The demise of the music CD inevitable?


Back on campus, my senior year. Everywhere I look, its all earbuds and cell phones streaming audio. None of my friends would even consider purchasing a CD! I as well almost completely stopped purchasing CD's now that I have lossless streaming from TIDAL. It seems that SQ is not an issue anymore for this generation, its content that is most important and there is no loss of it out there in the streaming world.

Many like myself still love to play CD's but also love the convenience of streaming from PC, server, and SMART phone.  There will still be the used CD's out there that many will still buy.

Is it "dead", no but maybe just dormant.


I have upwards of 4,000 CDs. While I do believe it can offer the best quality playback (yes, 16bit PCM, no practical audible difference with 24bit or DSD) given a high end player, there is definitely a problem that gets little attention in forums and elsewhere on the Internet.


I do not believe CD longevity is as great as it is typically purported to be. The material(s) itself wears out and often renders portions of the disk inaudible as the reflective layer "evaporates" and the laser is unable to read the data. Virtually no storage and/or handling modification can prevent this.

Back to the format itself, when "critical" listening is required/desired I believe CD playback on a dedicated player is superior and more reliable than streaming or playing digital files via computer software.

Happy to debate the issue as I’m sure my comments will draw the ire of some.
I’d like to hear from any members from the UK. My friends in England are still buying and listening to CDs, and now vinyl is huge. It seems both formats are more popular than downloads among the typical consumer.
Amazon UK has a much larger selection of new CD’s for sale than the US.
You came to this site to investigate about CDs. Do your friends come to this site? You probably have a dedicated system. Do your friends have a dedicated system for music? Point is - how do you care if none of your friends purchased CDs. The CD market is getting smaller, but still exists. I buy CDs from time to time. I love my new Bluetooth receiver, but as gdhal said, playing a CD on a dedicated player provides a much better experience listening to music.
I I personally would rather have a tooth extracted without anesthesia than spend another minute of my life faffing around  high Res downloads.
streaming otoh, is a different story.  I am listening to a high Res download right now of a disc that own in SACD and the stream (24 bit) is winning hands down.
why bother with all the bs that goes with computer audio when it could at best only equal?  And depending on the service, streaming is so easy and probably requires less hardware.
  I predict high Res downloads will lose out to streaming (low Res will persist at some level).  CDs will persist because they sound great and are easy--plug and play, no advanced IT degree necessary just to hear some music

  • sorry, above, I meant to say that I am listening to a 24 bit stream currently...
The CD longevity is very finite compared to vinyl.
Vinyl kept proper will play forever CD will go bad in 20...25 years

I just visited Best Buy to pick up the Beatles Live at the Hollywood bowl.

I noticed that there CD department is basically empty.

I do not believe CD longevity is as great as it is typically purported to be. The material(s) itself wears out and often renders portions of the disk inaudible as the reflective layer "evaporates" and the laser is unable to read the data. Virtually no storage and/or handling modification can prevent this.
I think that was a rumour started by a vinyl lover reviewer article was called something like "CD Rot" in Stereophile one or two years after it was released.
I still have one of the first cd’s to come to Australia and it’s 33 years old now and still perfect, no see through pinhole if held up to a strong light either, just as perfect as the day I bought it, uncompressed Dire Straits "Love Over Gold" 1982 and it sounds very good, almost "Reference Recordings 24/96" quality.

Cheers George
"...CD will go bad in 20-25 years."

This statement prompted me to check some of the very 1st CD's I bought, back in '84-'85.  I'll be honest, I've literally been reading about 'pinholes' and 'CD rot' for decades, I've never seen holes or rot, ever!  I own roughly 2000+ discs!  I held up those old CD's I mentioned before up to a light (looking for those pesky pinholes!;).  Nada, nothing, bupkus.  I'm listening to one of them as I type and it's playing as flawlessly as the day I bought it 31+ yrs ago!    
georgelofi, chazro and others, trust me, cds do rot and go bad. However, that said...

- it is a relatively small number percentage wise, and is usually isolated more so to certain brands.

- because you have not noticed it yet after so many years, consider yourselves lucky

- just because there are pinholes, this does not mean the playback device cannot still read and play the disk due to error correction

- if you want more proof positive that there is something wrong with your disks, use exact audio copy. I’m sure most will agree that software is a defacto standard for copying/burning. take a small percentage of your collection and attempt to read using secure mode (not burst mode like normal copying is done). at times errors will be reported.

- many cds have a full label on the reflective side. you cannot see or readily determine the problem. do your inspection on disks that have the metalic coating. and even then use bright light and look carefully.

