by Bob Malkowski | 4,4 / 5,0 | Approximate reading time: 3 Minutes

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Will Compact Disc make a comeback? Ableton’s inventor, Robert Henke, has campaigned for a return to the increasingly obsolete Compact Disc music format. In an era where streaming music is commonplace, and vinyl is highly prised, is he mad? Let’s open up that can of worms…


Will Compact Disc make a comeback?

Ahhh, the Compact Disc, the darling music format of the 1980s. A format that promised “perfect sound forever” and the first digital music medium to be mass adopted across the world. 40 years on though, should we still care about this increasingly obsolete music format?

Well, a guy called Robert Henke thinks you should still care about good old CD. If you haven’t heard of Henke, he was one of the original team that developed Ableton Live in the late 1990s; he is still actively producing and releasing music to this day.

In a public post on his Facebook page, he’s called for a return to Compact Disc citing grounds of audio quality and ecological considerations. But is his point valid?

Streaming and the Vinyl Revival

Undoubtedly, nowadays most of us consume our music via streaming services. But what if you want to own a physical artefact? Something special to place in your cabinet and enjoy? Well, many of us now have a developing vinyl collection; the vinyl revival has been in full swing for some time.

However, just as many of us are putting our CDs in the loft or donating them to charity shops, Henke believes we should be returning to the format. Sustainability and ecological considerations are his main grounds for reconsidering compact disc.

Manufacturing vinyl records, transporting them and (as YouTuber Benn Jordan shows below) even playing them, can pose significant ecological issues. But what about streaming? Well, here again, Henke suggests the energy consumption used in streaming is also problematic.


Listening to music via streaming services such as Spotify, alongside vinyl listening, has gained great popularity in the last decade.

A Flawed Argument?

As a former Hi-Fi reviewer and an avid music collector, I feel at this point that I should throw my own opinion into the ring. Regardless of the subjective and objective arguments presented, and their validity, it’s unlikely CD will make a comeback. Why? Because the drives and players themselves have now disappeared from most homes and cars.

Back in 2009, Hi-Fi manufacturer Linn announced they were to stop making CD players. Just one year later, in 2010, the last cars were sold in the USA with CD players fitted. Back in 2012 apple shipped the last Macbooks with internal CD drives.

With that said, however, there were plenty of us that held onto our turntables. Equally, it’s still possible to buy brand new turntables and CD players for those determined to enjoy physical media.

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Will you go back to CD?

What’s your view on Henke’s opinion on returning to Compact Disc? Do you believe it’s the better format? Do you prefer the sound of vinyl and the listening experience? Maybe you stream all your music, or like me, dabble in a bit of everything (yes I still listen to cassette tapes too!).

Drop us a line in the comments, we’d really love to hear your thoughts on this one!

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  • Listening to music via streaming services such as Spotify, alongside vinyl listening, has gained great popularity in the last decade.: Bob Malkowski/Gearnews

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27 responses to “Will Compact Disc make a comeback? Ableton’s Robert Henke says YES!”

    Bro bro says:

    I’ve never felt CD’s to be a format for music like a vinyl or cassette. Vinyl and cassette is reading an analog signal that changes the sound of what on it in a very specific way. Not saying it worse or better, but it’s different than the master. A CD seems to be more of a vehicle in order to listen to a digital file. It’s like reading the information from a hard drive. Will it make a comeback? I definitely think so but it won’t be to the massive turn around that we saw vinyl.. probably more like cassette, which is still more niche.

    3EMA says:

    At the last days of 2015 I bought a newly pressed CD with a well known old album of worldwide recognized band. That CD sounds so deadly bad… No prisoners at the Loudness War. I should say it wasn’t unofficial or counterfeit. Sorry, it is still worst record I’ve had. So I paid twice more to get the same record on the CD from 90’s. And that was right, it’s sounds near like my friend’s SACD… oh gosh, one more forgotten name.

    Don says:

    Much easier to store, walk/run, make/play playlists and other things with a digital file than a CD. Maybe the iPod and it’s brethren should not have exited so quickly. I’d still rather listen to tunes on a microSD card on my smartphone than pay for streaming services. And that is getting harder to do.

    Jon says:

    ‘Ecological Considerations’?

    More plastic – just what the world needs… There are millions of CD’s floating in Thrift Shops, Record Stores, and Online that have yet to be listened to so let’s just add more to the pile. Insanity.

