back to article Apple is Fisher-Price of sound quality, says Neil Young

Over five decades Neil Young has played a variety of roles including sixties protester, folk singer, Ronald Reagan supporter, grunge rocker and film maker. Now he's donning a new hat: Apple basher. Young says Apple, with its ubiquitous iPod and iTunes, has dumbed down sound quality to "Fisher-Price toy" levels that place …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. David Buckley
    Thumb Down

    Pillock

    what a crotochty old fart

    Meh you youngsters and your new fangled technology

    Why in my day you had to turn the handle on the gramaphone

    How dare you want to loose some of the top and bottom end of my music just so it can take it where you like

    Everyone who cares about the audio quality that much listens to vinal any way

  2. foof

    Pot, meet kettle...

    All this coming from a guy that can't sing one note in tune.

    Christ, he makes Tom Petty sound as smooth as Sarah McLachlan.

  3. Gareth Irwin

    De Ja Vu

    I swear they have posted this article before.

  4. Terry Barnes

    Lossy Mossy

    Lossy audio formats destroy harmonics. The frequencies you can't hear affect the ones you can. Given how cheap storage is these days why don't we have more lossless music?

    *Goes back to fiddling with 48Khz DAT machine*

  5. Ric Levy
    Stop

    Compression?

    Dynamic range compression? What on earth has the format got to do with that? That's a musical production/mixing/mastering technique and nothing whatsoever to do with MP3s or iPods.

    He was more likely talking about lossy *data* compression (MP3s etc.).

    El Reg should not be confusing the two!

  6. Nick
    Coat

    Probably pissed about...

    ...the losses in the high frequencies. Or maybe it's just his aging hearing.

    Mine's the shining armour.

  7. pctechxp

    Wonder what he thinks of

    The new DTS HD audio standard

    I agree that the iPod doesn't sound as good as a proper audio system but you cant carry around a blu ray player can you?

  8. Matt Thornton
    Flame

    Whatever

    You reckon your average iPod-sporting Basshunter-alistening audion00b is really going to care about dynamic range compression? Bearing in mind most people nab their music from <insert P2P client of choice> where you'll be lucky to get 128kb*, it seems a little harsh to single out Apple as the real culprit.

    (Mine's the one with the iPod shuffle clipped to the lapel.)

    * Let the flames begin.

  9. sean
    Coat

    Oh, for FLAC's sake

    Sorry 'bout that!

  10. Tyler
    Unhappy

    @ pctechxp

    With 160gb players, you *could* get sound as good as bluray. At least, you'd have the space for that kind of file size.

    Too bad there's only been one mp3 player that did FLAC, a true 5-band parametric EQ, and a decent DAC inside it. Long live the Rio Karma!

  11. JC

    Mostly Right.

    Pointing the finger at Apple is a little short sighted, but perhaps pointing fingers is the only way to get someone to listen and respond in a positive way.

    Indeed music these days is far too often cooked, compressed dynamically and into MP3/etc formats for two questionable goals.

    1) Smaller bandwidth distribution and space allocation on networks and MP3 players whose capacites are growing each year.

    2) Degrade something to reduce it's desirability, value, with the hope by RIAA that you're still going to buy the CD or pay again down the road for a higher quality version.

    Who can't find an audio converter app these days? Distribute it all in lossless formats then let the user decide what to do. That's the only option my consumer wallet is interested in.

    I'd have to disagree about the double-blind test being entirely necessary though, quite often when listening to an MP3 I become distracted by the artifacts, reduction in treble quality, enough that it brings me out of the enjoyment /zone/ and ruins the experience. Higher quality and bitrate encoding helps quite a bit but isn't the answer since that bitrate will still be higher than some want. Recompressing again in lossy formats is a poor alternative.

    The only good choice is to preserve the original quality then if someone wants dynamic or data compression, let 'em do what they want since it's their money, their player, their ears.

    Hats off to you Neil, I hope other artists start speaking up.

  12. Stephen Brandi

    Young has been against the low quality of CDs for years

    With his history who ever thought he would have any other opinion of MP3s and the like. And you know what? He's right. MP3s suck for sound. FLAC is really the minimum standard we should all be using for archiving good quality sound.

    And although compression is used in a sinful way on most productions today, that is probably not what he is talking about here.

  13. Lotaresco

    The songs sound tinny

    "many digital formats, including MP3 and Apple's AAC, strip out much of the signal from the original CD file, leaving the songs sounding tinny"

    How would anyone notice if Neil Young tracks sounded whiny and tinny? He's been making them that way for decades.

  14. Grant Alexander

    Neil's right

    Don't knock Neil. I am already in line for the compilation of his entire career. Can't wait. Hopefully it has the Ditch Trilogy in its entirety in digital format.

  15. Ben
    Stop

    Correction

    "Most audiologists say the only real way you can tell there's a difference between one format and another is by giving the listener a double-blind test, where neither the subject nor the administrator knows which is which."

    Not quite - a double-blind test is the only way you can *prove* there's a (distinguishable) difference.

    Assuming that you haven't been deafened by your ipod already, most can distinguish between 128kbps and lossless on any decent pair of headphones (ie. not supplied with your player). Of course, if you have tinnitus caused by tin-can speakers I can only feel sorry...

  16. Ian Ferguson
    Unhappy

    Who cares?

    Apart from a few hi-fi enthusiasts, nobody cares about sound quality, as long as they can hear their music. The few deeply enthusiastic (/anal) fans are free to shell out thousands of their hard-earned to satisfy their needs.

    What makes me sad is that high definition video is being punted as the new standard. I'm pretty sure most people can't tell the difference between DVD and Blu-Ray. What is ironic is that the colour reproduction in everyone's shiny new high-def LCD screens is appalling compared to their old CRTs.

  17. Pete

    bad quality's a good match for the listening environment

    Not many people have an anechoic chamber to appreciate fully the possibilities of a lossless format, not the equipment to do it justice. If you listen to music while traveling (whether in-car or using a headset) then aiming for a half-decent s.n.r. is a lost cause. Even masking out vibration from the vehicle and sound leakage from the environment takes a very good pair of earphones. At home, you still get external sounds, echoes, next-door neighbours and numerous other inputs that reduce the sound quality of even normal C.D. quality audio.

