Redbook CD Is Not Dead

There are dozens of variant of this topic. Nevertheless, I want to start this OP to "defibrillate" an "old" technology -- "redbook" CD. I have posted many comments and questions about the next industry digital/electronic "standard" that old-heads like me should be thinking about. The responses sound like techno-babble. That of course presupposes that redbook CD has seen a better day. A similar view was expressed years ago by many about vinyl, but that technology is still with us.

Ok ... to the point. I wanted to test the proposition that some have made about redbook CD -- 16 bit/44.1K Hz. Specifically, that the technology is NOT obsolete. By contrast, if the music industry was less lazy and profit driven, and we the consumer less tolerant, redbook CD and our trusty CD players have lots of life left in them. Here's a thoughtful and largely understandable link that a member posted in another OP that explains the hypothesis:

So ... to start testing the hypothesis, I logged onto the Acoustic Sounds music website. Here's the link:

Acoustic Sounds sells many so called hi-rez redbook CDs, e.g., "Gold," "HDCD," "Super HDCD 24 bit," and so forth. I bought 2 such CDs: (1) The Artistry of Linda Rosenthal, (First Impression Music, Inc.) (CD FIM 022VD) and (2) Jim Croce, Words and Music, (DCC Compact Disc Classics) (GZS-1134). First reactions are -- quite impressive. I'll continue to listen and report back.

I see no reason to trash a piece of equipment, or a technology, if it still has utility and can deliver the sonic goods. I will come back later with a music review of the Linda Rosenthal and Jim Croce CDs. I would like others to do the same, especially if they can suggest a good source of high-quality/almost vinyl quality redbook CD.

I will ask in advance that all member posts stay on topic. There are many threads that discuss the pros and cons of this versus that format or technology. Please keep such discussions in those other threads.

I would like to see a thread devoted to music reviews and sources of excellent quality redbook CD. Perhaps this thread and others like it will rejuvenate an older music medium that can still satisfy.

Thanks all.

I may have jinxed the site because I can't download the article now. But here's the link if anyone else can:

Ok, I've listened to both CDs. I think they sound just fine. If you like the artists, I think you'll like the CDs. They are high quality and very engaging. I look forward to other recommendations.
I think one reason that you appreciate the value of redbook is because you own a very good dedicated player. It's quite amazing how much is contained in the redbook format if you have a player capable of digging it out. And in my experience, that doesn't come cheap.

As for media, I've recently been very impressed by MA Recordings. I purchased the Goldberg Variations, Mozart, Works From His Golden Age, and a couple of other classical selections that I think would dispel many listeners' belief that redbook is sonically limited. Highly recommended from both a musical and sonic standpoint.
Chayro, while I am pleased with my CDP, it is expensive -- even preowned. Having said that, there are many excellent CDPs on the market costing far less, e.g., Ayre, Rega, Sony, etc.

I'll check out MA recordings and its offerings. I listed the labels of the 2 hi-rez CDs I just picked up. I'll check out their web sites for offerings of interest. I look forward to reading other postings with CD recommendations.


I agree - it does not come cheap. Part of this is acoustics and part is psycho-acoustics, IMO. There are no black backgrounds at live performances. This is a psychological matter. I started a post a while ago about black backgrounds to poke a little fun at makers who talks about black, blacker and blackest in their quest to entice customers.

Also, IMO, Redbook contains everything we need. It is only a matter if we can afford -- and discover -- what it takes to extract what Redbook contains.
I successfully use the website Classics Today to find good classical CDs. Researching the archives section for 10/10 ratings (Recording/Performance) consistently yields excellent results. Many of those recordings will surprise listners with their quality. And they are plentiful.

far from dead...
Most of my collection is CD based. Most of my recent purchases have been CDs, few SACDs. I think it is a shame that at the time when quality CD players are available at all budget levels, the medium has become out of favor (not for me). Higher bitrate recordings are currently to costly for me to take much interest in. Whether played off a disk or via a server a 44.1/16 recording can be very good sounding.
IMHO, everything one has to do to get into computer audio sounds like punishment to me. I'll stick with my redbook and siding with what Chayro says about "a very good dedicated player", one of these days I'll grab one.
Your first paragraph succinctly nails it! Amazing sound is available via Red book with use of a "good" player. Bifwynne I've found the vast majority of jazz CD recordings to be very good regardless of the label. Verve for an example consistently produces excellent sounding jazz.
Thanks Raks and Charles1dad. I'll add those sources to my list.
MA Recordings, ECM, Mapleshade, Naxos, Acoustic Sounds and more others than I can think of right now put out great sounding Redbook CDs. It seems to have become prerequisite now in reviews to mention how some Redbook CDs in the reviewers collection simply equal or better the the latest digital format being tested. It wasn't always that way.

