Saturday, December 22, 2007

Death of the CD

I'm starting to see the signs and I'm dusting off my widow's weeds: the compact disc is in its last throes.

I'm not exactly a luddite but this still makes me sad, and it surprises me a bit. I love my CDs and I don't see anything wrong with them...though I admit that my iPod and I spend most of our time together, with the caveat that the music ON the iPod is pretty much FROM my CDs.

Will CDs go the way of vinyl, that is, disappearing for a few years and then coming back as a sort of "nostalgia," available at high prices on ebay? At first I thought so, but part of the vinyl-mania was because certain things had yet to appear on CD. CDs can simply be ripped and file-shared, so chances are there will be little pain just because you can't find a song on iTunes.

I admit I'm not a huge fan of massive file-sharing. I can't see how it doesn't impact the artists (though I'm not sad to see the big labels get shafted). I'll hold out as long as I can, and I'll continue to cherish my collection as the rest of the world moves on to "something else," and eventually I'll embrace that "something else" when I no longer have a choice.


Anonymous said...

Thing about the vinyl to CD comparison, apparently vinyl lasts way longer than a CD, if properly cared for. I can't recall the exact numbers, but I have heard that CDs have less than half the shelf life of good condition vinyl.

Or so I hear.

Adrian said...

So, I see you made the transition from CD to iPod without my help, while I WILL take credit for the vinyl to CD conversion. ;)

I don't think CDs will ever appreciate in value like vinyl for the following reasons:

1. Many people who sell their used CD's keep a perfectly good quality copy of them on their PCs, Mac's, iPods or 1:1 copies on another CD. While this is technically illegal, it significantly increases the number of copies of the music, and supply-demand says increased supply with equal demand means lower prices.

2. Vinyl actually has a higher dynamic range than a CD. While I have never heard it myself, not really ever having owned a decent vinyl system, CD actually limits the dynamic range of music to only what the average human ear can hear. This does not account for some of the lower frequency ranges that can be 'felt', or for people with above average hearing (?).

3. Vinyl remains to fill the audiophile niche.

4. The 'millenials', the new generation of music purchasers, will not have the psychological association of collecting physical representations of their music like we did. Keeping milk-crates full of CDs or LPs will seem as silly to them as buying a bookshelf full of Encyclopedia Britannica seems to us now.

Adam Thornton said...

I've heard that as well, Scott...that gradually, molecule-by-molecule, the CD surface drifts away to music heaven.

I still have some vinyl for nostalgia value (or because it's never appeared on CD), and I imagine it's surviving quite nicely in my basement.

Adam Thornton said...

True, Adrian, you get credit for my CD-philia!

Good points about the important death of vinyl/death of CD differences. And you notice that cassette tapes never made a resurgence for some reason, whereas 8-tracks did (probably because they were of such bizarre construction, and looked like children's toys).

I'm not sold on the audiophile superiority of vinyl. Since it's entirely perceptual, it can't be studied, and whenever the subject comes up I tend to get the feeling that the rabid vinyl-fan is partly being elitist ("my ears are more sensitive than yours!")

But true, there are those in authority who claim they hear a difference. I'm most concerned with what I DON'T hear: pops, hiss, or compression artifacts on the cymbals.

It will be interesting to see the bedroom of next-decade's teenager. Physical books? Physical music?