    Poor quality sound isn't even new. The 60's were founded on the tinny-tranny sound of music played by A.M. stations through a crappy little radio with a speaker that sounded like someone banging on a biscuit tin. The U.S. even had some stations licensed to exceed 100% modulation (thus clipping the audio) to increase the average volume - old-fashioned compression, if you like.

    So far as bashing Apple goes, promoting lossy audio formats is one of their lesser evils.

  18. greg

    format, or earphones ?

    In my humble opinion, a compression at 192 kb/s rate is enough for 90% of people to not hear the difference with a better definition...

    The problem lies within the earphones most of the time, I would dare to say.

    And of course, no matter the quality of earphones, there's a physical problem with any speakers... At 100 Hz, you get a wavelength of 3 meters, and since to hear sounds the best you should be at least at 1 wavelength from the source...

    Big bad mean bass players that like to have their sound return your stomach and your haircut look like a l'Oreal commercial (your long hairs floating in the air in a so nice sinusoidal wave...) know it well !

  19. IR

    Understandable

    Given how the quality of some of his records suffered due to stupid experimental techniques that went wrong, it is understandable how he feels.

    But freakin' release your archives on CD! Sticking a low quality analogue recording from 40 years ago onto Bluray with a ludicrusly high bit rate is going to have no discernable difference. Plus I might want to listen to it in the car, at work, or somehwere else, without having to buy a portable bluray player (or even a normal bluray player, since I don't have one at all)

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It doesn't matter if you compress it

    Because most of it is shit.

    And yes, I am including the music I like in that sweeping statement. No one ever bought a Neil Young record to listen to the subtle nuances of the recording engineer's cigarette ash hitting the floor halfway through track 3.

  21. arran
    Alert

    I Keep all my music

    on ADAT, only listen to each tape once a year and only then through my behringer mixing desk and dunlavy sc-v speakers.

    this guy is a ballbag. I buy cd's and download and the difference is nominal....

    most people cant afford audio systems on which you could tell the difference so I would say his point is null.

    wonder if he has ties with the BPI...

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I trust that if I go back far enough in the archives

    I'll find a similar rant from Mr Young decrying the audiophile qualities of the compact cassette (one for the oldies, run along now, youngsters). The difference being, of course, that anyone with ears could spot how shit a C90 sounded, regardless of the position of the Dolby A/B button.

    For the record, he had a rant about CDs being rubbish as far back as 1995.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Apple is Fischer-Price" what a great compliment

    If I were Apple I'd be happy to be compared to Fischer-Price. I remember my Fischer-Price toys were incredibly durable and a ton of fun.

    Personally I don't really care about the audio quality. My singing is so bad it really doesn't matter how good the equipment is, it still won't sound good with me singing over it. I think a lot of people listen to music for their enjoyment of singing along (or at least bopping their head) and not to hear something with pristine quality.

    I guess it is why I still use an antenna instead of paying for cable/satellite/etc. All I care about is if I can see the image with no ghosting or snow, and that the audio is clear enough to understand.

  24. Michael Wright

    Oh God, here comes the same old crap again

    Dynamic range compression is real, a pain in the ears, and it happens on CDs, so Apple have got bugger all to do with it.

    If you think MP3s sound tinny, I've got some really good homeopathic cures for electrosmog to sell you, at exorbitant prices for the placebo-addicted. Anyway, Apple uses AAC, which is generally acknowledged as being a technically superior codec to MP3, though MP3 at reasonable bitrates is demonstrably good enough for people who are interested in listening to music, rather than willy-swinging about who's got the biggest woofer. Two exceptions: highly synthetic or distorted music (electro, really loud distorted guitars) and harpsichord. A few problems with hi-hats.

    The one thing Apple could improve is the quality of their earbuds, but you can always buy a better pair of phones.

    Not that this will convince people who've got too much ego involved with their golden ears and ludicrously expensive electronica. As for Neil Young, what I have to say (as someone who was totally blown away by "Like a Hurricane") is: he's launching a new release on Blu-Ray, so he would say that, wouldn't he.

    Now kindly return to listening to music in the inaudible frequency range, but watch out for the bats. Some of them might be vampires. Hey, I can fix you up with an audiophile in garlic: not cheap, but it really transmogrifies the high frequency modulation, too.

  25. Aaron
    Jobs Halo

    Ear of tin

    Neil Young may have a "heart of gold", but he obviously doesn't have a golden ear.

    I downloaded Nine Inch Nail's latest from their site (legally, thank you) in 24-bit, 96kHz lossless audio quality. I converted it to Apple lossless format (still 24-bit, 96kHz audio) and it plays perfectly on my AppleTV through my Harmon-Kardon amplifier and sounds brilliant.

    Are the earbuds that Apple supplies rubbish? Indeed. Get a Sony in-ear kit and be done with it.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    @ Tim

    Well said. Very eloquently spoken. And a F*ck you to all the haters who seem to think that they have a right to judge! FFS, i wouldn't mind betting that all the people, that commented negatively, would give their eye teeth for the ability to provide for their family as this man can. All you have to do is concentrate and work hard. A concept lost on most of the inhabitants of this green and pleasant land!

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    love his music of hate it...

    you cant refute what he is saying IMO.

    compressed audio is unnecessary with cheap mass storage, and even if you dont believe that given your sound gear/environment/ears you can discern the difference, why in hell would you compress audio to 128Kbps MP3 when you can store 250-odd albums, in CD quality, on your 160Gb player. Sure our collections tend to be >250 albums these days but shit, rotate that which is stored on your player and that which is stored on your Tb of HDD storage at home. Youre not likely to need >325 hours of audio in one outing.

    anyway, to me he seems to be arguing that blu-ray is the best way on the horizon to store audio in the same format as it comes out of the recording studio. Sure we cant presently get portable 1Tb players to hold comparable amounts of data (3gb per album x 250 albums - awaiting flames) but it isnt too far off so why compromise.

    please shout at me with product names because i need some kind of help with this, but I havnt been able to find a portale player yet that will decode 96000 48K WAVE files and this is an oversight by the likes of Apple etc.

    They seem to be unconcerned with quality and overly concerned by hocking 2 generation-old tech like the Macbook Air and the Ipod 3G which have huge deficiencies in function and they concern themselves and their marketing with aesthetics rather than actually having a product which is cutting edge.

    anyway, i strayed from the point quite a bit.

