Why people prefer physical CD, over high-rez digital version of same release

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Turnaround, Mar 2, 2021.

  1. Turnaround

    Turnaround Member your mama warned you about Thread Starter

    New York
    For a forum full of people who care very much about sound quality, I often scratch my head why forum members prefer to buy the CD version of a release, when there is a high-rez digital version available of the same release (e.g., a 96/24 high-rez version). I am talking about releases where the CD and high-rez digital versions contain the same music content, and are based off the same mastering. The high-rez digital version would seem to be the better choice in sound quality. (I understand buying vinyl over a high-rez digital version, as that is a totally different format.)

    Perhaps people find physical media more collectible. Perhaps people have a harder time understanding spending their money on a digital file, versus a tangible item. Perhaps people have a better CD playback system than high-rez playback system (or they are not set up to play high-rez files). Price difference could be a differentiator.

    Personally, I would go for the high-rez version, unless the physical release offered additional content (like a DVD or Blu-ray with live performance videos) or I felt the price difference was not worth it for how much I would listen to the music. I know everyone makes their choices in different ways. I'd be interested in hearing how people make their decision.
  2. Eobard Thawne

    Eobard Thawne Forum Resident

    for me, it's tangible .
    seed_drill, Chazzbo13, DTK and 61 others like this.
  3. audiomixer

    audiomixer As Bald As The Beatles

    I have many terrific sounding CDs!!
  4. Simon A

    Simon A Arrr!

    If you've been a member long enough, you should know that the mastering takes precedence over the format. Of course, this is valid for people whom have the capability of playing multiple formats.

    If I purchase a Hi-Res download I like, I'll burn it onto a DVD-A so I can enjoy it by simply putting it in my player. Yes, playing files may offer more possibilities, but I find it too cumbersome. I also still buy CDs and my favourite Hi-Res format is SACD.
    DTK, apesfan, Mainline461 and 38 others like this.
  5. jfeldt

    jfeldt Forum Resident

    SF, CA, USA
    The hope that the CD doesn’t have the same audio watermarking the download does.
  6. You can hold it in your hand!!! :pineapple:

    Also it's a bit more permanent if you're not good about backups.

    I can't tell any difference in the sound anyhow. I'm perfectly happy with a good 320 mbps MP3 on my hard drive, which I can hold in my hand if I want to.

    I also have a crappy, slow,unreliable ISP. Trying to downloading high-res music files would be pointless exercise in frustration for me.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2021
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  7. You own the physical CD, and it should last for years and years if taken care of. If you purchase a download you don't physically own anything, and once the device it is stored on bites the dust you'll no longer have access to it and you'll have to rebuy it. Personally, I'm not going to pay for a download, I prefer a tangible product.
  8. Meddows

    Meddows Forum Resident

    I have bought 192khz downloads that have been lower quality than cd

    I have SACD of Oasis which is also lower quality than cd....

    there’s a good chance that hi res can be marketing ploy whereas cd is more likely quality checked. (Not always obviously...)
    fuse999, pinkrudy, kiddo4 and 6 others like this.
  9. Turnaround

    Turnaround Member your mama warned you about Thread Starter

    New York
    OP here. I am talking about releases where the CD and high-rez digital versions are based off the same mastering. Like a new reissue release that comes out on CD and high-rez at the same time.

    As a recent example, the Black Crowes just released a 2CD 30th Anniversary reissue of Shake Your Money Maker. Target is selling a special version, available only at Target stores, which includes a bonus third CD with a 1990 live concert. So forum members have been discussing trying to get a copy of the Target special version. However, all the contents of all three discs (including the 1990 concert) are also available to be purchased as 96/24 high-rez files on the high-rez websites (although for a higher price).
    domesticmachine and saturdayboy like this.
  10. Python

    Python Forum Resident

    S.F. Bay Area
    Three primary reasons for me:

    1) I like having the book, hopefully with lyrics and detailed info on songwriters, who played what instruments, where/when recorded, and even liner notes on occasion.

    2) I have bad ears, I can never tell the difference between ACC and MP3 and Flac and "remastered" albums versus originals, so there's no point for me to have supposedly "better" recordings.

