I’m surprised he wasn’t extolling vinyl. Was his girlfriend bored stiff?
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All laughter aside it could be that there is something to this in some circumstances as uberwaltz and jafant point out. I'm sure most of us here are aware of the audible differences between CD players so it stands to reason that a disc played on a good CD player could easily sound different (warmer perhaps?) to an identical downloaded file played on a computer or inferior DAC.
In my own case I use a SACD transport and external DAC with digital downloads being played via the same DAC and I can detect no difference given identical bit/sample rates.
There are a lot of factors at play. Was the kid at the show using the same DAC for CDs and downloads? Are his downloads MP3? Does he play downloads from a garden variety PC or fom a dedicated renderer? Has the PC been optimized for audio playback? Did he wash his hands before playing CDs or does he have a layer of his pimple cream smearing the disc?
The main point in the OP is that at least among one young Audiophile, CD seems to have the same retro niche that formerly was associated with vinyl. Personally, I would love it if CDs and SACDs make a resurgence a la vinyl, but I am not expecting it to happen