    Mister Young - agreed. Multinationals are dumbing our ears down, and I hope folk like you, Porcupine Tree (who have done DVD-A for a long time) and others of your ilk can be heard loudly enough to sway opinion.

  28. Charles Silver badge
    Stop

    @Tyler

    Apple has an equivalent to FLAC: Apple Lossless. Me? As I possess a 160GB Classic, I rip my CD collection using high-bitrate AAC (256kb/sec) for a high-quality job that still provides some compression.

  29. David Perry
    Flame

    @ greg

    Here here - I do all my ripping in iTunes these days (great for organising stuff for my compilations) at 192, sounds better than a 320 in my book! (I like my bass, and 320 is more about higher range frequencies but still clear enough when encoded properly).

    HOWEVER most of the stuff (until recently) on the itms is shite quality - I said that the first time I bought something off it, and only do so when I can't get what I want through other means.

    Flames @ apple, even though I'm writing this on my ibook...

  30. Mark

    Small correction

    "In addition, many digital formats, including MP3 and Apple's AAC, strip out much of the signal from the original CD file, leaving the songs sounding tinny."

    Apple uses AAC, but did not create it and does not own it. It is an MPEG standard developed to replace MP3.

  31. Chris Branch
    Jobs Horns

    @Aaron

    We already know that lossless audio on decent hardware = good.

    iTunes sell medium-quality tracks and the iPod has poor quality earbuds. This is what the rant is about.

    You obviously don't have a golden eye :)

  32. Glenn Amspaugh
    Paris Hilton

    Get with the times; upgrade!

    Probably needs to upgrade his brilliant pebbles (http://www.machinadynamica.com/machina31.htm). They get clogged with bad frequencies after a bit and you need to tape fresh ones onto your cables.

    Paris, 'cause she has nice pebbles too.

  33. J.P. Pachet
    Jobs Halo

    Old Man

    Old man, look at my life,

    MP4 and there's so much more

    You live alone in a paradise

    Ignoring what we do.

    Audio loss, such a cost?

    Get Neil out of the freezer and then defrost

    See his eyes, they're completely glossed

    And his hands are kinda blue

    Old man take a look at my life - I ain't a lot like you

    I need battery life the whole day through

    Ah, one look in my eyes and you can tell that's true.

    Lullabies, look in your eyes,

    Run around the same old town.

    Old ways don't mean that much to me

    They mean a lot to you.

    You were first, but you won't last

    Look at how the time goes past.

    You think you're Iconoclast

    But really full o' poo.

    Old man take a look at my life - I ain't a lot like you

    I need battery life the whole day through

    Ah, one look in my eyes and you can tell that's true.

  34. The Mighty Spang

    @Ian Ferguson

    meh anybody with a choice between the two should choose the one without the yucky splashy cymbals.

    ok so i spent £1600 10 years ago on my home cinema amp (yamaha dsp a1) and have a nice setup, but im no purist, whatever sounds good. walking down the street holding a mobile phone with some tinny crap coming out of it is really no good to anybody unless you want to prove how "hardcore" you may be.

    but yeah hd is an interestring thing, i currently have a cheap projector (optoma hd65, £420) powering a 120" widescreen picture. run off a philips 5980 player (a whole 60 odd quid). I'm NOT sitting there thinking "wow wish this was high def" 99% of the time. that 1% is generally some fit bird diversting herself of clothes.

    bad enough with hollywood but the beeb et al retooling yet again (after the widescreen transition a couple of years ago) just so i can see all the holes in the set or the same lame scripts but with perfect definition of somebody's spots is just bloody wrong.

    we don't need technology to increase the quality of tv. spend the bloody money on decent scripts. take more chances to find something new. dump the same old bloody faces we see all the time (tennant or james nesbitt for example). don't commission stuff just because people have a PR record that can be exploited (e.g. gavin and stacey)

    erm have i gone off topic? again?

  35. Joe

    Perhaps he's just promoting his back catalogue

    I agree with Ian Ferguson up there - 99.9% of folk can't tell the difference. Us geeks know but the "general public" don't know or care.

    AM radio is still popular. My mum bought a HD-Ready television, but watches VHS tapes on it. My friends can't see that YouTube video looks crap.

    I used to be a real audiophile - I bought a Rega turntable, for gods' sake! - but then I realised that the music is more important than the sound quality, and the high-end audio market is just selling snake oil.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    He is clearly the only one of fisher price value..

    Apple's iPod and iTunes support MP3, AAC, Apple Lossless, and WAV. So 2 lossless formats, 1 better than MP3 format, and MP3. As others said, Apple didn't invent any of these other than Apple lossless, which supports everything sound quality wise any MD/DAT does. Every other portable player on the market at the least supports MP3, some even support the inferior WMA standard. And correct me if im wrong, but wasn't Microsoft the first to implement MP3 encoding into Windows, and before that was pushing WMA??

    And yes, included earbuds with players usually are crap, even getting something like the relatively inexpensive yet quite reasonable Koss Porta Pro headphones will make a vast difference. So if you're still using the Apple or Creative, etc ones, change, for the sake of your hearing.

    Also if he is anti-MP3, why doesn't he also target Amazon, Sony, Microsoft, etc who also have often MP3 only on-line stores?

  37. Ric Levy
    Flame

    When is the article going to be corrected...

    so it removes the reference to Dynamic Range Compression, which is clearly NOT what he is talking about, and NOTHING to do with data compression (MP3s)?

  38. Richard Thomas

    @ Tim

    M-Audio Microtrack's probably the cheapest and smallest thing that plays back 24/96... if you've got the recordings. Although I can't see the point in anything over 44.1khz (CD sample rate- look up nyquist theorem) for playback. 24bit dynamic range is nice though, and noticeable.

  39. Zmodem

    reality

    a 2inch portable player is made for conveinience, while a 6 grand stack system isnt

  40. Sam Tana
    Pirate

    Listen very carefully...

    Don't get so hung up on listening to the recording that you forget to hear the music.

  41. Peter

    Dan Goodin has forgotten the Analog bit

    People are forever talking about bitrates and lossy compression, but they don't often discuss the Analog D/A converters, amplifiers and transducers between the digital bits and our ears.

    Perhaps that's because these things are so much harder to measure.

