It’s the time of year for saving money!
My first trip to Manhattan was with my mother and native New Yorker stepfather. We road-tripped from my hometown of Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, which is a pretty provincial place for reasons that I can’t explain other than people are somehow still pissed about the nation’s capital moving to New York City a little before 1800.
At any rate, we made the trip along with a family friend to go to the legendary Harvey’s Stereo. This place was epic in comparison to what Philadelphia had to offer and the object of my stepfather’s eye was a Compact Disc player. It was early 1984, and Compact Discs were simply the shit. The actual discs (and there weren’t many of them out at the time but they were very sought after) cost a hefty $25-plus per album, which is over $60 in today’s dollars. Early Compact Disc players cost in the ballpark of $1,000US, which back then was a pretty penny. But hell, the format promised to deliver “Perfect Sound Forever,” and who could beat that? Even back then, with terrible DACs, Compact Discs had some advantages over vinyl that pass the test of time to this day. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not one of those true believers who think a “non oversampling DAC” from 1984 can even remotely compete with today’s best (or even cheap) digital-to-analog converters, but in the day, a CD player built like a brick shithouse was pretty cool.
Roll the tape forward to the early 1990s and I was off to music school at USC, complete with nearly 500 carefully curated Compact Discs packed into Case Logic folding cases. I remember this vividly because during Spring Break that Freshman year, some ass-clown broke into my dorm room and swiped all of my CDs. All of the Hendrix bootlegs, entire collections of Led Zeppelin, The Police, Rush, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, The Doors – all kinds of cool and rare stuff was gone. Thank God for USAA insurance who, because of my keeping my jewel cases at home, paid me “retail replacement value” prices (meaning Sam Goody at the Beverly Center mall in Los Angeles – the most expensive place I could find to buy CDs), which made me flush and able to re-purchase much of my music collection again.
Back in that era I was selling audiophile gear in Beverly Hills while a freshman in college, and we sold CD transports like the Mark Levinson No. 31, which was about the coolest thing that I had ever seen. It was a top-loading CD transport that you loaded the disc into (complete with sound effects from the lid opening) and secured it with a magnet-like cap and then lowered the space-inspired hatch in preparation for musical take-off. The cool factor was off the charts. Not long after moving to Mr. Levinson’s Cello Music and Film in West Hollywood for an even higher-end audiophile sales experience, we took esoteric to a new level by selling a Forsell CD transport that for $10,000 actually had the user load the disc upside down and then have it float on a bed of air while spinning thanks to what sure looked like a fish tank pump. Go figure. But paired with a re-branded, studio-quality Apogee Digital DAC made especially for Cello, this digital rig sounded pretty damn good for the day. CD sales at the time made up roughly 85 percent of a $38,000,000,000 per year domestic music business. Today, according to the RIAA in 2017, physical media made up 12 percent of the $8.9 billion domestic music sales with the combo of streaming and downloads now making up 85 percent of the much smaller overall music market.
For decades after that, the Compact Disc transport was THE answer for high-end music playback for audiophiles. And I owned some of the best. Meridian’s reference 800 transport foreshadowed the comingling of movie discs and audiophile discs and was one of the best-sounding audiophile components that I ever owned. There were others that sounded great, too.
Everything changed in the audiophile silver disc player market when Oppo Digital came to town, as they understood what the big AV companies and major record labels didn’t: more than one disc player is too many too many disc players for pretty much everybody. The mindlessly stupid format war between SACD and DVD-Audio off put a lot of mainstream consumers from owning high-resolution, high-performance silver audio disc players. DVD-Video players were cheap and much easier to connect to your system and they enjoyed at one point over 90-percent market penetration in the United States. But MP3s were now readily available for your iPod be it stolen from the Internet or legally ripped from your CD collection. Even at lame sample rates, the convenience of the MP3 was hard to ignore as companies like Apple pretty much changed the music industry forever with an impact that would ultimately kill the Compact Disc for music as it did the CD and DVD for computer software delivery.
