

DysfunctionalParrot   September 26th, 2008 12:10 pm ET

In the end, don't we buy CD's for the album cover?

The average person will simply download a song before bothering to go to a store for a flashcard. This concept is DOA.

Seth   September 26th, 2008 12:45 pm ET

God these morons just don't get it..................................

Geek Alphabet » The Daily Dig for Sept. 26   September 26th, 2008 1:08 pm ET

[...] to Napster to the resurgence of vinyl, CDs have had an expiry date on them for some time. Now, CNN Science is saying the new Slot Music device from San Disk is the bees-knees. I'm waiting to get the [...]

Pete   September 26th, 2008 1:19 pm ET

SD cards can potentially hold many GBs of data. Therefore, it is possible to have not one but many album's worth of music on one tiny SD card with no loss in quality whatsoever (nothing is compressed). The question is, in an age where mp3s and other electronic files are the preferred means of musical commerce, will people shell out for the new medium? I doubt it. Not unless the business manufacture the means by which to hear the music–car players, home decks, portable devices, etc. Not even a casual music listener really wants to listen to their favorite record on a cell phone. I sold my iPod and bought a digital audio recorder specifically because I'd have to pay out big bucks for a car adapter and a home deck. Neither of which I need, because I have a CD player and my car manufacturer put a CD player in the vehicle. And what does my new Zoom H2 digital audio recorder use to store gigabites worth of lossless musical information? You got it, SD cards.

Joel   September 26th, 2008 1:43 pm ET

These will be a fad. The music industry needs to embrace downloads, no physical media to get those sales, and continue increasing vinyl production. Steve mentioned the loss of new music on vinyl, not true, almost everything is coming out on vinyl, people interested in buying a physical media are moving back to that, those not interested just want downloads, not a Slot Music format for the same price.

Jeffro   September 26th, 2008 2:29 pm ET

Hey SanDisk, the Nineties called; they want their idea back!!! Hello?!? The minidisk already came out and failed! Now that we have a fluid format with easy transferring capabilities and only ONE thing to carry, you want to move backwards and cause us to have to carry a bunch of junk again? Why would we go from having THOUSANDS of tracks on ONE PIECE OF EQUIPMENT to carrying thousands of little micro disks- which by the way, will have to be changed-out each time we want to change artists?!?!?!? Think much? Maybe, and I mean MAYBE, this idea would make more sense with DVD’s, but almost as unnecessary as with CD’s.

Uberman   September 26th, 2008 2:37 pm ET

Well, I guess somebody forgot to tell you: Music CDs are already dead, and have been for a while now. I've not purchased an actual CD since 2006, and I consider myself to be an old-school hold-out.

The advent of MP3s spelled the doom of music CDs, and the albums and singles I've purchased or acquired since 2006 have all been strictly electronic. My CD collection is now just collecting dust and consuming space, existing now only as a "backup" to part of my digital collection.

The SD-card distribution scheme is a gimmick - an interesting gimmick, but a gimmick nevertheless.

The University Princess   September 26th, 2008 2:42 pm ET

I think that downloading (sometimes questionably) will remain on top, but as far as those go, provided they do last a while... I really hope that they put a hole in it or something so you can stick it on a keychain Dx

vanndy   September 26th, 2008 2:49 pm ET

i admit i'm one of the few people who don't own an mp3 player and still lugs their cd travel case with them, but this sounds like anti-wheel technology. it makes no sense to create a form of tangible media like this when downloading an mp3 is so much more convenient (and harder to loose then one of these will probably be). i'll be sad the day they stop making cd's, but at least the next step will make sense.

myk   September 26th, 2008 2:52 pm ET

This will so never fly. I think this is just a way of trying to get kids to have to re-purchase all the music they loose, break, overwrite...

jayh   September 26th, 2008 2:52 pm ET

I still collect vinyl. This idea is destined to not only flop, but never even get off the ground. Did they do ANY market research? What a joke.

Michael T   September 26th, 2008 3:28 pm ET

The problem with MP3's is the reduced frequency response from the compressed files. CD's sound better, particularly in a better system such as your home or car.

Aaron   September 26th, 2008 3:28 pm ET

Johann Tetreault, what CDs are you paying around $30 for?! I work at a music/merchandise store and unless the CD is a box set they rarely go above $18. Even double-discs.

And vinyl is coming back like crazy, article writer.

