The Pros and Cons of Using CDs

In a world of music streaming, CDs feel like a clunky, old-school way of enjoying music. Many might not even consider them portable, recalling stationary CD players that were once part of home stereo systems. But, for the first time since the 2000s, CDs have been making a strong comeback. 

Whether you want to reduce your screen time, are fed up with the behavior of digital media distributors and streaming platforms, or just want to dust off that old collection, many people are making the switch. Even still, compact discs might not be right for you, so here’s a list of the biggest pros and cons of CDs.

Several stacks of assorted CD jewel cases. Photo by Brett Jordan on Pexels

PRO: CDs have higher quality music than vinyl and digital streaming

Many streaming services use compact audio files for fast and consistent transmission speeds, and while it prevents you from waiting ages for a song to load, it can cause a quality downgrade. Many streaming platforms also have certain content requirements for artists, so at times you might not even be getting the full, or original version of the song. Vinyl records need consistent maintenance to retain their quality, and damage is almost inevitable. Most professionally released CDs are made with high quality files, and even a beat up, well loved CD can play well. This makes it easy to just dive into a bin at the thrift store or a library sale to find low cost second hand CDs without worrying too much about how well they were treated.

CON: It costs a lot of money

One of the biggest barriers in collecting physical music is the financial investment needed to start. While nowhere near as expensive as vinyls, CDs are more expensive than just paying for a streaming subscription or digital download. Why spend $20 on a new CD when you could get the MP3 download of the album for less than 10, or just listen to it on Spotify for free with ads? Why spend anywhere from $15 to $200 to get a portable CD player when you can just use the phone that you already have? Of course, you can thrift CDs for cheap or borrow them from your family and friends, but it adds up, even if you re-sell.

PRO: Once you have them, they’re yours forever

We have all heard of the stories of iTunes and Amazon removing books, songs and other media from their online library for some reason or another. Suddenly, the customer loses access to the content even though they bought them fair and square; however, like all physical media, while distributors can stop selling songs and albums, they cannot break into your house and take your CDs back when they do. This makes them much more secure than digital media. As it is your property, you can do anything you want with it, like ripping the audio files to make digital copies to listen in other places, destroy it, and more, as long as you do not violate copyright, of course. This also makes it super easy to share your music with your friends and family.

CD is an abbreviation for compact disk. Photo by Vinicius Amano on Unsplash.

CON: It takes up a lot of space

While you can listen to your CDs on the go, it is undeniable that just carrying your phone around with an app installed is much easier than carrying a discman, a CD wallet, and maybe some spare batteries. Simply putting your phone in your pocket is quicker than playing tetris in your bag to not jostle the CD player, or getting a specialized bag just for it. If you prefer not to carry too much with you, especially if you usually listen to music while exercising, the bulkiness of the equipment might be a total dealbreaker. Also, most discmans require wired headphones or earbuds, so if you only own bluetooth headphones, this might not be the best option for you.

PRO: You don’t have to lose your digital songs when you make the switch

It is easy to burn your MP3s from Amazon Prime or iTunes to a blank CD, also known as a CDR. It is even easier than recording a cassette, while you cannot record a Spotify playlist straight from the platform, you do not have to babysit a CD when recording. You just pop it in your computer’s disk drive, and you can let the files burn in the background as you work on something else. I often employ this tactic when I only like a few songs in an album, and I do not want to buy the whole thing. You can customize your burned CDs just like you do an online playlist and even create physical mixtapes that you can give to others. 

CON: CDs are considered a dead medium

Since the popularity of vinyls skyrocketed in the 2010s, you can go to any store and find record players by the dozen, but you would be hard-pressed to find a CD player. Their popularity plummeted in the late 2000s, being less favorable than buying MP3s and later streaming music, and they’re considered to be dying. Many musicians and bands, especially indie and underground groups, do not publish CDs, and a lot of laptops do not even have disk drives anymore. 

Even I, someone who uses CDs as the primary way to listen to music, only have a discman because it was given to me by my parents. It is older than I am, and when it finally stops working, I will have a difficult time finding a new one.

The only way to show bands and companies that CDs are something worth investing in and not a lost cause is to support the medium and increase their popularity. While it might be less convenient than music streaming, physical music like CDs, cassettes, and vinyls add a new dimension to enjoying music, making it a unique experience. Whether or not you will make the switch, it is undeniable that the format is preferred and used by many, loved for its one of a kind novelty.

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