No, I’m not a Luddite. No, I’m not an old man yelling at the kids to get off my lawn. But you damn kids with your lousy mp3’s! I’m sticking with CDs!
When I was younger, I had a pretty good collection of LPs. They were works of art. They were substantive. You could hold them in your hands and truly enjoy the artwork, especially those beautiful Roger Dean Yes covers. And the record itself was more than just a sound medium – it was a physical sculpture. The way the grooves caught the light, you could almost pretend to know that the music was good by the way the grooves looked.
And I watched as the new medium of CDs began to replace them. I didn’t complain. Yes, I was going to miss the larger size of the packaging – it took some of the enjoyment out of the cover artistry – but there was a definite improvement in sound quality.
Yes, I know there are audiophiles who, even today, insist, “Records sound better than CDs. They’re warmer!” With all due respect, bullshit. Maybe if you’ve got the highest of the high end of turntable equipment, you can sense this esoteric warmth you speak of, but for me, no. I LOVED music, and I never, ever got over the annoyance of, “And she’s buying a [click] stairway [click] to heavennnn [click] nnnn…” Not to mention the ever-present rumble of the turntable when you listened in headphones.
Yeah, maybe those early CDs did sound a little bit TOO perfect and a little too cold, but they were crisp and clear. And later, as recording techniques improved and the sampling rates got higher, even CDs began to sound better.
And now I’m watching another revolution, as people are buying less CDs and more mp3’s and digital downloads. Now, the medium isn’t just shrinking, it’s disappearing. The physicality is completely going away. But that’s not why I’m sticking with CDs.
I’m sticking with CDs for the same reason I replaced my album collection with them: the sound quality is better.
Look, mp3’s, aac’s, m4a’s and all are great, but for the most part, commercially-available downloads are NOT lossless files, and there IS too much compression. Even with my battered ears I can tell the difference inside a noisy car between a digital file and an actual CD.
Can the technology improve so that even compressed digital files sound as good as CDs? Yes, of course it can. But will it? It doesn’t look that way, because people today are downloading more of them than buying CDs. Record stores are disappearing. iTunes is the biggest music retailer in the world. And the consumers don’t seem to care that the quality of the reproduction is worse than it was before. There is no great demand to make it better. So it won’t be made better.
At least not until some Thomas Edison comes along and says, “Maybe you’re satisfied that a candle is bright enough, but wait until you see THIS!”
So I’m sticking with CDs for now. That’s not to say I don’t download a lot of music from iTunes, I do. But if it’s something I’m really into, some band I love, I buy the actual CD. Not just because I like holding it in my hands, but because it just sounds better.
And you kids stay the hell off my lawn.