- cds are essentially cost prohibitive as compared to playing digital files directly. that too diminishes their overall "appeal"

More to my point, the current generation, most of my friends do not even own CDP's unlike myself who agrees CD sounds great. That said, about 90% of my listening is TIDAL streaming, so close to CD in SQ I have no desire to purchase CD's anymore.
Ozzy, I thought "Live at the Hollywood Bowl" was vinyl only and long out of print...?

The demise of the music CD inevitable? 

Not in our lifetimes.  In the long run, all current formats will disappear, as will the Earth and Sun.

More to my point, the current generation, most of my friends do not even own CDP's unlike myself who agrees CD sounds great.
Truth. I had a coworker straight out of college who had never bought a CD. It is a generational thing; he and his friends listen with earbuds and iphones. We became friends and he would send me audio files.

He was also OK with watching movies on his phone or tablet; didn't need a big screen TV. I can't understand this part.
the thing about physical media is the security of the software (no worries if a HD fails) and the process. sure flipping through media on an ipad is easy & convenient. but i'm single and i have cds stacked high and low. and if (!) a woman comes over and wants to listen to something, its a lot more fun to watch her stretch & stoop as she looks. ---an ipad cant get me that visual. 
Hi all,
Yes, lowrider57, you noticed exactly what I have observed myself, he never purchased a CD and... likely never will. I honestly think those who still purchase CD's or Vinyl will one day be the exception. I predict there may be a huge step change in hard media purchases to the point where company's are just going to get out of the business of CD's. As far as watching movies on his phone, I have VUDU myself on my phone and watch it on rare occasion, I prefer the movie theater. 
I suspect CD will be with us for a long time.  The format has been around for about 35 years and have, over that time, achieved such market penetration with "gazillions" of them in circulation world-wide that the silver devils and the machines that play them will be here for the foreseeable future.

Look at the renaissance that is happening with vinyl!  After all of the old "record" stores sold off their vinyl in the late eighties, early nineties, in favor of CD shelf space, I never foresaw the re-appearance of vinyl in stores but here we are.  Even Borders book stores carry some vinyl.  The last mall store I entered had a large vinyl display with records of most current major releases. It is a part of the cultural "retro movement" currently taking place in the West. The question that time will answer is whether it is a "fad" or a true re-emergence of vinyl.  The good news for the audiophile world is that vinyl will hopefully ignite a spark in younger listeners to care about sound quality and engage in the hobby we all so enjoy.

It will be interesting to see what happens over the next 5-10 years.

CD rot was happening a short time after cds came out but it was do to bad manufacturing facilities that were used by certain labels. Classical labels such as Hyperion and Pearl and one anomaly I had was a Pinnock DG cd.

However the overwhelming majority of my cds are fine and I continue to buy them. I am genuinely astonished that in 2016 so many new ones are available on the internet and that at least in the classical sector there are so many comprehensive reissues of artists long dead for whom I thought at this point the audience would be equally dead. Vinyl is for pop and I can't believe how bad the compression and lifelessness are on 'remastered' pop cds these days.

I'm stuck in the 20th century and always will be so I don't give a hoot and a holler about streaming. The only thing that annoys me is that discmans today are few and far between and break down in no time whatsoever. If they're not going to make them to work beyond a couple of weeks why make them at all.

do=due, ugh

As to my point as on classical reissues it is gratifying to see so many great artists long gone and whose artistry can never be replaced still being appreciated by many younger people.


Like Vinyl, the CD will never go away...
I’ve owned many digital discs as well including released in 80’s and still sell them online and at the store. Ones released in 80’s get the most return requests because they can’t be played on one’s player. I don’t sell CDs with marks or scratches, but still they skip and can’t be played on quite large number of CD players which means their life is over. I don’t care for what reason, but it’s over. My 80’s records still rock. A vs B or A-B or A><B whichever you prefer simple math shoves S to complex science ’bahind’. The reason why I refuse to sell imperfect CDs is again return requests due to the small scratch that claimed to be a culprit of not playing a specific song! 
Hey the long story short: Small scratch on CD can make certain players to skip. Small scratch on LP not even noticable and plays through with no surface noise at all. 
So forget the vinyl junkie terms, it's all real and it's all known very well about very very finite life of CD.

CDS aren't going anywhere in the foreseeable future.  They’re very durable, I have 25 year old disks that are just fine.  There's an enormous catalog of music in that format and is quite affordable new or used. I'm always finding new titles to purchase. Redbook CD sounds wonderful (particularly jazz recordings) with good quality digital playback components. 
but still they skip and can’t be played on quite large number of CD players which means their life is over. I don’t care for what reason, but it’s over.
This is not right, you can re-polish them yourself to get the scratches out use a coarse cutting compound then a fine polishing one.

