JAPAN: The world's most expensive CD process, and the world's priciest CD packaging
In best Arkwright from Open All Hours tones, I have to say "It's been a funny old day...".
This morning the news media was all abuzz with a survey saying Britain's favourite 'hi-fi' would leave you change from £20, the assumptions behind which had me clapping metaphorical hand to forehead in disbelief; this afternoon I learn about audiophile CDs selling for over £1000 a pop.
Oh, and the world's most expensive CD, at a sniff under £70,000. That's CD as in disc, not as in player...
The £1000 CDs come from Japanese record company Victor, or JVC as we know it here. There's a rather small range available at the moment, with three new titles due to join the catalogue next week, including a recording of Rodrigo's Concerto de Aranjuez, with soloist Kaori Muraji.
And why are they
Y180,000, or about £1225, a time? Well, using a process developed by Japanese company Memory-Tech, and called CrystalDisc, the CDs use a specially tempered glass as the base layer on which the data-carrying substrate is fixed, then finished off with ultra-violet hardened resin.
Just like those dental glues your favourite drill-jockey moulds into place on your gnashers then zaps with the clicky light thing.
The metal forming the reflective surface? That's gold, rather than the more conventional aluminium.
The discs, which are mastered using Victor's K2HD mastering, involving near-fanatical attention to detail at every stage, can only be put together using a process which involves a lot of user-intervention. There's no chance of hammering these out on a production line as happens with conventional discs.
So why does it sound better? Well, translating a translation of CrystalDisc's Japanese site suggests that the company says both the optical and physical characteristics of the disc are better than those of conventional mass-made CDs. Oh, and the rapid hardening of the resin makes it set more accurately than the usual process, which relies on natural cooiling.
That makes the discs easier to read, meaning the optical pickup drive, servos and error-correction have a lot less work to do.
Just to make sure you get the point that your new disc has just cost you over a grand, the Victor/CrystalDisc titles come in a very superior jewel case – right-hinged, of course, just like Japanese books.
It comes complete with a plaque on which will be engraved a serial number, showing where your disc sits in the very limited production run – and it looks like there's space, if required, for the owner's name.
Seems like just the thing no well-heeled Japanese audiophile would want to be without – even if, thanks to the craftsman manufacturing process, you'll have to order your disc in advance and have it made for you. You're unlikely to find these on sale in your local Tokyo Tawarekodo.
On the subject of very expensive Japanese CDs, a compilation disc entitled Woman has recently gone on sale in the Takashimaya department store in Tokyo's Nihonbashi – imagine a Japanese Selfridges, Oxford Street, and you'll have the general idea – for a cool
Y10m, or around £68,000.
It's so expensive because the jewel-case is made of platinum, and further lives up to its name by being studded with getting on for two carats of diamonds.
Or if you prefer you can have the disc in its standard packaging, and save yourself