It's pretty unanimous among people with an ear for sonic quality: audio has been in the shitter for about fifteen years now. We've been forced to put up with substandard sound--and a big part of the problem has been the compact disc.
Now, though, there are signs of a turnraround. This article in The Telegraph features opinions from Ken Ishiwata, a guy involved in the development of the CD.
Only now, he says, is digital music turning the corner and beginning to sound as good as vinyl did. He says that at the beginning of each cycle of innovation, the audio industry has consistently sacrificed quality for convenience, and then left others to pick up the pieces.
“If you go back to the Sixties or Seventies, people just wanted the function – a refrigerator, a washing machine – now people want the lifestyle”, he says. “So we had great analogue sound – but our industry needs something new every 15-20 years. Back then they had the cassettes, they were quite popular but they reached a peak so they had to come up with something new. Sony and Philips got together and came up with the CD in 1982 – all new quality was possible, but we decided to come up with reasonable technology for the price. We designed the specifications so that it could be affordable for $100.”
Only recently, says Ishiwata, have CDs really matched the quality of what they replaced. “Of course initially all audiophiles rejected CDs. British companies like Linn were laughing, saying ‘We’re never going to introduce the CD’.”
Read more here. It's quite good.