Might the point be that some people actually like to listen to their music in high fidelity? Which is quite definitely not what you get with a lossy-compressed download.
This is almost getting boring to report each year - but here we are again. Twelve years after sales peaked the music CD format is stubbornly refusing to die. You can shutter the dedicated record shops, hide the CDs behind fondleslabs and video games in the megastores, offer the public instant access to cheaper legal alternatives …
The "answer" link contains about fifteen statements to that effect. But: yes. I'll keep buying CDs until there is an online store where I can buy any record I like, from any country, in non-DRMed uncompressed format, where I have control over it (i.e. *not* a cloud service where obscure industry licensing disputes can result it in being pulled out of the cloud at any time). I expect to be buying CDs for a while.
Quite honestly a huge proportion of the adult population can't tell the difference between a 128Kb/s MP3 and a FLAC stream....
The human body ages and my ears are definitely not getting any better with every passing year.
Can people try to remember most of us don't have Bat hearing any longer as much as we would like.
*If something is popular, then people are using it and buying it for some reason. Get over that fact. :))
I unfortunately have to acknowledge the loss of my bat hearing from when I was younger. I DO take exception to the fact that as I've lost bat hearing, I've gained bat eyesight! *sigh*
So yeah, the subtle audio differences that I could hear 20 years ago? Apparently they're even more subtle now. :( Luckily I didn't listen to my music CRANKED when I was younger, so my hearing is still pretty good.
I have lots of properly done FLACs. I do them myself from the CDs I buy.
There's a portability issue for me. When we have to evacuate the house for weather reasons I can pick up my entire music collection with one hand. The car would be stacked to the roof with CDs and other circular media if I took the physical originals with me. The missus would complain if there wasn't room for her in the car.
"Quite honestly a huge proportion of the adult population can't tell the difference between a 128Kb/s MP3 and a FLAC stream....
The human body ages and my ears are definitely not getting any better with every passing year..."
Well, I turned 55 this month, and I can still hear the front doorbell of my house when I'm in my studio on the third floor with the door partially closed and the stereo at moderate volume. I won't swear I can't tell the difference past 128k, but I can sure tell the difference below 128k; it's like, when it hits 96k or 56k -- man, it's like a switch being thrown in my head.
That said, see some of the reasons I outlined in my comment regarding ownership.
"Properly done FLAC. That is all."
I collect a lot of live stuff from various sources, and I always download the FLAC version if one is available. It takes a bit longer, but maa-aaan, does it ever make a difference. I burn the stuff to a disc/s and stash them safely away, after ripping some 320k mp3's for listening.
One word: cymbals. I ripped Pendulum's "In Silico" at 128K, and the cymbals were distorted and horrible. Repeating at 256K, the result was much more ear-friendly!
If your regular music doesn't have lots of sizzly high-end, you might not notice it; but if it does, >128K is *well* worth it. And it's not like storage is an issue these days.
To all you audiophiles who insist we must have FLAC format, it's a case of people having different priorities in life. Yes, like any subject the experts will tell us you must have stunning kit and superb source material to truly achieve a great result but most people simply need a something suitable that does the job.
The hobby racing cyclist, might spend £10k on a bike while most of us are happy to ride a £200 jobbie from Halfords. Some people spend a mortgage size amount of money on clothes every year, some of us are happy with shorts, a stack of t-shirts and a couple of sweaters.
My own guilty pleasure is photography, I have spent thousands on photographic kit because I want the best I can achieve with my shots, most people are more than satisfied with being happy-snappers with their mobile phones or pocket point'n'shoot cameras and bloody good luck to 'em! I want top quality cameras with the best lenses I can buy because that's my personal priority in life. I would never go around insisting the happy-snappers spend a £1000 on a complex DSLR when all they want it some fun snaps of family and friends.
So what I gain with my photography I compromise with my music quality as I simply want music to listen to while I am driving or passing time while out exercising, so quite frankly 192kbps is good enough for the rubbish I listen to while passing time.
Each to their own guilty pleasures.
True - everyone to their own but I wonder how many people are kidding themselves? When I first started ripping I wondered what quality to use. So I ripped a song at 3 different kbps (all at 128 or above using LAME) then burnt each one twice in a random order back to audio CD. I also did that with the original wav file so I had 8 songs on there, 2 original quality and 6 at varying qualities. I could not tell the difference on my Hi-Fi and neither could my younger friend (about 30 at the time I think).
A guy at work had much better hearing than us - or was better at spotting common mp3 artifacts and almost picked out each one correctly but still rated one of the originals as being from mp3.
So yes - everyone to their own and some people certainly have better ears but I think its worth doing a blind test on yourself with the best equipment available and then picking a quality maybe one higher than you think you can hear. It's easy to kid yourself that you can hear a difference when you know one should be better - just human nature.
Thinking about storage space on the mobile!
