Since buying music with iTunes gift cards and recently buying an ep from a band's Bandcamp site, it hit me:
I have no reason to buy CDs. I've given up my perception that I notice a difference in quality. There might be some difference, but perhaps not detectable by human hearing, certainly not mine. Bandcamp actually provides maximum quality versions, recommending them to "audiophiles." I guess I sort of am one. I have amazing hearing and I can also distinguish layers and textures in music.
If the sound quality of the recording or the speakers is sub-optimal or poor, you really miss out on how the music is supposed to sound. You don't get the full experience and you may, perhaps subconsciously, play the music louder to hear all the layers. It may not sound that loud to you, so there is a greater risk of damage to your hearing.
But I've never had an issue with sound quality from music downloads. Nope. Never. I seldom even play my CDs anymore. I usually play the versions I imported to iTunes to put on my iPod. It's so much easier! I can make playlists; I don't have to switch CDs or wait for my 5-CD player to switch to the next CD. It's all in one list on my screen.
But there is something special about opening a jewel case, popping the CD out (and really feeling the pop) and then inserting it into the machine. I get a twinge of excitement when I hear the reader kick in! Because it's much more of a physical experience than clicking a song on a computer, it feels like a more active experience. I feel like I'm bringing music to life. I sometimes miss using my portable CD player too. Very much alive, the disc spinning inside feels like a heart beating. A CD player feels more mortal too, when the battery dies. My old Discman is resting on one of my speakers, literally collecting dust. I have no human metaphor for that. The dust does make it feel sort of lonely, though. Ah, screw it. My iPod is super cute and it doesn't even need a heartbeat. It's magical! Immortal! Take that, old school technology.