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Dismissing the Disc

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Paul Boutin says it’s time to dump the disc:

    This spring, the compact disc celebrates the 20th anniversary of its arrival in stores, which puts the once-revolutionary music format two decades behind Moore’s Law. The IBM PC, introduced about a year and a half earlier, has been revved up a thousandfold in performance since 1983. But the CD has whiled away the time, coasting on its Reagan-era breakthroughs in digital recording and storage.

    ….To the new generation of music artists and engineers, “CD-quality sound” is an ironic joke. In recording studios, today’s musicians produce their works digitally at resolutions far beyond the grainy old CD standard. To make the sounds listenable on antiquarian CD players, the final mix is retrofitted to compact disc specs by stripping it of billions of bits’ worth of musical detail and dynamics. It’s like filming a movie in IMAX and then broadcasting it only to black-and-white TV sets.

    ….In bringing the CD up to date with the PC, the music industry is also trying to split the two technologies asunder again.

    It’s no wonder that gearheads who buy the latest, greatest everything have ignored DVD-A and SACD in favor of MP3 players and CD burners. Computer-friendly music formats let you archive hundreds of albums on a laptop, create custom playlists that draw from your entire collection, and download them to portable players smaller than a single CD jewel box. Today’s fans want their music in a form that fits the pocket-sized, personalized, interconnected world of their computers, cameras, phones, and PDAs. Asking digital consumers to give that power back in exchange for a better-sounding disc is like offering them a phonograph needle.

Actually, I’d take the needle – they’re hard to find.

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