It's poor speakers in general. The standard ipod headphones are woeful and everything sounds flat and horrible regardless of bitrate, use some nice Sennheisers or Soundmagic earphones and suddenly the difference in bitrate is easy to tell.
Most people are happy with std stuff and low bitrate, it works for them. Makes my ears hurt personally, bad music is bad for your health.
High fidelity audio isn't just about the frequency range, but the dynamic one. A compressed recording loses a lot of the finer detail, and the dynamics, between the different instruments.
As I've got older I've noticed the top frequencies of my hearing have fallen off dramatically, but I can still pick out the subtleties, the depth, the separation, of a real high fidelity reproduction over the flat lifeless mush of an average mp3!
Try playing that on your car stereo without fannying around with transcoding first. This made all the more interesting by the fact that all the transcoding utilities I've found that support FLAC have proced to be buggy as hell and come with offensively shite UI's.
I've moved to using WMA lossless, purely for practical reasons.
> Yeah, right.
> Try playing that on your car stereo without fannying around with transcoding first. This made all
> the more interesting by the fact that all the transcoding utilities I've found that support FLAC
> have proced to be buggy as hell and come with offensively shite UI's.
No good reason to try and play high-grade FLACs in a car. For the car it's simple; using winamp for example, simply select your album of choice from the media library, right-click and transfer to your plugged iPOD or MP3 player of choice. Winamp will automatically convert the FLACs into MP3s for your enjoyment.
> I've moved to using WMA lossless, purely for practical reasons.
WMA format is owned by a corporation. That's a no no for me. For me, FLACs any day.
I still buy CDs. Every CD that I buy, I rip into full quality FLACs, ID3 tag them and get the best album cover image for each and every track.
The reason why I still buy CDs? Because of the album art work that I like to look at sometimes while listening. You don't get that from a digital download...
With regards to why bother with anything above 128k... Are you nuts? Squeeze them tracks over a worthwhile DAC and quality horns and you'll hear that difference. Sit right in the centre of the stereo image and close your eyes. I swear it'll be as though Hendrix is playing his guitar right there and in front of you...
...a total of ONE digital music album.
CDs are just better all round. Right there in the shop, usually nicely priced, and turning it into the compressed file format of your choice is as easy as bunging the disk in the drive and clicking a few icons.
Oh, and no crapware or DRM required, Sony notwithstanding.
> a total of ONE digital music album.
I've bought a few.
Magnatune allowed you to pick your price, then allow you to download the format of your choice (including uncompressed PCM) without DRM. And then give away three copies to your mates.
They don't appear to be doing this any more, though :-(
I've bought downloads only where there's been a really cheap offer.
I still buy CD and vinyl - about equal amounts of each these days in terms of new items and more CDs for second-hand buys.
Download doesn't really offer a convenience for me - if I am after immediacy there's streaming options, otherwise there's more fun in waiting for a physical delivery, and ripping on first play means the backup and digital storage side of things is taken care of with no more fuss than triggering the download would involve.
Also you can still use CDs in a variety of places where digital formats simply can't travel - such as the car (some new cars have inputs for MP3 players, but older ones don't) or a random CD player in somewhere such as a church hall. Also, I find CDs more child-friendly. I'm just about happy to let my six year old loose on a CD player, but wouldn't want to do that with an MP3 player - and I wouldn't let my two year old anywhere near the MP3 player but I'm happy to let him look at the CDs and choose one.
Until you can get mainstream downloads in high quality, CD is still the best option...
Some places (such as the Naim and Linn independent labels) offer 24Bit 192KHz downloads but the artists are usually niche. Until Amazon or Apple offer high quality and I mean the current Apple Lossless or FLAC as a minimum, many folks will stick to buying and ripping their own CD's.
For a vast number of people the quality of downloads is fine.... for others, it isn't.
Must admit I rarely buy a CD myself these days, but I can see the point of them, and can imagine why they might cling on. If you actually want to hear and enjoy music, there's nothing like the quality of CD reproduced on even halfway decent Hi-Fi kit. Compressed MP3 through penny-sized plastic speakers isn't quite the same experience.
But our generation is spoilt: it just seems so much effort to get up and root out a CD and put it in the machine, and I'm as guilty of that as anyone.
The ogive - an S-shaped curve which starts to trail downwards, gets faster to halfway, then slows down and tails off so it's tangential to the axis when it hits it - is the expected un-adoption curve.
It comes from the integral of the normal distribution, so if people are de-adopting according to that (which is completely expected) then the ogive is what you'd get. We are now in the "late de-adopters" phase since we've passed the maximum de-adoption rate and the rate is now slowing, as we pass the peak and reach the "long tail" of the normal distribution.
So the stats are obeying expectation perfectly. What shape were you expecting? A comedy nosedive to negative several billion, like what one sees in one-frame cartoons? :p Ain't gonna happen with a variable that can't go negative!
