Why I will never stop using CDs


For several years now, I’ve read articles, blogs and e-mails from classical and jazz lovers who have their entire collections on their iPhones, iPads, or USB jump sticks. I have a couple of jump sticks that I use to collect music that I later edit and burn to conventional CDs or mp3 CDs, but I will never, ever, as long as I live, abandon the concept of a physical music disc form which to play my fairly large music collection.


Three reasons, and none of them are what male collectors usually value most, which is the “artwork on the box and booklet” and/or the “feel” of a physical disc in their hand. Those things don’t interest or concern me. Yes, some of my CDs do have exquisite artwork and/or booklets that I value, but the larger portion of them have, to me, uninteresting packaging. Nor do I give a poop if I can ”feel” the record in my hand and admire its label before I put it on my CD player.

The first reason why I will never abandon CDs is sound. No, I am not a super audio techno geek. In fact, I despise these people. To them the audio quality is usually more important than the actual performance—particularly if it’s in some modern, weird, convoluted format like a Blu-Ray disc (DVD or audio, and yes, there are now audio-only Blu-Ray discs), SACD (the latest incarnation of the idiotic fad that once dominated the 1970s as “Quadraphonic”) or any other such nonsense—and that doesn’t wash with me, but I do want to hear sound that is as good as one can get from the source, even if the original recording was monophonic. You simply can’t do that with mp3 downloads, which is what most people who save their music to USB sticks or portable devices have. Yes, listening to mp3 files is OK to get a general idea of the pacing, shaping and style of a performance, but no more than that. If it’s something I want to hear more than once, I want it in generally good sound, and mp3s on a jump stick can’t provide that.

The second reason is that, unless you have a lot of money and waste it on a high-end, high-priced amplifier like the Logitech “Squeezebox Touch,” you simply can’t play your stored music files from a USB stick through a conventional stereo system. But even if you could…if you have a fairly large collection…how the hell do you find the recording(s) you want to play? Isn’t it much simpler to just take a CD off the shelf, where it is already filed by composer or performer, and play the damn thing? Of course it is.

And the third reason is – yes – liner notes and librettos. I have a lot of unusual, esoteric classical music and jazz in my collection. It’s not just standard repertoire stuff that everyone knows, and yes, I want to know a little about the work, its genesis, and how it was put together. Sometimes I also want information on the composer or composers. And if it is a work with a sung text, I want the words and the translation (hey, sometimes, even if it’s sung in what passes for English you need to see the text!). Moreover, I want THAT much in my hand, to read like a book or booklet. I don’t do well reading long stretches of text on a computer screen, even a full-sized computer screen.

So, there you have it. Good sound played through stereo speakers, flexibility in storage and ease of finding material, and being able to read about the composers, the music and/or the text. Until you can solve those issues for me, I don’t want to hear poop about losing my physical CDs. It’s you who has the problem, not me.

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Read my book, From Baroque to Bop and Beyond: An extended and detailed history of the intersection of classical music and jazz


2 thoughts on “Why I will never stop using CDs

  1. Pingback: Classical Music Almanac | The Classical Stream

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