At first glance, CDs and DVDs look to be the same type of disc with the same properties, but is that true?
Can a CD player play a DVD and vice versa or is that just a myth?
CD players cannot play DVDs because a CD and a DVD have different designs. While the discs are the same size and shape, a DVD has a larger holding capacity than a CD. A DVD has both audio and video data stored on it and a CD is not capable of playing either of those things, especially in gigabytes.
This all probably sounds just a tad confusing but there is, in fact, an explanation for all of this.
Below are a few tips and explanations about the differences between CDs and DVDs and why we need both of them. Hopefully, this will help you not to be too confused about this matter in the future!
CD vs. DVD: What’s the Difference?
We all grew up listening to CDs and watching DVDs and probably never paid much attention to the fact that they are indeed different.
These two discs have different properties and different capacities that the other simply cannot match.
Let’s talk a little bit about those differences and see what we come up with.
DVD stands for digital versatile disc or digital video disc. Both CDs and DVDs have shiny layers, right? While a CD has usually just one shiny layer, a DVD has two layers which then allows it to hold more data.
This is the biggest difference between the two discs: a DVD can hold much more space than a CD does because it has to hold both audio and video data.
Check out this YouTube video from PS audio that discusses whether a DVD player is actually a better alternative than a CD player itself.
CD stands for “compact disc” and holds only audio data.
While a DVD can hold a lot of data, a CD only holds bits of information that store data. A DVD was designed to hold more data and is, therefore, more efficient at storing all of it. A CD only holds small bits of data and doesn’t need to be as efficient.
All you need to know is that a CD is designed for only audio data and a DVD was designed to be compatible with both audio and video.
- So, if a CD can handle audio files/data, it would stand to reason that you could put a DVD in a CD player and have it just play the sounds. But is this actually true?
Can You Listen to the Audio from a DVD on a CD Player?
Despite the perhaps common assumption, it is not possible to play a DVD’s audio on a CD player.
As previously mentioned, a CD does not hold nearly as much data on it as a DVD which means that a CD player is not going to be compatible with a DVD.
DVDs and CDs have what are called pits on their shiny surfaces. These pits are where data is stored on the disc.
Since a DVD’s holding capacity is much larger than that of a CD, they won’t match up with a CD player’s mechanism.
A CD player was designed to focus on one pit at a time because a CD’s pits are larger and fewer in number.
- If you were to put a DVD into a CD player the laser that scans the shiny layer wouldn’t be able to focus on one pit at a time.
Because a DVD’s pits are much denser, the laser will be forced to scan multiple at once but the reading won’t be clear because the laser can’t focus where it’s supposed to.
You could probably get the disc itself to fit in the player, but because the pits are the wrong size, nothing is going to happen.
Be careful, because discs can get stuck and when they do, it can be quite difficult to get them out without breaking them.
Check out this article that covers connecting an external speaker to a stand-alone CD player. You can read it here.
Can DVD Players Play CDs?
A CD player cannot handle a DVD because there is not only too much data but mismatched pits as well.
However, a DVD player can handle all the audio data a CD can throw at it.
A DVD player works similarly to a CD player in that the laser sweeps the pits and allows the data to play. The largest difference is in the wavelength.
The laser’s wavelength on a DVD player is much shorter than that of a CD player because the pits are dense and greater in number.
A DVD player is much more capable of focusing on small pits of data which means that a CD with larger and fewer pits does not pose much of a problem. A DVD player is more versatile in this way.
Just keep in mind that a DVD player by itself won’t play sounds, so don’t get any notions of trying to use a DVD player in the same way as a CD player.
You can pop the disc in just like you would with a movie/DVD and let the CD play like normal. The nice thing about doing it this way is that the TV speakers might be even louder than your CD players and produce clearer audio.
So, at the end of the day, if you are ever in a situation where you’re forced to choose between a DVD or CD player, a DVD player might be a wiser choice at first simply because it’s more diverse.
You won’t be able to play movies on a CD player because the player won’t be able to focus on a DVD’s tiny pits.
A DVD player can handle CDs with no problem because it was designed for smaller pits.
If you are in a pinch, you can just use your DVD player to get some tunes going whether it’s for a party or you just want something to listen to while you clean the house, it will get the job done, no doubt about it!