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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Should I dump my cd collection?

Recently, I went through my cd collection and culled out about 60% of them.  I have been accumulating them since they were first released in the 1980's and over the years had acquired multiple copies of works, or ones which I had purchased for one reason or another and did not have enough interest to play them again.  By the time I was finished culling, I was left with my favorites from a wide variety of musical genres and sent the rest to a local used cd shop.  I decided it was really too much trouble to sell on E-Bay.  Which led me to the thought, do I dump all of my cd's and store them on external hard drives?

I am sure you the reader of this article have reached this quandary at some point.  For me, it was easy.  The answer is not now and here are my reasons:

1. MP3, which is the most common form of shared musical file on the internet is a truncated, or maybe a better term is compressed file.  The file is  128 kbits, or 1/11th of the size of a fully expanded cd file.  I suppose it's fine for small ensemble music, a guitar, a solo piano etc.  But if you listen to large ensemble music, especially orchestral and opera, you end up missing massive amounts of band width.  The higher frequency range is typically missed in replay of these files, which in orchestral music can leave performances absolutely flat.  As an example, think of the quality of most Youtube videos, they tend to be grainy and in some cases difficult to watch, they are not HD.....same difference here with an MP3 sound file.  Or think about that low res photo you grabbed off the internet and tried to print as an 8x10, of course the photo is there, but it's grainy and pixelated.

2. Cloud storage is in its' infancy.  Recently, a friend who had a large amount of data stored on a cloud environment found one morning that their data missing, never to return.  External hard drives don't last, I have found mine run about a 3-4 year life span, yet my cd's from the 1980's still play as well as the day I purchased them.  The word on the street is that a cd should last 10 years is simply not true!  Additionally, you would need to have back-up external hard drives to back up your other external hard drives to insure you don't lose your files.  Costly and time consuming!

3. I refuse to store my cd data as an MP3, some are willing to compromise for either download storage, or reduced storage space, but the loss of frequency in the recordings is not something I'm willing to live with and the time it takes to clone your cd's accurately is not time I have to waste and the cost to have someone do it for me is cost prohibitive.

4. I have stopped using headphones and my I-Pod. JAMA produced an alarming article several years ago which cut to the heart of the matter.  Essentially, the World, since the advent of the Walk-Man and I-Pod is experiencing greater hearing loss and not in small percentages.  A study by U. Minnesota tried to refute the claim and 2 new studies, one by the University of Tel-Aviv and the other by U. Michigan confirm the earlier JAMA data.  As a portable listening device is the main reason to store MP-3's and I'm not using those devices, my sense of hearing is too important to me.

5. Apple has come up with a file they call "Lossless" which saves as M4a.  While an improvement over the MP3 situation, it is still not up to the same sound quality as a CD.

The tale of the tape is this.  Store your data on your computer and external hard drives, technology is wonderful and if you are willing to settle for lower res files, certainly not a problem.  My advice is, keep your cd's for the present time.  There will come a day where you will no longer need them as back-up, however, that day has not arrived.

P.S. A sidebar.  A few of my regulars who read this post asked me about record albums.  Interesting, as a few musicians like Gustavo Dudamel have recently released a limited number of copies of recent recordings in album format.  When it comes to opera and classical box sets, except for rare cases, they are dead in the water.  You can try to unload them on E-Bay and that's perhaps your best option and court of last resort.  Unlike the world of Jazz, opera box sets no matter how pristine are virtually undesirable, the vast majority of collectors moved over to CD's years ago.  The second hand record places are filled to the brim, the bulk of record dealers who handled this material by list are gone, you can't even give them to your local library, they have the same problem and don't want your problem.  There is always landfill, but that's certainly not very green. So my best suggestion is if you can afford the room and you still listen to them, keep them and enjoy them.  The market has simply dried up.

1 comment:

  1. Lossless formats like FLAC (and apple's ALAC) retain 100% of the musical data on your CD. They do not lower the quality of your recording. A good analogy would be if you zipped a bunch of documents - the zip file takes up much less space but doesn't alter your documents in the slightest. That's what FLAC (and ALAC) do with music files. I use FLAC since I'm not an apple fan. You can always convert your FLAC and ALAC files back to WAV files without ever losing even a single byte of data. Mp3 and other lossy formats are a ridiculous way to go, but lossless compression means no loss of musical data, and is a very fine way to store your CD collection on a computer hard drive.