Bang On: Time to move on from the compact disc

A few months ago, I moved out of my parents' house. As with any move, I took most of my personal belongings, but left a few behind to dig through later. Well, that "later" came today and I had to stop on by the house and go through the remaining knick-knacks to figure out what I should keep and what I should forever leave behind. When I put it that way, it sounds dire, doesn't it?

Sorting through the small collection of random gadgetry wasn't that difficult. Old computer mice? Leave. Licensed copies of Windows XP and Vista? Let's take those with me. One random glove? No thanks. However, towards the end of the chore, I came across my collection of compact discs. I completely forgot that I left them behind. I picked up the CD's in small groups and brought them over to the small portable table I was using to mark the items that would live to see another day. On my second trip to the table, a thought crossed my mind: Do I really need these anymore? It may seem like an odd question to ask for a guy who likes his music as much as I do, but let's face the facts: I have an iPod and a computer, all my music is ripped digitally, and I back it up for good measure. What need do I have for the physical media?

I've always been a staunch supporter of buying the physical media as opposed to downloading music digitally. Maybe it's the most basic part of human nature where I feel more comfortable having something tangible in my hand after spending any amount of money on it or perhaps I just held on to ideals that formed during the early days of legal digital music. During the first few years of legal music, namely iTunes, everything was low quality and smothered in DRM that made it impossible to even legally hum a song without the RIAA wanting to collect royalties. Buying the CD just made more sense.

It's different, nowadays. Digital media is of much higher quality and DRM seems to be fading off into the sunset, at least in the music industry. The major deciding factor, though, was probably my first experience purchasing a song digitally. Early last year, my favorite band Staind released the first single from their new album on iTunes and Amazon's MP3 Store. I'd heard good things about Amazon's service, so I plunked down the $0.99 and in a few seconds had the file on my PC. This wasn't a dinky 128kbps file. No, not at all. This was a much more acceptable 256kbps MP3 file complete with embedded high quality album art and entirely void of any DRM. It sounded good, it was almost too easy to buy, and it worked on every device I wanted it to work on. I was a very happy camper.

As I write this and, in the back of my mind, try to figure out where I'm going to put all those CD's, I think it's time for me to move on. Sorry, CD's, you were so nice to me and we had a great run, but I've found a skinnier, easier replacement that gives me just as much enjoyment and, often times, at a lower price. How can I go wrong? I know, I know, you can't accidentally be erased when my entire system decides it's time to kick the bucket, but that's why I have backups. I'm done. We're done.

"Bang On" is a regularly occurring column written by Christopher Vendemio. The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Neowin.net

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

British prosecution could save hacker from extradition to US

Next Story

Nintendo Wii is most popular console in the UK

95 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

I'm not moving on until I can get uncompressed downloads at 75 cents a track. CDs are cheaper, better audio quality, and less likely to be lost.

"time to move on from the compact disc"

with the p!ss poor mp3's being the alternative ?

lol.


if someone offered flac with (at least) 500x500 album art i'd think about 'moving on' ...

So funny.. all the people on here who think mp3 has good quality. You are truly foolish. In this day and age, music recordings should be improving, yet they are going in the opposite direction. Why, because foolish people support them. CD's might be bulky, but to keep a digital warehouse of music files is risky, since if your hard drive dies, so does your collection. Music should be served on a medium with far superior sound than it currently does on CD. And there is no way you can get that on compressed music files.

Except that most people don't have a sound system capable of exhibiting the higher quality sound over, say, a 256kbps MP3. Also, as for hard drives dying, that's why you always backup.

For 99.99% of people there are no humanly hear-able benefits of recordings higher than 16-bit, or of sample rates more frequent than 44.1KHz.
So DJ specs, you are wrong, CDs are a perfectly good enough standard. There's absolutely no need for anything "far superior" on the consumer end.


Now, I'd also have to disagree and say that most people probably have good enough sound systems to project "higher quality" sound than even 320kbps CBR MP3.
MP3 sound (like all lossy sound) is purposely crippled. The thing is that we humans can't hear a difference. The are perceptually identical.

I'm all digital these days, but I still find it hard to throw anything away. Personally I'd keep the CD's in storage. You just never know...

Sorry, no. When I buy music, movies, or software, I want something tangible. I want my own physical copy with the notes/manual and art. I want something I can put on my shelf. I want to be able to make my own (legal of course) backup copy. I want to be able to take it with me. I want to be able to put it in my Discman (still superior to iPod) without booting up the computer to "transfer" it.

CDs and DVDs will be around for a long time.

C_Guy said,
Sorry, no. When I buy music, movies, or software, I want something tangible. I want my own physical copy with the notes/manual and art. I want something I can put on my shelf. I want to be able to make my own (legal of course) backup copy. I want to be able to take it with me. I want to be able to put it in my Discman (still superior to iPod) without booting up the computer to "transfer" it.

