5 Reasons Why CD Ownership Is On The Rise

This year, for the first time in 20 years, CD sales started to grow again. We've also noticed an uptick in people buying CD players this year, compared to last, and people we've spoken to at the various shows we did this year and at our music evenings have told us that they're starting to collect and buy second-hand CDs from a wide variety of sources.

With this in mind, here are five reasons why CD playback might be enjoying a resurgence.


There's a general trend towards owning physical things

There's a general trend right now, where in a post-digital world, people are starting to feel like they want to have a tangible, physical thing in their hands, rather than experiencing life through their phones and tablets.

Physical book sales are up, and aesthetically beautiful editions are cropping up and being eagerly purchased by book lovers.

We've already seen the extraordinary rebirth of vinyl, as people are choosing a physical first or physical also approach to consuming their favourite artists.

CDs are no exception - they might not have the same form factor as an LP, and the album artwork is less impactful, but the sleeve notes and physical act of picking a CD and putting it on meets the same requirements for a fondness for a simpler time.


CDs are incredible value right now

Long gone are the days when amazing vinyl bargains could be picked up in charity shops, jumble sales, and car boot sales. Prices have become incredibly inflated in the used market, and new records are eye-wateringly expensive, quite aside from the burgeoning industry of re-releasing (digitally produced) content on double album, 180g pressings, and an array of other consumer-baiting tactics.

CDs, by contrast, are still extremely good value. I've picked up excellent quality discs for as little as a pound or two. CDs on eBay or Discogs are a fraction of the price of the vinyl equivalent, and the chances of you getting unlucky and your purchase being a bad pressing, scratched, or filthy is pretty much zero.

Even new CDs are cheaper than vinyl - so if you want to own the physical media, CD could be a good choice.


Buying physical music supports artists

There's no denying it - streaming music is king now, and there's no sign of that changing. However, consumers have started to realise that they're lining the pockets of the streaming companies as much as or more than they are supporting the artists themselves. If you've seen the excellent Netflix biopic 'The Playlist', you'll know what I mean. If you haven't, go and watch it it now, then come back!

When you buy a new CD or LP of your favourite band, the percentage they get is much much bigger.

Of course this applies as much to vinyl as to CD, but it's certainly another reason why people are turning to CDs.

CDs are less faff

We get it - vinyl lovers enjoy the ceremonial aspect that goes along with LP playback. But honestly, as someone who has invested a lot of time, effort, and money into a vinyl only system, there are times when it's just a bit of a pain.

Whether it's the need to keep cleaning the records; or the fact that tracks at the end of one side sometimes just don't quite sound as good as the ones earlier on; or the fact that a bad pressing can spoil the whole listening experience, and a single scratch can ruin a record. Not to mention the need to get up and turn the thing over, and maybe if you've bought some fancy double pressing, do that at least twice. All-in-all, sometimes the ceremony becomes a bit of a chore.

CDs really are less effort. You don't need to turn them over. There's no need to clean them. Unless they've been really badly abused, they're close to indestructible. They all sound the same. There's no difference between tracks, and if you want to skip forwards or backwards, you don't need to get up and fiddle around with a tonearm.

If you want the sweet spot between the convenience of streaming, with the ownership of a tangible asset, CD is hard to beat.

Great CD playback is very affordable

Pound for pound, it's possible to get to very high levels of quality, for less, with a CD-based system.

I'm not going to knock the entry-level turntables - they're fantastic. They're fun to use and look at, and for £300 the Rega Planar 1 does a brilliant job. It'll sound like vinyl, and compared to music on your phone, or a smart speaker it'll blow you away. However, a £300 turntable, with the cheapest of arms, cartridges, motors, power supplies is a compromise. Even the Planar 2 or Planar 3 will struggle to compete with an entry level CD player for clarity and detail retrieval.

If you want to start to match or better CD playback, you need an excellent cartridge, arm, motor, power supply, and phono stage. That's achievable, and great vinyl playback really is great, but if you were to do an A/B test between, say, the Audiolab 6000CDT and a Rega Planar 2 (at £75 more), both into the Audiolab 6000A, I think you'd have to admit that the CD system is quite a bit better. You'd need to move to a Planar 3 or maybe even a Planar 6 to start to outperform it.

Add in the cost of owning and maintaining a vinyl collection, compared to the cost of CDs, and you can start to see that CD represents an excellent value proposition for the music lover looking for excellent sound quality.

If you want to improve your CD playback, meaningful, audible improvements are well within reach. Something like the Cyrus CDi at £1500 is a really superb player. Alternatively, adding a dedicated DAC such as the Chord Electronics Qutest for £1395 will make a big difference.

To get a vinyl system that matches, say, the Audiolab 9000CDT plus Qutest combo (less than £2500) is probably going to cost you double.


Go Forth and Rediscover CD

So there you have it - five reasons why we're seeing a resurgence of interest in CD players and CDs. I can't see CDs ever returning to the popularity they had in their heyday, and I can't imagine people dusting down their discman any time, but for the home system, for people who want to experience the pleasure of owning and playing, CD represents a great option.

We think CD is only going to grow in popularity next year, so why not beat the curve, get shopping for some of your favourite albums, and pop in to Expressive Audio for a listen - see if you agree. Is the renaissance of CD justified? Let us know what you think!

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