The Quality Debate
There is a ongoing, unending debate as to whether CDs purchased through
the clubs are of as high a quality as those purchased in retail stores.
The 'bits is bits' faction argues that the several tests that have
compared the binary data on retail vs. club CDs have found no
differences in the data. The 'golden ears' faction argues that while
most club CDs sound the same as their retail counterpart, some club CDs
sound vastly inferior.
An interesting middle ground is that even if the binary data is the
same, CDs pressed at different plants may sound different. This
applies to retail vs. club CDs as well as retail vs. retail CDs.
(Depending on the popularity of a title, retail CDs of that title may
be pressed at more than one plant.)
Some reasons for this include:
- The CDs may contain physical anomalies.
The anomalies could effect the servo load, which could effect the power
supply, which could cause jitter and thus cause a sonic difference.
- They may be mastering the CDs at double or quad
This could lead to increased on-disc jitter.
As to the clubs ability to press CDs, consider that the clubs are parts
of media conglomerates that also own 3 of the 6 largest families of recording
labels and a sizable percentage of the CD pressing capacity on the planet:
|+ Bertelsmann AG
|Arista, RCA Records
|Sony Disc Manu.
+ * - CH/CDHQ/PLAY are owned by a 50/50 joint
venture of Sony and Time Warner.
There are several other club "quality" issues:
will show up in stores immediately, it may take sometime to show
up in the clubs. The time lag allows the club to sell out its
inventory of the old versions.
- Older/lesser quality binary masters.
It is possible that the clubs do not get the BEST version of the
album, or are unwilling to buy the newer version.
- "Mastered down" artwork.
In a small number of cases, club CDs have suffered from omitted
liner notes, a poorer quality image on the booklet, or foldout
posters shrunk down to the size of the normal booklet. Also note
that index marks have been left off a small number of BMG Club CDs.