Strange going-ons in my CD collection


20 Mar 2006, 4:08

Over the last few years I discovered that some of my CDs have little holes in the silver data layer.
First I thought that these were production errors but I got suspicious when more and more CDs from a certain label, Arcade, were showing these faults. I also had this with older Philips CDs that were made in West Germany.

Recently someone posted on a messageboard that CDs last 100 years. I told my story and was not aware at first that someone already posted almost exactly the same comment. Naming the same problems with CDs of the Arcade label.

So we were on to something. Last week I browsed through my and my mother's collection. And I was horrified at what I discovered: a large part of CDs older than 15 years is showing the same defects: they've all got tiny holes/pieces missing from the data layer!

For my mother, a big Nana Mouskouri fan this was shocking. A large part of her collection of OOP (out of print) CDs have these holes as they are Philips/Polydor CDs older than 15 years.

I discussed this with a friend and he told me that this probably is caused by the oxidation of the aluminium in the CDs.

I did a search on the Internet and can't find much. Most of the Google results are about CD-Rs and their short lifespan, but not about original CDs.

But this article seems to have good info on this problem: audio CD deterioration due to oxidisation and fungal attack

My affected CDs are mainly of these labels: Arcade, Philips/Polydor, Dino, RCA and EMI.

The only solution to save the OOP and other CDs is to back them up to gold CD-Rs that 'really' should hold the data for over 100 years.


  • Dimmie

    Indeed. And the person who brought the oxidation to my attention told me that it's only to do with the materials in older CDs, but I'm not so sure about that. So, not only high CD prices and Copy Control keep me from buying CDs, now the fear of deteriorating CDs is keeping me of it as well. The only ones I still buy are the *very* cheap ones. I'm not really experienced with Flac, but I'll give it a go. Anything to save the music of the OOP CDs as some hold music that never appeared on other CDs. Cheers :)

    20 Mar 2006, 14:05
  • mll

    Sad story, but this doesn't surprise me. The 100-year lifespan sounded like marketing BS to me. ANd don't count too much on the supposedly more resitant gold CDs. The only thing that's sure about these is that they're more expensive. :) At least now you know why, IIRC, they say keep in a dry place. :| P.S.: I'm so sorry about your Ma's Nana Mouskouri OOPs. :p

    20 Mar 2006, 15:31
  • Dimmie

    Mine are in a dry space and nowhere near a radiator. And I don't even play a lot of them because they're in my computer and vintage mp3 player anyway :| So no wear either. And Nana had it coming to her ;)

    20 Mar 2006, 16:01
  • Tr1xx

    Hi there dimmie, I'm paranoid about this sort of thing. I've gone over completely to mp3 now, partially as result of my concerns in respect of data integrity. All my tracks (over 60,000 I reckon) are triple backed up to CD and DVD as well as HD. As hard discs generally double in size every 18 months, it's now quicker, safer and more economical to copy everything to a USB connected external HDD. If you keep it in a fireproof safe, (like mine - smartass), with a pouch of silicon gel, it should last as long as we ever will. Basically I feel my music (and some other data too) is so important, it's worth preserving it for posterity. The music industry must hate people like me I expect.

    21 Mar 2006, 1:53
  • Dimmie

    I still need to backup my collection but I'm currently processing folders with badly tagged mp3s that can't be found by the MusicBrainz tagger, wielding double mp3s from my already sorted collection and I'm adding album covers. Oh, and I only need to rip a few more CDs and then I'm done. Then I'll be backing up all of it to DVD and will make some copies from time to time and add more DVDs with new mp3s and retagged ones. As for the CDs with holes, maybe I'll just rip them to .wav seeing as there is more room on recordable DVDs than CDs. That way I'll be really sure of it being losless ;) Backing it all up to an external HDD is also an interesting idea. I have seen some lately and there was also one with some sort of fileserver ability or something. And no, I don't have a safe ;) Another idea came from someone who lost his music collection. He wanted to copy mine as we have about the same taste. So if my house gets burned down, flooded or something else, there will still be a backup in someone else's house :D And let's hope the p2p networks will exist for years to come because I'm not going to switch to new formats that once again may only last 10 to 15 years before, once again, deterioration sets in. In the Netherlands it's legal to download music (not to upload!) and seeing as i already paid for a lot of the songs, I want to be able to always have access to the songs that I once bought instead of paying for owning a song once again because of the deterioration of my old copy.

    26 Mar 2006, 19:45
  • Tr1xx

    1. Like you, I'm still slogging laboriously through my collection and trying to tag it all correctly. Apart from Musicbrainz, where necessary I refer to the Guinness book of British Hit Singles & Albums (the 'Bible') and Martin Strong's Great Rock Discography. 2. I've got about 50 or 60 vinyl LP's that I'd like to rip, but my hi-fi system has a wee problem at present - my Linn Sondek needs serviced. To be precise, its pickup arm does, (damping fluid problem I think). All my CD's have already been meticulously ripped & tagged. 3. Regarding new formats, I'm not too worried there. All my tracks are non-DRM mp3s. It's easy enough to batch convert mp3 to wav or any other sensible format that currently exists. I can forsee no technical reason for that to change in future, so I believe my music collection is future-proofed. The music biz hates that - they want people to have to occasionally repurchase the same material.

