Paul Tiernan Paul Tiernan
3 minute read

Over the past few months I've probably bought as many CDs as I had done in the previous 20 years combined. There have been some 'business' reasons for this, but other factors have also had a significant influence on my behaviour.

For us at NVA, CDs are convenient for playing music at shows; they're easy to transport and store / display, they require less meticulous 'handling' than vinyl, they sound good when using a competent transport and DAC, and they don't rely on hotel Wi-Fi networks!

Streaming is convenient at home, and great for checking out new music, but there are still very good reasons to own music in a physical format. Not everything I want is available through a streaming service, and there are no guarantees that all the albums that I have stored as 'favourites' on Qobuz will always be available on that platform in the version that I want.

Then, there is affordability. Single vinyl LPs start at £20 these days and sometimes go up to above £30. Double LPs can be 50% or more on top of that. Secondhand vinyl is also now at premium prices, and sought-after, rare titles can be into three figures. New CDs, even recent releases, can often be found for under a tenner, and secondhand CDs can be had from pennies upwards (especially if you're prepared to put the yards in), with plenty of good titles at around the £3 to £5 mark, even on eBay and Discogs. I've just bought a couple of excellent classical box sets, working out at around £1 per disc. CD packaging and accompanying 'guff' has also improved, so 'pride of ownership' may be greater than it once was.

Most interesting for enthusiasts seeking the best bang for our buck is that there are a number of vintage all in one players from the 80s and 90s that can be picked up for around £50, and are now recognised as having excellent sound quality (now that they are not all being fed through nasal 'flat earth' speakers).

Another, more subjective reason for continuing to buy CDs might include the way that you listen; if I'm streaming, then I often flit around between different albums and tracks, but if I've loaded a CD into the tray, I find that I'm much more likely to relax and listen to the whole disc.

Coming back to NVA, we've been using an Audiolab 6000CDT CD transport at shows. It's a good value machine with excellent sound quality. We decided that we should have a 2nd transport in case of equipment failure. We've been tempted by a good deal on an Audiolab 9000CDT, which has a tray (TEAC mech) rather than a slot (I've heard that the 6000 is being discontinued because the slot mech is no longer being made). The 9000 probably has a little more 'shelf presence'. Whether we will hear a sound quality difference over the 6000, I don't know, but I will report either way.

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Stop listening to your hi-fi system!

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