An Oppo player pretty much played every silver disc you had and did it until a time when Oppo realized what many audiophiles are realizing now: the day of the silver disc is over. And perhaps for good reason. While Compact Discs ruled over vinyl then and now, they suck in comparison to music in HD, be it a file, a silver disc, or even streaming. Most importantly, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act allowed consumers to rip CDs legally when that isn’t the case with DVD-Video, Blu-ray, and other AV silver disc formats. Even those of us who still have Compact Discs have long since ripped them to a hard drive, as a traditional hard drive with upwards of three TB of storage space costs today as little as $99 from Amazon.com or Best Buy or wherever.
Roon today offers cover flow art that when using an iPad or tablet rivals the the experience of fondling an LP but packed with digital metadata, delivering an experience that just a few short years ago would have cost over $14,000 via a Meridian Sooloos system. Today, a dedicated Roon server will set you back like $500 and can be retrofitted to connect into nearly any DAC for well under $100 assuming said DAC isn’t already a Roon “end point.” So some critics might suggest that they can’t live without their collection of SACDs and DVD-Audio discs, but guess what? If you outsource the ripping of your SACDs to places like Golden Ear (not the speaker company) in Denver or take the time to rip your now somewhat obsolete DVD-Audio discs, those files can nicely live on your $99 network hard drive, stashed away quietly and safely in a closet, leaving you access to damn near every version of a CD or HD disc with a fingertip’s control.
Then we need to factor in the role of the streaming services, which are getting better and better in terms of scope of catalog, performance thanks to improved digital compression and codecs, plus always-improving AI that helps the services build playlists and musical moods around your tastes and feedback. So basically, for $20/month you get access to nearly all the music ever made in (at the worst) CD level quality. This is truly the ultimate audiophile elixir.
So, this brings me to the question that audiophiles who cling on to the past with all of their might don’t want to hear: is it time to sell your CD transport? Do you really need it? Does it offer better sound than your NAS drive and Roon (or J-River, or…)? Is spinning a CD worth your time? Is a huge collection of music stored in your listening room indicative of the look and logistics that you want in a modern, forward-thinking audiophile system? Some say yes and are popping for Oppo players for $2,500 on the secondary market. I’m thinking, not so much. It sure looks like the time for the CD transport is over, much like it was time to yank the turntable out of your high-performance system 20-plus years ago. There is a new, better way of doing things, but then again, I just used a dirty word for many audiophiles: New. Sorry about that.
well everything has a price point. If you haven’t noticed, many second-hand and charity shops are now selling donated CD’s, some in near mint condition, for about a dollar. I’ll take a CD for a buck any day!
Great for “back catalog,” but for current or just-released stuff, maybe a little limiting?
Roon (or J-River, or…)? Audirvana Plus
Sure, a lot of current music may have certain availability limitations in the CD format, but there are a number of audio manufacturers that are releasing “statement” disc-spinners that are getting rave reviews. Here’s a good example: https://darko.audio/2019/04/a-short-film-about-cd-playback-w-hegel-ps-audio-pro-ject/
I have a gazillion CDs, but, until recently, really never listened to them much, choosing to listen to rips of those discs on my music server. But I picked up an Oppo universal player a couple of years ago for $9 at a Goodwill (it even had the remote). With a silver-clad SPDIF cable streaming into my PS Audio Stellar Gain Cell DAC, the sound is exemplary. With a great set of AudioQuest interconnects, it’s also really great via the analog outputs.
CDs are cheap on the current market; I pick them up regularly at thrifts and the like for $.25 to a dollar day-in-and-out. Over the last couple of years, I’ve added literally thousands to my collection and music server. With a really great DAC, it’s a toss-up between CD sound and the sound of digital files. And while my server contains many DSD and Hi-res PCM files, the deciding factor for me is the mastering job — a well mastered CD can perform at or exceed the level of a high-res file — I find that to be true with every passing day.