Adam   September 26th, 2008 3:29 pm ET

I have been hoping that this would come around. Reason being, a 1gb SD card could hold an entire CD's worth of music AT THE ORIGINAL BITRATE, without having to use so much plastic. I don't download much music from itunes because it doesn't sound very good at 128kbps. Acoustic guitars lose their shimmer, basses' low end rolls off, and vocalists lose the ambience of the room. I guess it doesn't matter as much with overproduced pop (where everything is compressed anyway.) If it uses lossless compression, I'm all for this new format.

Adam   September 26th, 2008 3:34 pm ET

Edit–checked out the website: It's only 320kbps. Good, but still compressed. Sorry SanDisk, I'll keep ripping CDs to my hard drive and tossing them in the big plastic tote in my closet.

John Rockfield   September 26th, 2008 3:36 pm ET

I hope the sound will be better than any of the present computer based music. Most may not notice but once you get an ear for the degraded sound of a compressed file, you can never go back. Being able to carry all your music on one small device is not a technological advancement when it sounds terrible.

Alex   September 26th, 2008 4:12 pm ET

This is not going to do anything.

With ipods and mp3 players able to store what like 5000 songs to 10,000s.

The slot card is going to flop. It's not convientent enough. Like the ipod and other media players you can walk around with your full library of music, with artwork, videos, movies and so on anywhere you want. hook up to your computer, car, stereo or PA system.
Despite the mp3 files themselves sound like crap. The logical change is mp3's will upgrade to a new file format that has a much better quality is the way it's going. Portable Media players are getting better every year there will be some stumbling along the way but it will get there.

I think the slot card is destined to fail I think it was a nice try.

Tom Valenza   September 26th, 2008 4:14 pm ET

Darn, my dog just ate half of my 2000 SD cards! Glad I don't have a pet goat>

RandallAReed dot com   September 26th, 2008 4:26 pm ET

Guess what most of my customers are buying for music storage and music playback? Thirty year old reel to reel decks and tapes. The best sound was already out there but like vinyl and other formats, tape has been discarded for newer technology. The music industry along with the equipment manufacturers are continuously inventing 'new' technology and throwing away the better stuff. It's interesting to see that vinyl sales are again growing a bit each year while digital (CD's) are falling. Once someone has taken the earbuds off and listened to a real stereo (built in the 1960's – 70's), they realize how they are getting ripped off quality wise.

The only difference between our society and the society of 100 years ago is that we have cell phones :), 🙁

kyle   September 26th, 2008 4:41 pm ET

Hey, I just had a great idea! Since large record companies and retailers keep pushing for newer, smaller formats, they should continue on this course until they are so small as to not exsist at all. I for one would be glad to see the end of insipid music made for the masses clogging up perfecly good airspace and wasting perfectly good plastic, or whatever it is that CDs, iPods or other sorts of modern format they are inhabiting are made out of.

If you insist on listening to mindless music, they should just find a way to implant it directly into the your brain so those of us who appreciate real art don't have to suffer second-hand exposure. I'm sure they'll find several thousand unused gigabytes available.

Here's a good rule of thumb: if you can buy it at Walmart, or any other major retailer or music chain store, then it isn't worth buying. There is a format that's been available for decades that offers not only superior sound quality, but will never go out of style–vinyl.

Krisman   September 26th, 2008 4:56 pm ET

I got tired of reading comments but caught this one.

"These do require a special type of DVD/CD player but the sound difference between these CD’s and the normal versions are akin to the difference between a regular TV picture and an HD TV picture."

So its not that big a difference for people that can't afford over priced and large equipment.

And about these cards its a ridiculous idea indeed. CDs are awesome because you have physical cover art and booklets. These would be pointless. Anyway CDs are better than digital copy downloads most of the time. If anywhere gives 360kb mp3 downloads thats just as good in my oppinion. After all I listen to music and go to concerts my ears can't pickup the difference between a cd and a 360kb mp3 anymore. Too damaged from loud noises. And most people that claim they can hear the difference probably can't. Really they just imagine it because they know ones supposed to be better. After all hearing degrades with time and is easily damaged by what volume alot of people listen to music at.

BT   September 26th, 2008 5:03 pm ET

Really dumb idea. It's a major step backwards from what devices like the ipod already provide.

Jack G   September 26th, 2008 9:09 pm ET

"Funny how vinyl is coming back as a collectors item. Vinyl has THE best sound with a good record player/needle and high end speakers. I still buy CDs from time to time, but never brand new (too expensive) only used."

I share these sentiments exactly. I started buying vinyl when possible about a year ago, mainly because of the huge artwork, the sound, collectible discs, posters and other inserts, being able to watch and physically HEAR your music, etc.

