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Your Old CD Collection Is Dying 329

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Adrienne LaFrance reports at the Atlantic that if you've tried listening to any of the old CDs lately from your carefully assembled collection from the 1980's or 1990's you may have noticed that many of them won't play. 'While most of the studio-manufactured albums I bought still play, there's really no telling how much longer they will. My once-treasured CD collection — so carefully assembled over the course of about a decade beginning in 1994 — isn't just aging; it's dying. And so is yours.'

Fenella France, chief of preservation research and testing at the Library of Congress is trying to figure out how CDs age so that we can better understand how to save them. But it's a tricky business, in large part because manufacturers have changed their processes over the years and even CDs made by the same company in the same year and wrapped in identical packaging might have totally different lifespans. 'We're trying to predict, in terms of collections, which of the types of CDs are the discs most at risk,' says France. 'The problem is, different manufacturers have different formulations so it's quite complex in trying to figure out what exactly is happening because they've changed the formulation along the way and it's proprietary information.' There are all kinds of forces that accelerate CD aging in real time. Eventually, many discs show signs of edge rot, which happens as oxygen seeps through a disc's layers. Some CDs begin a deterioration process called bronzing, which is corrosion that worsens with exposure to various pollutants. The lasers in devices used to burn or even play a CD can also affect its longevity. 'The ubiquity of a once dominant media is again receding. Like most of the technology we leave behind, CDs are are being forgotten slowly,' concludes LaFrance. 'We stop using old formats little by little. They stop working. We stop replacing them. And, before long, they're gone.'"
You can donate CDs to be tested for aging characteristics by emailing the Center for the Library's Analytical Science Samples. I haven't had much trouble ripping discs that were pressed in the 80s (and acquired from used CD stores with who knows how many previous owners), but I'm starting to get nervous about not having flac rips of most of my discs.
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Your Old CD Collection Is Dying

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  • Woo! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by alexmogil ( 442209 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @11:30AM (#46999451) Homepage Journal

    As if this couldn't have worked out better for those pining for a DRM future.

    Are we licensing music? Truly? Then if I show that I bought this album in 1985 am I licensed to download the song?


  • by crow ( 16139 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @11:45AM (#46999653) Homepage Journal

    That doesn't quite do it. FLAC is great for the individual tracks, but there is also information about inter-track gaps. If you lose that, playing the album won't sound right if any of the tracks are supposed to flow into the next one. This isn't an issue for probably 90% of the CDs out there, but for the remaining ones, it's important to get them to play correctly.

    I've noticed the same problem when ripping old vinyl albums and playing them on an MP3 player. When the tracks used to flow, there's now a gap, and it can be really annoying.

  • Re:Really??? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <mojo@wo[ ] ['rld' in gap]> on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @01:27PM (#47000799) Homepage Journal

    No problems that you know of. The drive you used for ripping will silently correct errors, or just pad with interpolated data if it can't. Some software can read the amount of errors and you will probably find that older discs do have a lot more.

  • by mark_reh ( 2015546 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @01:30PM (#47000835) Journal

    " is only available used (so I cannot even support the artist by buying it)"

    That's like saying you don't buy weed from your local dealer because you'd prefer to support the farmer.

    Buying used supports the artist. By buying the used disc you're creating an aftermarket for the artist's stuff which ultimately enlarges the primary market because people who buy new in the primary market know they will be able to sell the item if they decide it isn't right for them or they tire of it. If you buy the disc, used or new, and like it, you're likely to play or at least recommend it to others who may then also decide to buy the artist's stuff.

  • by aaronb1138 ( 2035478 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @01:33PM (#47000855)
    How about we make the copyright holder responsible for providing suitable replacements as part of their copyright renewal process. It would be preferable to require a new stamping off a master every 5-10 years and provide identical media replacements - certainly to the Library of Congress and other designated archives (CD for CD, Book for book, VHS for VHS). I could see some wiggle room where digital downloads of equal or greater quality be made available to consumers.

    Even if we say fuck the consumers, the copyright holder should certainly be responsible to provide replacements to archives as part of the copyright registration. I would see such as minimal evidence for copyright enforcement.
  • by CRCulver ( 715279 ) <> on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @02:00PM (#47001099) Homepage

    I thought the loudness wars ended over a decade ago? So if the remaster is from the last 5 years, you'd THINK they'd be remastering to reclaim the full dynamic range...

    Nope, labels are aware that their remasters are going to be listened to in cars and through tiny earbuds while walking down the street. People who are consuming music that way don't want dynamic range, because the noise around the listener would render much of the music inaudible. So, the levels get pushed up so that classic rock music can compete with the noise of traffic or the subway.

    Another problem is when the remastering is directed by a bloke who was a great performer in the band decades ago, but is now a middle-aged man who is becoming hard of hearing. Such people push the levels up much more than a younger engineer. This was a big problem with the Cocteau Twins remasters; Robin Guthrie should have given it to a younger man instead of doing it himself.

When you are working hard, get up and retch every so often.