Forget Vinyl and Spotify, I’m Going Back to CDs

Jewel cases and all.

Forget Vinyl and Spotify, I'm Going Back to CDs

You've doubtless seen a lot of articles and videos over the past decade extolling the virtues of listening to music on vinyl. Shopping for physical music media is a great hobby, but my preferred "vintage" medium isn't quite as august: CDs. Here's why I love going to the dustier part of record stores to thumb through jewel cases.

Vinyl, I'm Not That Into You

Try as I might, I just don't get all that excited about vinyl records. The world seems to, and that's fine. Vinyl sales have continued to overtake the physical media market (PDF). Best Buy stopped selling CDs years ago and since then has expanded its vinyl selection.

I admit, too, there is much to love about collecting vinyl. The still-available early printings of what are now classics. The sleeve that can double as wall art. The unique colors and patterns discs can be printed with. Yes, when I go into music shops and see an album I really like in vinyl's oversized, analog glory, the purchase always tempts.

Once I get home with a record, though, after one listen, it tends to get shelved and rarely brought out. Maybe I need more friends who will come over and be impressed by them. Maybe I need better speakers or a better ear for appreciating vinyl's textures. Whatever it is, the effort involved in carefully removing a disc from its sleeve, cleaning the record (don't forget the needle), and loading it onto the turntable usually feels like more work than it's worth to me. Speaking of worth: sheesh, do those pieces of plastic get expensive.

Streaming Gets Less Appealing Every Day

I do use Spotify regularly, but mainly to find new music. I put the stuff I discover in playlists and use those later as a hitlist for my shopping trips. Putting together fun or weird playlists to share with friends is always a blast, too, and I admit gawking at and showing off my Spotify Wrapped is an annual siren's call I can't resist.

The cool thing to do these days for streaming services like Spotify, though, is raising prices. At the time of writing, Spotify has just announced yet another poke to my wallet. The ads I get in the free version of Spotify are some of the most insufferable, which I'm convinced is intentional. So, for the moment, I continue to pay for Spotify Premium, but only as one tool in my quest to find the perfect song for every feeling.

CDs Carry Way More Value to Me

Forget Vinyl and Spotify, I'm Going Back to CDs

This 80s-era Pioneer CD deck in my AV system uses a cartridge to hold and play discs.

You can see my budget for music is varied, but my heart truly lies with the humble compact disc, for these reasons.

You Can Easily Make Digital Copies

Compared to vinyl, cassette tapes, and streaming, CDs are the main draw for me at my local music stores because I can do way more with them. After getting home, I can pop them in my computer's disc drive and easily get lossless (high-fidelity) copies.

Doing the same with vinyl requires far more time and extra gear. Yes, most computers don't come with disc drives these days, so ripping CDs will likely require a purchase, too. A USB disc drive is much cheaper and more intuitive, though, compared to vinyl recording tech like digital-to-analog converters.

You Get Local, Offline Playback Forever

Once I have my CDs ripped, I put them in the cloud from which I can stream or download copies to whichever of my devices I want to listen on. (I have a private Nextcloud server I roll myself, but you could do this with a OneDrive or Google Drive account.) My phone gets the most use this way, and with it, I can jam out in my car or on a walk without moving the needle on my limited cellular data plan. If I lose or destroy my phone and can't rescue its storage, I can just redownload from my archive.

Of course, I could get these same benefits by simply buying digital copies of the music. (Yes, you can still buy music from iTunes). Those costs add up, though, especially if you want full albums and not just singles. Even if I pay the same price for a CD as I would a digital album, the digital purchase can't be resold later like the CD can, should the music fall out of my favor.

CDs Are Lower Maintenance (and Don't Suddenly Disappear)

That leads me to my final point: shelf life. When I buy a CD, I'm buying a copy I can keep potentially for my whole life. With vinyl that's technically possible as well, but with a lot more TLC. Every time I get out one of my records I worry this is the time I inflict an irreversible scratch. I have plenty of anxiety in my life already, and CDs are kind enough not to contribute.

Compare that also with what you have to expect when you buy a music streaming subscription: licensing issues result in incomplete catalogs. Some of my favorite music I've seen randomly pulled from Spotify, including one obscure, Japanese ambient track that left me heartbroken since I couldn't find it anywhere else. Plenty of ear-worthy music never makes it to these platforms to begin with, either.

Listen How You Like, Though

If it isn't obvious already, I'm no audiophile (yet). I listen to a lot of music, but mainly in the background, while I do other things. I'm also in no way a collector buying special editions of CDs if my budget has anything to say about it.

In truth, I'll continue to buy vinyl when I find albums I really like and can afford, in addition to CDs. The virtues of listening to vinyl are many, and we can even show you how to get started. If you like it and think it's the bee's knees, enjoy. I'll be over here scraping price stickers off jewel cases, squinting at 2-point linear notes, and loving it.

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