The End Of The CD - a step backwards ?

We keep getting told that the CD is dead and in a few years time all music will be downloaded online. That the CD will become the preserve of the specialist like LPs are now. Why?

The history of recorded music is one of progress and increasing fidelity. People trying to make the music sound more and more like the original. Indeed the modern term Hi-Fi is a shortening of high-fidelity reflecting the strieving to reproduce music ever more accurately. Thus we progressed from wax cylinders and disks through LPs and tapes to the modern CD. Each step was a progression, with the quality of the sound getting better and better.

Then came the MP3 player (hands up all of you who remember the RIO from 1998). A great idea - your music store on solid state memory in a very small, convenient package. Much smaller than a CD or tape based player, much more robust ... but in those days flash memory was very expensive so in order to get the biggest bang for your buck, people compressed their music. Sure there was some loss in quality but you could get 10 times as much music on your player. Result!

Soooo MP3 became the de-facto standard for portable music players. Once the music industry woke to up this potential revenue stream (and stopped trying to sue everyone for listening to their own music in a new way) the online music store was born. And of course it made perfect sense to deliver the music as MP3 (or AAC etc) files - it's in the right format for the MP3 player and it takes less bandwidth to down load it. But all of these formats are "Lossy" formats, part of the information is thrown away when it's created. It's close, but it's not as good as the original so high-fidelity becomes low-fidelity. This is why I still buy those antiquated CDs, because I want the best possible sound quality!

Now "they" say that all music will be bought online soon, and indeed there are people I know who haven't bought a CD in years. So does this mean we are all to be condemned to low-fidelity music? I hope not. I think there are enough of us out there who still want the real McCoy, so music industry take note, give us quality and long live the CD ... until we get something even better of course :-)

Fi·del·i·ty is defined as:

  1. Faithfulness to obligations, duties, or observances.
  2. Exact correspondence with fact or with a given quality, condition, or event; accuracy.
  3. The degree to which an electronic system accurately reproduces the sound or image of its input signal.

2017 Update: The something better of course would be falling flash memory prices and the rise of FLAC - the Free Lossless Audio Codec :-D


"I loved music, and in my ninth year at MIT, I decided to buy a hi-fi set. I figured that all I needed to do was look at the specifications. So I bought what looked like the best one, turned it on, and turned it off in five minutes, the sound was so poor." - Amar Bose

Header photo credit: Bru-nO/Pixabay



Jamie Whitehorn

Jamie Whitehorn

A self proclaimed geek who loves technology, data, computers, photography and science; but balances this by spending time with his wonderful better half and their dogs and horses in the countryside.

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