Tossing CDs

There’s an interesting discussion at All Songs Considered, about tossing all CDs and going “strictly hard drive” for digital music.

The author of the post has a good point: when you have thousands of CDs, managing them and storing them becomes a pretty big issue. CDs, unlike records, require special shelving or other storage systems, due to their odd size. And if you have thousands, they take up lots of room.

I don’t have thousands; I’m not sure how many I have, I should count them. Probably around 600, I’d guess. But I took a radical step many years ago to help with the space problem: I got rid of the jewel cases, and put all the CDs into sleeves that attach to a system of two bars at the bottom, like a Rolodex.

You can put about 200-240 CDs in a double rack that is only about 12 inches wide and maybe 16 inches deep. And it’s very portable.  Plus, the sleeves are really double sleeves, so you can save the original artwork and packaging material in the sleeves, which I do.

The only thing I don’t like about this system is that you lose the ability to look at the edges of your CDs, from the side, just like you can with albums, for ease of finding a particular CD.  I’ve found that I miss that, both from a practical perspective, and also from an aesthetic perspective.  I never realized how much I used to enjoy the whole ritual of searching through my albums, unsure what to play next, by scanning the edges.

Regarding mp3s and iPods, I’m pretty new to that game, as I’ve only had an iPod for 16 months or so. My iTunes library has … let’s see … 172 CDs and 1855 songs. I’m still building it up. And it definitely is handy. I use the iPod at work, and at the Y, and sometimes on my bike.

But to make the step of going to a music server, where my only copy of the music files is on a hard drive? I don’t think so. I like having the artwork and packaging for CDs — and albums and tapes — too much to abandon all that. Especially albums; music seems to have more heft to it when it comes from a 12″ disc of vinyl, packaged in a 13×13 cardboard sleeve with artwork and writing all over it.  For me, anyway.

But the main thing for me is this:  I don’t have enough faith in the durability and permanence of hard drives to rely on them quite that much. So, I’d have to back it up all the time. I’ve got better things to do than play computer network operator at my home. Good luck with all that.

Actually, the larger point here is that I don’t have enough faith in the durability of consumer technology hardware, period. Most of these products are kinda crappy, frankly. We’ve somehow been cowed into buying products with spectacularly short working lives, and replacing them over and over again. And we think we’re better off.

To illustrate where I’m coming from on this: a few weeks ago I hooked up my old “legacy” stereo, yet again. Pre-amp, amp, CD player, turntable, cassette deck, speakers. The CD player is 22 years old. Still works great. It’s a Denon, and I think I spent around $400 on it. The cassette deck is probably 18 years old. Still works great. It’s a Nakamichi, which, for those who don’t know, is a very strong brand of tape deck. Of course, I spent like $900 bucks on it back then, but I wanted to get a really nice three-head cassette deck that would last forever. Mission accomplished. The turntable is 25 years old. Still works great. It’s a Thorens. Thorens is one of the leading names in belt-driven turntables. It was about $300. The pre-amp and amp are Adcom, bought used last year for $300. I had to get the pre-amp fixed, for $130. The speakers are around 18 years old. Cambridge Soundworks satellites and subwoofer. Still work great.

My iPod was $250 16 months ago.  Care to make a bet with me on whether it will still work in 18 years?

So for me, with albums, tapes, and CDs, I would be removing a big chunk of music collection by going to a music server.  Or, I’d have to spend thousands of hours of my life burning all that to digital files.  Uh, no thanks, I’m trying to cut down.

For me, digital music on computers is a secondary system that is oriented around convenience. I understand why people do it, and I understand that having a music server pumping music wirelessly through my house would be an awesome thing. And who knows, maybe I’ll eventually even get one of those, and enjoy some of those advantages.

But as my only source of all my music? Not gonna happen.

1 comment
  1. CGHill said:

    My “analog” equipment averages twenty to thirty-five years old, and is nowhere near ready for the Dumpster. (In fact, it’s still hooked up and ready to go, and gets played when I have the time to go sort through the Wall of Vinyl in the next room.)