In praise of the CD: Seven reasons why CDs are my favourite music format ever

It was only a few years ago that people were finding it hilarious that I was clinging obstinately to the CD rather than embracing digital formats. Now, with the renaissance of vinyl, some still regard me as a Luddite dinosaur for not embracing the switch back to the 12 inch.

Here are seven reasons why the CD is king for me:

1. I love physical product – I can’t excited at the thought of sifting through computer files for my listening pleasures. While the bibliophile gets immense satisfaction from browsing through a proper library of real books, I get the same pleasure from my physical collection of albums. I like the artwork, the lyric sheets, the song-writing credits, the information on who is playing what, on when it was recorded, who produced it and so on.

2. But there’s only finite space – I started buying LPs as a teenager in the early 80s but had switched over to buying CDs by the early 90s. However, even in that decade I’d amassed enough vinyl to still fill up three large cupboards today. If I’d carried on buying vinyl at the same rate I’ve purchased CDs over the past 25 years I’d have no room to eat, sit or sleep. For me the CD provides the perfect balance between the romance of a vinyl library and the efficiency of a digital library.

3. Sound quality is important to me – If you played me a brand new vinyl album and a CD, personally I’d struggle to tell the difference. But brand new vinyl albums don’t stay brand new for very long and I prefer listening to stuff without crackles, scratches and jumps. OK CDs can degrade you tell me but I’ve never had more than a tiny handful of CDs that have become unplayable and (with a quick spin on my £15 CD cleaning/repair kit) all but one of those was as good as new afterwards.

4. Jumping up and down every twenty minutes is a pain in the arse – Getting up to put a fresh CD on is fine. But it’s only when I’m playing some of my old vinyl that I’m reminded how ridiculously short the LP format was. When you’re reading or working or just chatting to your partner, having to get up to switch sides every twenty minutes or so is just a pain. I’m sorry.

5. I like the integrity of the original album – My retro tastes mean I listen to an awful lot of reissues but, unlike many digital fans, I love listening to albums in full in the track order they were released in when they were originally put out on vinyl – and this accounts for the vast majority of my listening.

6. Though I like all the extras too – While I like listening to albums in the way they were originally conceived, I also love all the extras the additional length of the CD format allows: the B sides, the acoustic versions, the missing songs restored to live albums etc.

7. But most of all – I’m 50 now. And after experimenting with cassette tapes and records in my early years as a music obsessive, I’ve simply lavished far too much time, money, attention and love on my CD collection to ever contemplate changing formats again now. Good job it’s the perfect format for me then…

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17 thoughts on “In praise of the CD: Seven reasons why CDs are my favourite music format ever

  1. CD sound quality can really vary. Years ago, I bought a CD of Cream’s greatest hits. The bass and drums seemed to merge at times. Later, I bought a remastered version and noticed instantly a big improvement in clarity and range. Some of the latest Chandos CDs (not SACD) are a really great sonic experience as is the remastered version of Solti’s ‘Ring Cycle’ on Decca. Obviously no recorded medium is the same as a concert hall. Unless neighbours are being driven to distraction, the same dynamic range and volume is not exactly desirable.
    You’re right about LPs, (despite their attractive covers, sometimes little works of art). Comparisons with LPs are often misleading. What might be compared is the same music on the inner (narrower) grooves of an LP after, say, twenty plays with the sound off the same track CD.
    I notice that many people listen to less music after ‘digitising’ their collecitons or relying on downloads. The sight of a line of CDs and the delight of choosing which one to play (plus, often, useful liner notes) is an added bonus to kep on listening. I’m working my way one by one through my entire collection. It is a surprising how often forgetten pleasures are rediscovered.

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    1. Absolutely, the delight of choosing is a big part of it for me. In CD sound quality I think there have been big improvements in remastering. I also notice that my more recent CDs are recorded a lot louder than my late 80s/90s ones which means better sound quality, too, but it does mean I have to turn the volume up and down – esp if the other half is about!

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  2. I have quite a varied approach these days but CDs are still my default format. I buy vinyl if there is a particularly appealing release and I like having the option. And because I like a lot of underground music I buy downloads from Bandcamp too. I even use Spotify (mainly as a “try before an buy”). So I’m kinda all over the place! Majority of my purchases and collection are still CD though.

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    1. There are some vinyl albums that have huge sentimental value to me that I’d never get rid of. But now that there is a market for vinyl again I may think about flogging some of it off. At one point you would struggle to get a pound a piece for decent vinyl albums so I never bother selling them even if I also had them on CD.

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  3. I’m right with you. I had an extensive album collection back in the day and still sort of miss them all, but really, the equivalent number of CDs take up so much less space, sound just as good on the mere-mortal audio equipment I own, and have the added advantage of being easily ripped into my computer and transferred to my iPhone. What’s not to like?

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      1. I feel deep affection for mine,individually and collectively and barring some that have genuine sentimental/collectable value I don’t feel that same way about my records anymore. Partly,I suppose,because it’s a completely static collection that has not been added to in years, so it’snot grown and evolved like my lovely CDs.

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  4. I have tons of vinyl but never play them. Like you, I don’t feel like getting up every 20 minutes. My ears are pretty good but I’ll be damned if I could tell, blindfolded, whether it was vinyl or CD playing. So the choice is clear for me between CD and vinyl.

    As to the choice between CD and buying digitally, well, hmmm, a little murkier. Over the past few years, I’ve bought very few CD’s but quite a few digital singles. So often I find that there are only 2 or 3 good tunes. So I hate to waste my money on the entire CD. So while, yes, the CD format has a certain tactile appeal, I’ll go with my wallet first.

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  5. Spot on – CD is a wonderful format, and should be recognised as such.
    Can’t be doing with my music collection reduced to a series of 0s and 1s on my computer – I want to proudly display them in my living room, and I can happily spend hours (head tilted slightly to one side) just staring at them.
    Still love the tactility and “ritual” of vinyl, but CD is my preferred format
    (and I can’t truly spot a difference in the sound either)

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    1. I just bought the 4-disc 40th Anniversary “Last Waltz” by the Band. Over and above the great music, it was nice to read the accompanying liner notes, have something to toss into the car to listen to.

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