This is the curve of a dying format. Not actually being mortal, there is no binary decision point where the format is now "dead" versus being "alive". The long tail of de-adoption could go on for 50 years, and in fact given this curve you can calculate how long that is for any definition of "dead" you wish to select (e.g. 10,000 global purchases per year).
Sorry to bring statistics to the table on an article about statistics, but hey, slow day at work.
Also CDs are not lossily-compressed. Now storage is so cheap, it's almost pointless using anything except FLAC. But very few places let you download uncompressed (or losslessly compressed), and those are all more expensive, so you might as well buy the CD and rip it.
And if the copy on your hard drive is lost or corrupted, you've got a backup sat on a shelf somewhere.
Re AC @ 08:15
DAT better than CD? Even when DAT is setup to record at 16bit, 44.1kHz? How does that work?
Even best case you can squeeze 48kHz sampling out of DAT, which extends the frequency response out to (theoretically) 24kHz minus whaterver you need for the filter slope - definitely in bat territory.
Long hours of double blind tests showed me that most people can't hear any difference when you brick wall filter music at 16kHz, so I'm not buying it.
I won't get started on what constitutes any of the various types of compression, but band limited PCM sampling at 16 bit, 44.1kHz isn't compressed in my book. At all.
Then the problem is almost certainly either your playback device or the CD. Early CDs were made using appalling (by modern standards) ADCs and without correct dither, but this is no longer the case.
Run the maths. A 16-bit recording gets you 96dB of dynamic range. That gets you up to the typical level at a decent rock gig, with perfect accuracy. (That's mathematically perfect to the absolute threshold of human hearing.)
Yes, people record at 24-bit. Why? Answer: headroom. I can set the gains low enough that the singer will *never* clip the input, whilst still having enough bit depth to get at least 16 bit accuracy on the recording. Back in the "old days", you always used a compressor so that if the singer pushed a bit too hard, you didn't clip the recording; but then you've *recorded* with the dynamic range compression and you can never get rid of it. These days, the extra bit depth means we can record straight. We have the option of using dynamic range compression if we want, as an artistic choice, but we don't need it as a safety net for recording.
I think this is a bit of nonsense. CDs have a huge dynamic range, it's just that nobody makes use of it, mastering their CDs right up to the point of clipping, these days. Then they claim you need better quality media! Then, they'll just compress everything to the point of clipping on that, too.
CDs are fine. The people who master audio are not.
Spot on. I was going to make the same point myself. There's been a huge argument raging about this in audiophile circles for ages now. Modern music producers pretty much "turn everything up to eleven" when mixing tracks these days, apparently terrified of the idea that different instruments, different parts of a tune, or different songs might actually be quieter than others.
The arguments about whether CDs [especially "digitally remastered" classic albums] are better than MP3, AAC, FLAC... or whatever, is completely spurious. Any 'real' audio geek will tell you you need to be listening to vinyl on a valve or early transistor amp that's had time to warm up properly, if you want to hear your music sounding like it should.
If you don't live in a country with good digital music video stores, and frankly there aren't many then you be left to buying CDs.
iTunes has a highly variable catalogue across its many stores and restricts buyers by the address of their credit cards. Amazon, Spotify and many others are geolocked. Most only sell lossy music. Those who are not geolocked and sell lossless music (like Qobuz) may be in countries (France) where releases lag adjacent countries by months.
Some stores also price the digital download of (lossy) music higher than having a CD posted to you...internationally.
So for many, CD and DVD is the fallback for a digital marketplace that isn't fully alive.
You can sorta see why the music industry is panicking. The decline of music sales and so on.
But then there's also a huge lack of quality and a new sound. Each decade tended to have a distict sound or craze, 70s - disco and punk, 80s - new romantic, synth pop, 90s, indie and rave. Since then it's just all a bit rubbish.
Talent shows are killing the industry even faster with their very short lived careers. It's fast food music which won't satisfy long term.
Sigh. The old 'music was better in my day' canard. Yet again.
No. No it wasn't.
Music of the 00s:
Radiohead - Kid A, Amnesiac, Hail to the Thief
Neutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
Arcade Fire - Funeral, Neon Bible
Blur - Think Tank (plus everything else Albarn did, pretty much, all decade)
Bright Eyes - Lifted, I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning
British Sea Power -The Decline of British Sea Power
Broken Social Scene - You Forgot It In People
Death Cab For Cutie - pick any one, but I'm partial to Plans
DeVotchKa - How It Ends
Dinosaur Jr. - Beyond, Farm
Feist - Let It Die, The Reminder
Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
Franz Ferdinand - Franz Ferdinand
Gnarls Barkley - St. Elsewhere
Interpol - Turn On The Bright Lights
Low - Things We Lost In The Fire
Modest Mouse - The Moon & Antarctica
Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Pulp - We Love Life
Ryan Adams - Heartbreaker
Sigur Ros - ( )
Sujan Stevens - Illinois
Ted Leo and The Pharmacists - The Tyranny of Distance, Hearts of Oak, Shake the Sheets
The Decemberists - Castaways and Cutouts, Her Majesty, Picaresque, The Crane Wife
The Delgados - The Great Eastern, Hate
The Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Embryonic
The Gaslight Anthem - The '59 Sound
The Hold Steady - first four albums
The Magnetic Fields - i (69 Love Songs was 1999)
The National - all five albums
The New Pornographers - Twin Cinema
The Raconteurs - either album
The White Stripes - entire discography
Wolf Parade - Apologies to the Queen Mary
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz!
