The best Fortune Brainstorm Tech Talk: Neil Young challenges tech industry

“It has got dummied down,” musician Neil Young just told the audience. He is trying to get us all to pressure Apple and the PC industry to give us much better quality.

He chastised us all for not talking about the quality of music and not asking the industry for better quality. He says that if the industry included better digital to analog converters in their boxes he could deliver to all of us a much better experience.

What do you think? Would you like better quality music or do you think MP3 is good enough?

Why is this my favorite talk? Because it is one that put forth a very simple proposal to make all of our lives better.

He says that Apple is holding back the ability to give us all the ability to listen to “high-res” music that has four times the data of MP3’s.

Oh, and now he is talking about his ideas of how to get us better car technology. He is a geek. Love it.

Published by

Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, Scoble travels the world looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology for Rackspace's startup program. He's interviewed thousands of executives and technology innovators and reports what he learns in books ("The Age of Context," a book coauthored with Forbes author Shel Israel, has been released at http://amzn.to/AgeOfContext ), YouTube, and many social media sites where he's followed by millions of people. Best place to watch me is on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/RobertScoble

Comments

  1. Amazing!

    One of the best musicians of all time just got a bit better, in my books.

    Interesting to see if this is the start of any sort of rally. Who knows, maybe with the supposed Mac updates in the months to come there will be news of a change in audio formats.

    I think that Apple could even make money off of a switch to the new audio format. Follow the Google model; develop it, patent it, and license it.

    Thanks for the bit of interesting news :)

  2. Amazing!

    One of the best musicians of all time just got a bit better, in my books.

    Interesting to see if this is the start of any sort of rally. Who knows, maybe with the supposed Mac updates in the months to come there will be news of a change in audio formats.

    I think that Apple could even make money off of a switch to the new audio format. Follow the Google model; develop it, patent it, and license it.

    Thanks for the bit of interesting news :)

  3. My youngest brother is an audiophile, he’s the only one in the family that notices or cares. He’s got all the latest gear and none of the rest of us can “really” tell the difference. Now, it could be we’re all older and our hearing is shot :-(

  4. My youngest brother is an audiophile, he’s the only one in the family that notices or cares. He’s got all the latest gear and none of the rest of us can “really” tell the difference. Now, it could be we’re all older and our hearing is shot :-(

  5. I would love higher quality music. My roommate has a vinyl record player, and we love listening to his “hi-fi” stereo system… and I think you’ll find a lot of musicians of Neil Young’s era (especially Bob Dylan, who still releases every album on vinyl) are dissatisfied with the quality of digital music.

    If you’re gonna buy MP3s online, Amazon will give them to you at a 320kbps… but still… MP3s are not as rich as analog. Shoot… CDs aren’t even as rich as analog

    It would be awesome to see a few key players in the industry develop a higher fidelity digital format, but I can’t imagine they would give it away, and I don’t want to see another VHS vs. Beta or Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD. Does anyone think this could be a successful open source project?

  6. I would love higher quality music. My roommate has a vinyl record player, and we love listening to his “hi-fi” stereo system… and I think you’ll find a lot of musicians of Neil Young’s era (especially Bob Dylan, who still releases every album on vinyl) are dissatisfied with the quality of digital music.

    If you’re gonna buy MP3s online, Amazon will give them to you at a 320kbps… but still… MP3s are not as rich as analog. Shoot… CDs aren’t even as rich as analog

    It would be awesome to see a few key players in the industry develop a higher fidelity digital format, but I can’t imagine they would give it away, and I don’t want to see another VHS vs. Beta or Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD. Does anyone think this could be a successful open source project?

  7. It’s silly. Can you honestly hear a difference in quality between an MP3 and a CD?

    If you can, does the MP3 quality impede your enjoyment? Seriously.

    It’s a common tactic used by the RIAA crowd to say why digital music is evil. It’s been used since the early days of Napster.

  8. It’s silly. Can you honestly hear a difference in quality between an MP3 and a CD?

    If you can, does the MP3 quality impede your enjoyment? Seriously.

    It’s a common tactic used by the RIAA crowd to say why digital music is evil. It’s been used since the early days of Napster.

  9. Just good enough……..

    In my opinion that is what we have been seeing for a very long time in the world of hardware and software. Do not take time to work out the bugs; just make it good enough for now. Today’s bugs will be forgotten after the release of tomorrow’s new features.

  10. Just good enough……..

    In my opinion that is what we have been seeing for a very long time in the world of hardware and software. Do not take time to work out the bugs; just make it good enough for now. Today’s bugs will be forgotten after the release of tomorrow’s new features.

  11. I can’t tell the difference between a high quality mp3 (192kb) and a lossless format, and I doubt people many can. There are always going to be some audiophiles that go to crazy lengths to ensure they have the best possible sound, but in many cases this is probably more a psychological thing than a significant difference in sound quality.

    I don’t want 4 times the data of mp3s, I’d need four times the disk space for it.

  12. I can’t tell the difference between a high quality mp3 (192kb) and a lossless format, and I doubt people many can. There are always going to be some audiophiles that go to crazy lengths to ensure they have the best possible sound, but in many cases this is probably more a psychological thing than a significant difference in sound quality.

    I don’t want 4 times the data of mp3s, I’d need four times the disk space for it.

  13. Hear a difference between MP3 and CD??? Are you kidding? For example, cymbals and the detail of other high-frequency instruments sound horrible on MP3s. Classical music sounds awful. I’m not saying that lossless is the only way to go, but I always cringe when I see folks advocating MP3 because of its universality. It’s like advocating for tapes when CDs came out because “cars don’t have CD players.” Well, it was time to start putting CD players in our cars… and it’s time to move beyond MP3. Go, Neil!

