Here at 360°Sound, we’re big fans of the compact disc. We share The Audiophile Man’s view in that we believe CDs aren’t going away any time soon. CDs may be becoming a niche market, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Because CDs, SACDs, and CD players are now more focused on a specialized market, the quality of the product is generally high. While streaming is super convenient and its selection can’t be topped, streaming is no replacement for people’s desire to collect and enjoy physical media. In addition to the tangibility, many listeners contend that CDs generally sound better than streaming.
We decided we’d spotlight some CD collectors, giving them the opportunity to share the CDs in their collection and why they love the format. In this first installment of our new series, we caught up with Jim Farley. Farley, 49, lives in Texas, north of Dallas, and has been collecting CDs for 35 years. Currently, he owns about 2,000 CDs (and counting).
360°: What do you love about CDs?
Jim Farley: They maintain their integrity with little care beyond keeping them in their case and handling them with the intent not to obscure the playing surface. They present a click & pop free soundscape producing crisp and clear audio each time. They also offer the listener a non-compressed audio file (mostly), unlike streamed or downloaded music (FLAC aside).
They do not weigh too much, so you can keep a large amount without too much trouble. They are compact (duh) and portable. Loudness wars aside, discs that are produced with the sound floor and ceiling in mind produce some of the most dynamic, beautiful-sounding reproductions you will ever have the pleasure of hearing. CDs are super affordable compared to other mediums like vinyl. I can buy five [used] CDs or more for each used vinyl record these days.
What are some of your favorite music genres?
Given my age, I am a big fan of ‘80s music first and foremost, so I love all things punk, post-punk, new wave, and indie/alt-rock. I love old-school hip-hop. I am also a big fan of early rock-n-roll and classic rock. I have lately been getting more into jazz and blues.
Do you have any particularly rare CDs? What are some of your most prized CDs?
On the rare front, I have most of the early West German pressings for The Cure. My first CD I purchased back in 1984 was The Cure’s live album, which I still have in my collection – a definite prize. I have a London Records pressing of The Rolling Stones’ Aftermath. The stereo mastering on that disc is phenomenal. I have a MoFi [Mobile Fidelity] copy of John Lennon’s Double Fantasy that I prize – it sounds incredible. My Hoodoo Gurus’ Bite The Bullet Director’s Cut 3-disc set is somewhat rare and definitely prized.
I have some limited-edition box sets like The Cult’s Love Omnibus Edition (one of my favorite albums of all time) and a copy of The Jesus and Mary Chain’s boxset The Power of Negative Thinking that I love. I have a few Target CDs that all sound great and a Jane’s Addiction boxset called A Cabinet of Curiosities that is a prized possession of mine. [Editor’s Note: Target CDs were manufactured mostly in West Germany and Japan from the inception of CD to the early ‘90s. Released by WEA (Warner-Elektra-Atlantic) and called “Target” due to the design on the label side surface, many collectors prefer the “flat transfer” sound on these original pressings to the later remasters.]
Do you find the CD collecting and listening experience to be more appealing than streaming? If so, why?
I’m a collector at heart. I like the tangibility of things. My collection is alphabetized and then ordered by release date for each artist so I can quickly find things in my music library. The ritual of scanning the wall, selecting a CD, opening and loading it into the player is appealing and somewhat cathartic for me. The appeal lies as much in this ritual as it does in the listening experience through a hi-fi system. I have a room in my house dedicated to listening, so it is like a modern-day library of sorts, which I think more homes need. I feel like something has been lost over time in our culture with the removal of physical spaces like dens full of book and music libraries.
I also like to listen to music as the artist intended. With streaming, you can obviously do this by picking the album and listening from beginning to end, but often streaming services jump or jukebox your music as the norm. I like to sit and hear an album from open to close as the artist intended. Often, I will also read the liner notes and lyrics that come with the CD – a definite advantage of owning the CD. With my collection, my music is always there when I want to hear it. With streaming, I can’t tell you the number of times I go to listen to something only to find it has been removed from the streaming platform. That is a definite disadvantage of streaming, along with the monthly cost and the fact that if you stop paying, there goes your collection.
What are some CDs at the top of the want list?
Adding to the collection is, admittedly, part obsession and part OCD completist mindset. There are certain classic must-have albums or [a couple] remaining discs to complete an artist’s discography that keep me adding to my CD collection. Also, with the scarcity of physical media these days, artists have begun limited production of physical content, so when a new CD comes out, I like to buy the ones I really want before they are discontinued and skyrocket in price on the secondary market. Top of my list is the new Black Crowes deluxe for Shake Your Money Maker, I’d like The Smiths singles box set, and I need to complete a few discographies for artists like Neil Young, Bob Dylan, and The Who.
Jim Farley regularly posts photos of his CD collection on Instagram. Follow him at @LloydtheVoid.