    3) Finally, I like having the physical CD as a backup, in case of computer crash, power outage, or what have you.
  11. If I Can Dream_23

    If I Can Dream_23 Forum Resident

    United States
    Like any hobby, the "tangibly owning it" is directly intertwined with the enjoyment.

    It's the same reason people enjoy collecting graded coins, graded cards, or classic cars as opposed to just saving images of the cards, coins or cars on a computer.
  12. eric777

    eric777 Astral Projectionist

    Many reasons I suppose. Some people want things to collect or just want something physical with their music. I think for others, it just feels more comfortable. Most people on this forum didn’t grow up with downloading. If you wanted to hear the album, you had to go out and buy it. For some of these people buying a download just doesn’t feel the same.
  13. Doug Sclar

    Doug Sclar Forum Legend

    The OC
    I'll take the hi-res download any time over the CD as long as it is the same mastering or one that I like. It's going to end up on my hard drives regardless.

    I also don't understand why anybody would want a record made from a hi-res digital file when that file is also available.
  14. Python

    Python Forum Resident

    S.F. Bay Area
    And now that I know that's what inspired your question, I can add more, since I'm a huge Crowes fan! I just wanted the studio tracks I didn't already have ("30 Days..." and "Jealous Guy," plus the Crowes Garden demo), but I also wanted the live tracks of songs I didn't already have live versions of ("You're Wrong," "Struttin Blues," "Get Back," a few others). But because the version of "Words You Throw Away" clocked in at 13:45, it wasn't available as an individual track, so I just did a bit of math and said "screw it" and bought the whole thing digitally for $18.99.

    So to my points above, I already have the CD and thus the insert (which isn't that great, but oh, well); I'm not even bothering to swap out the "remastered" versions of the original tracks because I can't tell the difference so why bother!

    Interestingly, of the two studio tracks I already had bootleg versions of, I could not tell the difference at all in "Waiting Guilty" so I just kept my original (though that had been officially released, so presumably my boot was of better quality), but the now-official version of "Charming Mess" is indeed better than the one I had so I did swap that one out.
    joshm2286 and Turnaround like this.
  15. blivet

    blivet Forum Resident

    Los Angeles
    Similarly, I would not scan and discard my old snapshots from the pre-digital era. I know a lot of people do just that, but I like them as relics of days gone by, not just images.

    If I just want a digital copy of a piece of music to listen to, I can launch Spotify.
  16. Crawdad

    Crawdad Detroit Rock Citizen

    Sometimes it's just a matter of price. That can go either way. I bought the hi res files for Goat's Head Soup remix. Granted they aren't surround but 96/24 and includes the Brussells concert for somewhere around $ 35 . Compare that to the physical box price of somewhere around $120. The hi res Abbey Road remix cost me quite a bit less than the physical box did and I didn't have to return it twice. Something like forty bucks, Usually it's the other way around. The worst price gougers are the boxes that include vinyl. The White Fleetwood Mac album is half the price for the download. Awaiting the hi res download for Fleetwood Mac Live.

    On the other hand why would I pay for a download of an MP3 album on Amazon when the physical release is sometimes cheaper and often includes the auto rip?
  17. Turnaround

    Turnaround Member your mama warned you about Thread Starter

    New York
    I am with you on that. With apologies to the OP for getting off topic :p, devil's advocate could raise a few sound-quality reasons why someone might prefer the vinyl record (made from a high-rez file) over the high-rez digital version.

    First, records based off high-rez files can be futzed around with to fit the vinyl format, and some people prefer how the file sounds on vinyl over the high-rez file.

    Second, some people may have a superior vinyl playback system to their digital playback system. I know audiophiles who have expensive vinyl rigs, but their CD or digital player is relatively cheaper stuff, because they've built their system towards maximizing sound quality for records.

    Third, Michael Fremer makes some interesting comments in the link blow about an LP that he thinks was cut from a CD reference or "redbook" file, about why the LP may sound better than the CD. He argues that the mastering lab could have a much better D/A converter than your CD player at home has, which could make the LP sound better on your home system than the CD would on your home system.