    There is plenty of evidence on the Web that Apple is using conversion chipsets without the best audio quality

  42. Webster Phreaky
    Jobs Horns

    Bwah ha ha ha ha ha .... Apple AssWipes in a Tizzy

    OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG!!!! One of their own, a HUGE Fringe Commie Pinko Lefty Neil Young, Brethern to the AppleTards speaks the truth about for shit Apple iPuds and craApple!

    This is just to much .... look at all the MacTard Spin on this one.

    Hey MacTards hows your MobileMe??? "MobileMe, Mossberg wrote, is both sluggish and buggy ..."

    Bwah ha ha ha ha ha ....

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    For what it is worth

    I saw Neil perform an entire album solo in Santa Barbara in the early 80's using midi sequencers and the like. A techno-phobe he surely isn't. My only complaint was how bloody loud the concert was!

    I agree that the MP3ing of music is doing a tremendous dis-service to anyone with discerning ears.

    Perhaps I am old school, but I don't see how convenience is more important than quality. I do have a player, but have upgraded the pathetic stock earbuds and rip my CDs at the highest possible bit-rate supported by my player. I can still hear some degradation but it is tolerable considering the listening conditions. At home I stick with CDs.

    As for those who evangelize super duper bit-rates etc., all you need to perfectly reconstruct the original signal is to sample at twice the highest frequency contained in it plus a little to make the reconstruction filters realizable and minimize the phase variations introduced.

    Nyquist was and still is correct.

    But if you want to throw your hard earned cash at voodoo, smoke and mirrors, I'm sure the vendors will tell you anything you want to hear.

    I saw a company selling a gizmo that 'de-randomized the flow of electrons' in your speaker wires at the CES show in Las Vegas about 15 years ago. Charlatans thrive in that business. Buyer beware.

  44. Glen Turner
    Coat

    MP3 can be distinguished from CD

    I was surprised by the number of comments disagreeing if an average person can tell the difference between a .mp3 and a non-lossy format such as CD. As it happens I've ripped my CDs to FLAC, a non-lossy format. This was insurance -- just in case there was a difference between non-lossy and lossy formats I didn't want to have to rip all of my CDs again again.

    As an experiment I've just selected a random 10 seconds from 25 randomly selected tracks from the CD collection of a 40yo male (ie, me). I encoded these selections with LAME into MP3, a lossy audio format.

    I randomly ordered the combined FLAC and MP3 selections. I did not know the order. I then played the selections through lightweight brand-name headphones in an office environment whilst having a radio on in the background. I noted if I thought the track was lossy or not. Each 10s selection was played once only.

    I then compared my notes to the reality. In all 50 cases I chose the correct encoding. I conclude that even an amateur can readily distinguish mainly-1980s popular music encoded with 128Kbps MP3 from CD audio if they are listening for a difference. I also conclude that randomly-selected '80s music is 90% dreadful.

    There may well be errors in my methodology, but since anyone with a computer and headphones can repeat this test I'd encourage people to design and conduct their own experiment and post the results. For your own sanity use a musical era other than the 1980s.

    Mine's the lab coat.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Ian Furguson

    "Apart from a few hi-fi enthusiasts, nobody cares about sound quality, as long as they can hear their music"

    So you mean the frequencies lost by MP3, and the frequencies unreproducible on your earphones is letting you 'hear' the music?.

    I think you need to change you statement to say 'as long as they can hear SOME of the music'.

    Until you've heard ALL of the music, then you merely making an uninformed comment and are therefore stupid.

  46. Mark

    AAC quality

    One of the last audio comparisons I saw (a proper one with metrics rather than bs) still gave mp3 (via the LAME codec) the edge on AAC. Reason given - codec more mature so the implementation is about as good as it could be whereas AAC still has room for improvement. Google mp3 vs AAC for more info. This shows that people ranting over mp3 being shit compared to AAC are talking out of their arse and probably don't know how to rip music properly. With cheap storage FLAC via EAC is a good starting point.

    On Mr Young's comment I think he's referring to the fact that Apple's downloads are generally shit quality whereas they could offer lossless.

  47. John McGhie

    He's right...

    If only I could play WMA on my iPod!!

    WMA sounds better at the same bitrate, or is smaller at the same quality, than MP3. The difference is quite pronounced at the lower bitrates.

    Of course, PCs sound crap with AAC, so there you go...

  48. Bill Coleman

    it's not the m*f*king codec

    ...so very very sick of clueless snobs bashing audio file compression. There is a very very big difference between dynamic range compression (the loudness wars) and sound encoding. A bat with audiofile grade sound system couldn't tell the difference between CD quality and high bitrate AAC.

    The real problem people hear with the sound comes from the DAC. An ipod sized device is just not going to be able to fit in a high quality DAC. End of. Odds are your computer does not have much of a DAC either... unless you are in the sound engineering business.

    ...and Neil Young should know this. So why doesn't he do something useful, like throw his weight behind the "turn me up" program?

  49. s. pam
    Dead Vulture

    iTunes might make him sound like a ainger

    even my great-gran's scratched to @£$% 78's sound better than he ever did.

    Pot.

    Kettle.

    Screech.

    0-800-get-hear(ing aid Neil)!

  50. Lotaresco

    @Bill Coleman

    "An ipod sized device is just not going to be able to fit in a high quality DAC. End of. "

    Which would be true if it weren't for the fact that it is wrong. The iPod DACs have always been good - better than most CD players. The headphones supplied by Apple have always been rubbish. The 128kB/s iTunes tracks have also been terrible. The iTunes Plus tracks are perfectly acceptable. Use a lossless format and there's no issue at all.

    Mr Whiny-Voice Young is overlooking the fact that these tracks must be small enough to download over relatively slow connections, *and* that it's the record labels that restrict the bit rate and quality that they allow Apple to offer.

  51. Geoff Mackenzie

    Not really fair on Apple

    Does Mr Young think cassette playing portable stereos (including the Walkman-type extreme case of crapness) sounded any good, then? Just like 128Kbps MP3 with less high end, woolier bass and poor speed stability thrown in. And despite vinyl's reputation as the One True Music Format, most peoples' record players have always been pretty crap as well.

    The fact of the matter is that most peoples' audio reproduction equipment has been crap since time immemorial. A VBR MP3 sounds acceptable if you're listening through low-cost equipment. Same goes for OGG. Where you want actually good quality (presumably because you're playing through a nice thick cable, a good quality amp and a decent pair of speakers), FLAC is fine. If you want real Hi-Fi you're screwed unless you have a few grand to spend anyway, which is the way it's always been.