CDs and DVDs will be around for a long time.

I died laughing when I read "Discman." How many discman lasted more then about about a year? If you have one that still works, you need to write an article on preservation of antique electronics.

I wouldn't even consider getting rid of my 5,000 plus cd collection. It's taken me 50 years to collect all this junk!! It's all been basically remastered to my own liking along the lines anyway.

It's a personal thing!!

Don't have a need or use for an ipod (Yuck) or mp3 player. Would never consider using an ipod or that crap itunes either.

Last year I undertook the task of converting all my CD's to MP3. Bear in mind that I was brought up listening to music, and so started buying music heavily at the age of about 12. That's 18 years of CDs. Well over 1000 albums and then more as singles too.

All files are heirarchically organised, correctly tagged and with the correct album art (I bought a scanner for some of the moer rare stuff).

The cases and disks now live in a number of boxes in my loft, so should I need them, they are available to me. Also, as I DJ with this music, I still legally own the right to use it.

Now, data can become corrupted. So the music lives:

1) On my internal hard drive
2) On my media server
3) On my media server's backup drive
4) On my USB backup drive
5) On my iPod

It's funny when you read about someone who claims he loves music. I collect CD's, tapes and vinyls because I love the music. So do most people, at least in Scandinavia.

But most importantly, a good CD player with a non-commercial over-compressed CD beats the living **** out of anything a computer can produce. I enjoy listening to my good music in the best possible quality, and it's *not* hard to hear difference (providing you have sufficient equipment, which is also not very expensive).

And lossless is not much of a replacement either. Unless you have a studio interface to connect your amplifier through, your sound card will ruin the audio anyway.

Ah well...

neXioz said,
And lossless is not much of a replacement either. Unless you have a studio interface to connect your amplifier through, your sound card will ruin the audio anyway.

Most current soundcards have a digital output that can pass the sound through to the amplifier without touching it, so no problem there.
Also, most current soundcards don't have to hide regarding soundprocessing.

But many stereo amplifiers doesn't have digital connectors as they are 100% analog. Which is definately prefered when it comes to music.

nexioz i know what you are talking about.

mp3 dont have anything to do compared to cds, even in 320kbps they are crap compared to cd quality providing you have good equipment as you said.

if anyone wants to toss away his cds FLAC is the way to go, that way you can burn a cd again from FLAC and it will be the same as the orignal CD.

and it isnt hard to tell the difference, with good speakers and stereo amp (not 5.1) you WILL hear the difference.

i suggest to the guy that made the note, use good equipment not your ipod to hear to cds and mp3s and hear the reality

neXioz said,
But many stereo amplifiers doesn't have digital connectors as they are 100% analog. Which is definately prefered when it comes to music.
If you're an idiot, tweako, money-is-burning-in-your-pocket, I have a $20,000 99.999% pure silver ethernet cable, stereophile reader.

For everyone else digital is definitely preferred.

neXioz said,
But many stereo amplifiers doesn't have digital connectors as they are 100% analog. Which is definately prefered when it comes to music.


No. Analog is preferred when it comes to analog music. You want to keep the same format as long as possible. Since information on a CD is digital, a digital interface to the amplifier makes sense.

Which is what differs the most between good CD players: the DAC.

@ shakey_snake,
Sorry for not having English as my native tongue. I suggest you go to a store and ask them about it and listen yourself. Take a cheap-ass Harman/Kardon amp, HK980 for example, and compare.

neXioz said,
I suggest you go to a store and ask them about it and listen yourself. Take a cheap-ass Harman/Kardon amp, HK980 for example, and compare.
There is no way I could be blindfolded and identify whether an amp was using an analog or digital connector, unless the analog connection was severely degrading the quality of the signal.

I highly doubt you could either.

I don't like digital music downloads, have never bought a song online and don't intend to. I like owning the CD, I like the look of my CD shelves, reading the booklet, looking at the artwork.

I rarely use the actual CD (apart from the initial rip), but sometimes when I am going for a drive, and I can't be bothered making a MP3 CD to take, I'll just grab a few for the road.

Yep, i agree with this entirely. CDs have become pretty obsolete in the scheme of things. I still have tons kicking around, but i rarely use them, and actually avoid them if possible.

In short: Writer doesn't know what to do with old CDs and is considering buying music online from now on. Why is this front page "news" worthy? Isn't this what the Blog section is for?

/stick-in-the-mud

It's a column just like news papers have. We have news, editorials, podcasts and now we want to expand our content with columns. Columns, by definition, are driven by the personality of the author and are centered around an opinion. Beyond the definition, they also tend to be more entertaining than informative, serving as a a break from the serious news for readers looking for something a little more light hearted.