New CDs are generally a bit over priced, but if there is a good indie record store nearby then used music is absolutely the way to go. I recently purchased a double album at Amoeba Music for $11. Not only did I get something physical to hold onto, but I got it for less than what iTunes is selling it for.

Vinny   September 26th, 2008 9:52 pm ET

Short lived, short sighted... We all know the medium for music delivery is via online accessible content. When will these dinosaurs finally realize that we are beyond purchasing a tangible item for music? Yeah, we used to be attached to the record/cd sleeve but we finally graduated. Kudos to SanDisk though for selling a solar powered flashlight to these dinosaurs.

SN   September 27th, 2008 5:04 am ET

I don't know why everyone seems to think that mp3's will be placed on these microSD cards. MicroSD cards can be produced with up to 4gb capacity (even more for Micro SDHC). CDs hold 700mb. If anything, these MicroSD cards will INCREASE the quality of the music.

Vulpine   September 27th, 2008 9:52 am ET

Everyone wants to say something, and no one is reading what is said.

I read here people complaining about the sound quality of the new chips as being as bad as- or worse than- mp3s. Yet one person clearly stated that the bit rate (sampling rate) was double that as seen on CDs at over 320kbps. These are NOT mp3 bit rates. This is a definite improvement even over CDs in quality in a format even more compact and portable than disks.

I will complain that even 320Khz is much too limited; the chip capacities currently available should allow for over 500khz for even truer sound, though I don't think you'll get back to Vinyl quality until you sample at 1Mhz or higher.

"We have the technology. We can make it better."

CC Farber   September 27th, 2008 12:06 pm ET

short fad. online shopping is the future

JD   September 27th, 2008 8:54 pm ET

I buy CDs (rarely anymore though) and rip my own. If they are going to put CD quality, or better on these things then I'll consider them. (24 bit FLAC would be awesome!). But if they're only going to be MP3 (or heaven forbid, WMA!), I won't go near them. I really wish someone would offer DMA free FLAC downloads though (hello? Amazon?)

Het einde van de muziekcd in zicht? « Flabbergasted   September 27th, 2008 8:55 pm ET

[...] einde van de muziekcd in zicht? Bron: CNN Scitech Blog (klik [...]

johnell deloach   September 27th, 2008 9:15 pm ET

that is so banging it will be better than all the other audio appliances that they are using now

Nick   September 28th, 2008 5:36 am ET

There are still some bands that refuse to go with ITunes. AC/DC? Some like Garth Brooks, or Kid Rock, don't even do downloading unless you rip them off. I think this might be an excellent oportunity for fans of these old fashioned artists.

Hmm…Music SD Cards Hmm……. « The Technical One - if you ain’t know u know!!!!!   September 28th, 2008 5:51 am ET

[...] Read it in full at CNN's SciTechBlog... [...]

Rob   September 28th, 2008 11:27 am ET

Will it last, who knows and who cares. The real statement of fact comes that the labels have given up on the CD completely. This is is not news but it's interesting that the nails, one by one are going into the coffin. If you go back to the early 80's before CD took over there was a guy who had invented ram based music storage for consumer use. at the same time sony & philips had been working on this CD thing. they had plants geared up and ready to force their hand. This guy gets paid to shut up and is no the proud owner of a wonderful island southwest of San Juan somewhere. Of course there was infrastructure in place that wasn't available then, web speed etc. But now it's interesting to see that we're right back where we were – in the broadest of strokes – 30 years ago now that everything ounce of revenue has been squeezed from the little round disc.

Vulpine   September 28th, 2008 12:51 pm ET

@Nick: [quote]There are still some bands that refuse to go with ITunes. AC/DC? Some like Garth Brooks, or Kid Rock, don’t even do downloading unless you rip them off. I think this might be an excellent oportunity for fans of these old fashioned artists.[/quote]

I might agree with you in some cases. AC/DC itself isn't on the iTMS, but a number of Tribute albums to them are. The same is true for Garth Brooks. However, there is at least one album by Kid Rock on the iTMS as well as a music video and other cuts.

However, the article is not about the iTMS but rather about a new technology in music distribution; a chip-sized device that could allow you to keep your entire music library in a shoe box. The complaint by some is that the quality will be worse than CD while others declare the quality will be significantly better. A simple analysis of the bit rate possible shows that the quality of the music can be twice that of the standard CD at 320Khz, though they don't yet specify what bit rate they intend to use.