  52. Mr Mark V Thomas

    Re: Compression

    Well, I'm using MP3's to store my CD collection on my audio server (a old computer with a 500 Gb hard drive) abeit at 192Kbps, & find the quality excellent, though with increased hard drive size, I am considering lossless/wav to backup my Cd's on ...

    Mine's the baseball bat made out of Shen Mook...

  53. matt
    Go

    Going in the wrong direction

    If you want to hear music the way it should be heard, you need to upsample your CDs.

    http://www.stereophile.com/asweseeit/344/

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Tone Deaf Masses

    A vast percentage of people are completely tone deaf anyway.

    Those who aren't will surely be able to use their own judgement as to what sounds good and what doesn't and that doesn't have to mean whether the sound quality is poor or not.

    By the Lord Harry, when I were a nipper, I had a cruddy old Hi-Fi with bog-awful sound quality, but good music still sounded good through it, even with all the pops, whistles, whines and grunts. (And bruups, burps, grinds and barps)

    The old adage goes, "You can't polish a turd", however Mr. Young just keeps on trying,

    His next foray into turd polishing exercise will be in Blu Ray, so it'll sound just like Neil Young is in your living room, singing out of tune songs that only your grandad remembers.

    ... er, please excuse me while I wipe all those Neil Young songs of my iPod that Grandad put there..

    Paris, because her brain was built by Fisher-Price.

  55. hi_robb
    Pirate

    In some ways Mr Young is right.

    While his attack on Apple in particular is probably wrong (he should be attacking the recording Industry in general), the gist of what he's saying is right.

    Nowadays, most music is mixed down with no dynamic range (i.e quiet bits and loud bits) because it sounds better when played back through a Ipod. Unfortunately, the process of doing this kills the actual performance within the music, and also kills things like soundstaging etc.

    If you take a modern CD say the Artic Monkeys for example and listen to it, you'll notice that the volume of the instruments, and the singers do not chage, they are constant. It just sounds like a bit of music. Now listen to something like DSOTM by Pink floyd and you'll hear the difference. There's peaks and troughs to the music, quiet bits then swells to cresendos and on a good stereo it becomes a performance, you sit there in the studio / gig listening to the band playing.

    Then on top of the lifeless constant volume of the music, you convert to a mp3. this sucks out loads of sub bass, and top end from the music. they claim you can't heard it but believe me, it's those frequencies which you can't hear which give the space between the band members, and the ambience of the studio etc, though to be honest, on modern music due to the mixing down being hot, you don't get that in the first place.

    I've like most people have got a Ipod. I use very expensive (£250) earphones with it, and only rip any cd's I want on it as lossless. Even at 320kbp, I can tell the diffrence between lossless and the lossy format. The dac in the Ipod isn't brilliant either, no matter what people say.

    I've also got a 7.5k hifi in my front room. If I plug my iPod in to it, and play a lossless track, then play the same track on my CD player, the difference is staggering, so much more musical and coherant on the CD player. In truth though, I'd expect it to be the iPod was £300 and the CD player £1500. Try playing a lossy track through the hifi and it's laughable, it really is like listening to an out of tune am radio.

    Yes, Mr young does have a point. I'm a music lover and old enough to remember what the old black discs sounded like. Unfortunately, the convience generation who have been brought up on iPod sound have for the most part killed the life in music. Which is probably why I don't buy much modern music any more, it just sounds shit and lifeless.

    D

  56. David Moore
    Flame

    @Ian Ferguson and other 'why does it matter?' ppl

    It matters because of progress - microprocessors are getting faster, hard drives are getting massive, cheaper and have much higher data densities, but increasingly consumers (and worryingly, DJ's), have taken 320k mp3's as a 'standard,' and it's totally unnecessary, and it is bloody iTunes fault.

    Even with fairly crap headphones, most people would pick up on the substantially lower quality vs a CD, and why have lower quality if you don't have to? It's like going to the supermarket and buying the reduced, minging looking strawberry's over the pristine lovely ones, for the sake of a couple of quid. Admittedly, it doesn't really matter when you're on the bus or walking down the road - but it is a mobile format, and because iTunes, Napster et al all offer crap mp3's, people think it's fine - thing is, it could be so much better. FLACS will end up being the standard, people just need educating really? Or is that me being an arrogant f*ck?

    I'm a sound engineer, and more and more "DJ's" (and you'd know a lot of them, I'm not talking about your Disco Dave's) turn up to gigs with laptops crammed full of crap 320k mp3's. When you play said crap mp3's thru a £25k+ PA, unsurprisingly, it sounds shit, particularly when A/B'd with the same song on CD. The fact that the 'quality doesn't matter' and 'you can't tell the difference' argument is seeping into pro audio is scary stuff I reckon.

    @ el Reg - dynamic range compression has nothing to do with mp3's, come on. That's down to crap producers, and the endless loudness wars that they enter into.

    Mines the one with the RTA in the pocket, and 'crew' on the back. Fire, to burn the mp3 player of anyone that tries to play them thru my PA.

  57. Jim
    Thumb Down

    It's starts with you, Neil Young...

    Hey Neil - you want better quality sound? How about offering your damn music on iTunes without DRM using Apple's higher-quality AAC?

    Or perhaps pointing the finger at others is how you choose to remain "relevant"...

    Pillock.

  58. paulc
    Alert

    dynamic range compression sucks

    see the "Loudness wars", where record companies fight to make their releases sound "hotter" than the others so they stand out more when listening on the radio...

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loudness_war

    http://www.performermag.com/loudness.php

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Gmex_4hreQ

    iPods etc. make things worse by reproducing the "music" on the crappiest audio circuits they can get away with... and people don't help by using the lowest bit-rate they can get away with so they can squeeze more tracks on it...

  59. Steve Button
    Stop

    192k MP3 is plenty

    Way back when I started using MP3s I listened to a CD (Madonna or Michael Jackson or something with really good production IMHO) and compared it to different bitrate MP3s until I could not tell the difference. I got to 192k and it sounded pretty much the same... and I'm the kind of person who notices things in music that most other people miss (Like Jim Morrison whispering "Riders on the Storm" at the same time as the singing)

    Now, everthing I BitTorrent for has to be at least 192k, usually much more and it's not at all hard to find. 128k really does sound terrible.

