Move over Spotify - CD sales are on the rise for the first time in 20 years

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While we might be waiting a while for the launch of Spotify HiFi, there's a way to get CD-quality music sent to your home without using any data. It's called a CD. 

For the first time in 20 years, the humble compact disc format has seen in an uptick in sales according to data published by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) (opens in new tab), with 46.6 million discs being sold last year.

Admittedly, it's not a statistically significant jump considering how far sales have fallen in the last 20 years - there were more than 900 million CD sales in the year 2000 before the popularization of music streaming services - but it's enough of a surprise to give us some hope for the obsolescent format.

Looks like it might be time to dig that CD player out of storage for one last go 'round.

Analysis: Is there any advantage to CDs over streaming?

No one is going to claim that CDs are more convenient to use than the half-dozen streaming services we carry around on phones at all times, but you could make the argument that CDs still sound better than most* streaming services.

Most free Spotify listeners, for example, are limited to 160kbps, while Spotify Premium subscribers only get around 320kbps. Compared to the bit-rate of 1,411kbps available on CDs, you're missing out on a lot of music data.

That being said, music streaming services have started to get on board with CD-quality streaming. Apple recently upgraded most of the songs on Apple Music to lossless audio quality (the same as CD's bitrate), and don't forget that Tidal built its entire platform around the idea of CD-quality streaming.

It's unlikely that CDs will ever be a competitor to streaming services again, a point that's corroborated by the RIAA's data, but the format remains a good way to obtain a clean copy of your favorite album that won't disappear should a streaming service collapse under financial strain.

Olivia Tambini

Olivia was previously TechRadar's Senior Editor - Home Entertainment, covering everything from headphones to TVs. Based in London, she's a popular music graduate who worked in the music industry before finding her calling in journalism. She's previously been interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live on the subject of multi-room audio, chaired panel discussions on diversity in music festival lineups, and her bylines include T3, Stereoboard, What to Watch, Top Ten Reviews, Creative Bloq, and Croco Magazine. Olivia now has a career in PR.