    27 Mar 2006, 0:37
  • Tr1xx

    oops, sorry Chris, I never noticed your message. My post had been sitting waiting for a couple of hours, (while I watched a movie) and I'd forgotten to press the 'post' button. A bad habit of mine. Incidentally, I now use Exact Audio Copy ( in conjunction with the latest Lame encoder. I formermly used the cracked Radium Fraunhofer codec, but it seems to have fallen out of favour among knowlegeable webbie audiophiles recently. The Hydrogen Audio community is my source for all that's currently happening in this respect. See I'm glad I researched pretty heavily into all this before I ripped my collection (and cough, cough) a few friends' too.

    27 Mar 2006, 0:52
  • Dimmie

    Tr1xx, you're not the only one who forgets to press the post button ;) Besides that I usually compose my message whilst also doing other things, which results in almost always posting something that has been said before :P As for Flac, all I really wanted was to backup the deteriorating CDs, not the rest as it took a while to rip my entire collection before. For ripping and encoding to mp3 I use AudioGrabber with the LAME 3.97 beta 2 codec and some part of my collection is ripped with 3.93 and 3.94 alpha 14. And more nerdy information: lame.exe does the external encoding and is set to do that to VBR 0, stereo and with bitrates between 112kbps and 320 and with the lowpass filter disabled. Regarding the tagging, for my own rips I let AudioGrabber use freedb and I'll always check the results for errors. For mp3s that weren't made by me I use the MB tagger. Looking up the original albums sounds good, I might do that too as I have similar books and the AMG website. And as for my vinyl, I guess they'll outlive the CDs so no need for backing them up yet. And I haven't got a good record player anyway at the moment. I wish I had the money for the ELP Laser Turntable :P

    27 Mar 2006, 3:31
  • Dimmie

    And if the deterioration affects other CDs as well I do need to rip my entire collection to Flac to save some space. So if you've got any tips on recommended settings and such, it is greatly appreciated Chris :) Just so that I won't get nasty surprises like finding out that the 128 kbps mp3 setting really does not come near CD quality at all :P

    27 Mar 2006, 3:47
  • mll

    In case disc space is something you want to spare, a pretty good lossy codec is Musepack (or MPC). It is transparent to my ears at normal setting (about 160 kb/s). I made a group about it.

    27 Mar 2006, 9:11
  • Tr1xx

    For anyone interested (geeks like us?) reading this out there, read up on Flac among the aforementioned Hydrogen blurb on wiki at these URLs: Be warned though, this format isn't really ideal for use on portable kit. It works well with PC players like Foobar2000, (my preferred player, though I tend to use Winamp at work).

    27 Mar 2006, 9:54
  • Tr1xx

    I really wouldn't worry about the deck too much. My own deck, arm, cartridge (originally a moving coil effort), etc. probably cost about £1000 when new. My main KEF speakers were over £600. Yep, I must have have been feeling flush at the time. Nowadays I only use a cheap stylus/cartridge combination. For the use it gets, I couldn't justify spending much on it. What I would like to install though, is a whole house hi-fi system. I don't the technology has completely settled down yet though. It would be great to have individually controllable sound (& vision) in every room, with a central HDD-based upgradeable entertainment storage system, and handheld wireless PDA-style controllers. Hmmmm... yummy.!!!

    27 Mar 2006, 15:25
  • Dimmie

    I mainly listen to headphones (Sennheisers) to be honest. It still gives me the best stereo image imaginable and it lets me hear some sounds that I wouldn't normally hear through the speakers. And I'm so used to them that I sometimes can spot the difference between stereo and joint stereo encoded mp3s: some joint stereo files end up sounding mono-ish and/or some sounds completely disappear. And I noticed that high sounds in the recommended LAME 3.97b2 codec are less clear when compared to the original sound, 3.96.1 and my prefered 3.94 alpha 14 codec which leaves me doubting the mp3 format. O dear, nerd talk again :P So I definitely will be testing Flac and Musepack and maybe something like AAC. But the last CDs that need to be ripped will also be encoded to mp3 as my portable mp3-player, a Creative DAP/Nomad 20gb, is an antique. And with a battery lifespan of under 4 hours, it still makes a nice jukebox when hooked up to a power supply and the hifi-system :)

    29 Mar 2006, 21:48
  • Tr1xx

    Headphones: I've got 20 year old Stax electrostatic ones. Bought em secondhand for £60, (new price circa £160 at the time). They're superb, but a bit of a hassle - they use a loudpeaker feed direct from the amp, but the power/control unit has a switch to avoid using a secondary speaker output. The main problem with 'em is that you need to sit within about 10 feet of the amp due to the cable length. Sound quality can't be faulted though... every bit of detail (or defect) is there, oh and they're dead comfortable too. I forgot another big problem... can't hear doorbell or phone with them on. Codecs: Work PC has Fraunhofer 1.2 Build 63i (Radium cracked) and/or Lame 3.92. I think my home PC has a much newer Lame codec. After what you said, I must check with the current discussions among the Hydrogen fraternity. It's a bit late to alter it now though. Still, WTF. Ripper: I use Either Exact Audio Copy, or Poikosoft's Easy CD-DA Extractor 5.01 suite if I'm in a real hurry to rip something. It also features an excellent format converter, (e.g. ogg to mp3, or mp3 to wav, wav to mp3, etc., etc.

    30 Mar 2006, 10:35
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