    Perhaps with the price of storage nowadays I should re-rip my entire CD collection... but really I can't be bothered, it's just not worth the hassle.

    I think Audiophiles are a bit compulsive-obsessive, and are just looking for something "perfect" to spend their money on and impress their friends. In general.

  60. Steven Jones

    Flanders & Swann said it all first

    One of my pet amusements is reading the musings of that cultish movement called audiophiles, who are often fixated on irrelevant items that have magical properties (like £300 2 metre power cables). However, this is nothing new - Flanders & Swann go there nearly 50 years ago in "hi Fidelity". Here are the last few lines :-

    I've an opera here that you shan't escape,

    On miles and miles of recording tape.

    High decibel gain,

    Is easy to obtain.

    With the tone control at a single touch,

    Bel canto sounds like double Dutch.

    But I never did care for music much,

    It's the high fidelity!

  61. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Richard Thomas

    > 24bit dynamic range is nice though, and noticeable.

    Are you serious? 16 bits gives 93dB (ish) of dynamic range, once you've factored in half a bit's worth of dither, which is *way* more than enough. I've never seen, or heard about, a recording with anywhere near that DNR. Most 'pop' recording these days are brick wall limited and compressed to hell, so that they deliberately have minimal dynamic range. Louder is better, see? At least, that's what the production guys seem to shoot for in mastering.

    Punt it up to 24bits, and 1. The lowest few bits are well down in the noise (yes, I do know it's possible to hear beneath the noise floor) and 2. If you can hear the quiet parts, you'll blow the windows out during the loud bits. And go deaf.

    If you're doing a bunch of post production or processing and have concerns about cumulative rounding errors, it's a different story. Buy as a delivery format? Waste of disk space. CD is too good for 'em.

    Regards from the tinnitus ridden ex-sound engineer.

  62. Steven M

    Could it be .....

    That he thinks that iPods sound shite!

    I have *lots* of mp3 players and the iPods (Shuffle, Nano & Touch) are by far the worst sounding players I currently own.

    :)

  63. spiny norman
    Heart

    That stereophile site

    "I kept cleaning my stylus. I revisited my cartridge's alignment. I meticulously scrubbed the records and double-checked the positioning of my Wilson Audio Sophia 2 loudspeakers. I experimented and made sure that the door and windows were opened just so, and made my Catahoula Zippy curl up in exactly the right spot. Everything mattered, and all of it seemed to bug me."

    900 quid for a cable and all for Creedence Clearwater Revival and Dire Straits. You really do have to admire these people.

    http://stereophile.com/cables/207stereovox/

    http://www.highendcable.co.uk/StereoVox%20Reference%20SEI%20600II%20&%20BAL600%20interconnects.htm

  64. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Compressed Audio

    Your suggesting dynamic range compression is what Young was complaining about as being responsible for affecting the audio quality?

    I think not! I have worked in professional audio for a company that has made large format analogue and digital mixing consoles used by the recording industries, we in the biz are used to hearing high quality audio being played through true reference quality audio monitors (speakers) - indeed I have some in my own home - so we're used to listening to high quality music, and it's easy to spot the difference between MP3s, AAC, and 16bit 44.1KHz PCM on CD-DA disks. MP3s are inferior, no doubt about it.

    The sad fact is, that most people in the UK have not heard really high quality music, and the hi-fi equipment that produces that kind of music is way over priced making it unaffordable for 99% of people.

    We are turning in to a compressed audio society, where the majority of people have never heard uncompressed audio and have no idea how good music can sound if the appropriate format is used and played through decent equipment.

  65. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    It's not just music

    I don't see His Neilness complaining about people buying his music from iTunes. Perhaps he should have his back catalogue removed if he thinks Apple are the root of all evil.

    His Neilness has not restricted his old-fartedness; he's also had a go at digitial photography in the past. Apparently, according to Neil, you can keep getting more and more detail out of an "analog" photo taken on Kodachrome (his e.g.) but you're stuck with what you've got with digital. Hate to point it out Neil but ALL photography is digital. It just depends on whether you want to have your sensor made from silver with a chemical amplifier or from silicon with electronic amplification. Either way you start off with a digital source, i.e. a photon.

  66. Stephen

    blu-ray <-> ipod

    "For the foreseeable future, Blu-Ray's massive storage capacity will dwarf the iPod's modest means, meaning the device will have to sit on the sidelines of Young's proposed revolution."

    Erm the last time I checked, blu-ray can store 25gb or 50gb (single or dual layer), whereas the sixth gen ipod Classic can store 160gb...

    neil young = fail

  67. Thomas

    That all being said...

    ... don't iPods have a reputation for middle-of-the-range sound reproduction, even in the most expensive models?

    I still wouldn't risk my hand with any of its rivals though — the software those things come with is just too awful*. Or worse, they just show up as an attached drive and I have to do a whole load of work populating and depopulating the thing myself.

    * compared to iTunes on OS X anyway, I gather that's supposed to be pretty dire on Windows too?

  68. Risky

    @Tyler

    Not the only audio player to support FLAC. I've got an iaudio X5.

  69. Hal Dace
    Thumb Down

    Grump grump

    How dare the unwashed masses have access to affordable, portable music. Nobody who doesn't invest in $14,000 of high end audiophile kit deserves their ears.

    And so on.

  70. RainForestGuppy
    Go

    Doesn't really matter

    There is a lot of talk about bit rates, compression algorythyms etc. But you are missing one major factor.

    I could use an top of the range analogue record deck through a valve amp to achieve that perfect sound, but is you output it via 2 tiny piezo electic speakers in you in-ear headphones it's going to sound lousy.

    Basically the ipod, creative, iriver etc are not designed for perfect sound reproduction however they do provide portability and convenience, which they do well.

  71. Simon Ball
    Flame

    An open letter

    The definition of “universal connoisseur” is “man who is never happy because he finds fault with everything.” Being an audio/videophile isn’t a gift – it’s a curse. An expensive, frustrating curse that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. The average person does not care about ultimate quality, and for the sake of their sanity (and their wallet), I hope they never do.

    So the average iPod sound shit to you. So what? Do you really wish to spoil people’s enjoyment of their music by teaching them how to look for all the flaws in it - especially when they don’t have the time or money necessary to correct them? What the hell gives you the right to do that?