  14. Hear a difference between MP3 and CD??? Are you kidding? For example, cymbals and the detail of other high-frequency instruments sound horrible on MP3s. Classical music sounds awful. I’m not saying that lossless is the only way to go, but I always cringe when I see folks advocating MP3 because of its universality. It’s like advocating for tapes when CDs came out because “cars don’t have CD players.” Well, it was time to start putting CD players in our cars… and it’s time to move beyond MP3. Go, Neil!

  15. I remember reading an interview with Joe Perry (Aerosmith guitar player) about this same topic. After reading this, I feel bad that I don’t necessarily notice the detail that is missing from an mp3. I work in the design and branding industry and I can tell when a PMS color is not perfect or when a photo doesn’t look sharp enough or when page elements don’t exactly line up. It’s in the detail that makes things outstanding. Sure, 90% of the people can’t see the difference, but I know it’s wrong. So, yes, I would love better quality music because every single note, background vocal and sound is what the artist intended for us to hear.

    I’m now really curious to hear what a song with 4x the data of an mp3 would sound like.

  16. Listens … if you played the same song mp3 and audiophile on the same system most people would guess which was which wrong 50% of the time … and don’t forget most of these people are listening to their music on a crappy pair of ipod earbuds not a souped up audiophile sytem. ….

  17. Listens … if you played the same song mp3 and audiophile on the same system most people would guess which was which wrong 50% of the time … and don’t forget most of these people are listening to their music on a crappy pair of ipod earbuds not a souped up audiophile sytem. ….

  18. I remember reading an interview with Joe Perry (Aerosmith guitar player) about this same topic. After reading this, I feel bad that I don’t necessarily notice the detail that is missing from an mp3. I work in the design and branding industry and I can tell when a PMS color is not perfect or when a photo doesn’t look sharp enough or when page elements don’t exactly line up. It’s in the detail that makes things outstanding. Sure, 90% of the people can’t see the difference, but I know it’s wrong. So, yes, I would love better quality music because every single note, background vocal and sound is what the artist intended for us to hear.

    I’m now really curious to hear what a song with 4x the data of an mp3 would sound like.

  19. Most of the time I’m listening to my iPod at the gym or while jogging with the standard earbuds, so any lack of sound quality isn’t really noticeable.

  20. Most of the time I’m listening to my iPod at the gym or while jogging with the standard earbuds, so any lack of sound quality isn’t really noticeable.

  21. (apologies for my mistake on the quality of Amazon MP3 downloads… it’s 256kbps, not 320kbps)

    I would love higher quality music. My roommate has a vinyl record player, and we love listening to his “hi-fi” stereo system… and I think you’ll find a lot of musicians of Neil Young’s era (especially Bob Dylan, who still releases every album on vinyl) are dissatisfied with the quality of digital music.

    If you’re gonna buy MP3s online, Amazon will give them to you at a 256kbps… but still… MP3s are not as rich as analog. Shoot… CDs aren’t even as rich as analog

    It would be awesome to see a few key players in the industry develop a higher fidelity digital format, but I can’t imagine they would give it away, and I don’t want to see another VHS vs. Beta or Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD. Does anyone think this could be a successful open source project?

  22. (apologies for my mistake on the quality of Amazon MP3 downloads… it’s 256kbps, not 320kbps)

    I would love higher quality music. My roommate has a vinyl record player, and we love listening to his “hi-fi” stereo system… and I think you’ll find a lot of musicians of Neil Young’s era (especially Bob Dylan, who still releases every album on vinyl) are dissatisfied with the quality of digital music.

    If you’re gonna buy MP3s online, Amazon will give them to you at a 256kbps… but still… MP3s are not as rich as analog. Shoot… CDs aren’t even as rich as analog

    It would be awesome to see a few key players in the industry develop a higher fidelity digital format, but I can’t imagine they would give it away, and I don’t want to see another VHS vs. Beta or Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD. Does anyone think this could be a successful open source project?

  23. Lossy compression is the reason that I will never buy an mp3. I would rather buy the CD and use lossless compression. It is absurd the prices that are charged for mp3s using lossy compression. If I am going to pay that much, it should be the same quality as the CD version!

    The issue with lossy compression is not just that of being able to hear the difference. Re-encoding files (from mp3 to wma or from one bit rate to another etc) continues to degrade the audio quality. My library is all lossless and I can re-encode to whatever format I chose with relative ease and no worries that I am further degrading the audio quality. This is a much better solution than re-ripping from the CD!

  24. Lossy compression is the reason that I will never buy an mp3. I would rather buy the CD and use lossless compression. It is absurd the prices that are charged for mp3s using lossy compression. If I am going to pay that much, it should be the same quality as the CD version!

    The issue with lossy compression is not just that of being able to hear the difference. Re-encoding files (from mp3 to wma or from one bit rate to another etc) continues to degrade the audio quality. My library is all lossless and I can re-encode to whatever format I chose with relative ease and no worries that I am further degrading the audio quality. This is a much better solution than re-ripping from the CD!

  25. Seems to me most people favor convenience over quality. Cassette tapes were more convenient then big old rolls of tape and a walkman was more portable then a Revox. But quality suffered. MP3’s or any other compressed format is generally worse then a CD but an iPod is so much more convenient then lugging around 1,000 CDs and given some effort/caution it can sound pretty ok. As much as I like the convenience, I agree with Neil that quality has been neglected but I also understand that I’m part of a minority.

