I like CDs. They may not have the nostalgic value of vinyl or the awesome portability of cassettes but they sound really good. Nowadays like most people I listen to almost all of my music in some kind of digital audio format. Most of my stuff is high quality VBR-encoded mp3’s, FLAC or Apple Lossless. The majority of this was ripped from the CDs in my own library. Every new CD I buy will immediately be taken home, ripped to my hard drive and tossed onto my iPod. After this is done the disc generally gets thrown into a large bin with the rest of my CDs never to be seen again. You’d think that someone such as myself really has no need for CDs and that I should just go ahead and buy all of my tracks as digital downloads saving all of that wasted plastic.
You’d be wrong.
I think digital downloads are a great idea. The problem is that I refuse to pay cash for compressed audio. I figure that if I’m paying money for a recording then it should be the best copy possible. Something which is exactly what the engineer wanted me to hear. Admittedly CDs have their shortfalls in that they’re limited in their bit depth as well the sample rate(16 bits, 44.1 kHz). Also the world didn’t end with the invention of stereo; multi-channel sound would be nice to hear once in a while. Despite this I still prefer CDs.
This brings me to my actual point. The other day I was looking around HMV, not for anything in particular I just like browsing music stores. I came across an album in the “Folk” section. This in itself was odd since I don’t believe I’ve ever bought anything that could be called “Folk”. It was by an independent Canadian artist that I had heard previously on the CBC and really liked so I decided to lay down my $17 and let this small purchase bring some joy into my life.
After the usual looking through the liner notes on the streetcar ride home I was excited to finally be able to listen at home. I toss the CD into my iBook and get ready for the good ol’ rip and encode. Immediately there’s a problem in that iTunes doesn’t recognize the CD. Since my laptop has been rather wonky lately I assumed there was something wrong with my hardware. I tried looking at the actual files in finder and couldn’t see anything.
After a couple of reboots and about 10 more minutes of troubleshooting I started to get worried. Maybe the CD was broken. I tried other CDs of mine and they worked fine. Then it dawned on me. I picked up the jewel case and to my disgust there was no compact disc logo on it.
I bought a copy protected CD!
I’d heard about them before but I thought they were an urban legend. Surely it could never happen to me. After all old CD protection schemes only worked on windows. A mac would laugh at any attempt at restricting access. I was furious. Right away I thought about returning the CD to the store making a big stink to the manager about how they falsely tried to sell me a CD when it was in fact just an optical disk that would play in most CD players.
But I’m much too lazy to do any of that. Luckily I have a linux box that my wife uses. I popped the cursed media in and it instantly offered to rip and encode it for me. This is one of my few experiences where a free product ended up serving me better than one I had to pay for. I’d like the thank all the unshaven basement-dwellers working their asses off to write free software for me. You’ve done the world a great service.
So in the end I got what I wanted. Although it caused me much more trouble than I intended. This whole experience hasn’t put me off of buying CDs but you can bet that next time I go shopping I’ll definitely be looking for that wonderful logo.