I'll only bother citing a few things from the 2010s so far: The Decemberists - The King Is Dead, and Girls - Album and Father, Son, Holy Ghost.
That's just me looking through my CDs, which as you can tell, trend towards the slightly twee indie. I don't even listen to hip-hop, which had an incredibly productive decade. And I intentionally left out lots of things that are really obscure, side projects, slightly embarrassing (hey, I'm only human) or Japanese (which would be another huge list in itself; the Japanese indie scene of the 2000s is a whole parallel universe of amazing music which is mostly unknown outside the country). If you want more nerdy indie, go look at Pitchfork's 'best of the decade' lists. If you want somewhat more mainstream, check, oh, any music magazine's similar lists which were no doubt published at the end of 2010.
So no. No. And thrice no. Music is as good as it ever was, you're just getting old and crotchety. Sorry to break it to you.
Very few of the above list qualify as good music in my books and those which do (like Decemberists) would not stand up too well if I were to compare them like for like with a similar "ranking" act from 60's or 70's, thogh I do respect them for trying.
There just isn't the spark of brilliance and originality you could find in Genesis, KC, Jefferson Airplane, Jethro Tull, Procol Harum, Uriah Heep, Deep Purple, The Doors, Yes, ELP, Kansas etc...
That was, in fact, the precise point I was making. I wasn't saying 'music is better in my day'. I'm saying there's good music in every 'day', but the older you get, the less time and inclination you have to go out and discover the good new music of the current 'day', because you already have lots and lots of good music from your own particular 'day'. So you continue to cherish your carefully-picked favourites from your own 'day' and the music you hear from the current 'day' becomes less and less anything you'd actually look for or choose to listen, and more and more stuff that is, in relation to your taste, random - stuff from someone else's favourite radio station, from a TV commercial, in a clothing store or bar, whatever. Over time, you tend to forget that there was just as much complete claptrap on other people's radio stations, TV commercials, and in bars when you were young. You didn't like that claptrap. You never bought it. Why would you remember it?
It happens to everyone, as far as I can tell. I can feel it happening to me. I buy much less music than I used to, just because I already have hundreds of good records to listen to. I find myself wanting to go out on the lawn and shake my cane at those kids and their XXs. I had to force myself to pick up Girls' albums and listen to Animal Collective until I got it. It would have been _easier_ for me to just keep listening to the records I bought in 1995-2002 and slide down the path into decrying the kids these days and how all their music is just noise, innit? Not good tunes like we had in my day. But I'm trying to resist that, because I know it's a bunch of codswallop, and so should the people who are so wedded to whatever music happened to be around in their 'day'. It is difficult, though. Probably only dedicated professionals like John Peel can avoid the phenomenon entirely.
I've got lots of great music from the '60s right up to now. Some of the '60s and '70s stuff people have cited in replies is great. Is there any objective argument that it's miles better than the best stuff made in the 80s, 90s or 00s? No, there really isn't. There's no reason there would be. Mankind does not magically lose all creativity or musical talent from decade to decade, never has, never will. As long as there are people with brains and it's possible to attach some strings to a chunk of wood, good music is going to continue to get made, let's face it.
I wasn't having a stupid 'my music is better than your music' argument. I was trying to reject such arguments as nonsense.
"Is there any objective argument that it's miles better than the best stuff made in the 80s, 90s or 00s? No, there really isn't."
If anyone would care to come up with some psychoacoustic theory of what makes for a good piece of music then I'm sure an objective answer can be given.
For now, there is circumstantial evidence.
In the 70s the audience would tell the labels what they wanted to hear. Bands had to be able to play the instruments, to have some interesting ideas and composing skills.
Today the labels tell the audience what they should listen to. The music is done on computers, probably by the same IT department for all "popular" acts. No skills required, other than dexterity with a mouse. The main qualifications for band "members" (who are just employees) are to be able to karaoke to a ready-made tune and to have looks which match the producer's specifications for a specific "song" (e.g. to have a pair of tits and long legs or to be an androgynous young male or to sing in a voice of a eunuch etc.)
The music has been made a commodity. It is slapped together, consumed and forgotten and the audience then waits for another dose of beat-modulated noise.