    Regarding not hearing a difference between a CD and highly compressed audio, I think people in general tend to listen to the song, not the sound. That’s totally fine but the individual instruments and voices all have a story to tell too. It’s like reading between the lines. Looking at a picture instead of the words. If you redirect your focus for a moment and really listen to what is (or should be) available, it can get pretty hard to hear the song again. Maybe ignorance really is bliss? Some manufactures sure bet on it!

  26. Seems to me most people favor convenience over quality. Cassette tapes were more convenient then big old rolls of tape and a walkman was more portable then a Revox. But quality suffered. MP3’s or any other compressed format is generally worse then a CD but an iPod is so much more convenient then lugging around 1,000 CDs and given some effort/caution it can sound pretty ok. As much as I like the convenience, I agree with Neil that quality has been neglected but I also understand that I’m part of a minority.

    Regarding not hearing a difference between a CD and highly compressed audio, I think people in general tend to listen to the song, not the sound. That’s totally fine but the individual instruments and voices all have a story to tell too. It’s like reading between the lines. Looking at a picture instead of the words. If you redirect your focus for a moment and really listen to what is (or should be) available, it can get pretty hard to hear the song again. Maybe ignorance really is bliss? Some manufactures sure bet on it!

  27. I saw a documentary once where they tested some professional musicians to see if they could tell the difference between a record, a CD and an MP3.

    In a BLIND test none of them correctly identified the mp3.

    Audiophiles are idiots – they “claim” they can hear a difference but fail when put to the test.

  28. I saw a documentary once where they tested some professional musicians to see if they could tell the difference between a record, a CD and an MP3.

    In a BLIND test none of them correctly identified the mp3.

    Audiophiles are idiots – they “claim” they can hear a difference but fail when put to the test.

  29. I am a musician and I have never once complained about the quality of sound my ipod delivers. Although, I am not sure why he is making such a big deal, Neil Young’s guitar playing and voice are equally slightly off key. Better converters won’t help that experience :)

  30. I am a musician and I have never once complained about the quality of sound my ipod delivers. Although, I am not sure why he is making such a big deal, Neil Young’s guitar playing and voice are equally slightly off key. Better converters won’t help that experience :)

  31. I don’t want bigger music files, I want cheaper music and a better discovery experience. When I can pay a flat fee for unlimited access through a decent user interface, that’s the day I give up uTorrent and Pandora.

    Why doesn’t somebody demand better quality music from Neil Young. A remastered old album in high-quality mp3 sounds a lot better than an original version on CD (or flac).

  32. I don’t want bigger music files, I want cheaper music and a better discovery experience. When I can pay a flat fee for unlimited access through a decent user interface, that’s the day I give up uTorrent and Pandora.

    Why doesn’t somebody demand better quality music from Neil Young. A remastered old album in high-quality mp3 sounds a lot better than an original version on CD (or flac).

  33. I think there can be a significant difference between the typical 128-bit MP3s and, say, a lossless codec; but for most songs, on most equipment, in most settings, no one will notice the difference.

    The only difference I notice is between an MP3 and a lossless encoding (or the original CD source) of classical music, with decent headphones, in a relatively quiet room. The difference is in the dynamic range: MP3 tends to muddle the low end and clip the high end, whereas lossless handles it much better. Then again, a higher-bitrate MP3 might solve the problem, too.

    For most popular songs, this might not matter because the range of the original recording (let alone after the sound is compressed) probably doesn’t match that of a full orchestra. Combined with tinny earbuds and a noisier environment, it’s no wonder it doesn’t matter to most people. For me in limited circumstances, especially when listening to classical pieces I’ve performed, it breaks the experience when I can’t hear a part I know is there because it was washed away by the codec or low bitrate.

  34. I think there can be a significant difference between the typical 128-bit MP3s and, say, a lossless codec; but for most songs, on most equipment, in most settings, no one will notice the difference.

    The only difference I notice is between an MP3 and a lossless encoding (or the original CD source) of classical music, with decent headphones, in a relatively quiet room. The difference is in the dynamic range: MP3 tends to muddle the low end and clip the high end, whereas lossless handles it much better. Then again, a higher-bitrate MP3 might solve the problem, too.

    For most popular songs, this might not matter because the range of the original recording (let alone after the sound is compressed) probably doesn’t match that of a full orchestra. Combined with tinny earbuds and a noisier environment, it’s no wonder it doesn’t matter to most people. For me in limited circumstances, especially when listening to classical pieces I’ve performed, it breaks the experience when I can’t hear a part I know is there because it was washed away by the codec or low bitrate.

  35. This is why I’ve refused to get rid of my CDs and vinyls. I agree that the lower quality of MP3s has started to bother me recently.

  36. This is why I’ve refused to get rid of my CDs and vinyls. I agree that the lower quality of MP3s has started to bother me recently.

  37. I ripped my 500 CD collection to .wav files that I listen to through Grado headphones plugged into a studio-quality preamp breakout box connected to a matching MAudio 24-bit soundcard.

    You know where I stand.

  38. I ripped my 500 CD collection to .wav files that I listen to through Grado headphones plugged into a studio-quality preamp breakout box connected to a matching MAudio 24-bit soundcard.

    You know where I stand.

  39. Oh, and the “you can’t tell the difference between Mp3s and CDs” is true… depending on the bitrate, headphones, soundcard, familiarity with the music, etc. There are a lot of variables in the signal chain there.

    For example, I have a low bitrate recording of the Flaming Lips song “Fight Test” which totally loses the tremolo effect at the beginning. That’s a noticeable difference that anyone could pick out if they were familiar with the music.

  40. Oh, and the “you can’t tell the difference between Mp3s and CDs” is true… depending on the bitrate, headphones, soundcard, familiarity with the music, etc. There are a lot of variables in the signal chain there.