    The Shins Wince. Do We Blink?
  18. As mentioned by many above, the tangible element is a big deal for me. I like to browse my CD racks, choose an album, put it on, look at the booklet. Or if I feel like a particular album, I grab the Cd and crank it up. I have tons of digital music, and confess to rarely playing a CD in the car anymore, but at home I listen to CDs 5 nights out of 7.
    I also have albums on CD I have now owned for more than 30 years. And yes, they still play just fine.
  19. BradB

    BradB Birth.Music.Death?

    Denver, CO
    To piggyback on this sentiment, and basically echoing other replies here as well, I've down a fair share of downloads and depending on the source and your internet connection at that moment, I've either gotten no downloaded file at file or a file that software cannot seem to open to either play or burn to a CD. I realize part of the solution would be to invest more heavily in hardware and software that performs better, but for me the choice between spending any money I have on either easily attainable & playable music on a CD versus upgrading otherwise functional PC, storage and internet capabilities, CD wins.
  20. robcar

    robcar Forum Resident

    Denver, CO
    For me, it’s rather simple. CDs are cheaper than hi-res downloads. Also, I don’t have the ability to play hi-res downloads in my stereo/music room at anything greater than 320 kbps AirPlay streaming. So what’s the point of paying more for the higher resolution if the only way I can hear it is via headphones plugged into my computer? I prefer to play music through speakers to listening via headphones or EarPods.

    Also, for many releases, I honestly cannot hear a difference between 256 AAC and hi-res when I do listen comparatively.
  21. If I Can Dream_23

    If I Can Dream_23 Forum Resident

    United States
    Yes, exactly.

    And I actually like spotify and use it for playlists etc, but I use it as "just another valid listening option", not as a substitute for the actual joy that acquiring physical music holds for me.
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  22. The Modfather

    The Modfather Well-Known Member

    I enjoy collecting CD’s and adding to my collection. There’s something lost for me in having only a digital version. That’s not to say I don’t buy digital, but it’s not very often and only when there’s either no physical CD or it’s a limited run that’s sold out.

    Primarily I buy CD’s for me as I get a buzz out of collecting them. However I do have optimistic hopes that my daughter, who’s 2, will take an interest in them and pull cd’s out and ask about them. I’d cherish passing on my musical knowledge but almost resigned to the fact I’ll more likely be a dinosaur to her generation and CD’s will be an archaic concept. I can but dream though :cool:
  23. 6stringer

    6stringer ...because it's the music that matters.

    I had my great conversion in 2004, when my wife bought me an iPod. No more buying 20 track compilations to find one song.

    But...when it came to albums, be they on CD or vinyl, it is the physical experience of possessing and holding something and reading it while you're listening to the music.

    How hi-def it is is fine but, a lot of the time, I'm in a distinctly low-def situation. Case on point last Sunday. I've just got the '98 CD of the Zombies' Odessey and Oracle (Stereo and Mono on one CD - Apple take note). I listened to it on our 20 year old, slightly weathered Sony mini hifi in the living room while reading the sleeve notes in between helping my son re-enact the Antman and Wasp film with his Lego. That old hifi is great (we use it as a soundbar too for our great picture, paper thin sound Sony 43" TV).

    If I'm lucky, I might get an hour or two with my proper system once kids bedtime is done.

    All power to those for whom every bit or hz is sacred. Without it, we wouldn't get some of the great reissues we have done in recent years. But, for me, the music is what matters most. How it comes is defined by how life is working on that day and that's OK.
  24. hbbfam

    hbbfam Forum Resident

    What does this mean?

    For me it's almost entirely about space. I have two beautiful hand made oak "book cases". Each is 6ft high and 4 ft wide. They are almost full. I have to keep space for the next 2 dozen Dave's don't I?

    But browsing one of my ext hard drives is not as easy as those shelves. So it's a mixed bag.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2021
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  25. You own ones and zeros on a piece of polycarbonate plastic or you own ones and zeros on some other kind of media that you own.

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