    There are places where it is important to perceive and demand ultimate quality – the courts, the legislatures, the armed forces – all the public services. However, when it comes to things that don’t really matter – i.e. most forms of recreation – ignorance IS bliss.

  72. Christian Berger Silver badge

    PCM is not lossless

    Well it might come as a surprise to many, but PCM is by no means lossless, even if it's sold as lossless. Just like MP3s today the PCM standard of the CD was a compromise between quality and cost.

    On the other hand, if you throw the 1.4 Megabits per second you have for PCM at a modern codec you _will_ get far better quality.

    I guess the bigger problem are recordings which were mixed for "office-consumption". In an office enviroment you need to compress down the dynamics quite a bit. Otherwise it would be to quiet or to loud. Just in case you wonder, I have been at a large broadcaster in germany, and the boxes doing the compression and sound tweaking _really_ are black with no visible buttons or displays.

  73. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Hang on a mo...

    Young hates CD's as he says that it's a digital representation of his (analogue) music, and thus not the true thing

    Lossy vs. lossless is an irrelevance in the face of that- no sample rate is good enough for Neil!

    Also: my favourite contribution on the technology of music came from Pete Townshend: "We made 'em tinny because the players that people had sounded tinny. There was no point in doing anything else".

  74. Niall Campbell

    All bull

    If you want to hear music as it is meant to be heard, go and see the bloody band. Keep music live and out of the hands of record conglomerates...errr I mean labels!!!!

  75. Mage Silver badge
    Flame

    MP3

    256k is better than 192k, not just frequency but distortion. Anyone that prefers 192k to 320k,MP3 has got trained to like it that way, like someone listeing to 78's for years on a wind-up gramophone finding live orchestra disturbing,

    265k is ok for headphone buds in noisy envirionment or car. But on 4ft colums and decent amp in a good living room for more than background listening, I'd want CD or Flac.

    Anyone know if Archos 605 does Flac? I have a 160G disk.

  76. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    yeesh

    Lots of comments along the lines of 'compared to 128kbps' etc etc.

    Frankly the only people shipping 128kbps tracks are commercial companies. Head online and pull up any decent torrent and you'll get 320kbps without any problems. Even using AAC there's no excuse for not using a decent bitrate. Though that said the majority of itunes customers likely as not don't even know the difference.

    Anyway, rip a cd at 320kbps and rip a cd into FLAC and do a blind listen test. Short of stupidly good gear/being totally anal you probably won't actually notice or actually care.

  77. Snail
    Gates Horns

    Curious

    Im sure he's missing a couple of things.

    First AAC files sold by iTunes are better quality that most legal MP3 downloads. The iTunes Plus files are better than any MP3 downloads.

    iTunes was the first of the major media players to support a lossless format out of the box (AAC Lossless), and the ipod was the first of MP3 players i know of to support a lossless format.

    Even Bill knows Apple are good with multimedia

  78. Josh

    128k isn't the only option, you know

    Sure, 128k mp3s sound shitty, that's not news. Higher bitrates, on the other hand, sound nearly indistinguishable from CDs when played on normal (e.g. headphones, car stereos) consumer audio equipment.

  79. s
    Dead Vulture

    @Geoff Mackenzie

    So a cassette is crap? Or a crap cassette on a crap player is crap? Important difference. I used to record from Vinyl to metal tape on a high end system. Then played this in my car using a high end Alpine (talking mid 90's here). Lots of people asked me if I had a CD player in the car. Cassettes were as good as you made them - a bit like digital music today.

    As for the iPod DAC it's utterly useless. I use good Sony ear buds and can hear the artifacts on my MP3's ripped @ 320. If I plug it into the home system you can hear the artifacts even clearer. If I plug my wifes 1gb Sony stick in the difference in quality is huge. If I put a MiniDisc in it's better still and if I put a CD on (the only thing I use when I want to listen to something, rather than have background music) you can hear the difference yet again. I just wish I had an phono input so I get another turn table...

    I can't beleive that so many people are prepared to have crap anything these days for the sake of convinience - it's like technical evolution going backwards :(

  80. TeeCee Gold badge
    Stop

    An observation.

    You can balance multi-carburettor setups by either using a vacuum guage or by listeing to the "hiss" from theintake of each and adjusting 'til they sound the same. The latter technique is far more accurate. The problem here is that most people I've tried to teach the technique to over the years can't hear the difference.

    Secondly, I once went round to a mate's house with some others to listen to his new, *very* high end HiFi system. Everyone said it was great apart from me. I pointed out that there was something very wrong with the right hand speaker to howls of derision. On walking round the back of same, I found he'd left the links on between the biwired sets of inputs.

    Conclusion: Most people can't hear subtle differences in audio signals.

    Personally I reckon the lossless stuff comes in somewhere below CD and above Digitally mastered vinyl for quality and anything else is worse than useless. However, I admit that lossless encoding *should* be at least as good as CD, if not better. The conclusion I draw here is that most lossless files are not being derived from the studio masters, but from the CD version which is optimised for, er, CD.

  81. ShaggyDoggy

    @ Pete

    How do you do "over 100% modulation" ?

    Once you get to 100% what happens next ?

  82. Perseus

    Doh.

    Audiology students in the Netherlands once did a study among several hundred high school test. They did exactly what's said in the article: they put blindfolds on people (so they'd be concentrating on nothing but the sound emanating from the headphones) and played several songs, in MP3 and original WAV formats.

    They had to say which versions of the songs they liked best. Welp, 82% said that the mp3-versions sounded best. But when pressed, most of the subjects simply said that they "couldn't tell the difference".

    This was AFTER the testers had informed the subjects which versions were MP3 and which had been WAV. Psychologists explained that the subjects, when asked why they preferred the MP3 versions, was because most people had never heard of a WAV file.

  83. David Mantripp
    Thumb Down

    pathetic

    I'm with Webster on this one.

    What has the world come to - a bunch of fanboys for a flashy consumer electronics company - which has become far closer to "selling sugared water" than John Sculley ever dreamt of - foaming in the mouth and resorting to puerile, uneducated, ad hominen attacks on one of the most principled, original and unique artists of the last 50 years.

    Steve Jobs' toy box or Neil Young's Archives ? Well, whatever my choice, I'm pretty sure I know which one will still be sought after in 50 years' time.

