In praise of CD mixes

Ligia and I went on a road trip this past Memorial Day weekend, and I put together CD mixes for the trip instead of taking an iPod along. The result was surprisingly good. In the past, I’d simply take the iPod along, plug it in, set it on Shuffle, and go, but the sheer volume of music made it hard for me to enjoy it much. I like to get a sense of closure to my trips, and going through one or two or three CD’s does it for me. I know each one will take about an hour or so, depending on how many songs I burned on it. With an iPod, I arrive at my destination, and I still have another few hundred hours of music before I’ve gotten to the end of my collection. It’s not as fulfilling.

I also like the thought and effort that goes into making a mix CD. I have to sit there and manually select each song, place it in a playlist, then burn it to a CD. When I pull out that warm CD from the computer, I feel like I created something. It gives me a little sense of achievement, however minuscule it may be. I also enjoy the CD more, knowing I wanted each song to be there, and I chose it for that particular trip. I don’t get that with my iPod, not nearly as much. Instead, I have to skip through many songs I don’t feel like listening to at a particular time, and that’s annoying.

Where I think the iPod proves its usefulness is with repeated use. CDs will tend to skip after being played several times in the car, whereas an iPod won’t. Yes, I’m aware of the ability of copying playlists to the iPod and playing them, but somehow the decidedly low-tech CD gives me a little more satisfaction. Just like inserting a coin in a jukebox, sliding a CD into my car’s CD player lets me know I’ll get a tangible amount of entertainment I’ll want to listen to.

Finally, it’s still troublesome to use an iPod in the car. There still aren’t simple, easy to use solutions out there. There’s either a radio transmitter, which gives you radio-quality sound, with static and interference in densely populated areas, or the various incantations of data links, each of which works in its own, limited ways. Some allow you access to the entire library, but degrade the sound quality somewhat, and you can’t control the volume and the tracks from the car’s stereo, while some will allow you to do just that while preserving sound quality, but limiting access to the entire iPod library. With the latter, you’re stuck making and playing custom playlists, while making sure each can’t exceed 99 songs, etc. For the money, data links are still pretty annoying, and that’s why I say CD mixes still rule.