    Don says:

    We all know that streaming is benefitting the streaming platforms and NOT the artists. THAT is what needs to change.

    SA says:

    I wouldn’t expect a genuine comeback, but I expect they may get some more love than they have in the past 10 years, for two reasons.

    First, used CDs or CDs by local bands are a more affordable souvenir and way to support an artist.

    Second, for certain albums, the CDs pressed in the 80s or 90s may be the best sounding version available. Yes, some 80s CDs also sounded bad, but others were cut right off of the master tape and sound fantastic if cranked up (not compressed). I compared some of these (like Jobim’s “Wave” LP) vs the HD Tracks “hi fidelity” version, and in the 20 to 30 years it took for digital technology to improve, the analog tape seems to have degraded to a point where the old CDs actually sounded better. Would I expect young people to care about this? Not at all. But it’s an easily affordable curiosity for those who seek it out.

    Modern3 says:

    Shame on Henke for even suggesting such a thing let alone promoting it. This sort of consumerism is wasteful, environmentally a nightmare, and illogical. A tangible object for music should at the very least be smaller and environmentally friendly than all the current retro mediums!

    Nathanael says:

    If the substance of his argument for CD’s comes down to ecological concerns, then it’s not going to happen. He’s not wrong about the problems with vinyl and streaming, but we’ve long since proven incapable of acting in our best interest when it comes to the planet’s health… and I don’t see how manufacturing new discs is much better than vinyl in terms of ecological footprint.

    I only see CDs coming back on a limited basis, purely for the sake of nostalgia, since in terms of sound quality and presentation, it doesn’t differ one bit from modern streaming offerings.

    Nvrmor says:

    3D printed vinyl is where its at.
    I can fit the entire history of recorded music on a thumb drive what use is a cd?

    3EMA says:

    Ok. I see same sort of ideas in the comments. CD is not a record method but format of the audio storage. Nowadays you can choose your storage: own local, online or get access as streaming. So there is no necessity to put CD layer in between artist and listener. My previous comment was not approved to publish so I decide to reword it. Much more attention should pay to sound quality as example to the dynamic range rate, codecs algorithms and so on. Not for a storage format.

      Mike D says:

      Lose your storage and you lose your collection. If it’s on CD you’ll have it for ever and go back to it at any time. Biggest plus is it sounds better although I know a lot of people could care less about sound quality.

        3EMA says:

        CD is a physical storage format. It can be scratched, cracked, stolen, lost (in fire) and so on. As you said: you’d lose all with it.
        I do not want to be The Horn of Jericho: online access to any collection can be denied, any streaming services can be terminated. No, it’s not a childish nightmare. Can you still access Napster?

    g. says:

    I really like CDs. I buy a lot of used CDs. I buy everything now at the age of 42 that I didn’t have money for as a teenager. When I hold the CD in my hand, I can smell it. I read the lyrics of the songs. I can see the beauty of the cover, that it was designed and that it was important to the artists. Of course, I also play music, like many people here. We are an independent label, our albums are also released on CD. This is a wonderful thing. Our music is also available on stream, but I don’t spend a minute on it. Worthless. Funny. Not worthy of art. I want the cd, more, more, more.

      Adrian says:

      I’m currently buying lots of cd’s again, mainly back catalog from blue note records (5 albums from the jazz masters like Wayne Shorter;Lee Morgan and many many others) why? Because they are insane quality (for the money). You have something tangible, and you can rip them for your portable devices and archive.
      No format is perfect mind you, but for me this is the best compromis between streaming (which i don’t like very much) and vinyl, plus you OWN your stuff.
      Just my 2 cents.

    FrenchChris says:

    Which medium is ecological and which is not : good question. CD is plastic, vinyl is… they both have to be transported by trucks and so on… What about the enormous electrical power needed to feed datacenters, network equipment and their necessary climate companion systems ? All that to push music to terminals who are obsolete each two years. I listen music from CDs, Vinyls, and reel tapes on my 28 years old CD player and amp, 20 years old speakers and 45 years old Revox (occasionally serviced). Only my 46 years old turntable (ERA 444) having decided to retire has been replaced two years ago. At this point i have to confess downloading some 24b/96k FLACs on my Mac from time to time.

    Daniel Stenning says:

    It makes far more sense for Blue Ray

    Then the audio quality would be the highest, multichannel options could be there as well as video material

    But so much of the reason for vinyl is about tactile and ritual elements of old school.

