Debates over the merits of analog versus digital are nothing new, but last week Ableton co-creator, musician and artist Robert Henke caused a stir on Facebook after posting that he was considering to stop releasing music on vinyl and “fully embrace CDs” instead. .
In its origin Publish (opens in a new tab)he cited the superior signal-to-noise ratio, channel separation and frequency response of CDs, and the convenience of their small size before signing off in love letter style: “Compact Disk, you’re underrated , and you will always have a place in my heart.”
In response to the discussion and the more than 300 comments that followed, Henke went on to say that he sees no problem buying and selling vintage vinyl, but that he believes that “making large, heavy plates of plastic and shipping them around the world is a huge waste of energy and resources.”
“Shipping is a big part of the problem and will become even more so when fuel prices rise,” he added. He also noted the relatively high power consumption of streaming, concluding that “CD is a compromise I feel more comfortable with”.
Henke’s unease with the environmental effects of modern vinyl production and streaming is supported by growing research in the field. According to a 2021 report from the new statesman, according to an analysis by the Department of Environmental Sustainability at Keele University, playing music for five hours consumes as much carbon as the materials used to produce a physical CD, and seventeen hours is equivalent to that of a vinyl record . A comparison of these materials calculates that vinyl, produced from crude oil, contains 979g of carbon compared to the 288g found in the polycarbonate and aluminum that make up a CD with a jewel case.
But Henke is keen to let her followers know that it wasn’t just her concerns about sustainability that drove her post, but also a respect for intentional rather than thoughtless listening.
In a final addendum he says he thinks a vital property of all physical formats is that they require a playback source with a single feature saying, “Playing vinyl or playing a CD on a CD player is a dedicated act of listening, away from the uninterrupted stream of data in the background from your iPhone, laptop, etc. This ritual is important, and while we love streaming, we certainly wouldn’t argue with that.
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