@Shadrack, theyarecomingforyou... please feel free to submit an article to the site using the 'Submit to Newsdesk' feature and allow our members to rip it apart! Thanks!

bangbang023 said,
It's a column just like news papers have. We have news, editorials, podcasts and now we want to expand our content with columns. Columns, by definition, are driven by the personality of the author and are centered around an opinion. Beyond the definition, they also tend to be more entertaining than informative, serving as a a break from the serious news for readers looking for something a little more light hearted.

I couldn't agree more bangbang023! This was a very nice read and actually made me consider whether I need my physical CDs...

It was a nice light-hearted read and I am looking forward to more 'Bang-on' columns :)

I really like the direction Neowin is going in!

Marshalus said,
@Shadrack, theyarecomingforyou... please feel free to submit an article to the site using the 'Submit to Newsdesk' feature and allow our members to rip it apart! Thanks!

Fair enough.

theyarecomingforyou said,
Bah, I know my opinions would be ripped to shreds immediately. I didn't say I'd do any better but that doesn't mean Neowin shouldn't aspire for better.

Considering the level of traffic we get, especially after moving to writing our own stories instead of C&P, I think we're doing pretty well.

Nope, can't say that I agree that the CD audio format has reached sunset just yet. Apart from the aspect of building a collection and having a loss-less format as a source which has already been stated, there's also the threat of bandwidth throttling by many internet providers on the horizon. If you have to pay more for extra GBs of downloads on your connection, the cost savings over physical media will be minimal (if any).

First off, 128kbps MP3 probably isn't as bad as bangbang thinks.

However, any lossy file, regardless of the bitrate, means that that is what it is, lossy.
And you don't want to transcode (switch to a different filetype) from a lossy source.

We need a place that offers DRM free lossless downloads. When lossless becomes routinely available (and there's no good reason it won't), then we won't need CDs anymore. But that's not the case yet, today.

Even on low - midrange hardware, you'll notice a huge difference in quality between a file at 128kbps and 256kbps. It's not like trying to justify 320 over 256.

^CBR yeah, pre-echo artifacts are fairly ugly.
But anyone half-intelligent is using VBR.

And, as a lot of testers found out in a recent listening test, ~128kbps vbr MP3s can be very difficult (although not impossible on problem samples) to ABX from their sources.

I understand why you are saying what you are saying, but encoders are better and you're out of date.

The problem with VBR is that the iPod can sometimes have problems with the files. I would know because my iPod 5.5G tends to choke badly on them and skip to the next track.

bangbang023 said,
I haven't tried it in a long time. Next album I rip, if I ever do rip one again, I'll give it a shot again.

Remember to rip to lossless for your archive and then convert for your portable from there. :P

EDIT: you know, if you used iTunes to make those VBR files, iTunes' encoder might have broken them since the VBR encoder was borked for about 4 years before just recently, when using a multi-core processor.

bangbang023 said,
I would never use iTunes to rip lol. EAC with LAME.
Well, good.

But, damn. You use LAME w/ CBR?!?

LAME "sucks" at CBR, it's psycho-acoustic model is tuned specifically for VBR using the -V switches.

I won't buy music digitally until there is a system like Steam in place whereby I can re-download the music I've bought as many times as I like and without DRM. The problem with conventional digital downloads is that it's too easy to have a drive corrupt and to lose thousands of albums, whereas the same isn't true of CDs. Sure you can keep backing them up onto separate drives but I still don't trust it and there's always the risk of a virus / malicious user deleting / corrupting them.

The issue isn't being entirely digital. I already buy all my games through Steam and simply avoid those that aren't on it. But I need to be able to download them again should I need to in order to feel confident in it. I also want quality to be at least that of CDs (lossless, 16bit 44.1KHz or greater). Until that time comes I will stick with CDs.

A good article!

I think for myself, I'll never want to totally step away from discs. Purely because i think it's good to have an original source to rip from, and i can take it with me and it works anywhere.

Plus, for me i feel like an mp3 song/album cost essentially the same as a CD, and why would i pay for an already compressed (which 256kb still is) mp3 file, which isn't safe and secure in any way.

I guess the same could be said for a physical cd (breaking/cracking/house fire) but i still like the warm fuzzy feeling of holding that new CD in my hands!

I haven't bought a new CD in a few years and don't even use the old ones I have. Digital copies suit me fine for listening at home or on the go. As for my car, I don't believe I've ever had a cd in the player and I've logged over 50,000 miles per year on it. Satellite Radio has suited me fine in that regard. I've yet to lose any of my music from data corruption or loss, but I have it backed up in multiple places just in case.

