Music Article

Compact Discontent: Eight Times to Hate About the CD

Eight things to hate about the CD -- Price, longboxes, faulty jewel boxes, and storage are some of the things that irk us

Okay, we admit it — we've grown used to the compact disc. We appreciate its portability, clean sonics, and the easy way we can skip from track to track. Then again, we also have to deal with the following annoyances, most of which were not anticipated when the format was introduced eight years ago:

Price: It's bad enough that we have to pay from $12 to $15 for a disc, since a CD costs only slightly more to manufacture than an LP or cassette. But industry speculation has it that many of this year's absurdly sky-high deals — $25 million for Aerosmith, $50 million for Janet Jackson — came about because CDs let everyone make more money than ever. Now we feel really good about plopping down that 15 bucks.

Longboxes: The waste involved in cardboard CD packaging is old news, and alternative packaging (like the fold-over paperboard Digitrak used for Bonnie Raitt's Luck of the Draw) abounds. So why are the throwaway, nonrecyclable boxes — common only in the U.S. — still in record stores?

Faulty Jewel Boxes
So you spend your money, toss away the longbox — and discover that the plastic jewel box that houses the disc is cracked or must be replaced. At least warped LPs had a certain comical charm.

Length: LPs topped out at about 40 minutes, but CDs are often padded to their maximum capacity, which is more than 30 minutes longer. In many cases, the music isn't nearly good enough to justify that length. Getting more for your money is one thing; listening to 30 minutes of filler is entirely another.

The Unearthly Screeches That Occur When a Deffective CD ''Skips'': No, beings from another planet have not taken over your stereo system.

Miniature Print in CD Booklets: Rock fans already may go blind from glaring spotlights at concerts; now they also have to strain to read microscopic credits.

Storage: The myth: CDs take up less space than LPs. The truth: CDs are actually wider than LPs, and if you put them on bookshelves (instead of specially designed CD racks), take up even more space. Besides, we miss milk crates, the record-storage unit of choice in college and post-collegiate apartments everywhere.

All Those Ominous Conflicting Rumors About CD Laser Rot: There have been recurring murmurs from the audiophile and engineering worlds that CDs will someday decay. One scenario: The ink used in the lettering on the discs themselves will seep into the CDs and destroy their innards. As of now, it's far too soon to tell, and hard evidence is at a minimum. Still, in 10 years will our CDs serve only as tiny silver Frisbees?

Originally posted Oct 04, 1991 Published in issue #86 Oct 04, 1991 Order article reprints
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