There's a review of a music server by Paul Candy over at 6moons where he states that lots of PC setups he's heard at shows and friends places couldn't carry his CECs jockstrap yet others seem to like them. That one made me smile.

All the best,
Redbook can sound amazing on a computer as well
A good recording is just that and redigitizing a bad recording doesn't transform it
I agree that cd should not be considered dead anymore than vinyl or tape should be considered dead. The recording is only as good as the recording process used and the artist/music recorded. Crappy recordings are available in any format just like good recordings are possible in any format. Hi-Rez versions of old recording are spotty. Once the industry adopts Hi-Rez from start to finish, cd and vinyl will take a back seat. But for mainstream, that day is a long way away.

In the meantime, enjoy using your cd's!
Many good points made here. I tweaked 2009 Mac Mini and added some very nice ancillary gear to use with the Mini I read about on Computer Audiophile. Big deal. I still love playing CD's (and SACD's). I have had more than a few occasions where I wanted to throw computer audio gear out the window, but I've never felt the urge to pitch my non-computer gear. The heads-up about searching 10/10 CD (and SACD) recordings on Classics Today is a good one and I've been doing that for years. Audiophile Audition has some nice disc reviews too. If you're older/less tech savvy and want to test the limits of your patience, try that PS3/software workaround for ripping your SACD's. A real time waster (and money waster if you buy a bum PS3 off eBay).
I would agree that redbook is not dead. It will be viable until a universal high-resolution (DSD) solution is found. The hardware, user interface and software (available titles) will all need to be in place for the average public (not just audiophiles). Just my two cents.
I continue to buy cd's and find that most classical titles I buy sound excellent. Perhaps not the equal well recorded lp's on my vinyl system, but very enjoyable nonetheless. I have found SACD titles to seldom sound obviously superior to well recorded redbook discs. Admittedly, I've not invested heavily in a large number SACD's, but the few dozen classical discs I own haven't bowled me over with impressions of sonic superiority. It was a pity that HDCD never caught on, I found it was a very worthwhile recording technique.
I am very pleased with most CD's now that I've a "decent" player and adapted my system to play them decently(isolating the digital). I've collected records for a very long time. It was never the case that "all" or even "most" vinyl records sounded great. It was always about the quality of the performance and balance of the recording -and- hope that the recording was not too thin, overequalized, not too distantly/closely miked, not too much surface noise or rumble, poor splices, on & on. It sounds like many folks just don't appreciate how good -and easy- our reproduction of recordings on CD is today. I will buy all the cd's I can of the music I like, old or new; and I think I'm getting great value-when a cheap burger and drink cost about the same (and are likely toxic to your body).
Agree that a great player is essential to get the best out of Rebook which then can be very satisfying. The Ayon CD5s I now own and the North Star before it both do this. Audio discerning friends espouse the CEC, Eera Tentaton and the Neodio as well.
Reference Recordings has some great tiles such as Najomi Plays Liszt, plus Blue Note is great for Jazz.
The latest issue TAS describing DSD talks about taking 2 hours to download a 3gig file for one album in DSD with 12 MBPS speed. In my rural area with 3MBPS download speeds it would take me a day just to get one album in DSD assuming no hitch. This makes DSD tech and replacing 3,000 CDs at least a few years away if ever for me.

Not only a great player -- a great everything. Including great cables. A great player is not enough. IMO.
Many reside is areas where affordable unlimited access from their ISP is unavailable. In my two prior residences I had unlimited internet access with relatively fast download speeds. The internet service in my current location is limited and the ISP's here have high cost and mediocre download speeds, thus I am stuck (for now) with that overpriced and limited data allowance provided by Verizon Jetpack. Likely other audiophiles find their computer audio limited as well. This will change as competition and networks improve, but who's got time to wait who needs fast up/download speeds now?
Sabai - You are correct. With digital especially, anything that adds to harshness, such as speakers that are tipped toward the highs, cables that bright and noisey, DAC's that are thin, dirty power, and room were sound bounces unfavorably, all prevent the best from showing through and further emphasize any tendency toward digititis.

Good discussion gents.