I think it’s a little early to write off the CD.
Can’t agree more Tom. A well mastered disc anytime. Kudos to those whose still believe in the silver disc
Yep. I felt damn lucky when I ordered my tool CD, complete with video screen in the packaging, soon enough and wasn’t one of the many people left empty-handed after it sold out quickly
Yea no, whatever happens I will never sell my CD player. Way too many memories and I still love the feeling of ripping off that plastic when buying a brand new album.
Must be tired of the hobby…lol.!…probably on a walker… CD and CD play back is coming back as is vinyl….music consuming is fun on all levels..and formats…there’s nice CD players and transports from 300$ to 30000$ +…coming on market every day…if u follow any hi-fi web sites…such as the Daily Audiophile…get some Joy..!!
Vinyl records anytime anywhere.
Todays “music” is miles away from where the music world was just 10 years ago and light years away from where it was 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 years ago. It’s turned into the Dylan comment from a few days ago, that the music audience today cares more about posing, than playing. Since the quality today is guided by no one, the result is getting poorer and poorer. Why care about the quality of the music? Or the transport? The average teen or 20 something are having a completely different music listening experience, that doesn’t involve listening. Rub two sticks together and pose on YouTube. You too can be a hit.
What a silly, offensive, obnoxious, and poorly written article. The scat practically drips off the pages. I want to wash my hands after reading dreck like this.
That said, I’m holding onto my two Sony CD players, and all 700 discs, mostly classical, stored in them. I’m also not about to let go of any of my cassette tapes, mostly Smiths and Grateful Dead bootlegs. And yes, I’ve got a LOT of vinyl, including most of the Beatles’ albums, a healthy dose of Clapton, Allmans, and The Who, all preserved with TLC.
while i really like this forum, i think “silly, offensive, obnoxious, poorly written”, can be applied to just about EVERY article written by mr del colliano. now, i just open them up, just to see what ignorant misguided insulting drek he has to say *this* time… i’m rarely disappointed, this cringe-worthy article is a perfect example.
for someone who purports to want to support “the high end”, he seems to be his own worst enemy. every once in a great while, he has something of value to say, but it’s about as common as hen’s teeth.
While I’ve ripped most of my CDs and typically listen to those rips, I still mostly buy CDs for the quality and price. I also rent Blu-Rays at Redbox for the quality of picture and sound, and buy occasional UHD disks on sale (wish Redbox would rent 4K locally). You’re premise continues to ignore a huge rural segment that does not have, and cannot buy fast internet pipes, so even HD streaming can be problematic and can’t touch the quality of a BRD, forget about streaming 4K. So my Oppo 203 continues to be used for video, an occasional SACD, and ‘mix tapes’ my friends might bring on CD (they probably should figure out a flash drive to save the plastic). While I applaud your attempts to nourish younger audiophiles, you continue to bash quality and choice along the way.
Well, then, that finally settles it. Today’s sophisticated young woke folk may have indeed somehow brilliantly discovered the answers and explanations for absolutely everything. Unfortunately, to me, they most often seem to be of the unvetted, myopic, specious, flimsy, anecdotal, and emotionally-tainted variety. I know, sometimes candor does indeed hurt. So, having been triggered by my own, I will just quietly retreat to my sequestered antique and out-dated suburban home full of obsolete audio and video, lick my well-deserved
and self-inflicted wounds, and once again delude myself into thinking that I somehow think I know what truly sounds and looks the best to my cheap-beer-sipping-with-pinky-raised self. What a pathetic un-woke dummy I am. (bu-u-u-u-r-r-rp)
I think this is a shallow and misfounded article. I have found by direct comparative experience that with “old fashioned” mechanical CD playback on a very good transport, with an outstanding DAC, tube headphone amp and planar magnetic headphones, sound quality greatly beats the more convenient new technology of ripping the same CD on a PC, sending the bit-perfect WAV digital file data over to a Samsung Galaxy tablet on a USB cable, then playing the music file from the Galaxy on a very high quality USB DAC/amp to the same planar magnetic headphones.