    For example, I have a low bitrate recording of the Flaming Lips song “Fight Test” which totally loses the tremolo effect at the beginning. That’s a noticeable difference that anyone could pick out if they were familiar with the music.

  41. MP3 seems okay, but then you hear something that is better quality and it makes you realize that MP3 quality isn’t that great. I am with Neil, I definitely would like to have better sound quality for my music.

  42. MP3 seems okay, but then you hear something that is better quality and it makes you realize that MP3 quality isn’t that great. I am with Neil, I definitely would like to have better sound quality for my music.

  43. Let’s see: an iPod can play not only Apple Lossless files, but also raw AIFFs if you choose to eat up your disk space and run your battery down faster. The primary reason it’s “dummied down” is so it doesn’t take you a half-hour to download an album.

    And while I understand that it’s possible to hear a difference between a 192kbps AAC and a lossless file, I do not believe the average human can tell the difference between 16-bit and 24-bit conversion.

  44. Let’s see: an iPod can play not only Apple Lossless files, but also raw AIFFs if you choose to eat up your disk space and run your battery down faster. The primary reason it’s “dummied down” is so it doesn’t take you a half-hour to download an album.

    And while I understand that it’s possible to hear a difference between a 192kbps AAC and a lossless file, I do not believe the average human can tell the difference between 16-bit and 24-bit conversion.

  45. Ask anyone who’s worked in a recording studio, or plays in a band. I actually work in a hifi shop in the UK, and although I feel my iPod is good enough to compare against a CD player of equal value at the right bitrate, thats still not a fantastic CD Player.

    I would just like to hear my music at the same quality it was recorded and approved at in the studio, and I don’t believe that MP3 offers that at all. Personally, I’m all for FLAC files, but try getting anyone from a major label to release those!

  46. Ask anyone who’s worked in a recording studio, or plays in a band. I actually work in a hifi shop in the UK, and although I feel my iPod is good enough to compare against a CD player of equal value at the right bitrate, thats still not a fantastic CD Player.

    I would just like to hear my music at the same quality it was recorded and approved at in the studio, and I don’t believe that MP3 offers that at all. Personally, I’m all for FLAC files, but try getting anyone from a major label to release those!

  47. Unfortunately, quality will never determine what companies use. People are still using lots of crappy hardware and software because it’s cheap, not because it makes their lives any easier or improves their experience. Switching to CDs made the music we buy sound less like how it was recorded, and the music industry made a bundle. MP3 is obviously crappy compared to some other digital formats out there, and worse than CDs, but I don’t expect anyone to do anything about it. I understand what Neil Young is attempting to do, but he’s been on the losing side of these discussions for years because quality is his main focus.

  48. Unfortunately, quality will never determine what companies use. People are still using lots of crappy hardware and software because it’s cheap, not because it makes their lives any easier or improves their experience. Switching to CDs made the music we buy sound less like how it was recorded, and the music industry made a bundle. MP3 is obviously crappy compared to some other digital formats out there, and worse than CDs, but I don’t expect anyone to do anything about it. I understand what Neil Young is attempting to do, but he’s been on the losing side of these discussions for years because quality is his main focus.

  49. If we could move this discussion from “Quality” to “Completeness” it would be much more constructive. MP3s are to symphonic performances as CliffsNotes are to major works of literature. Any one of them may be best suited to the purpose at hand, and each presents a different experience.

    Could Neil Young really be saying that he’s frustrated that so many people choose to listen at a superficial level? Could consumers really be saying that on average they aren’t looking for a deep musical experience with the artist?

    Come to think of it, if the MP3 gives us a deep “emotional” experience with the music, isn’t that enough?

  50. If we could move this discussion from “Quality” to “Completeness” it would be much more constructive. MP3s are to symphonic performances as CliffsNotes are to major works of literature. Any one of them may be best suited to the purpose at hand, and each presents a different experience.

    Could Neil Young really be saying that he’s frustrated that so many people choose to listen at a superficial level? Could consumers really be saying that on average they aren’t looking for a deep musical experience with the artist?

    Come to think of it, if the MP3 gives us a deep “emotional” experience with the music, isn’t that enough?

  51. I can tell the difference between an MP3 and a CD, especially with classical music. Granted some difference in quality is overrated but why turn music into crap? Go read some of the articles about how so much of the music industry has turned into a loudness war. I don’t want that for my music. I want something that is interesting and unique.

  52. I can tell the difference between an MP3 and a CD, especially with classical music. Granted some difference in quality is overrated but why turn music into crap? Go read some of the articles about how so much of the music industry has turned into a loudness war. I don’t want that for my music. I want something that is interesting and unique.

  53. For range, depth, and warmth, nothing beats vinyl. Sure it’s not easily portable, but we are talking about sound

  54. For range, depth, and warmth, nothing beats vinyl. Sure it’s not easily portable, but we are talking about sound

  55. MP#’s are meant for little earbuds, with a noisy environment in the background. Conviences often have trade-offs. I’m okay with that.

    Anyone who pays attention can tell the difference when you play the music through a decent car stereo or even low end home systems. Cymbals, the bass, that driving beat, the guitar solos … On any decent system, an MP3 sounds like the music is flatter, deader. Get a CD, then burn the MP3 to another CD and compare for yourself.

    I’m with Neil, the industry could do a lot better (and charge more) with a higher quality option. Why does everybody rip someone for asking for more options?

  56. MP#’s are meant for little earbuds, with a noisy environment in the background. Conviences often have trade-offs. I’m okay with that.