With regard to whether CD is dead or very much alive, it all depends on where you view the statistics from: Sales are lower than historical figures, downloads are up by a huge margin, so some will therefore proclaim CD as past it. The real question here though is clearly in disregard of commercial success of any medium, it is based on sound quality from CD. This is where the medium has not fared quite so well even though it is nearly 30 years since inception. There are audio designers still working very hard on perfecting the data extraction/transmission/conversion to analogue, and have got in many ways extremely close to 16bit limit in my view. And yes, this does cost a lot of money as has been pointed out, but for me in my personal system, I have no need or desire to explore the possibilities of higher resolution just yet. The system that I more than happily live with, (that continually impresses with the sheer dynamics/detail/air/space/decay etc etc) does indeed utilise a mix of old and new technology, but the underlying principle from each designer is to extract as much of the original recording as is possible, even though this may require obsolete DAC chips, 1950's vacuum tubes, heavily worked and balanced Philips Pro mechanisms, and given a suitably cared for recording, it is staggeringly realistic. A friend often proclaims my music room as the 'Royal Festival Hall'.

Sabai is also correct of course, cabling being important along with many many other details, but for this discussion to focus on the 'front end' of 16bit, the digital interconnect is, (against the engineers perception) a likely area for data loss. I worked quite hard in this area, and got real improvement over the last couple of month's, the fruits of which will be used at CES in January.

Good recordings are very very real, with Reference Recordings/some Naxos/Decca/ etc being great, Eva Cassidy's Imagine is on as I write and is simply there. Eiji Oue (Minnesota) Stravinsky's Firebird Suite commands absolute attention, the list is endless really..

So, CD is very much alive in our household and will continue to be for quite some time..
I've heard the Concert Fidelity setup at CES 2013 and RMAF 2011 and was very impressed with the natural sound.The digial front end was on par with the analog system in the same room.
Charles ..., forgive my ignorance - I am not familiar with Concert Fidelity. Please explain/discuss the Concert Fidelity set-up. Is it a brand? Did the company use redbook CD? Bruce
I primarily play CDs with few complaints. A good CD player, however, is not cheap.
Just listened to a double CD set -- Aqualung, Jethro Tull 40th Ann. Ed. (Chysalis). The print is pretty small, but I think it was remastered. In any case, well done, well sung and the lyrics are as poignant today as in 1970/71. Recommended.
Hi all,

This has been a great discussion. A good collection of well-recorded redbook cd's plus a good cd player will ensure the longevity of this format. All the labels mentioned so far are well known but lesser known recordings sound great too. Herbie Hancock's tribute to Joni Mitchell in River, is a must-have redbook cd.

I am a reluctant entrant to the world of computer audio simply because while redbook is far from dead, stores selling it are shutting down faster than you can say cd.

So, I tried it and am truly amazed by the superiority of hi-rez over redbook. I did not spend much more, just hooking up my desktop to my player's usb input with a good usb cable.

Credible sites like Linn, Naim and Hyperion give Hi-rez a good name. It is all about the srudio master tapes, the recording technique and being true to the hi-rez format, instead of simply (and fraudulently) upsampling old redbook recordings to 96/24 or 192/24. As good as redbook is in the best of hands, hi-rez is indeed stunning to behold. And most of the gems are the classical recordings.
I was responding to Ps68 who has a Concert Fidelity based system. These are Japanese components that sound superb. Their DAC is Redbook only but was every bit the equal to the custom turn table front end at the shows. Their DAC and Line stage are tube and the two power amplifiers are solid state. I'm a tube guy for certain but their power amplifiers are really quite good sounding, some of the best SS I know of.
I hope the CD sticks around for a long time yet. There is a fantastic choice of music at reasonable prices.

Generally I have found the physical CD, playing in my CDP, produces better sound than the ripped version played from my Mac Pro. However I recently modded a Dell laptop and installed Jriver player. The sound is now closer - however the CD still has the edge, slightly better detail, clarity and dynamics.

I put this down to having a good CD player. Previous machines have disappointed. I have always ended up playing vinyl in preference to CD, I now find using CD much more involving.

Well recorded hi-rez downloads can sound better than CD - but of course it is all down to the quality of the recording. The hi-rez 88 Khz version of Daft Punk's Random Access Memories sounds pretty amazing compared to the 44 Khz version.

I must admit to being constantly surprised by the quality of sound produced by CD - the converse is that some CDs do sound very ordinary. This just illustrates the fact that the full potential of CD is quite frequently not realised.