The only advantage of the “modern” setup is in convenience of operation, since once the library of CD WAV files is built up in the Galaxy tablet, selecting and playing the CD is a matter of the moments required to select the file in the library. I guess preferring the much higher quality sound despite the relative inconvenience is the essence of what makes an audiophile. The article writer quite evidently isn’t one.
It’s called ripping, not rippling. There is one additional reason for streaming you did not mention – the album you want to listen to may not be available on CD…also the opportunity for a better “back catalog” experience due to remastered versions done with better gear and more sympathetic ears…
A typo. You evidently agree on the sonic comparison. I agree on the issue of the availability of music not available on CD, but I already have around a thousand CDs in my library.
Excuse me, I must of missed something, I buy a CD for the music AND the liner notes. The notes (especially classical and jazz) put the music in context, include historical references and set the stage for listening, all together a beautiful experience.
Then you will love ROON…it does that even better than an LP’s album notes since it has active links to other musical artists and links to al the contributors noted on the credits…
I’m too cheap to get Roon, but the tablet that controls my streaming system has a link to AllMusic Guide. It has copious information on most releases; Wikipedia has information on most well-known ones, and the price is right.
“Yank the turntable”, hell, I just put one back into my system about 2 years ago, and still loving it. The only cd’s I buy, are classic rock, and no plans of “yanking” them from my system either.
For now I’ll keep my CD’s, just in case an EMP attack takes out my hard drive.
I’ve never had a properly handled CD crash or have it’s network connection falter nor have I had to pay ongoing subscription services to have a backup of my music stored in the cloud. There is also something satisfying about the “ritual” of placing a CD in its transport or an LP on the turntable pressing play and hearing the magic begin. The mechanical/human interface should not be dismissed as unimportant. Most analog diehards understand that the process contributes as much as the goal in their enjoyment of music. That being said, I have just installed a Bluesound Node 2i in my system for expanding my access to music but I will always have a CD player amongst my music equipment.
This statement seems to ignore the fact that there has been a resurgence of interest in vinyl. Vinyl sales are rampant with new recordings also being released in vinyl, not to mention the high interest in both new and vintage turntables. Many who disposed of their turntable regret it now. Streaming, like most things today, are essentially fleeting services. What’s available today may not be available tomorrow. When you add in the mindless stupidity of political correctness and the decision to ban songs from the 1940’s such as Baby, It’s Cold Outside, I feel both a sense of security and relief in knowing that I can “own” the song and play it at my leisure. What goes around comes around, so I don’t intend to miss any CD revival by chucking my equipment. It serves me well plus the fact that music in CD is still readily available.
Just can’t agree with this article.
I still prefer the physical format anyday.
In fact, I was ready to get the “new,” or at least most recent, OPPO player when that company stopped making it.
I think that was very premature of them, and shower a lack of commitment to their loyal customers/followers. I doubt I will forget that “slight.”
I still have my AR turntable with Mission tonearm and V15Type 3…… still a gorgeous sound, with the many LPs I have.
And still spin CDs and BR…. no, I don’t want to “stream.”
I’m fine, thanks anyway.
I disagree. CD’s still sound amazing in a good system. Streaming services are convenient but none of the music is yours and your favorite artist could leave the service tomorrow without even consulting you. And as history repeats itself people are ditching their cd’s as they once did their vinyl. I predict they will be sorry when streaming becomes too expensive once the record companies get their greedy grip back on the system.
Sorry for the rant. It happened as I was writing this 😀
I have read in one of the audio magazine, I believed is sound and vision and, they have conducted a survey on the number of audiophiles still buying CD. The result they had obtained was a whopping 80%. CD is still very popular, not time yet to dump the CD transport. I have also read about the resurgent of reel to reel tape player. If so, I think this will be very interesting to see all the retro coming back. How about 8 tracks? Hmmmm……
My CD’s sound better than Tidal and my turntable sounds better than my CD’s.