    Anyone who pays attention can tell the difference when you play the music through a decent car stereo or even low end home systems. Cymbals, the bass, that driving beat, the guitar solos … On any decent system, an MP3 sounds like the music is flatter, deader. Get a CD, then burn the MP3 to another CD and compare for yourself.

    I’m with Neil, the industry could do a lot better (and charge more) with a higher quality option. Why does everybody rip someone for asking for more options?

  57. I rip all my CDs at 320kbs and listen to them on my ipod through good headphones (UltimateEars SuperFi 3s), and there’s clearly still a difference. Take, for instance, the opening of massive attack’s ‘black milk’ – a very noticeable chunk of the intro is missing due to the low-pass filter used for MP3 compression. Similar for some songs with the high-end missing due to the low-pass filter. Plus there’s the noise introduced by the ipod itself.

    Does it matter? 90% of the time, convenience wins out, but it’s still nice to be able to back to the CD whenever I’m in a ‘bottle of wine, headphones and some good music’ mood. For that reason, I’ll be sticking to CD or lossless downloads written to CD.

    Ben

  58. I rip all my CDs at 320kbs and listen to them on my ipod through good headphones (UltimateEars SuperFi 3s), and there’s clearly still a difference. Take, for instance, the opening of massive attack’s ‘black milk’ – a very noticeable chunk of the intro is missing due to the low-pass filter used for MP3 compression. Similar for some songs with the high-end missing due to the low-pass filter. Plus there’s the noise introduced by the ipod itself.

    Does it matter? 90% of the time, convenience wins out, but it’s still nice to be able to back to the CD whenever I’m in a ‘bottle of wine, headphones and some good music’ mood. For that reason, I’ll be sticking to CD or lossless downloads written to CD.

    Ben

  59. Sounds like the new Bose noise-canceling headphones discussion. Neil the music expert lecturing techy types about better quality music is equivilent to the techy types lecturing Neil to write better songs. They cancel each other out!

  60. Sounds like the new Bose noise-canceling headphones discussion. Neil the music expert lecturing techy types about better quality music is equivilent to the techy types lecturing Neil to write better songs. They cancel each other out!

  61. Ok here is the story. I am a former professional audio engineer. The Analog-to-Digital conversion process makes a big difference. Today most albums are recorded into a MAC usually with a program called Protools. This digital equipment is than run back through an analog console to finally be mixed down again back to digital. This mixed version is then converted again to analog in mastering and made digital once again for production. So the conversion process occurs a multitude of times even in a professional environment. Granted most likely with fairly good converters. The average person in my opinion can not tell the difference between 16 bit 44.1 k (cd quality audio) and a compressed MP3. Good work Rob.

  62. Ok here is the story. I am a former professional audio engineer. The Analog-to-Digital conversion process makes a big difference. Today most albums are recorded into a MAC usually with a program called Protools. This digital equipment is than run back through an analog console to finally be mixed down again back to digital. This mixed version is then converted again to analog in mastering and made digital once again for production. So the conversion process occurs a multitude of times even in a professional environment. Granted most likely with fairly good converters. The average person in my opinion can not tell the difference between 16 bit 44.1 k (cd quality audio) and a compressed MP3. Good work Rob.

  63. I’m surprised Young has enough brain cells left to string together any coherent thoughts. BTW, his music sounds awful in any format. (Excepting maybe “Down by the River” and “Cinnamon Girl”)

  64. I’m surprised Young has enough brain cells left to string together any coherent thoughts. BTW, his music sounds awful in any format. (Excepting maybe “Down by the River” and “Cinnamon Girl”)

  65. MP3 is a terrible format, and at 128K, it’s very destructive to music; it sounds good only for somewhat flat vocal rock (unsurprisingly, it was developed with Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner” as the primary test case). 256K MP3 is close enough to lossless that only extreme cases will show any distortion.

    AAC (which iTunes uses) is vastly superior; at 128K (iTunes DRM tracks), it’s a little flat but works for almost any kind of music. At 256K (iTunes Plus tracks), it is essentially lossless.

    If the studios will stop demanding DRM on the iTunes store, Neil Young can get his wish. None of his tracks on iTunes are iTunes Plus, but that’s the fault of his greedy record label, not Apple.

  66. MP3 is a terrible format, and at 128K, it’s very destructive to music; it sounds good only for somewhat flat vocal rock (unsurprisingly, it was developed with Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner” as the primary test case). 256K MP3 is close enough to lossless that only extreme cases will show any distortion.

    AAC (which iTunes uses) is vastly superior; at 128K (iTunes DRM tracks), it’s a little flat but works for almost any kind of music. At 256K (iTunes Plus tracks), it is essentially lossless.

    If the studios will stop demanding DRM on the iTunes store, Neil Young can get his wish. None of his tracks on iTunes are iTunes Plus, but that’s the fault of his greedy record label, not Apple.

  67. There’s a bigger problem than data compression: dynamic range compression. DRC is why every CD released in the last 10 years or so has no fidelity, no peaks and valleys, no quiet and loud sections. Music today is mastered at one “volume” level–AS LOUD AS POSSIBLE. Drums don’t have the punch they once did, and there is no such thing as a subtle background track. Google “Loudness War” for the technical explanation.

    DRC is a much, much bigger threat to music quality than data compression (e.g. MP3).

  68. There’s a bigger problem than data compression: dynamic range compression. DRC is why every CD released in the last 10 years or so has no fidelity, no peaks and valleys, no quiet and loud sections. Music today is mastered at one “volume” level–AS LOUD AS POSSIBLE. Drums don’t have the punch they once did, and there is no such thing as a subtle background track. Google “Loudness War” for the technical explanation.

    DRC is a much, much bigger threat to music quality than data compression (e.g. MP3).

