Commentary: Hyundai abandoning car CD players: Am I the only one still listening?


Could car compact disc players soon become a thing of the past? For Hyundai the answer looks to be yes.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week, the carmaker debuted its new take on the in-dash audio console.

Hyundai’s new Display Audio System features a flashy touchscreen interface that doesn’t include a CD player. Instead it’s a Bluetooth-driven display that can be synced to Apple or Android phones and will support third-party apps. So navigation, calls, podcasts, news, sports and whatever else you put on your mobile phone are now at your fingertips in the car.


Hyundai isn’t the first carmaker to turn its backs on CD players. Back in 2011 Ford said it expected two million of its popular Ford Focus models in Europe would have its CD-less digital hubs by this year, and there’s likely more new cars offering USB ports, Bluetooth capability or smartphone integration multi-disc changers.

But am I the only person who would never purchase a car without a CD player installed?

Downloading and streaming music is a daily routine in 2015. But so is starting my morning drive and after-work commute with an album.

I love the feeling that comes with sliding an album into the player and riding along to a single body of work without interruptions. I always keep a small mix of new and classic discs that I rotate every few weeks. My listening habits might sound archaic, but I don’t intend to abandon them.

Yes, it’s sometimes easier to just access my meticulously organized digital library with the push of a button, and when I want that I plug in my iPod (another bit of technology that’s reached its expiration date).

Still, there’s something about selecting one disc and seeing it to the end that I’d never trade. And maybe it’s because of the way I consume music.

In the morning I have tunes that get me ready for the day, usually blasting from my wireless speaker (my Sonos gets a lot of mileage). During the day I’m binging on artists I’m writing about, spinning new releases or just getting lost on Spotify or Soundcloud.

After work, if I’m feeling lazy I’ll turn on AppleTV and pop on iTunesRadio or the Vevo app. And if I’m unwinding over a bottle of wine I like to thrown on an LP. And on any given weekend it’s a mix of all of the above.

The car, however, is where I pay the most attention.

Unlike the computer or my Sonos device I’m not constantly thinking about what’s next on my playlist out of the endless wealth of music at our fingertips. In the car I’m taking in music with my surroundings. That experience wouldn’t necessarily sound different because it’s coming from my phone or iPod, but it wouldn’t feel the same. With digital music, the possibilities are limitless. On CD, in my car, the music stops or changes when the artist ends the album.

Driving is the one instance where I’m not attempting to multitask (hectic L.A. streets assure you of that), and whatever’s on isn’t just background noise. The CD is playing and I’m listening.

Automakers responding to most consumers’ listening habits may one day force me to change, but for now I don’t need my entire library at my fingertips while driving. I just want to unplug with an album and roll.

Twitter: @GerrickKennedy