We are often told that people don't realise you can still buy a standalone CD player. Certainly the word in big box land is that CD players are gone, replaced by DVD and now Blu-ray players. Well, as a small hifi store we have to admit we are a little confused, as we sell scores of CD players a month and stock upwards of thirty different models. Its still the predominant source in most of the systems we sell.

Over the last few months however, I've seen a few interesting trends.

Firstly, its the rise of the digital to analog convertor. DACs have been a part of the hifi scene since their inception, and we've always had a stream of interest in them as a way to upgrade an existing system. However, we now are selling more and more of them, some times in preference to a cd player.

Big sellers for us lately have been Brystons sublime BDA1, and the veritable bargain Cambridge DACmagic. We've been doing really well with these two models, depsite the massive difference in their prices. The DACmagic in many ways reignited the DAC market, showing those of us who have moved to PC storage how to get a better sound out of their computer. The Bryston is showing just how good that stored digital music can sound.

In the next few months, we will see new DACs emerge from Musical fidelity, Arcam and Rega. We can't wait to hear what these British stalwarts are going to bring to the digital music fold.

Then we see the other path, as blazed by companies like Cyrus. Starting with the XPd series, Cyrus have now built the DAC directly into the amplifier. Although we staff argue internally as to whether this is the best place to put the DAC in terms of sonics, its the right place to put it for functionality. Although it raises the price of the amplifier, it simplifies the switching, meaning you only have to select the input on one device. The Peachtree Nova also follows this path, and in the near future we will see an amplifier from Leema Acoustics with an onboard DAC.

Finally, there is the interest level in digital media players. We have long been converts to products from Sonos and Slim devices, but we are seeing some growth in the high end server market. The Olive 4HD is particularly interesting, offering CD playback and burning as well as integrated storage and network playback. It also sounds really good and can be controlled via an iPhone. Bryston have something in the works too, as do Marantz.

All in all, CD is still going to be the dominant audio format going forward. But its starting to look like more and more audio manufacturers are starting to see the writing on the wall. This is really the last step for downloaded music to take over the world, it first has to win the support of audio manufacturers. We've got a generation of consumers growing up who are going to download their music rather than buy a physical copy. And it looks like the manufuacturers are starting to figure this out.

The CD player won't disappear tommorow, there is far too much investment in the format for it to disappear quickly. But its is definately going into its twilight days. The format will disappear when manufacturers stop making players, this will occur when people stop buying them.

Rega has perhaps the best strategy going forward with the release of the Isis CD Player. Its a reference level disc spinner, and in many ways, the last player you will ever need to buy. Evidence of this can be seen in their CD mech policy. For every Isis sold, three transport mechs are made, with Rega holding two of them for you for future replacement. By the time your on that third mech, I can almost gaurantee you won't be spinning many discs any more.

Perhaps we will see an emergent market for CD transports, as manufacturers save money by removing it from the CD player and incorporating it into the DAC. Or perhaps its just at the top of the long slide to obsolence, ready to join the compact cassette in the hifi graveyard.