I personally think that good music is cyclical - there are peaks and troughs and now we are most decidedly in a trough. I guess it is in sync with the general cultural state of the society. When young people's aspiration is limited to getting the next gadget or a pair of trainers quicker than the man next door, the taste in music slumps. When there is a circumstantial threat or a major social change or kids believe that they can become a fusion engine artificer or a pilot on interplanetary spaceship when they grow up they will demand (and make) the right kind of music.
"In the 70s the audience would tell the labels what they wanted to hear. Bands had to be able to play the instruments, to have some interesting ideas and composing skills."
Again, I think you're suffering from rosy glasses syndrome. There was an awful lot of manufactured pap released in the 70s; even as far back as the 50s and 60s (Motown churned it out by the bucketload, the 50s were notorious for slapped-together girl groups).
Sure, there was Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones and Springsteen and whoever else you like in the mainstream charts in the 70s. There were also all these, ahem, timeless classics:
Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree is at #6. A giant of our times, indeed. The highly non-manufactured "You're The One That I Want', from the Grease soundtrack, is in the top ten too. Fun track? Sure. Example of highly authentic singer-songwriting and adventurous musicianship? Ahem.
Y.M.C.A.! Another deeply authentic piece of music. ABBA feature highly, there's another group which bears no resemblance whatsoever to the manufactured pop groups of today, erm. The Jackson 5...
I'm listening to Schubert on Radio 3 as I read this (In HD streaming, as it happens) and I agree that the thing that is missing these days is Music. We have a lot of Marketing, but no real music.
OK, I like
Ali Farka Touré
Where are the likes of:
The Albion Band
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Marketing is one reason why the CD still hangs on. Its physical presence in a supermarket is a reminder every time you walk past. Also there is marketing when you walk past your CD rack at home. Digital simply doesn't have that - it doesn't inspire unexpectedly, because your window on the digital world is too small.
On of Digital's problems is that as a sales system, it isn't better than physical. It may be cheaper to distribute, but those savings are not passed on because you don't undercut your channel partners. Buying digital is like getting money for Christmas. Yes its nice, but when there's nothing to open, its a bit of a let-down and the perceived value goes down. As has been said - why have one, when you can have the CD and get both?
Maybe in the UK as it is the last bastion of cassette decks in vehicles, but a cheap in-car stereo will have a USB slot, as do most home CD and DVD players these days. You can buy a new DVD or CD player for about the cost of a stack of blank DVD-ROMs now. Pretty much every media appliance in my house, from the kitchen upwards has a USB and/or SD slot and possibly wifi.
I use Grooveshark or Tinyshark for Android. When friends/colleagues mention music I might like, I search for it on my phone. I find it and add it to a playlist.
I can then play it in my ear, my car and when I get home.
Try it out - it's pretty cool.
I do of course still maintain a comprehensive digital library of my own.
But now with DRM gone (except for some stores like Amazon which still relies on some proprietary download tool) sales slowly are going up and piracy is going down of course.
Plus if you actually want to buy something, it does have an advantage of having a CD which you can probably play even in 20 years. CDs are also easy to rip, so you have all the advantages of file based distribution.
Well actually you do contribute! - Money paid for second hand CDs will most likely be spent on new CDs by someone else. And if the bands who publish their own music do well they will do even better when they strike a marketing deal with a distributor. Every penny paid for music feeds the industry somewhere in the chain.
A physical CD-Rom, like vinyl, is a tangible thing that can proudly sit on a shelf and which can be perused by the owner or his guests.
It has a case, a sleeve, sometimes lyrics or a note from the composer. The cover is often a small piece of artwork in itself.
It can be shared, swapped, sold, reused on a multitude of different peoples CD Players. It is which you can be proud of.
It is a quality item that is governed by the owners wishes, it can be passed on as a gift without fear of reprisal from a multi-conglomerate.
It can stimulate a plethora of senses and its yours.
Yes, and this is probably the main reason vinyl refuses to die (it's even having a renaissance). When you play it you see the sound reproduction method directly in action, instead of being hidden inside a black box, and the sleeve has more space for artwork and notes. Covers from vinyl re-releases on CD:s generally look pathetic, if they have been done by just downscaling the original.
Mostly it's DJs who go for it. Much, much easier to line beats up with two spinning vinyl platters than try to nudge waveforms together on a screen or hope that some auto beat matching thingumajigger gets it right.
Also time-coded vinyl is stupidly expensive and so is the equipment and software that reads it.
CDs can be played anywhere. Vinyl and tape still can where people have their old equipment (and you can still get new equipment to do so). Its easy to find your original.
A trashed CD player can be made to spit out its disk if the unit dies.
Downloaded files are not so easy.
If you can read the hard disk of a dead PC, you might not be able to use the music files elsewhere because of DRM.
The other half bought some music for her Blackberry. Now she has an HTC and it won't play them due to DRM. Bit of downloading later and I have files she can play anywhere.