Or take them to the video rental store and for a couple of bucks each they’ll put them on the dvd rental polishing machine which brings them up like new again in 5 mins.

Mind you there is an is a limit to the amount of times you can do this, unless you give them to the dog to play with every week, you can do it at least 3 or 4 times. I think twice for anyone’s life will do if you treat them right.

PS: Never scratch the label side, as it is the silver layer, scratch that and all you have then is a clear see through piece of plasitic.

Cheers George
I've got your point George, but I don't even come close dealing with scratched CDs and still they get returned in particular 80's CDs that skip on certain players. The buyer usually claims that the rest of CDs he's got do not skip. Therefore I removed all 80's CDs from the online sale. 1992 or newer..
For the first time I downloaded a free demonstration recording 96/24 file from ProStudioMasters. It sounded fantastic, and to my ears, much better than lower resolution CD. The only problem I see with high res downloads is the huge amount of Disk Space they take, I would need to find a large SSD dedicated to audio. With downloads however, my collection would be portable. This in itself is another reason the CD is just not viable for me anymore, yes, a hard drive may cough up a hairball and you could loose your collection, but high res downloads are a better sounding solution and they don't end up lost, scratched, in the wrong case, etc. Adding pain to injury, with my TIDAL streaming App, most of what I found on the download site was available to stream. I mean really, I'm finding it very hard now to justify any future CD purchase, it is in effect, obsolete.  
I buy GOLD CDR's. They say they will last 100 years! Let's discuss this again in 2116! Joe
Why not they say they've got cure for cancer and AIDS so who knows maybe ones that know the cure get waterboarded or ironed and reveal the secret after all?
we'll live than longer and discuss something in 2116.
Had my 27 year old Nephew over and owns 0 CDs.  Streaming or a few iTunes downloads is all he listens.  My kids are a few years older than him, used to buy CDs, but now You Tube seems to satisfy them.  I do think CDs will ultimately become a niche product most likely to be bought by old farts like myself
mahler12374 posts09-13-2016 11:35amHad my 27 year old Nephew over and owns 0 CDs.  Streaming or a few iTunes downloads is all he listens.  My kids are a few years older than him, used to buy CDs, but now You Tube seems to satisfy them.  I do think CDs will ultimately become a niche product most likely to be bought by old farts like myself
Same I heard about records, but...
I think Vinyl may outlast the CD. My Fathers system spins mostly Vinyl and he loves it, and I must admit, depending on the quality of the recording, sounds pretty good. However, its a "Zen" like process he goes through prepping his vinyl for playback, plus you have to go through the hassle of flipping it over half way through the recording. Still though, for me, I prefer the sound of hi-res downloads or streaming.
Aside from longevity or lack thereof, what worries me most is that many new recordings are being engineered/mastered with the most popular listening devices in mind, which is earbuds, etc., certainly not high end equipment and with little attention (or even concern) for accuracy or staying true to the original. You'll notice that immediately if you switch from pop to jazz content on various streaming sources. It seems that they "color" the music from the get go so it sounds good on a $5 earbud but sounds awful when played on a high end home audio system. I sure hope they don't start f*ing around with less mainstream genres like jazz or classical because that would really piss me off...
Interesting question from the OP, and certainly started a lively discussion. Up until early last year, I was part-owner of a CD store that specialized in classical music, and from that perspective I think there are some factors that haven't yet been addressed in this discussion, namely the role of the record companies and copyright holders in the process of disseminating and marketing their products, and how they have contributed to what may be the demise of the industry. The old model of the leviathan record company issuing a succession of new recordings for mass consumption is fast becoming obsolete. Whether this is a good thing or not can be hotly debated--God knows these companies have often not behaved well--but the end result is that with new technologies it becomes harder for them to control the marketing and distribution process. A number of artists have taken to recording and issuing their own CDs independently. No, they're not going to make a gazillion dollars on royalties this way, but disc-for-disc, they'll sure do better for themselves than a record company would. I know of at least two important classical labels that don't pay royalties at all, they just purchase the recording for a set fee and that's it. The artist doesn't even own his/her own copyright. It was precisely this behavior that spawned sites like Magnatune and CDBaby, where an artist can distribute an independent project and reap rewards for it.

