Across the internet and throughout the media has been slowly growing one of the greatest debates of the digital era: Which is better Mp3 or CD? There are many aspects to this argument: The cost, the environmental impacts, the levels of illegal trade in music and, of course, the quality of the sound itself.
Mp3s are small computer files which hold audio data, which usually takes the form of music. They became public in the mid-90’s and have only been gaining attention since then. They can be uploaded and downloaded to and from the internet with great ease and this has lead to a good deal of illegal trade in music and many breached copyright laws! While the leaders of the music industry have been battling against what is basically digital theft with law suits, some companies have been cashing in on this technological advancement, beginning to sell their songs not only on CD but also as downloadable internet files. The infamous ‘iTunes’ is a perfect example. This has, in recent years, created quite a large drop in CD music duplication and for a while some people were convinced the CD would die out completely.
But it hasn’t. This is for many reasons, not least of which is that the quality of sound on a CD is generally far better than on an Mp3. This is due to the way that Mp3 files are created: The original sound file is taken, then compressed into a smaller size, compromising the range of sound that can be heard and losing much of the finer dynamics of a song. The smaller the file is compressed to, the more the quality of the sound is undermined. Indeed, it is now being seen that while Mp3s have been sold with the label ‘near-CD quality’ the reality is that most Mp3s are of FM radio quality which is a bit better than the average cassette tape. The merits of CD music duplication have a long way to go yet!
There is also some degree of satisfaction, especially to musical collectors, in having a good-looking CD collection, with their cases shiny and their covers colourful and individual. However, these collections come at a price to the environment; CDs are notoriously difficult to recycle while Mp3s make no waste at all. Having said this, many people download Mp3s simply to burn them to disc in their own homes. While this is cheaper in the short term, because one Mp3 track is less expensive than a shop brought one, even with the added cost of buying the discs, in the long term, it causes just as much environmental damage. To add to which, the disc will not last as long and, as I have already discussed, the sound quality will not be as good by far. Particularly when you take into consideration the care that CD music duplication companies take in setting up their equipment and ensuring the highest quality sound for their products.
There are further side issues discussing the fact that most people listen to their music on personal Mp3 players now so they may as well just download them in the first place. However, unless you back up your collection to a portable hard-drive, it is very easy to lose all your music through your computer crashing or getting a virus. The benefit of CDs is that you will always have a hard copy of your collection to go back to. To add to which, when you are at home, it is surely better to listen to CDs, where the sound quality will be superior to your personal Mp3 player.
In the end, the Mp3 vs. CD debate comes down to what you value. However, for most people this seems to be the quality of the sound they are listening to. If this is the case for you, then certainly CDs are a better way to go. Personally, I feel that CD music duplication has a lot of life left in it yet!