Computer formats also die off. Doomsday disk anyone? Getting something to read that memory stick in 100years might not be so easy. Vinyl can be heard with a pin and a bit of paper (and something to spin it)
People like having something physical they can hold in their hands, and place collections of onto shelves. Unless you find a way of changing that, CDs etc. will always be in demand.
Mind you, the industry would make a lot more money if they actually gave people what they wanted (in any format) including their back catalogue.
Long ago, when vinyl was king, I'd buy vinyl -- then transfer the music to a cassette tape, and store the vinyl in a safe place. If something happened to the tape, I'd just make another. These days it's a CD and a computer or MP3 player (or both).
In no case can the seller reach down my ISP and take away the music. Which, if I'd bought the soundtrack to "1984: The Musical" from Amazon, might turn out to be important.
The reproduction of music just keeps getting better. Who but an extremist needs anything better than a CD? My ears aren't that good.
I've a few old Hi-Fi magazines and its amazing how much CD players cost in the 1990s and what golden ear reviewers said about the amazingly good quality of £300 CD players, £200 headphones, etc.
Technology has moved on in the last twenty years and those expensive devices have got so much cheaper and much improved. But still the Hi-FI reviewers of today claim you only get a decent sound out of a CD player costing £300 and a pair of headphones costing over £200...
Odd that... ;)
Many of the lower cost CD players, amps and headphones use cheaper components than their more expensive counterparts. The higher end stuff tends to use higher spec tighter tolerance stuff, quite often military spec chips and hand soldered boards and wires, headphone manufacturers use Kevlar reinforcement in their cables, plugs and sockets have gold contacts and many of the components are hand assembled and soak tested. All of which costs.
A typical OEM factory will use lower tolerance components, substitute metal parts for plastic and automate as much of the assembly process as possible, or use relatively unskilled labour in sweatshop conditions. The products are housed in flimsy cases and are generally made to be thrown away, rather than repaired.
So, while it's true you can get a decent sounding CD player for next to nowt, you won't get a very good and durable one for the same price but, what with inflation and that, a £300 CD player now is in real terms quite a lot cheaper than a £300 one back then.
I got a superb deal on a CD player, speakers and amp about 15 years ago and they are still going strong.
On the CD player you are basically right. I know of no other device about which so much nonsense is talked.
Hi-fi people.... tell me about how the 1s and 0s from that CD-ROM drive your computer that costs peanuts are transferred less accurately than the riduculous drive mechanism in the expensive CD player. That would be why loading software from the CD-ROM drive always go wrong due to errors... oh hang on a minute actually it doesn't.
And then clock stability! Ha!! We are talking about 44.1kHz (or maybe 96kHz if you're lucky). That's kilohertz dudes. Thousands of times per second. Checked the clock frequency on your CPU recently? I think that the electronics industry is capable of creating a stable clock in the kilohertz band for not very much money.
And then DACs... OK, now we can have a conversation with some possible merit. But still interesting to compare to pro-audio gear and see that the most expensive hi-fi stuff does not make sense.
So, yeah, CD-players (and especially those feeding external DACs) are the ultimate in hi-fi nonsense, Slightly behind ridiculously expensive cables - ever thought about the fact that the signal you are listening to went first through metres of much cheaper (but still good quality) cable in a recording studio first? Ever thought about how much it would cost to wire a recording studio (in the analogue days especially, but even today) at 100 quid per metre?
But then headphones... well, actually nothing much happened in transducerland for a few decades. Sure, some new magnetic materials, but the basic principle is the same as it was in the 50s. So, still makes sense that headphones (and also speakers, microphones) are just as expensive as they always were. Inflation has basically been cancelled out by better logistics / production and design techniques and low labour costs in China.
People will buy disposable music on download - you listen to it fro a few weeks while it's popular then delete/forget about it. It's really replacing FM radio not records.
People buy CDs because they want to keep the record and don't trust the companies to keep it available - at least anybody over 20 doesn't trust them.
I don't listen to "pop" - much prefer classical and jazz. To me, fidelity is more important than quantity or "danceable beat." Ibuy a small quantity of CD's then rip them to FLAC. I bought a couple of MP3 albums from Amazon and the sound quality sucks. I don't have golden ears but even I could tell the difference!
Check a random album recommended to me on Amazon:
So I can have a low quality rip delivered to me using my own bandwidth for.....exactly the same price as a CD. Great. Nope. Not sure why I'd fall for that one.
Price: £8.99 & this item Delivered FREE in the UK with Super Saver Delivery. See details and In stock.Items for dispatch to UK will be sold by Amazon's Preferred Merchant. (Why?)
45 new from £7.93
Buy the MP3 album for £8.99 at the Amazon MP3 Downloads store.
Most of the (classical) CDs I buy come in attractive packaging. This generally includes a booklet with biographical information about the composer and artists, maybe a parallel text of the libretto for operas.
