LP, CD or MP3?

A recent story on NPR takes note of the 30th anniversary of the CD.

I remember when CDs overtook LPs in the NCPR control room. Late ’80s. CDs had been around for a few years, but we didn’t get serious about converting right away–in part, we still received a lot of free recordings from music companies and they transitioned over several years. Early CDs had somewhat inferior sound quality, but once I got the hang of using a CD player (not very difficult even for a tech-challenged person like me) I was a convert. Sure, it was fun to back spin an LP to cue it up, but WOW! with CDs, you actually had a reading on remaining time for a track, which made back-timing on the air incredibly easy. (Definition of back-timing: figuring out how many minutes you have until you have to hit an inflexible timepost, such as the start of a network program.)

So, the takeaway from the NPR story is that various audio technologies over the past 100 or so years have each had a lifespan of about 30 years. (Uh, the 8-track is certainly an exception.)

It was hard to let go of LPs–great cover art, easy to read liner notes. On the other hand, CDs eliminated the surface noise problem (even new LPs were often marred by scratches or hissing surfaces) and, eventually, we all got used to the little booklets that accompany CDs–chock full of information printed in the tiniest fonts.


Confession: I still play LPs during The Blue Note and, because I’m so used to CD technology, it’s my favorite at the moment. But I use it all: LPs, CDs, MP3s.

Like digital books, digitized music is convenient and offers instant gratification when you want to hear or play a particular tune. But, I still love browsing LP and CD collections, running my eye over the song titles or list of musicians, associating certain songs with the color of the case or photo on the liner notes. Kind of like handling an actual book…

Do you have a favorite audio technology? Vote below! And share any stories related to one or more of these technologies–the first LP or CD you bought, the first song you downloaded on iTunes, the record you discovered in your parents’ collection…

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4 Responses to “LP, CD or MP3?”

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  1. Dale says:

    Growing up in the ’60s, I was a maniacal consumer of the LP. While I have continued to update my music collection with each new format, I listen less and with less enjoyment following each shift.

    Part of that is having a busier life, but part of it is not having a big 12 inch album cover. Cover art fed my desire to become a graphic designer, and later a web geek. Nowdays I can discover more than I ever want to know about almost any performer on the internet, but I don’t have anything at hand but these nasty little earbuds while I listen–no cryptic images, strange blurbs, no printed lyric sheet in a readable type size. Maybe even a poster insert for my wall.

    I make no audiophile argument for the sound quality of the LP–I listened on junk equipment with a party going on in the background. I treated my vinyl shamelessly. But the album covers–I treated them like gold.

  2. Pete Klein says:

    You forgot to mention 45s and the 8 track which had a short life between LPs and cassetts.
    What the mp3 CDs are doing is killing off the CDs for most popular music. In a way, the mp3 is a bit of a throw back to the 45s in that you pick the one or two songs from a CD album you want to hear and forget the rest.

  3. Laura says:

    I used to check out classical records (LPs) from our public library, and, if I liked them, I would make cassette tapes of them by pointing my cassette tape recorder’s built-in microphone towards my brother’s record player speaker. First, of course, I would hang a sign on the door saying, “Quiet – Recording In Progress,” because this method of recording caught every stray noise. One time, my mother quietly opened the door, and then sneezed loudly, and then left, quietly closing the door behind her. When I later indignantly asked why she did this, she laughed, and said, “Well, people sneeze all the time at concerts! It makes it sound like a live recording!” Of course, I now treasure that particular cassette tape, although, I must admit, I do not play cassette tapes much these days.

    Fond though I am of such memories, I love how easy it is to find recordings these days, and how easy it is to obtain them. Back in the day, I would hear something amazing on the public radio station I listened to (even though I could barely get the station), but often would not catch the name of a piece through the static, or, if I did, it would be really hard for me to find a recording of it. The name would linger for years on a scribbled piece of paper, tucked away in my purse, brought out during those infrequent times when I was both in a city and had the opportunity to find a record store! I seldom found the records I was looking for. But those rare occasions when I did find one were special, magical moments. Even so, I also felt a real sense of loss for the music that made my hair stand on end, but that I never could find. It is interesting how we long to listen over and over again to the music that really speaks to us.

  4. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    CD’s and mp3′s are handy. They are so easy and you can take your music anywhere.
    But there is will never be a sound as good as a vinyl record stacked on a Magnavox console set to Autoplay. You hear the clicks of the mechanical movement, the disc drops with a flat thwop, the arm clicks to position and the needle drops. You wait for a moment hearing the unique pop and hiss and maybe a little wow and flutter and then the SOUND! That rich chocolate milky sound of a Magnavox HiFi, a sound so full, so round. The sound of a CD is like seeing Iggy Pop on an album cover, but the sound of vinyl on the Magnavox is like looking at a Renaissance nude.