This is a copy of a letter that I sent to Stereophile magazine:
Unlike Art Dudley (“Listening,” June 2014, p. 31), I believe CDs will become as collectible as LPs eventually, once they’ve outlived the “my parents had these” stigma. Even with their bland labels and accursed “jewel boxes,” CDs are the last widely available physical manifestations of sound recordings we’ll ever have. (And, their liner notes and track listings remain essential for those of us who like classical music, jazz, film scores, etc. etc.)
Art’s right, though, in lamenting how standards have declined. And, they have been doing so for decades. For example, a Victor Red Seal 78 from the 1930s, with its deep black shellac and its gold-and-red label, was a more beautiful object than even a 1959 Shaded Dog. (Plus, with its wider grooves and faster rotation, the 78 could not only generate its own electrical signal, but even its own acoustical one.)
As anyone who has ever dropped one knows, shellac records are unfortunately quite vulnerable. This is merely the most dramatic manifestation of what will always separate analog recording from digital.
Each time an analog recording is played it sacrifices something of itself, however slight: microscopic bits of vinyl, or a few flakes of iron oxide, perhaps. That’s directly analogous to how we scars and wrinkles throughout our lifetimes.
In contrast, with their immortal capability of being cloned, digital recordings have no stake in the game, and never can — no matter how good they become at pretending. This philosophical difference will set analog apart forever.