We all know that the cost of manufacturing the CD is negligible, so most of the value is in the packaging, distribution and resellers' margin. When they sell the music to you as a direct download, without any of this on-cost, they could probably make the same profit on 30% of the CD price. But they prefer to gouge us for the full price.
...is easy access to and easy to use loss-less or loss-less compression codec downloads, without paying a premium price; the current mass-market solution of 'good enough' quality isn't good enough for my tastes.
Until that day CD it is, and ripping to whatever format takes my fancy.
A lot of people like to collect albums on CD because it's physical, you can actually see and thumb through your collection, admire the artwork and inlay or read the lyrics if they're included.
If you want to give music as a birthday, Christmas or Valentines gift to someone then a physical CD comes across as more personal and thoughful than a download voucher or USB stick with a few files on it.
If you download your music then how safe is it if your hard drive crashes or your MP3 player gets stolen? Some download stores limit the number of times you can re-download. What if the store closes down? I bought some tunes from Microsoft 10 years ago but the site closed and I lost DRM access to the files. :-(
Maybe you burn your downloads to CD as a backup? Well, you could buy the original CD which is more collectable and then rip the tracks to your MP3 player. Pressed CDs shold last for many years longer than burnt ones. Viva CDs!
You nailed it.
You can't show off a rack of downloads or see someone else's to get an idea of their tastes and strike up a conversation.
An iTunes card is a cop-out gift, a specific CD or LP chosen with the recipient's tastes in mind is special.
Music is social, and that socializing happens at levels that an invisible file won't reach.
My prefererred format for digital music is definitely audio CD. If I buy from Itunes it's stuck on that Ipod with no way to transfer to another device. Audio CD can be ripped to Itunes, Zune, whatever you want. Buy it once and use multiple times, not buy same song and pay for each device.
I never cared much for the scratchy poppy sound of vinyl.
Unless I've missed my guess, it almost sounds like El Reg is actually disappointed at this news. They've been yelling forever that CDs are dead, but -- like the bumblebee who doesn't realize he isn't supposed to be able to fly -- folks keep buying them anyway.
Perhaps it's the fact that when you own a copy of an album on compact disc, YOU FUCKING OWN IT. No DRM-encumbered formats, no music stored in the "cloud" that the labels can reach out over the 'Net and take away from you, none of that bullshiit. You've bought an album on CD, and it's YOURS, goddammit, to do what you want with -- play it on your CD player, rip it to your hard drive to listen to without risking damage to the medium, rip tracks to use on a mix disc... man, that bad boy is YOURS.
Rather nice news about LPs, too. Y'know, a DJ friend of mine who still spins a lot of vinyl in the course of his work pointed out a little something about vinyl that I'd never given any thought to -- which is that in many cases, the supposedly poor quality sound of LPs was due not so much to the medium itself, but to the rapidly declining quality of turntables throughout the '80s and early '90s. Granted, vinyl sound qualiity is vulnerable to deterioration due to surface damage and wear, but a lot of it is also due to the fact that in the '80s/early '90s, more and more parts of turntables were made of plastic; even the more high-end tables had parts made of plastic which really should've been made of metal... and so, as my pal pointed out, if my LPs started sounding like shit in the '80s, it was at least partially because I was hearing them played on a really crappy turntable. That's also why -- even though I think the concept is great -- I've hesitated to buy one of those turntables which automatically encodes the LP to .wav: I've checked them out, and almost all of them are still using those cheap, crappy turntables with mostly plastic parts.
There is, of course, another liittle factoid which you don't hear reported much, which is that you can't encode DRM onto vinyl.
I'm kind of amazed I have not seen it here, so I will comment.
With a CD you have the legal right to transfer it to someone else when you are done
with it. With a download what you have is a non-transferable license. Now, if you
want to be clever, you "borrow" someone else's collection, load it onto your computer,
then use the Apple service to "clean" your collection transforming it into Apple format
and store it online for a cheapish price.
I can buy a used CD for $1. For a great CD it might cost me $5. Either way I'm
paying far less than the new price and I can resell it, legally, once I'm done. Hell, if I
load it on my computer, us the Apple method of cleaning, I can legally sell it and keep
all the music. Thankfully, I'm just as happy listening to the stuff on YouTube like a great
big digital Jukebox with the price of admission being a listen to a commercial once in
Most people want convenience over quality. Given the choice of filling their portable device with 2500 compressed tunes or say, 500 uncompressed tunes, the majority will go for the former. Most people aren't that bothered about lossless high bitrate music, they want something they can listen to and sounds ok.
The big selling points of CD was that it was convenient, hardy and had and most importantly a significantly higher signal-to-noise ratio than vinyl and cassette, and that above all the techno-stuff sold the system. With MP3 and other lossy formats, these benefits remain plus the easy access to new material provided by smaller file sizes.
