When I was a teenager I bought records. I still miss the sleeves and the pride of ownership. I held out against owning a CD player for a long time. In the end, I relented. The only way I could match the quality of a record was to buy a top end Arcam transport and DAC. As CD players improved, I bought an AVI one box player. The next step was to buy an SACD player. SACD was a bit hit and miss. Some SACDs were superb, others indifferent. SACDs never really made the mainstream, though.
Then I progressed to a Denon player that would play every kind of disc from CDs through SACDs to DVDs, although I routed the digital feed through the DAC of my Lyngdorf amp for decoding CDs. The next step was to go network server based distributed through a Sonos wireless network. It took ages to rip about 700 odd CDs. I carried on buying and ripping CDs, though. All this time I owned the music.
This year I started subscribing to Napster. For £100 a year I could stream as much music as I wanted plus store tracks on three mobile devices to play offline. I was now renting music. However, I still bought some CDs as the 128k bit rate on Napster is a bit low for decent HiFi. It’s ideal for the rest of the family who are not so bothered but not quite good enough for me.
I was going to try Spotify as they stream most (though not all) at 320k. Unfortunately they require a Facebook account which I don’t have and don’t want. Along comes Deezer. For £5 a month, they stream at 320k. The difference between 320k and 128k is noticeable to my ears, but the step up to CD ripped FLAC files is subtle.
320k services are going kill the CD market. For most people the quality is more than adequate. Even for people like me with expensive HiFis, it’s pretty good. For me it’s a huge paradigm shift to rent music rather than buy it. The only downside to Deezer is the catalogue is more limited than Napster (and probably Spotify) and it has very little classical music. Other than that, it’s great and you don’t have to sell your soul to Facebook. Buying a CD is likely to be a rarity for me from now on.