The debate about the sound merits of analog versus digital media is not new. Now, environmental considerations are a part of the equation. That’s the argument put forward by artist Robert Henke, co-creator of the computer music software Ableton Live. He has decided not to release any more music on vinyl to fully embrace CDs.
The German musician had already talked about his preference for the CD on social media. At the time, he mentioned the superior signal-to-noise ratio, the better channel separation, the wider frequency response and the smaller size. This statement led to a discussion of over 300 comments. Robert Henke said he had no problem buying and selling used vinyl. However, he believes that “manufacturing large, heavy plastic sheets and shipping them around the world is a huge waste of energy and resources.
Henke then added that “shipping is a big part of the problem and will be even bigger when fuel prices rise.” He also pointed out the relatively high energy consumption of streaming before coming to the conclusion that “CD is a compromise with which [il se] I feel more comfortable”.
These statements about the environmental impact of vinyl production and streaming are confirmed by the growing body of research in this area. According to a 2021 report by the New Statesman, streaming music for five hours consumes as much carbon as the extraction, processing and transportation of materials used to produce a CD. Seventeen hours of streaming is equivalent to a vinyl record. Vinyl, produced from crude oil, contains 979g of carbon, compared to 288g in the polycarbonate and aluminum that make up a CD with a crystal case.
But Henke says that it was not only his concern for sustainability that led him to return to this medium. He believes that the CD offers a better compromise between the experience of listening to a physical album, the sonic advantages of digital and the reduced environmental impact.
While some retailers have already given up selling CDs, the big names in hi-fi continue to offer CD players, such as the Rega Apollo, the Rotel CD-11 Tribute Edition, theAtoll MD100, the Marantz CD-6007, the Cambridge CXC v2, the NAD C568 and the Yamaha CD-S303.