I don't even use CDs unless I go on a roadtrip and rent a car that doesn't have line in and only has mp3 support, lol.
CDs are the past, and file formats are the mainstream now (has been for a while).
The last time I used a CD (not inc mp3 cd) or bought one has been over 10 years now.

I much prefer having my CD collection as opposed to all digital. Sure, I listen to the mp3s 99% of the time, but it's like a hobby to me, collecting music. Takes up a lot of wall/shelf space, but I wouldn't sell 'em for anything less than what I paid.

Purple Haze said,
I much prefer having my CD collection as opposed to all digital. Sure, I listen to the mp3s 99% of the time, but it's like a hobby to me, collecting music. Takes up a lot of wall/shelf space, but I wouldn't sell 'em for anything less than what I paid.

So you'd rather have CDs than go "all digital"? Interesting. Again, as other have pointed out, CDs are digital. Did you think they were analog or something?

You have to remember that the physical CD is your license certificate. Without the physical CD you do not have the rights to rip the music from the CD. The rights are attached to the CD, not the person. When you sell the CD to a use record store, the licensed rights are sold with the CD.

I hope all you people saying you've ripped your CDs for backup have ripped them to FLAC or another lossless format. Otherwise you have not backed them up, and getting rid of your CDs is not a good idea. Purchasing any music online is not as good as purchasing a CD unless you get it in a lossless format, FLAC, and then you convert it to V0 yourselves.

That's a little snobbish.

Lossless might be lossless, but that doesn't mean you can always hear the difference, or that you should feel "better" than those who are happy with reasonable quality music.

That's true. I always use Windows Media Lossless when ripping a CD for backup, then convert them to MP3 to add to my music collection.

It's not snobbish. A lossless file can be transcoded to any other codec you want without losing data. If you rip all your music to whatever you want and then want to convert it later to a different format you will lose data and it will sound worse.

I've debated getting rid of my CDs or not since I have them all ripped and stored on either my spare hard drive or on my IPod. I eventually decided it's best to keep the CDs in case you ever want to re-rip and use a different format or bitrate.

I agree with Simon. It goes for a lot of things...DVD's, and especially games. I don't want digital distribution to ruin those beefy collector's edition...it just hasn't got the same feeling. People pay good money to get limited edition copies of things, and hopefully it stays that way to be honest.

I think there's something to be said for the feeling of getting an album, taking it home, opening up the case, looking through the album art and admiring the CD art itself. I just think it's a much nicer feeling than clicking a button and having it appear in your library.

That being said, I do buy off of iTunes, simply because it's cheaper and because I can't drive. But when I get a real album, it just feels so much more "real".

The problem I see is that the CDs are ripped. If you're going to keeps the rips, you either have to store the CDs or destroy them. Legally, you can't sell them and keeps the rips.

shawncm217 said,
The problem I see is that the CDs are ripped. If you're going to keeps the rips, you either have to store the CDs or destroy them. Legally, you can't sell them and keeps the rips.


You can't sell MP3s, period. How does that make CDs worse?

The only thing I would buy digitally is DRM free, lossless FLAC files. If I have to pay for a digital files I at least expect for the same quality that I use to have on a CD. Also, are all mp3's on the Amazon store 256kbps? Is this CBR or VBR? What is the codec that they use to encode the mp3's? I know I wouldn't get anything that is not encoded with LAME in decent bitrate (like VBR -V0 or 320kbps CBR)

I can agree with you. I was just thinking the other day...when was something going to come along to finally replace cds? Well the answer is here. Only reason i kept cds was to play in the car, but now that my whole house and cars play digital music, there really isn't a need.

To truly save music, a cd is really not an acceptable method. Especially burned ones! Most of the first homemade cds i have made are all deteriorating which are about 15 years old. They say 5-10 years is their shelf life. Store bought cds seem to be fine. So i guess the point is that you pretty much have to backup the backup even your cds every once in awhile so to me, compact discs are obsolete.

and there be the difference burned is bad for archiving for a long time thats why shop bought aren't burnt they get pressed just like the old vinyl

All digital is nice and all, until you somehow corrupt it or delete it... CD's are nice to have as a "backup" that you can rip from again

neufuse said,
All digital is nice and all, until you somehow corrupt it or delete it... CD's are nice to have as a "backup" that you can rip from again

CDs are digital.

abysal said,
Or Windows 7 WMP eats them :)

Unless you install the update patch that prevents that from occuring. Guess something went awry with the new MP3 codec that they included with WMP 12.

shinji257 said,
Unless you install the update patch that prevents that from occuring. Guess something went awry with the new MP3 codec that they included with WMP 12.

I always keep my MP3 files as read only. It has saved me in the past from corruption. Does the Windows 7 bug effect read only files as well?