I have a limited selection of SACDs some of which seem to have better dynamics, detail and ambiance compared to CD. Again it is not a given that SACD will produce better results but the medium has the potential to be, if that potential is fulfilled. A very good example is the jazz album Jungle Boldie.
Hi Bifwynne,

Other examples of what I believe are super redbook cd's are :-

1. Art Davis -A Time to Remember(Jazz Planet)
2. David Fray - Mozart Piano Concertos 22. & 25(Verve Classics)
3. Van Cliburn - Tchaikovsky Concerto No. 1(JVC XRCD24)
4. Seiji Ozawa - Pictures at an Exhibition(JVC XRCD24)
5. Somethin' Else - Cannonball Adderley(Blue Note)

Where the Herbie Hancock 'River' recording is concerned, the redbook cd and 96/24 download from the Linn website sound very, very close and only a superb hi-rez dac section would be able to show up the superiority of the 96/24 format.

Happy listening!
CDs are not dead for me and won't be for the foreseeable future.

Yes, thanks, CF are one of a number of manufacturers determined to seek the absolute potential of the RBCD format, for which they regularly gain much praise for at shows.

There are some great selections listed also, some of which I will hunt out over the holiday period..
Just found an old 3 CD set of ELO (Electric Light Orchestra) "best of" out of junk box in the house. It was made in the mid-70s. It actually sounds quite good. :)

If interested, respond to the thread and I'll provide details.

Happy Holidays,

Wanted to pass along a favorable redbook CD report. Just bought a bunch of older CDs from a vendor who advertised on A'gon. All classical music and in mint condition. I think I paid about $3.50 for each CD.

No point in listing all the labels. But it's worth mentioning that they are older prints and for the most part provide a very nice and engaging musical experience.

If anyone's is interesting in buying CDs, send me an e mail through A'gon and pass along his contact info.

On another note, I just bought 2 "Gold" quality redbook CDs from Acoustic Sounds. The group is the Cars. I am extremely impressed with the playback quality and will continue to buy as much "Gold" or equivalent quality CDs from Acoustic Sounds or any other reputable vendor.

So ... 2 other examples of why redbook CD isn't dead.

I really like the quality of HDCD but has anyone noticed that the title releases are geared towards Baby Boomers? If they're like me (with failing hearing), don't you think from a marketing strategy it would make sense to introduce more current music?
Russell ... your Q touches on a subject that has been discussed quite a bit in various OPs. Namely, why isn't the younger generation interested in good audio? Instead, it seems like they like "ear bud" music that's just compressed distortion, IMO.

Right now I'm playing a London CD of George Solti conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performance of Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony. I don't think it's a HDCD, but even still it's a really great recording and musically engaging. I seriously doubt many kids would be that interested.

Maybe there's a price barrier. Maybe it's a social thing. Dunno. But as long as there's good music to be had, while my hearing lasts, I intend to listen to good music.
I've been buying a number of reissues from that are using SMH-CD, Blue-spec CD, HQCD, SMH SACD and SACD. These disks sound so much smoother, and if bought in bulk to lower the shipping cost they are a good buy. Given the quality of the sound from these new formats and technology, I think CD's are still a viable format and will live on.
Supplement to 1/18/14 post: the Gold CDs are on the Mofi label
CD is not dead. I just listened to Yehudi Menuhin from a 1962/64 recording of Mozart violin concertos, on a economy grade "Encore" label cd, which was a re-issue to boot. Fabulous playing and so musical. Far from perfect in the orchestral crescendos (compression & some minor distortion) but overall a fabulous musical experience. I'm sure hi-res would improve it but my visitor was awed by the sound of the CD.
Jadem6, I hope so.
While I'm very much in the computer audio camp and enjoy the hires titles I've acquired, I find myself more than ever purchasing CDs. I no longer use a CDP, but rip to my external FW drive (love the convenience). My source is the Chord QuteHD, which has been well reviewed and does wonders with 16/44.1. Coupled with a good recording, redbook is very, very enjoyable. I'll be purchasing CDs well into the future.
Thanks Wtf. Just a P.S. to an earlier post. I listed again to my recently purchase Mofi "Gold" reissue "Cars" HDCDs. Do they sound better than vinyl? I dunno know. Do they sound better than the usual run of the mill redbook CDs you can pick up at Best Buys? Absolutely, 100 percent.

My take-a-way is that redbook CD, IMO, is still a very good media source and it's a darn shame that the music industry doesn't do a better job on the mastering, engineering and recording side. I find the musical experience of well produced redbook CDs to be extremely satisfying and relaxing. Heck, it's nice to sit down for an hour or so, play on my computer, and just listen. As much as I like vinyl (and I do), sometimes it's a PITA to get up after 15 to 20 minutes and flip the record. Kinda defeats the whole purpose.