Why we need to save the CD players in cars!

Interesting article by Mark Rechtin, West Coast editor of Automotive News.

You can have my compact disc player when you pry it out of my car’s cold, dead center console.

There has been a recent stretch of news about the pending demise of the CD player in vehicles. The Consumer Electronics Show was all about streaming audio and Internet radio. And General Motors has announced the 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS will not offer a CD player.

This fills me with fear.

I am not a Luddite. I love driving cars with MP3 hookups so I can plug in my iPod and listen to my own tunes. Even more, I love cars with Pandora, so I can have my own personal disc jockey in the car.

But therein lies a problem.

Streaming audio is low-fi. The fidelity of satellite radio is gruesome. The default setting for iPod downloads is grainy. You get to hear the music you want, but your ears don’t get the proper reproduction.

Conversely, CD audio provides the highest fidelity for listening to music available to the general public.

That makes keeping CD players in place a different argument from when automakers began phasing out in-dash cassette players — and before that eight-track players. Heck, there are black-and-white photos of cars that actually had turntables in the dashboard.

But all of those audio formats had degradation issues. Record albums skipped and scratched. Cassette and eight-track tape wore out and was of low-quality material.

CDs, on the other ear, provide shimmering sound, bright highs, defined bass and punchy midrange that doesn’t drown out conversation. With CDs, you have the audio clarity to tell what type of tea Andrea Bocelli drank before launching into “Nessun Dorma.”

With CDs, you can understand why Neil Peart is the world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll drummer, and Ana Vidovic is the current queen of classical guitar.

But with the standard 128 kbps download of most digital audio players–and the even-lower resolution of streaming audio–the aural experience turns into a muddy, chalky mess. You can’t tell the brilliance of Nada Surf from the mediocrity of Nickelback, and that’s a bad thing.

It would be easy enough to say this development is the natural evolution in car audio. But unlike past evolutions, CDs are not being replaced by a higher-quality audio product. Just a more convenient one.

To people who appreciate music, this is a step back. It is a travesty for a vehicle to offer high-end speaker systems from suppliers such as Mark Levinson or Bowers & Wilkins, then to cripple them with low-grade music reproduction equipment.

Save the CD players!

What is your opinion? Is the demise of the CD player in vehicles a step back? Please feel free to share your thoughts here!

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Posted on January 30, 2012, in Connected, Interior. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I am more worried about the availability of the wireless service outside the U.S., or in regions where there is not good enough coverage…

    The technology will be able to stream fast enough for good quality sooner than we might think.

  2. Thank you very much for your comment, Beltran! I am looking forward to reading more comments here. What do you think? Will the quality be as good as from a CD player?

  3. On the one hand I hate CD/DVD/BR decks like the anchient AM in our car audios.
    On the other hand I see an indispensable need for pre-recorded medias.
    There are also emotions in the game. Some people like to go into music shops, walk around, listen in, decide and buy a medium (CD) they want.
    In the leading article the author is fighting for the CD, as a high audi-quality format.
    Content of a CD could be burned as well onto a tiny read-only, copy-protected, micro-SD in same quality like CD.
    You can say, this micro-SD is too tiny for comfortable handling in the car. Maybe you’re right, but don’t forget, also CD is very sensible and not really made for the hard environment in a car.
    I personally wouldn’t cry a tear if CD would be replaced by a modern (solid state memory) medium.
    But I really would miss if pre-recorded media would disappear.
    As car-audio maker, I would be lucky to gather the space of the drive. Also power consumption and heat would be reduced.

    CD is technology of last millenium – time to replace it



  4. It reminds me of people regretting the good old record player and their LP collection. They thought the CD will be the downfall of high fidelity sound. I have a Bang & Olufsen sound system in my Audi but it’s not the kind of audio source that bothers me as long as there is a quite high level of noise coming from other sources. Bang & Olufsen claimed to have an active noise suppression but that doesn’t seem to work.

    My highest respect for you if you can hear what type of tea Andrea Bocelli drank before launching into “Nessun Dorma” at a speed of 100 mph on the highway.

  5. I fully agree with the author that CD is currently the best mass medium for hi-fidelity, and although I appreciate the convenience of my iPod, I love to blast my sences with a full hi-fi experience from my CD collection…at home. The car is a completely different enviroment, and there is little value of hi-fidelity if most of it si lost in the background noise. Unless I am driving in a top spec Lexus or similar, then convenience takes the place of fidelity, and I vote to remove the CD player, reuse the money and space saved to offer the next generation of safety and or infortainment at a more democratic price level.

  6. Thank you very much for this interesting discussion! I hope we will receive some more comments here. Is CD technology of last millenium – time to replace it? Would it be more important to use the space for more infotainment? Feel free to share your views here!!!

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