What I witnessed during my 20 (or so) years associated with the sales end of the industry was an inexorable shrinking of both the market for CDs and the number of new titles made available from the major labels, which also means they pretty much stopped promoting their artists. The record companies themselves went through disastrous mergers (like Sony/BMG or Time-Warner/AOL) and in the process lost their way forward. One of the oldest and most venerable of the classical labels, EMI, basically doesn't exist any more because of how the company was broken up and sold a few years ago. A lot of world-class performers were simply dropped by their former labels, but these same labels are endlessly repackaging and re-releasing their back-catalog. This process actually began in the late 1990s, but in recent years it has accelerated to the point where the old model of the CD store where you can go to browse, socialize, learn, etc. is an endangered species.

I still prefer to own a physical object (CD, LP) because I would rather have control over my own listening experience and not surrender it to a remote server, like a streaming service, whose reliability may be uncertain and who's probably going to track my habits. Also, the purchase of a CD or LP (if new and not used) should be (but isn't in every case) a way of supporting the artist or at least the artist's record label. If properly controlled, streaming should also do this, but recalling some of the earliest forays into music-sharing (remember Napster?), these were simple rip-offs of copyrighted recordings made possible by new technologies.

So, to address the original question, CDs are probably going to be with us for some time to come, but the way they are marketed is changing. I suppose eventually they'll go the way of the piano-roll and wax cylinder,  but even these have not totally disappeared yet. They're generally regarded as museum-pieces though.

Okay, sorry for the length of this rambling post--in fact, there's even more to say. To quote one of those 19th-century French authors: "If I'd had more time, I'd have written a shorter one."
I've read the above posts with some interest and offer these personal comments/opinions in no particular order.
1. CD "rot" might be due to mishandling or poor storage.  I still own a number of original CDs from 1984 and they all still look and play perfectly.
2. I have taken all my CDs and ripped them to (lossless) FLAC format.  I've placed all of them on a USB hard drive that is plugged into the back of my Oppo disc player.  All my music is readily available with a few clicks and scrolls.  I'll keep the CDs safe and well stored just in case.
3.  As a related issue, I can buy used CDs in bulk (Craigslist) for as little as fifty cents each.  Some are of no interest to me and some are scratched and I don't want to keep them.  Those I keep are ripped to FLAC...others go to Goodwill.  I have more music than I really will ever need.
4. If I stumble onto an artist or album I want, I will buy it new...usually they are cheap.
5. Younger generations love their music but to them it is all about portability.  They really care less about lossless or long as their MP3s sound OK.  This may be a factor in the market failure of SACD and DVD-Audio.
6. I have many hundreds of CDs and about 30 SACDs.  On my roughly $15K Emotiva/B&W system I don't think I can tell the difference between them.
7.  High-rez audio files are better and have more data.  Yet I doubt most people could tell the difference.
8.  I was raised on vinyl.  I switched to CDs when they arrived on the market.  I'd never go back to vinyl.  I mean, really, even if they do sound a little bit better, I'd never go back to the hassle of turntables, cartridges, cuing, snaps and pops, wow and flutter and......cuing a tone arm and flipping LPs.  Really!!
9. Here is an axiom I've always believed in.  Market an audio product, price it really high and get the word out that it is "high-end" and sounds better.  It won't sell.  Triple or quadruple the price (making it a lesser value) and brain dead audiopholes will buy it.  And, believe this, you spend enough on an audio component or WILL sound better to you.

Generally I agree with most of the above post, but I did dip my toes into the hi-rez waters with disappointing results. Yes, I get why so many people love vinyl, and I’ve never actually parted with my rather extensive vinyl collection, but I’m still a CD guy at heart. As to item #9, I’m not sure a discerning listener would be taken in by that sort of hype, but it IS a great argument for blind taste-testing. I once heard a very expensive tube-based system that really didn’t float my boat even though I could clearly hear what so many people found attractive about it.
To that extent, I guess, it’s really down to one’s own taste. By very high-end standards, my own system is quite modest but I’ve chosen carefully and right now I’m very pleased with what I’m hearing. This is not to say that there won’t be some future tweaks/upgrades, but for the moment I’m happy. There are places on the price spectrum I just won’t go whether or not I could actually afford them.
Perhaps this post of mine just reiterates what I have already stated. Nevertheless, for those with CDs 30 years with no sign (as least as you are able to tell) of ROT, keep in mind year 31 could be very different. Granted, nothing last forever.