The technology is an interesting one in many ways; it all depends on how it ends up being used.

ed   September 28th, 2008 2:43 pm ET

wow a shoplifters dream steal hundreds of albums in one pocket. This is a horrible idea, to little to late.SD players for our cars? all i needed for mine was a 12 inch cabal to hook up to my Ipod. Without a doubt this will fail people will buy for the shire curiosity but no more

Brad   September 29th, 2008 2:41 am ET

Dear Music Industry Troglodytes,

Just make music available online in FLAC format, and I will buy it. (In fact, I DID buy Radiohead's "In Rainbows" in FLAC instead of on CD.)

Why should I be forced to suffer through Best Buy or (God forbid) Walmart when I have a broadband connection.

Come on guys, get with the program.


P.S. D is correct. You have become the irrelevant middle man and your days are numbered.

James Brabble   September 29th, 2008 8:49 am ET

I have had a patent pending on this "music card" for 3 years now. This is a great idea. I think this company saw my idea thru InventHelp and ran with it. Oh well.

James Brabble   September 29th, 2008 8:54 am ET

I'd rather have this than an I-pod. If you drop your I-pod and it breaks or your computer crashes, you have lost all your music. What about people who do not have access to the internet for downloading? They can just buy the pre-recorded music cards.

Bill   September 29th, 2008 10:14 am ET

So get a car radio with a SD slot or USB port. Then get a micro SD adapter for the music card.

Brian   October 1st, 2008 1:47 pm ET

I don't subscribe to the "downloads are the only way to go" mindset. I know technology well enough to know that losing an entire music collection in one fell swoop due to a corrupted hard drive is not only possible, it's more than likely at some point. Unless you're diligent about back-ups (and most folks are not), downloaded music is always vulnerable to such losses. A dropped, lost, or stolen I-pod means a lost collection too. Sure, the simultaneous loss of both would be unlikely to happen, but I will always be more comfortable buying music on some form of physical media that I can store and access as needed. I enjoy digital music as much as the next person, but I like having an actual physical disc or something to show for the purchase. I enjoy actual liner notes as well. I just hope that slot music, if it somehow manages to take hold, is recorded at or better than CD quality. If they expect to sell this product at MP3 quality, I won't bother. It's a shame that MP3's have taken such a foothold, because in terms of audio quality, they're far inferior to CD quality.

SDs, CDs, Deez Nuts | Respect Authority   October 1st, 2008 2:03 pm ET

[...] of the fact that music today, for the most part, just isn't very good, the four major music labels and SanDisk are teaming up to release albums on a special version of SanDisk's CompactFlash memory cards, commonly used [...]

Bill   October 2nd, 2008 5:58 pm ET

generational loss in digital music, is an extreme and well-known problem in the music industry. (recording engineers)

Even when subsequent generations are bit for bit accurate, 97 out of 100 engineers can hear a loss By the third generation.

Hit music contains an emotional content that disappears a bit more in each generation. This is why online copying should not be discriminated against. As each generation or copy will sound worse and worse. When people hear the original or a copy with less gen loss they will realize the difference.

Quality is important and whether these devices can provide it or not is also important.

These folks are spending money only time will tell if that was well spent.

Simon   October 4th, 2008 6:27 pm ET

Pioneer already have an SD reader in the head unit. Ive got one and it rocks.

SD cards, USBs, MMC's .. they are all just forms of flash drives. Which is all an iPod essentially is. So its a marketing gimmic, not a new technology.

Eric   October 4th, 2008 11:47 pm ET

I think its a great idea, but not every device has microSD capability. I think they missed the boat by only using that type of device. Didn't someone make a USB memory stick that was also Bluetooth?? I think a microDS w/bluetooth would be even better.

James   October 6th, 2008 12:42 pm ET

Personally, I look foreward to seeing media formats that are more robust than CDs/DVDs. I have four boys and hate how easily CD/DVDs are scratched. Computer games, video games, etc. Hopefully they can implement this for video games, cause I'm sick of spending $40+ bucks to have it ruined so easily. Planned obsolescense sucks! I for one will support better formats.

LeRoy   October 6th, 2008 6:12 pm ET

In reference to the Large Hadron Collider. One connection can live in infamy or in the human condition not at all. That is the risk we are taking with these so called scientist who say they can contain a small black hole. It doesn’t make me to safe, with all the hype of this project and its possibilities and with that the hazards. Yes, its one connection, but what about one that fails when its not suppose to. I’m not a scientist, so I have to trust these knuckleheads but it concerns me when they can’t even solder a connection correctly, and we are suppose to trust them not to destroy the world on a oops.

The rumors are true. Toshiba switching to solid state for movie delivery. - Page 5 - High Def Forum - Your High Definition Community & High Definition Resource   October 15th, 2008 4:19 pm ET

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