I personally think that it's going to be very hard to sell high-resolution audio to a market that doesn't really have a need or real desire for it. Another commentard mentioned that Linn etc are providing 24/192 audio. High bitrate audio has been kicking around for over a decade but will continue to remain specialist because there is no intrinsic value in it. Most people cannot hear a difference, so why bother?
Not meaning to bang the loudness war drum yet again (well, OK, actually I am), but the fact is that the sound quality of modern music is appalling. It's just a solid wall of hyper-compressed, muffled, distorted, fatiguing racket.
The music industry is one of the only industries I can think of which creates products, then intentionally and deliberately damages and degrades them before releasing them. As a result, I flatly refuse nowerdays to pay for music which has received such shocking treatment.
The fact is that as loudness has increased and as sound quality has decreased, sales have steadily decreased. Piracy is of course to blame for a fair bit of this. But by releasing such dreadful sounding products, the industry isn't doing itself any favours at all.
I can't help thinking this is partly a generational thing. I'm 41. When I was a lad, we had tapes and vinyl - CDs were only for the rich. By the time I went to university (1989) CD players were down to a feasible price, so I bought one and as I built up a music collection, it came on CD. I suspect if I were 21 I'd have everything on MP3 stored on my laptop and/or mobile phone.
There are reasons of convenience and technology to argue for one format or another, and I find CDs still work best for me - but I do fear this is partly because I'm an old git.
The cost of a CD versus a download is directly comparable. This is wrong as the differences in the formats are massive. A CD I can do with it as I please, convert it, rip it, copy it and this fits into my lifestyle. It means I have the master at home on my main stereo, were the quality is important (even if my ears can't tell!) I have the MP3 on my Ipod for my daily driver and I have a direct CD copy for my weekend car.
As there is no DRM, I can do this. With DRM, I'd have to purchase multiple copies of the same material or move devices around. Also, should the mood take (hasn't yet in over 20 years), I can sell the CD's and make some money back, or lend it to a friend, or I could push the boundaries and read the fine inlay card they have provided.
Until MP3's are unlocked and at maximum two thirds of the price (half price would be more realistic) of the physical media, why on earth would you buy digital media? After all the record companies have been charging vastly inflated prices for decades, they didn't embrace the digital age, they thought they knew better. It doesn't make sense when they aren't having to produce the physical media or transport it, the digital cost should be a lot less.
CD's a still nicer, they're easy to sell on, to lend out, you can rip them to MP3, they have sleeve notes and artwork, not a little picture on a screen. I bought a limited edition live album the other week, signed by the band, can't sign a download, the whole thing is impersonal.
thing is it's worth buying a cd even if you don't plan on using it. It's usually cheaper, it's uncompressed and if your hard drive blows you just rip it again.
The only annoying thing about cds is that they scratch, easily. Yesterday I accidentally dropped a cd :( i've proably messed up a track... fortunately I have it ripped to a lossless format so no data lost!
Which if cared for will last, I can rip that to a low quality mp3 for the disc in the car or high fidelity format for my Android phone. If I lose the file, phone or scratch the disc I still have the original safely stored in my attic.
Also I don't know about anyone else, but CD are generally cheaper if you buy from a reputable online retailer than if I buy from Napster or Itunes mp3 or mp4. Bit like buying ebooks which are considerably more expensive than the hardcopy article.
So if the industry want to sell come up with a ubiquitous, competitive way of obtaining the music that you cannot lose and doesn't stop working when you stop paying the subscription and I can play on multiple devices and I will buy lots more music.
It is growing. Just not the parts of it that keep filing lawsuits because nobody wants their DRM encumbered dregs.
I like CDs, decent sound, reasonable price, reasonably portable. A good album is still cheaper per song than the $1.99 downloads.
I can't speak for everyone else but I still buy CDs for several reasons.
The CD represents a physical backup of the uncompressed audio that I can convert to any format I happen to need at the time. My music collection is currently in MP3 format. I use that in my car, on my phone, and on my PCs. If something were to go catastrophically wrong with my digital copies (Hard drives and Flash drives do fail unfortunately) I can always fall back onto my CDs to make new digital copies. Also if I decide to change from MP3 to a newer better sounding format I have that option without having to try and convert one lossy format to another. Converting from the original lossless CD always produces the best results.
Then there's the issue of control. If my music were linked to an online account of some kind it would mean I never have complete control over my investment. While most companies couldn't get away with anything truly shady, that fact doesn't do much to ensure my purchase would still be usable if the seller went out of business. The recording industry does seem to think it should have some right to control what it's sold to me after the sale. I disagree and I won't put myself in a position where they have the option of denying me my right to listen to the music I've purchased. Even if they promised never to use that power, I just can't accept giving them the power in the first place.
There have been newer physical formats to try and usurp the CD but so far they all seem to have some form of control mechanism in place that gives the seller the power to take my purchase away after the fact. For the most part people know this which is why I think CDs are still selling strong.
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