I have a high end CD transport. I purchase MFSL, HD K2, and Audio Fidelity cds primarily. The sound quality and the limited selections offered by these somewhat worthless audio service companies pale in comparison. With my system, I feel that the sound comparison of vinyl to the level of the discs that I purchase is minimal at best. I enjoy the albums and packaging and like a vinyl LP, I enjoy getting up and selecting my next title to experience. I’m an older listener and perhaps the younger generation is willing the sacrifice quality for convenience, but that seems to be the general direction of our youth.
Like Anthony says below, also 3 of my favorite thrift stores are selling cds for 99 cents a piece. I bought an Onkyo c7030 cd player, and a Schitt audio modi multibit dac. The combo is very, very, dynamic, warm, etc. A total of 400 dollars. Which is a great price for the sound im getting!
I don’t know what to think. The last paragraph leaves me wondering whether he truly believes his conclusion or if he is acknowledging that, despite their flaws, there is still good reason to keep your CDs and transports around. I would hope he is not so ignorant to believe everyone who threw away their turntables 20 years ago made a good decision because the resurgence of vinyl is an objective fact. I doubt there is a single audiophile alive that threw away their vinyl and turntables years ago who hasn’t second-guessed that decision sometime in the past 5 years.
This is the first article by this author that I have read, so I will give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that his final paragraph should be interpreted as, “Then again, maybe I’m wrong.”
It would be logical for me to sell the transport; I hardly use it, because my music is on the home network, and access is easier that way (and sounds at least as good). But when I realized how little it would bring and how much pleasure I get from using it with friends’ discs or CDs from the library, I decided to keep it. If I were watching my budget more closely, it would be on the block. But I’m not, and it isn’t, and I’m grateful.
I’m old fashioned I will stick with my CD player forever I have all the music I like I tried tidal deezer few times but I realize my CD player it’s way better from all the streaming services streaming for me it’s only convenience not better sound I don’t settle I spend a lot money time I don’t want to listen cold digital music from tidal the only way to listen hi fidelity it’s from good CD player or vinyl my opinion?
There’s no evidence that roon sounds any better than standard music files. As I’ve said earlier, humans have physical limitations that absolutely cannot be overcome. Consequently the vast majority of roon improvements will be at an audio spectrum that humans absolutely cannot hear. Therefore roon subscribers are paying for improvements that are effectively useless as the cannot he heard
There are lab results and there is the real world. And in that real world humans have insurmountable physical limitations. This means we cannot see and hear many of the things that new technologies provide.
We need to accept that any sound improvements based on audio spectrums about humans physical limits are useless and a complete waste of money
I am not saying that roon is a con. I am saying the improvements they allege to give can never be appreciated. If people think they can hear 192 then it’s only their mind telling them they can hear it. Sadly its physically impossible to appreciate music at those frequencies.
Nothing can change that.
I think it is great that all these modes exist for having music in your life. If I lived in a cramped apartment or was a nomadic type, having music streamed or on a hard drive is a great alternative. But I have a home and can handle a 3000 plus cd collection and the kit so I choose that. Plus I paid and hunted down all those cds thru the years and they all bring back memories of who, what, where, when, why, and how, and there is something tangible about that for me.
Please, I listen to both a lot.You cant beat the convenience of hi res tidal etc, BUT a good CD, on a good DAC, amp will always offer better sound.
Maybe to your ears, in your room, on your equipment, with your source material. Others have ears, rooms, and equipment that don’t give the same result.
Just reading all the comments is enough to prove that the writer is wrong. As wrong were the ones that threw away turntables and vinyls. None of the people commenting agrees with the writer, no one is trowing away the CD transport and the CD collection. Virtually all the audiophiles that wrote a comment agree that the CDs sounds better and are more reliable and enjoyable than any streaming service.