CD vs. Streaming: Do CDs Sound Better than Streaming?

CDs vs. Streaming

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The topic of CDs vs. streaming is something that people are discussing more these days due to headphone technology advancement and high-quality audio being more readily available.

With smartphones being able to do almost everything, we no longer use different devices for different tasks. Apart from basic call and text functions, we use our smartphones for sending emails, doing work-related stuff, watching movies, playing games, listening to music, and many other things.

Because of convenience and portability, most of us just stream from our phones whenever we want to listen to our favorite songs. Gone are the days when we’d lug around bulky CD players and CDs of our favorite artists. Now, we just go on our phones, open Spotify or Apple Music, and pop in our earphones or headphones.

However, I’ve recently started listening to music on CDs again. Call me “old school” or something, but it wasn’t too long ago when I began to really appreciate how music sounds when played on a CD. 

CD Collection
Album collection | Make Life Click

A Bit of Background

I have a collection of albums but have never played any of the CDs. At least not until recently.

It started in 2021 when I fell down the K-pop rabbit hole and back then, buying your favorite artists’ albums was one of the best ways to support them. While streaming also helps, physical album sales make a significant contribution to their chart performance. Plus, the unboxing experience of these albums is quite nice, which I’ll explain more later.

So if you want to help your favorite artist win awards and top music charts, you’d support them – not just by streaming their music, but also by buying their albums. 

And that’s how it all started for me.

I bought album after album but I never played any of the CDs. So for a couple of years now, these albums have just been sitting on my display shelf looking cute with all my other K-pop merch. I didn’t even have a CD player to begin with until I was gifted one recently.

About a month ago, I did some decluttering and it’s not because I’m getting rid of my collection.

It’s just that, for some albums, I have more than one copy. Why? Well, some artists make more than one version per album and each version has a different album art concept. And being the fangirl that I am, I got all the versions. I eventually realized that I didn’t need all of them so I decided to keep just one version for every album and sell the rest. 

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Desktop CD Player with Bluetooth: Portable CD Music Player with Remote Control HiFi Sound Speaker FM Radio Support AUX/USB, Headphone Jack for Home, Kids, Kpop, Gift
CD player

CDs vs. Streaming: Why You Should Still Buy Albums 

For the albums I decided to keep, I figured I should at least play the CDs, and, boy, it was a different experience. 

Better Sound

CDs often provide better clarity and more detailed sound due to their uncompressed audio format. This is because the absence of compression allows for a more detailed and accurate representation of the original recording.

Streaming services, on the other hand, use compressed audio formats to reduce file sizes, which can result in the loss of some of these subtle details. I thought I wouldn’t notice these things, but in a back-to-back test, I actually did.

CD Collection
CD player with built-in speaker | Make Life Click

More Immersive Listening Experience

CDs store audio in an uncompressed format, ensuring that the audio data remains uncompressed. As a result, finer details, nuances, and dynamics or variations in sound levels are maintained.

On the other hand, when audio is compressed for streaming purposes, it can lead to undesirable noises or distortions stemming from the compression procedure. These irregularities can take away from the sense of being fully immersed in the sound.

With CDs, listening to my favorite songs became a lot more enjoyable – if that’s even possible.

Media Ownership

When you buy the album, you basically own a physical copy of the music. This means that the media can’t be taken away from you in case there are some changes in licensing agreements. 

I’ve read about some artists removing their songs from certain streaming services. While this hasn’t happened yet with any artist I support, it’s nice to know that I have physical copies of their songs if that does happen.

And if I want these songs on my laptop, I can just rip the music from the CDs in lossless formats to maintain the sound quality. This is also particularly helpful if I want to listen offline.

Extra Content, Freebies, and Fan Engagement

When buying CDs, you get extra content such as tracks that aren’t available on streaming platforms. For example, the third CD from BTS’ Proof contains a capella and demo versions of some of their songs.

In addition, CDs have better fan engagement because of the album inclusions. Honestly, I feel like albums and album art are very underrated considering the amount of work and effort that goes into them. And many of them are really well thought-out.

Albums and Freebies
BTS albums with their inclusions and freebies | Make Life Click

This is another reason why I like buying albums.

The unboxing adds to the overall experience. There’s something quite satisfying about getting a K-pop album, in particular, because it just doesn’t contain the CD – you also get a photo book, photo cards, posters, and stickers. You also get more freebies and a chance to attend fan meets if you order before the release date. 

CDs vs. Streaming: Where Streaming Wins 

Given that buying CDs and listening to them offer many advantages, there are some things that you can only get from streaming.

Convenience and Portability

This is the biggest advantage that streaming has over CDs. Streaming offers portability, which makes it more convenient for you to listen to music. You only need your smartphone installed with your go-to streaming app and, of course, a good pair of headphones or earphones.

As long as you have your phone with you, you can listen to music anywhere, whether you’re on your daily commute, driving to work, going for a run, or exercising at the gym – you name it.

Spotify on Mobile
Spotify on mobile – can stream music anytime, anywhere | Make Life Click

Cheaper

While many music streaming platforms require a paid subscription, there are still free ones out there like SoundCloud and Spotify. 

You don’t need to pay to use some streaming apps. However, you’d get ads that can disrupt your listening experience. You still need to purchase a subscription if you want to listen to your favorite songs or playlists uninterrupted, but they’re really not that pricey especially when you use the service a lot.

More Listening Options

When you choose to listen only to music from CDs, you limit your options to the songs that are on them. You don’t get to listen to other artists and bands. 

With streaming, it’s like you have unlimited options. If you want to listen to another artist, whose CD you don’t own, you can simply search for them on the streaming platform and play their songs. You might also end up discovering new artists through these platforms as you get personalized recommendations based on the genre or type of music that you normally play.

CDs vs. Streaming: On The Artists’ Side Of Things

Both streaming and CDs have advantages for artists.

Through streaming platforms, artists can make their music more accessible to everyone. This works great for newer artists since streaming platforms give them a bigger reach and allow listeners to discover their music through recommendations.

Spotify on desktops
Aside from mobile phones, you can also stream music on your desktop | Make Life Click

On the other hand, CDs are more beneficial to more established artists. Let’s admit it – we’d be more inclined to buy the album of someone we’ve already listened to than that of someone we haven’t even heard of.

Artists get more revenue from physical album sales. An album can cost anywhere between $10 to $20. Meanwhile, to earn around $10 on Spotify, an artist should have around 10,000 streams. You do the math.

Final Thoughts

Of course, it all boils down to preference. Whether you’re listening through streaming platforms, paying for subscriptions, or buying physical albums, you’re still supporting your favorite artist somehow.

Personally, I use both.

Whenever I’m out and about or when I want to listen to something other than the songs by my faves, I listen on streaming platforms and I still pay for a subscription. But when I’m just at home, I listen to music on my CDs.

Eva is a content writer and digital creator who's passionate about traveling, photography, and fitness. When she's not writing or traveling, she enjoys watching movies on Netflix and playing Sims 4 and Animal Crossing. She also dabbles in graphic design and video editing.

This post was last updated on 2024-05-09 / Some images from Amazon Product API & some links may be affiliate links which may earn us a commission from purchases.


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