This article is, by far, the best explanation of why CDs, for lack of a better word, suck. Linked in the comments section of the RealityCheckCD post, this article from back in July '04 over at 6Moons breaks down (with lots of pretty pictures, natch) the whole CD creation process, how CDs work and why there are errors in a supposedly digital medium in the first place. It also goes into detail about the Exact Audio Copy software for perfect rips as well as the whole black CD-R phenom. A must read for anyone remotely interested in CD playback as well as the future of computer-based audio.
Of course, the article is no small piece of work so, naturally, I'll try and boil the whole thing down into one simple post: CDs have pits and grooves, pits are 1s and plateaus are 0s, right? But what happens if there is a string of 1s or 0s? Lots of tiny dots? No, you get a groove with a specific length depending on how many 1s or 0s are in the string, up to 11 total.
Now, a CD player uses a laser to tell where the grooves begin and end. If the laser is bumped or stray light isn't managed properly or if the CD press didn't do a perfect job stamping the CD in the first place, the laser will read an error but keep plugging away. Hence, the picture above: jitter. Errors in the 1s and 0s causing all the sonic problems audiophiles know so well.
So hope that made some sense. Naturally, there's a lot more technical info so go read the article for all the goods. But if you had any doubts CDs were an imperfect medium, this article should set your straight. Additionally, the article covers computer ripping software (Exact Audio Copy and its error-free method specifically) as well as how black CDs do their light-taming magic. Also, the article gives a terribly logical idea that, with iTunes and digital distribution, could happen in the near future:
If we had direct digital access to the master recording on the recording engineer's hard disc, we could skip all the format and domain conversions...
Bingo. Steve Jobs, I know you read SonicFlare. Use those magical powers of yours and make it happen.