Vinyl vs. CD

There was an ongoing debate about the merits of CD sound vs. vinyl over at a Tangerine Dream mailing list. There were valid points on both sides, but no one seemed to bring up the elephant in the room: does CD even have any life-span left?

So I fashioned this response, partly to squeeze in my predictions about CD’s future, partly to give my take on why vinyl might be here to stay, and partly to respond to the idea people liked of including a CD copy of an album with the vinyl so the consumer can get the best of both worlds:

CDs are quickly becoming irrelevant as the digital era moves ever closer to figuring itself out. In our case, the next CD we release (scheduled for April or May) might possibly be the last. Future releases will likely be digital and vinyl with download codes included. (We will be releasing vinyl with download codes this year, as well as CDs.) At this point, CDs are mostly useful as musical business cards and handy merch at live shows. Throwing a CD in with the record is a waste of a manufacturing investment.

The slow media movement is gaining popularity right now, as people increasingly appreciate the tactile experience of playing a record—few of them are motivated by the fidelity argument—but they also want a quick and easy way to store and listen to music. The #1 reason people purchase CDs is to listen to it in their vehicle, but as more and more cars adopt ways to play digitally from a device (or otherwise), that reason will be going away.

Most consumers do not understand there’s a loss in quality from ripping/downloading music as low quality MP3s, so they will notice the difference when they listen to the same album on vinyl in comparison. Also, they appreciate album art on a whole new level with vinyl, so don’t be surprised if there’s a return to more iconic artwork on album covers as a result.

My two cents, at least.

Please continue reading the comments for some additional thoughts!

Td_records

(Just a fraction of my vinyl TD collection shown above)

2 thoughts on “Vinyl vs. CD

  1. Jonathan K.

    Interesting post. All music mediums are relative. CDs will fade away with waning popularity, but i do believe some will make an audiophile comeback just as vinyl did over the past decade – perhaps consumers will hark back to playing the CDs they remember from their teenage years when they are in their 40s. As a collector of vinyl, CDs and digital music I must say I have searched out many CD pressings over the years including MFSL Remasters, Hoffman DCC Remasters and Japanese Black Triangle pressings. These are discs that I will always play, keep and cherish – I also firmly believe that many of these pressings sound better than vinyl pressings of the same album – many digital audiophiles believe this as well… I think these are the discs that could drive the underground CD market when commercial CDs disappear. It’s weird to think that CDs could become nostalgic someday, but perhaps they won’t. I am still waiting for the cassette tape revolution to begin. 🙂

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  2. ModernTuba

    Thanks for your awesome comments! I’m fascinated by the current trends in this area.Here are some additional thoughts:I have a hard time believing people will become nostalgic about CDs to the point collecting them?for the same reason 8-tracks and cassettes (just like VHS and soon DVD) aren’t very collectible: electronics manufacturers just don’t support them, so finding a machine that will play them is becoming increasingly rare.Vinyl survived mostly because the DJ culture still required it, not because market changes were driven by audiophiles, who represent a relatively small fraction of music buyers. While vinyl might’ve gone underground for a while, it never came close to going out of production.As digital continues to overtake the marketplace, you’ll begin to see audiophile-ready quality files, making CDs even more obsolete. In fact, I know of a few projects currently being developed as an SACD product primed to take advantage of audiophile quality downloads and streaming. The technology is almost here, and when it arrives and becomes standard (this decade, likely?), why would an audiophile choose a physical CD over digital (other than for products not yet remastered) to take advantage of it?I still maintain that it won’t be long before CD players are less standard in vehicles and computers/laptops, and people will find themselves more and more in the situation of not having an easy way to play that old product. Rather than figuring it out, they are more likely to just download it again on their device of choice.After all, when was the last time you used a floppy disk?I believe that vinyl, like bound books of paper and ink, will be the physical alternative of choice to their digital counterparts.

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