Regardless, their demise is inevitable for a number of reasons. (My list is with respect to retaining the source flac file on hard disk and playing back directly from their or USB through an audiphile grade DAC). No particular order.
- Cost
- Physical space
- Greater concern for lack of data preservation
- Current CDs can be ripped to disk, relegating the CD to a "backup"
- Redbook standard is limited to 16 bit PCM

I have hundreds of CDs purchased new from 1986 to 1989 (I know because I made a big list in 1990) and with a rare exception they all play and sound just fine. I don’t know where the data or experiments on this idea that CDs wear out is coming from. Maybe if you leave them in a hot car they will have issues, but otherwise they seem to last just fine.
(The slogan back then: perfect sound forever. Has anyone had many of their old discs fail?)
As for streaming, the problem is far-too-often a track is a non-original strange re-recording because of a copyright issue. Even worse, it’s often not even flagged as being non-original. This is extremely annoying and frustrating if you like popular music from the last several decades.
Tidal, Spotify, Itunes, they all have this problem.

To get these originals onto your own storage, you have to buy a disc and rip it yourself. Until these legal restrictions go away, discs are the only way to go. And I sure don’t want to listen to Youtube or MP3 or other lossy versions with no decent resolution.

And ripping SACDs is basically impossible. And to my ears, SACD is still king, breathtaking and irreplaceable, especially through headphones. [It's a crime the Beatles were never released in SACD, but that's another subject.]

rgs92 wrote: I have hundreds of CDs purchased new from 1986 to 1989 (I know because I made a big list in 1990) and with a rare exception they all play and sound just fine. I don’t know where the data or experiments on this idea that CDs wear out is coming from. Maybe if you leave them in a hot car they will have issues, but otherwise they seem to last just fine.
(The slogan back then: perfect sound forever. Has anyone had many of their old discs fail?)

I have. The failure occurs at the location where the reflective layer gets worn away. If that area is very small like a pinhole - which is typically the case - most players will play right through it because of error correction or not play that portion of a second which is nearly inaudible to detect. As I’ve stated previously, if you inspect the disk by eye you may be able to see worn out reflective areas on the disk. And if you use software that rips with utmost integrity like Exact Audio Copy, even if you don’t necessarily see anything wrong, errors can be reported. When/if an already compromised portion of the reflective layer enlarges, eventually it gets to a point that the player completely skips at that point and a great amount of music (data) is gone, or worse the entire disk doesn’t play.

Note that when I use the term "eventually" and other references to time, it is NOT with the expectation that the CD would last "forever". I certainly realize that everything known to mankind perishes at some point. What I mean to convey here is that the time frames initially purported by the CD manufacturers as to their longevity are WAY off. Also I’ve stated previously, and in keeping with the point/title of this thread, the lack of data preservation that I claim herein is with respect to retaining the same data file digitally but NOT burned to a CD. Other storage mechanisms such as a hard disk are WAY more reliable. If the intention is to burn music to a CD on a casual basis and the expectation is such that you can play the CD a few years down the road that’s fine. On the other hand if one is looking to pass the CDs to their grand kids as some kind of meaningful inheritance that would be a mistake.
Actually, on some of my old Time/Life CDs,  after I ripped them using Jriver to my solid state hard drives, strange things happened. Jriver said some files were unplayable, sometimes not at first, but after they were on my drives for a while. Sometimes I would play one track and another would play.
I thought it was my drives, but copying the file didn't help.
So I guess you are right, as these are 20+ year old CDs.
Thanks for the info.
I've grown up in a round world.
Round dials to call someone.
Round records to play.
Round platters to adjust.
Round tires to drive on.
Round trips to take. 
Round CDs to play.
Why change a good thing?
It works very well and until someone comes up with a way 'round music servers and their like so that it's as simple as spinning 'round, I'll stick to my round CDs.

All the best,

Not looking to belabor this thread, but these URLs make for interesting reading.

Disc rot is nonsense.  My earliest CDs from the mid 80s all play just fine.  Vinyl rot--that's a different story.

Just purchased a 2TB WD Passport external HD for the purpose of ripping my favorite CD's to it and to store Hi-Res downloads. My future exposure to CD's will most likely be from the library which has a large selection and they are of course free to listen to. Still, the CD is old technology compared to Hi-Res purchased downloads from an SQ standpoint. This configuration will allow my music collection to be portable and takes no space. I do have one exception however, and that is SACD. A really good SACD recording sounds fantastic on my SACD player, there are some SACD's that sound worse than a quality recording on CD, so you are kind of rolling the dice with this format. And speaking of SACD, I think it is already a niche format and sadly may have an early demise, sooner than that of the CD.
Before you rip to the new drive be careful how you format your hard drive if you plan to ever use it with MAC, Windows, or BOTH. A painful lesson if you don't pay attention. 

If you get an Oppo 103 or 105 or certain Sony Playstation models, you can rip files from SACD to your hard drive. Cheers,
@sbank ,
I am curious on how you can rip SACD (DSD layer) to hard drive using Oppo 105/103. Can you please explain?

That is awesome. Thanks for the link Spencer!