  69. > I would rather buy the CD and use lossless compression.

    CDs are merely lossless after digital conversion. That conversion loses data (sampling period, quantization, and range). There was a “super CD” format which had better conversion and the difference was A/B discernable given mindbogglingly expensive equipment in a tuned room when at the correct location.

  70. > I would rather buy the CD and use lossless compression.

    CDs are merely lossless after digital conversion. That conversion loses data (sampling period, quantization, and range). There was a “super CD” format which had better conversion and the difference was A/B discernable given mindbogglingly expensive equipment in a tuned room when at the correct location.

  71. This technology is EXACTLY what Niel Young is talking about…I am not in ANY way affiliated with Mr. Bob Lentini as far as marketing or even trying to get his genuis and new software known out there, but this man and his many years of total dedication(years ahead of his time, for he most part) for the kind of sound technology that Mr. Young is talking about. PLEASE, PLEASE….just check out this man and his products out. NO ONE will be dissapointed – and anyone with ears and anything in between them will help to put this man where he belongs…a household(studiohold) name. There’s not enough room here to explain all that he’s done, and I could only make a lame attempt at using the correct terms, but I’m a lifelong musician, I’ve been very lucky until very lately, but I’ve had he honor of playing behind legends, as well as being a bandleader myself at 3 of the most famous resorts in Las Vegas…hey..it was supposed to be for just 6 mo’s..it turned into 16 years…but thats’ another novel in itself.

  72. This technology is EXACTLY what Niel Young is talking about…I am not in ANY way affiliated with Mr. Bob Lentini as far as marketing or even trying to get his genuis and new software known out there, but this man and his many years of total dedication(years ahead of his time, for he most part) for the kind of sound technology that Mr. Young is talking about. PLEASE, PLEASE….just check out this man and his products out. NO ONE will be dissapointed – and anyone with ears and anything in between them will help to put this man where he belongs…a household(studiohold) name. There’s not enough room here to explain all that he’s done, and I could only make a lame attempt at using the correct terms, but I’m a lifelong musician, I’ve been very lucky until very lately, but I’ve had he honor of playing behind legends, as well as being a bandleader myself at 3 of the most famous resorts in Las Vegas…hey..it was supposed to be for just 6 mo’s..it turned into 16 years…but thats’ another novel in itself.

  73. Harvest this:

    Will I see you give more than I can take?
    Will I only harvest some?
    As the days fly past will we lose our grasp
    Or fuse it in the sun?

  74. Harvest this:

    Will I see you give more than I can take?
    Will I only harvest some?
    As the days fly past will we lose our grasp
    Or fuse it in the sun?

  75. Alright, I’m sorry, but I’m going to be an ass.

    Audiophiles are idiots. If you read and believe the moronic reviews in magazines like Stereophile, you’re an idiot too. High-end audio is a mythology, a religion, not science. Analog audio fundamentalists = idiots. People who believe they can hear the differences between two low-distortion (< 1%), flat, level-matched amplifiers or formats like CD and SACD (Stupid Audio CD) = deluded (excluding multi-channel formts, that comes down to subjective preference mainly).

    The fact is that no one has ever been able to show that they can perceive (with human ears) these alleged differences in scientifically sound, double blind tests. This is iron-clad fact no matter how much you want to believe otherwise and no matter how many thousands you spent on your 15-watt tube amp. Yes, you can measure differences with electronic equipment. The differences are too small to be perceived and have been for some time. Go pound sand.

    It has been well-understood for decades how to construct a decent D/A converter. People think they can hear vast differences in various audio components, but they rarely can. You will not be able to tell the difference between audio components with low distortion (< 1%) and a linear frequency response – which is nearly everything on the market today.

    Yes, speakers and headphones do matter, and this is where distortion comes in. You will rarely see any distortion measurement on speakers or headphone drivers, and the reason is because they are all well above the threshold of audible distortion – 1%. It’s absolutely ludicrous that you can find people willing to buy into “higher resolution” formats and claiming to hear some magical difference on their crappy home-theater-in-a-box speaker rig. What a joke.

    MP3s. An MP3 at a bitrate of 128K/sec does sound like ass. Well, that’s subjective, but at least you can easily prove an audible difference between the file and the source. Use the LAME encoder with the “alt-preset normal” switch, however, and it suddenly becomes close to impossible to differentiate the file from the original source on even very high-end gear. Again, this has been proven. Google it.

    If you want outstanding audio quality, you need two things that are becoming rare today: sane mixing and mastering engineers who will take advantage of the excellent dynamic range offered by the CD format and really good, accurate set of speakers.

    Notes:
    Andy Freeman: To the guy claiming that SACD and CD are A/B discernable – this is not the whole story. SACD releases are specifically mastered for the format. This is the difference being heard. Indeed, the mastering job on an SACD is typically superior to the CD release, but this has nothing to do with the increased resolution of the format. It’s just a better master. BTW, SACD is “lossy” too in that is also a sampled format, just like CD. It’s just a higher sampling frequency.

    Mark Mitchell: You are right – my points are (mostly) not targeted at the recording realm.

    Ben: The iPod itself has a high-pass filter (cuts out very low bass). It is virtually not possible to distinguish between a 320kbit MP3 file and the source despite what many people claim.

    Required reading: http://www.zaphaudio.com/evaluation.html

  76. Alright, I’m sorry, but I’m going to be an ass.

    Audiophiles are idiots. If you read and believe the moronic reviews in magazines like Stereophile, you’re an idiot too. High-end audio is a mythology, a religion, not science. Analog audio fundamentalists = idiots. People who believe they can hear the differences between two low-distortion (< 1%), flat, level-matched amplifiers or formats like CD and SACD (Stupid Audio CD) = deluded (excluding multi-channel formts, that comes down to subjective preference mainly).