    So maybe someone can come up with a scheme where you store a digital token in a 12” LP style album cover- one in which there are many pages of info and pictorial material.
    And in order to “play” the album you have to physically walk over to the album shelf, pick it out, walk over to the ( digital ) “player, gently tap or bring the album near the player and it starts playing the album – with a replica record that just turns round with a fake arm on it.
    The actual music would actually be just stored digitally on an SSD inside the player. But only enabled for play once authenticated via an album “tap”.

    …. Nah ….on second thoughts ….let’s just ……

    WOK says:

    “Because the drives and players themselves have now disappeared from most homes and cars.”
    Every DVD or Bluray-Player can play audio-CDs.
    I don’t think that 128bkit Streaming makes CD “obsolete”….

    Ken says:

    2010 was NOT the last year cars in the U.S. came equipped with CD players. Our 2014 U.S. made Toyota has one.

      Bob Malkowski says:

      Thanks for the input Ken! Most articles I found in researching this piece pointed to the 2010MY Ford Crown Victoria and Lexus SC430 being the last cars with factory-fit CD players.

      I suppose there’s always the possibility of optional extras and dealer-fit CD players being available later than that.

      Either way, 2010 seems to be the landmark year when the shift from CDs in cars took place.

      Matt Garratt says:

      Honda happily installed a cd player into my 2017 Ridgeline. It was an option, and darn well worth it!

    Nancy Nickle says:

    I have over 300 music CD’s and still buy occasionally. I just started buying vinyl.
    I have saved to buy stereo components for a system. Will still buy CD’s.

    alex says:

    i love cds still and again, excellent sound quality booklet with information about the artist collectable durable for many years. I will continue to buy and collect CDs. streaming is only a tenuous option but not a convincing alternative. Just think of the makers Artists who can hardly exist from streaming. If you don’t want the prices for live tickets to skyrocket buy CDs or records.

    Violinman says:

    Once you own a CD, it’s yours virtually forever. You don’t have to worry about streaming services ever “deleting” your music or “scrubbing” their files because not enough people ordered your favorite albums, or in other cases I’ve heard of where huge amounts of personal files stored online, years worth, were accidentally “swiped clean”, never to be recovered. Everything online is unreliable. Companies can go out of existence without warning, there are no guarantees. Also, if you use your service or not, you are paying every month forever. And anyone with a decent ear can tell CD’s still sound substantially superior to streaming except for HiRes, which costs even a good deal more. If you doubt the demand for CD’s, go to any large thrift store. You will usually find hundreds of CD’s, and they keep putting out new ones every day, because- they still sell every day! Enough to be worth their trouble. Can’t find a player? Good chance they’ll have some older, still working units as well. Or another shop in your area will. It’s not obsolete until they come up with something better, and there isn’t anything. Except SACD.

    3EMA says:

    Here is a mistake or hidden trap. No one should mix container with content.
    The CDDA container contains digital audio content on the CD-ROM so it has no different nature from the digital file on the other container as example PCM 16/44.1 WAV-file stored on the MicroSD, HDD, DVD-R or stored online at the cloud disk.
    Streaming vs. CD is no other than a choice of leasing vs. owning user rights. It was yet another hidden trap in this article.
    PS: Analog vs. Digital was not a hidden trap here.

    Lawrence says:

    I went the digital way for a couple of years but find myself gravitating towards the CD again. The reason being when I went through some old boxes of CDs there were many albums and even artists I’d forgotten about. Streaming music makes you listen to the same stuff over and over and over because it suggests different playlists but with the same songs, just in a different order. Some are saying they have CDs that sound bad but so does digital and even worse if it’s being sent to speakers with Bluetooth. It will be a long time before digital is anywhere near as good as CD.

    Craig says:

    2010 for the last factory installed car CD players is incorrect.

    my 2015 ford sedan came with a CD player as standard. I seem to remember reading that 2010 was that last factory installed cassette player for Lexus.

    no doubt CDs are in decline, but they’re not dead yet. I will continue to buy them and play them (along with my cassettes and LPs)

    zoubida says:

    16 bits is certainly not coming back here.
    little plastic discs are useless and can be replaced by better formats for better quality.
    last one I bought was 2012 and the one previously was probably 2008.

    happy to not be a collector of anything, or not to idol any object.

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