Best Music Formats


Nairn Iain Peters, Writer

What is the best format for listening to music? To answer this question we’ll first want to think about the main formats that you can listen to music on. Spotify (or other streaming services), MP3, CD, 8-Track, Cassette Tape, and Records. All of these have their unique benefits and downsides. Do they start to sound bad after multiple uses? How accessible are they? Are they cheap?

The first format I’m going to look at is Spotify. 96.3% of the Capital Students I polled said they used more than any other format. This is because Spotify is resourceful, always has good quality, and can be bought anywhere. The only downside is possible lag, having to have wifi/data to play, or downloading songs on wifi to play when off of wifi, as well as always having to have your device charged to listen to it. Along with being the most listened to, it is also the most enjoyed for quality of music; 48.1% of students said they think it sounds the best. It is also the only service here that is completely free, not including the price of the device you’re playing it on, and without ads only costs 9.99 a month, but even though being the cheapest, is also the only one that takes monthly payments. Lately, you can also make unlimited playlists, with unlimited amounts of songs on them. 

My second format to look at is the MP3, which is surprisingly the only thing keeping Spotify from being 100% of the most listened to votes. Exactly 3.7% of students say they listen to MP3 more than any other format. But this extreme outlier does not show the same results for what students think the best sounding format is. 0% of students said it was the best sounding. The biggest upside to MP3 is that its quality is close to Spotify, and does not use wifi or batteries. But you have to have a specific MP3 player and a computer to play it. You need a computer to download and buy MP3 files onto your player, and even though the players don’t cost much a computer does. There is one other big problem with the MP3 which is as time goes on your device usually gets worse, making the sound and quality of the music get worse too, as well as limited storage on the MP3 player.

The third format is still pretty popular nowadays. With a lot of students saying that even though they listen to Spotify most of the time, that they still listen to CD’s a good bit of the time. They are extremely small, and easy to store, that’s why they are called Compact Discs. Their quality doesn’t go down much after multiple listens, and if you are careful a good CD can last a lifetime, this is probably why 14.8% of students said it’s the best sounding format. They are decently cheap being around $10 but to play them you have to have a boombox, CD player, or Car radio which are pretty big or pricey. But there is a cheap portable CD player called a Discman but they can easily ruin a CD if not used properly. You can also burn your own CD’s using MP3 files and putting them on a blank CD, but you need a computer for that. There are many good things about CD’s but like most physical formats you can’t always have them on you, and you have to be careful not to break or scratch them.

For the fourth format, I’ll talk about 8-tracks. No students said this was the format they listened to the most of the format they thought sounded the best. I’d be surprised if the majority knew what an 8-track was. They sound ok on their first playing but wear down easily, one 8-track could cost up to $30, and to play them you either had to have a player in your car, and a big player in your house, or a portable player, that was still about half the size of your regular boombox. There are not a lot of pros for 8-tracks except that they look cool.

The second-to-last format is cassette tapes, which out of all the physical formats are the easiest to carry around. They’re semi-cheap and pretty sturdy. But like 8-tracks the more you play them, the more the quality goes down. To play them you will need a boom box which is pretty big but portable, have a player in your car, or have a Walkmen which are small and very easy to bring anywhere. Their sound quality isn’t always the greatest, but still, 3.7% of students say it’s the format that sounds the best. Their biggest flaw is how bad they can sound over time, but it does take a bit for them to go down in quality. But just like CD’s you can make your own if you have a tape recorder or a boombox. depending on the recorder you can record your voice, things off the radio, or just stuff from other CDs and tapes.

Lastly, we have the records, with 33.3% of the votes for the best-sounding format. They sound very good and have a vintage feel to them, but just like CDs, they’re easy to scratch and warp. You have to take very good care of them but it’s usually worth the time. They are very expensive though some even getting into the $80 range. Their quality can very easily go down and you can only really buy pre-existing albums, with a handful of new albums still coming out on them. 

If you know me, you would know that I like old stuff, I’m a huge fan of cassette tapes (which is a personal favorite of mine), I have many records, and have a huge collection of CDs. But as a fan of music, I have to say without a doubt that modern streaming is by far the best format. With accessibility to any kind of music, there is always very high-quality sound, as well as being free or very cheap. There is no format better than a good music streaming service. But that doesn’t mean the other ones aren’t great. I say you should try out every single one of these formats to truly see which one you like the best.