I just got a new CD player (the guy at the store would tell you it’s a 4K HD, Blu-ray, entertainment hub or something, but I got it to play CDs). It’s amazing. Revelatory. I don’t know how I’ve lived so long without one. I know that sounds weird. This isn’t 1988. I know no one listens to CDs anymore, so I want to explain why you should.
Music has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. My dad had a sizable record collection and my parents were always playing music in the house and car. Then, I started playing instruments, and it deepened my love of music. Some of the earliest gifts I remember receiving (at least the ones that weren’t Star Wars related) were records. I remember Paul McCartney’s Tug of War and Weird Al Yankovic’s In 3-D and stuff like that from the early 80’s. When I was 10 or 11, I got a paper route and my family got our first CD player. Basically all of the money I made went to music. In the beginning, I used to debate whether to get the Vinyl or the CD. I don’t know how I decided, but I’ve got Bon Jovi and Guns N’ Roses and Cinderella (remember them?) on vinyl while I have Tom Petty and Def Leppard and Tesla (remember them?) on CD. That lasted a couple of years, then most things were no longer available on vinyl and I switched to all CDs. Over the next ten years, I amassed quite the collection of CDs. I still listened to the vinyl and used it to make mix tapes, but I was firmly in the CD world. I listened all the time.
In the early 2000s, a few things happened. I moved and lost access to the stereo I had been using most of my life. And, shortly thereafter, the iPod came out. Then, the music industry fell apart. I still listened to my CDs a lot, but I didn’t even have a record player. Plus my living space wasn’t conducive to any kind of separate component stereo system, so I was mostly listening on cheap headphones or chintzy speakers. When streaming started, like the rest of the world, I bought into the new technology. It was convenient and cheap. I didn’t give up my CDs, but with limited money, I only bought the “big ones” and downloaded or streamed the rest.
When I bought my house, I was excited to have a real stereo again. I unpacked my receiver and speakers and even got myself a new turntable. I had a DVD player that played CDs, but that broke and for some reason we didn’t replace it. I had CD players in my computer and in my car, but I got into a habit where when I was specifically sitting and listening to music, I listened to my vinyl. My CDs were for the car or, more and more often, ripped to the computer and listened to on my iPod. It’s been OK, but still not everything I want is on vinyl, and money is limited. I never want to buy something again if I already own it. So, most of my music collection was relegated to the basement and my devices.
Now that I have a CD player again, I’m revisiting my collection. I’ve been struck by a few things. Music is always great, but just listening to music as an activity in itself is so much better. Too often we use music as background noise or listen while doing chores and things like that. It’s so much fun to sit in a comfortable chair and just listen. Another thing I’ve noticed is that CDs sound way better than MP3s and streaming services. I’m by no means an audiophile. I’ve never had that kind of money. But the difference between Spotify and a CD is huge. Finally, there’s the physical experience. Holding the case, reading the liner notes, looking at the pictures. You can do all those things online, but only awkwardly. It’s completely natural with a CD player.
I’m so happy I got my new CD player. I like to think my CD collection is happy, too. What should I listen to next?