    The fact is that no one has ever been able to show that they can perceive (with human ears) these alleged differences in scientifically sound, double blind tests. This is iron-clad fact no matter how much you want to believe otherwise and no matter how many thousands you spent on your 15-watt tube amp. Yes, you can measure differences with electronic equipment. The differences are too small to be perceived and have been for some time. Go pound sand.

    It has been well-understood for decades how to construct a decent D/A converter. People think they can hear vast differences in various audio components, but they rarely can. You will not be able to tell the difference between audio components with low distortion (< 1%) and a linear frequency response – which is nearly everything on the market today.

    Yes, speakers and headphones do matter, and this is where distortion comes in. You will rarely see any distortion measurement on speakers or headphone drivers, and the reason is because they are all well above the threshold of audible distortion – 1%. It’s absolutely ludicrous that you can find people willing to buy into “higher resolution” formats and claiming to hear some magical difference on their crappy home-theater-in-a-box speaker rig. What a joke.

    MP3s. An MP3 at a bitrate of 128K/sec does sound like ass. Well, that’s subjective, but at least you can easily prove an audible difference between the file and the source. Use the LAME encoder with the “alt-preset normal” switch, however, and it suddenly becomes close to impossible to differentiate the file from the original source on even very high-end gear. Again, this has been proven. Google it.

    If you want outstanding audio quality, you need two things that are becoming rare today: sane mixing and mastering engineers who will take advantage of the excellent dynamic range offered by the CD format and really good, accurate set of speakers.

    Notes:
    Andy Freeman: To the guy claiming that SACD and CD are A/B discernable – this is not the whole story. SACD releases are specifically mastered for the format. This is the difference being heard. Indeed, the mastering job on an SACD is typically superior to the CD release, but this has nothing to do with the increased resolution of the format. It’s just a better master. BTW, SACD is “lossy” too in that is also a sampled format, just like CD. It’s just a higher sampling frequency.

    Mark Mitchell: You are right – my points are (mostly) not targeted at the recording realm.

    Ben: The iPod itself has a high-pass filter (cuts out very low bass). It is virtually not possible to distinguish between a 320kbit MP3 file and the source despite what many people claim.

    Required reading: http://www.zaphaudio.com/evaluation.html

  77. lots of confusion here ….

    The iTunes store sells music using the AAC encoder, not the MP3 encoder. AAC and MP3 are both ‘perceptual audio codecs’, and AAC has a much better perceptual model than that of MP3. Much better. Apple gives you two bit rate options for AAC, the higher one being of insane high quality.

    However, an even bigger point – NONE OF THIS MATTERS!

    Looking at music history:
    – First recordings meant for consumers: really shitty
    – 8 Track: shitty
    – Vinyl: shitty but in a way people love (‘warmth’ from analog distortions, etc)
    – Cassette Tape: shitty *but* recordable!
    – CD: pretty decent actually *and* recordable!
    – MP3: on par CD quality, recordable, and easily transferable
    – AAC: *hella* good quality, recordable, and easily transferable.

    So okay – things are getting better!

    But not really .. music really doesn’t sound as good .. and it’s for reasons which have been brought up here: dynamic range.

    this is not an issue of technology, it’s an issue of the application of technology. it’s an issue of society saying “louder = better”, or more correctly … those in the music industry realizing “louder = paying more attention”.

    (this also happens to be why commercials are so loud)

    much love to neil, but he’s confused on where the problem really lies.

  78. lots of confusion here ….

    The iTunes store sells music using the AAC encoder, not the MP3 encoder. AAC and MP3 are both ‘perceptual audio codecs’, and AAC has a much better perceptual model than that of MP3. Much better. Apple gives you two bit rate options for AAC, the higher one being of insane high quality.

    However, an even bigger point – NONE OF THIS MATTERS!

    Looking at music history:
    – First recordings meant for consumers: really shitty
    – 8 Track: shitty
    – Vinyl: shitty but in a way people love (‘warmth’ from analog distortions, etc)
    – Cassette Tape: shitty *but* recordable!
    – CD: pretty decent actually *and* recordable!
    – MP3: on par CD quality, recordable, and easily transferable
    – AAC: *hella* good quality, recordable, and easily transferable.

    So okay – things are getting better!

    But not really .. music really doesn’t sound as good .. and it’s for reasons which have been brought up here: dynamic range.

    this is not an issue of technology, it’s an issue of the application of technology. it’s an issue of society saying “louder = better”, or more correctly … those in the music industry realizing “louder = paying more attention”.

    (this also happens to be why commercials are so loud)

    much love to neil, but he’s confused on where the problem really lies.

  79. The music industry needs better content, period. Neil Young is right, but with the kind of stuff that is being recorded, it doesn’t matter what technology you use to play it. It’s still useless.

  80. The music industry needs better content, period. Neil Young is right, but with the kind of stuff that is being recorded, it doesn’t matter what technology you use to play it. It’s still useless.

  81. Mp3 and other size compromised formats were created only to alleviate storage limits and download speeds. No one ever thought they were as good or comparable to full quality audio formats. As we move closer and closer to unlimited storage (terabyte ipods) and faster download speeds, size will not be an issue. And audio quality will again reign supreme in music. And we’ll all have to go back and buy The Beatles catalog again. Which might even save the music industry.

  82. Mp3 and other size compromised formats were created only to alleviate storage limits and download speeds. No one ever thought they were as good or comparable to full quality audio formats. As we move closer and closer to unlimited storage (terabyte ipods) and faster download speeds, size will not be an issue. And audio quality will again reign supreme in music. And we’ll all have to go back and buy The Beatles catalog again. Which might even save the music industry.

  83. Enough about compression and sound quality. Who cares what the quality of the soundwave is when the message is crap. The real tragedy in ‘music quality’ is what record companies have been force-feeding us as music for the last 25 years (I’ll give the late 80’s and early 90’s a get out of jail free card for the most part). And, as anyone can attest to, the best sound quality is being at the show. So, go support musicians, go support live music.

  84. Enough about compression and sound quality. Who cares what the quality of the soundwave is when the message is crap. The real tragedy in ‘music quality’ is what record companies have been force-feeding us as music for the last 25 years (I’ll give the late 80’s and early 90’s a get out of jail free card for the most part). And, as anyone can attest to, the best sound quality is being at the show. So, go support musicians, go support live music.

  85. I’ve loved Neil since the Buffalo Springfield, but his take on audio leaves me a bit confused.
    HE’s always been about recording quickly, with a lo fi ethos.

    In fact a big portion of his work is deliberately distorted, mushy, loud, etc.

  86. I’ve loved Neil since the Buffalo Springfield, but his take on audio leaves me a bit confused.
    HE’s always been about recording quickly, with a lo fi ethos.

    In fact a big portion of his work is deliberately distorted, mushy, loud, etc.

  87. MP3 was developed for disitributing muzak to german stores via ISDN (which is limited to 128kbps). The psychacoustic filtering is modelled after typical german schalger/pop with a central singer and instruments in the background that do not carry any significant part of the tune (and based on the rules about 90% of the audio onformation is removed from an audio file).

    That is why MP3 sounds o.k. on simple pop – but awful with jazz, classical

    The basic CD format (44khz/16bit) is good enough for distribution (not one of the controlled research experiments have shown that humans can hear above 20khz) but vinyl will sound sp much better. For recording you need 24-bit as every DSP-operation you do on the saound cause digital distortion.Personally I still always mix to a big Studer mastering analog tape machine – I have found that the tape noise masks the digital distrion residues from 24-bit digital audio manipulaton.

  88. MP3 was developed for disitributing muzak to german stores via ISDN (which is limited to 128kbps). The psychacoustic filtering is modelled after typical german schalger/pop with a central singer and instruments in the background that do not carry any significant part of the tune (and based on the rules about 90% of the audio onformation is removed from an audio file).

    That is why MP3 sounds o.k. on simple pop – but awful with jazz, classical

    The basic CD format (44khz/16bit) is good enough for distribution (not one of the controlled research experiments have shown that humans can hear above 20khz) but vinyl will sound sp much better. For recording you need 24-bit as every DSP-operation you do on the saound cause digital distortion.Personally I still always mix to a big Studer mastering analog tape machine – I have found that the tape noise masks the digital distrion residues from 24-bit digital audio manipulaton.

  89. Personally I see the dumbing down of the popular music market as caused by 1) tampering with the music business by replacing their music interested personale with bean counters and 2) the widespread use of distribution formats like MP3 that cannot carry music where there is more than one thing going on at a time.

    This of course doesnt matter to those who use music just to fill a void, make a statement and so on. But it makes a difference if we think about old fashioned musicality – the reason why people got hooked on music from the start.

    and of course the net-nerds (mostly from the small club of white males in the western world) who needs free content or their so-called “business models” (both personal and corporate) wont fly and they cannot use all their shiny new toys.

  90. Personally I see the dumbing down of the popular music market as caused by 1) tampering with the music business by replacing their music interested personale with bean counters and 2) the widespread use of distribution formats like MP3 that cannot carry music where there is more than one thing going on at a time.

    This of course doesnt matter to those who use music just to fill a void, make a statement and so on. But it makes a difference if we think about old fashioned musicality – the reason why people got hooked on music from the start.

    and of course the net-nerds (mostly from the small club of white males in the western world) who needs free content or their so-called “business models” (both personal and corporate) wont fly and they cannot use all their shiny new toys.

  91. So, guys. A friend of mine did some CDs in his HomeRecording Studio with some analog synthesizers, some digital ones and an Emac with Mac OS 9 and an external Analog – Digital Converter that is really great.

    He uses speakers as monitors for 100 Euros together, that he bought at a local supermarket. These speakers are not “high end”, but when he masters his CDs on this speakers, everyone who hears the CD on only “normal” Speakers said “awesome sound”, how did you make it.

    To my opinion its a mixture of getting the best in the process of mastering and converting the audio files. I think the industry should go over to give the users the best quality that comes near to the original, and that is MP3 with 256KB and FLAC ( flawless audiocodec -> if you don#t know it, search wikipedia, but it is mainly like winzip for WAV-Files … ) and on the other hand let the user choose which quality he wants.

    Best, Jens

  92. So, guys. A friend of mine did some CDs in his HomeRecording Studio with some analog synthesizers, some digital ones and an Emac with Mac OS 9 and an external Analog – Digital Converter that is really great.

    He uses speakers as monitors for 100 Euros together, that he bought at a local supermarket. These speakers are not “high end”, but when he masters his CDs on this speakers, everyone who hears the CD on only “normal” Speakers said “awesome sound”, how did you make it.

    To my opinion its a mixture of getting the best in the process of mastering and converting the audio files. I think the industry should go over to give the users the best quality that comes near to the original, and that is MP3 with 256KB and FLAC ( flawless audiocodec -> if you don#t know it, search wikipedia, but it is mainly like winzip for WAV-Files … ) and on the other hand let the user choose which quality he wants.

    Best, Jens