    All aided and abetted by the El Reg's cynical spin on the original article, natch.

  84. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    A bit early...

    I thought it would be a bit early for all the fan-bois to be out to defend apple. If you listen to an iPod with the stock headphones against an early 90s walkman with stock headphones there is a world of difference (walkmans are far better than iPods if you don't know). Again, there is a pretty big difference going up to a proper hi-fi and decent speakers at home, and then a marginal difference if you go for the mega-expensive top of the range hi-fi system that you have to mortgage your house to afford. Ok, if all you listen to is modern manufactured electro-pop, then it's going to sound as bad on every platform. But if you listen to high quality production music (Pink Floyd for example) or you listen to live music with a lot of nuances (Jazz) then it's pretty important.

    Now on the other hand, the Fisher-Price mentality of Apple permeates more than just sound quality. Take a look at OSX for example - the entire system looks like it came straight off a Toys'r'Us shelf.

  85. Michael Warburton

    Nothing to do with compression codec

    I'm going to quote Michael Wright up there as his comment was the most succinct and I feel is getting lost amongst all the posts moaning about lossless compression codecs...

    "Dynamic range compression is real, a pain in the ears, and it happens on CDs, so Apple have got bugger all to do with it."

    Go ahead encode with FLAC if you feel like it, but the fact is the vast majority of CD's these days already have shockingly bad dynamic range.

    Have a read of George Graham's rant on the subject.

    http://georgegraham.com/compress.html

  86. Miles Hipkin

    made me think...

    "hey now, what's that sound, everybody look what's goin down...."

    I've never been impressed with the sound an iPod makes, or the lack of options to improve and modify the sound to suit your speaker options. My phone produces a better noise through it's speaker.

    For a product you pay such a premium for you'd expect it to perform better, though I doubt that's what Neil is poking at. No matter what format you use the lowest common denominator is usually going to be the DAC you use for playback.

    Oh yeah, and Nyquist was and is right.

  87. Dan Silver badge
    IT Angle

    @For what it is worth

    "I saw a company selling a gizmo that 'de-randomized the flow of electrons' in your speaker wires at the CES show in Las Vegas about 15 years ago. Charlatans thrive in that business. Buyer beware."

    Then there are Denon's $500 Ethernet cables which are designed to improve sound quality. I'm sure Neil Young would approve.

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/06/20/denon_cable/

  88. A J Stiles
    Alert

    Should be self-evident

    The fact that people used to record stuff on ferric-oxide cassettes -- tracks less than a millimetre wide, on tape moving at 4.76cm/sec -- should be all the evidence anyone could need that convenience trumps fidelity everytime.

    If you want to record on tape, it's got to be 6.3mm wide, half-track stereo at 19cm/sec.

  89. John Tuffen
    Pirate

    Audio Compression != Data Compression

    ... audio compression is a huge great evil of the times; My Ipod (shuffle) has a big mix of stuff on it at the moment, and the difference between (say) a Beatles track, something from 'Stop Making Sense', and anything 'modern' (Mark Ronson's 'God Put a Smile upon your face' for example), and you have to wonder what happened to dynamic range. The older tracks tend to go LOUD, quiet, LOUD, etc. whilst the modern tracks tend to be LOUD, LOUD, LOUD.

    A bit like Ms. Phreaky up there.

    If you were to look at the waveforms, I highly suspect that the modern stuff would be riddled with flat-topped peaks judging by the kind of distortion which can be heard.

  90. Onionman

    @matt

    "If you want to hear music the way it should be heard, you need to upsample your CDs.

    http://www.stereophile.com/asweseeit/344/"

    That is just SO funny! Brilliant spoof.

    O

  91. Ascylto

    Neil

    who?

  92. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    I agree with Neil Young !!

    Regardless of whether you like his music or not, he has a very good point. The vast majority of music heard through your typical "MP3 player" sounds awful, due to a combination of low bitrate encoding, cheap DAC and crappy earphones.

    I suspect that most people who have commented with the "I don't care" status have never heard music on a decent system. I have made a good investment in a system and get great pleasure from listening to music. When I get friends round for the first time, it is usually a, "WOW that sounds great".

    While you can spent silly amounts on Hi-Fi, betwen £300 and £500 will get you a good CD based system. When compared to compared to the value of the music most people have, this is a relatively small investment, (always assuming that the music is paid for!!)

    What I can't understand is why everyone is jumping on the HD bandwagon for improved visual quality, but are ignoring the audio side.

  93. Tom
    Alert

    @ Aaron RE: ears of tin

    "I downloaded Nine Inch Nail's latest from their site (legally, thank you) in 24-bit, 96kHz lossless audio quality. I converted it to Apple lossless format (still 24-bit, 96kHz audio) and it plays perfectly on my AppleTV through my Harmon-Kardon amplifier and sounds brilliant."

    I think that's far more than you should care to admit to.

  94. Johan Vavare
    Boffin

    Some points lost in the general ranting..

    OK, I am an audio engineer since 25 years. I know I might listen a bit 'different' to music and sound quality than the avareage iPod user, but I think Neil has some points in what he is trying to convey, albeit he both simplifies and exaggerates..

    My five cents as follows:

    1) Dynamic compression is NOT a part of audio data compression algoritms like AAC, MP3 and the like. I agree, El Reg should consider editing that, as it is misleading in a discussion on compressed audio quality.

    2) There IS a quite easy method to clearly hear the effects of MP3 [ and AAC ] encoding of stereo material - as the encoding/compression process does not work with balanced stereo images but rather on a one-channel-at-the-timel basis. Since a lot of the spatial information is contained in the acoustics/revebation that tails the direct sound, and this information is processed by our brains based on the sum of the input to both ears AND most of this information is quite low in sound level, this stereo imaging is often destroyed/damaged by compression algoritms. To hear the effect without any double blind test ( and prove it, yes! ) you only need to invert the phase on one channel and mix the result to a mono signal, phasing out the main part of the audio information. You will be amazed to hear how the compression is switching reverb and acoustics on and off very sharply as the signal fluctuates around the threshold set be the algoritm.

    No, this is not snobbery - even though the explation might sound like that. Actually it affects any type of music that contains passages of reasonable silence, like classical music etc. Just because many people today are used to a constant-level wall of sound with one song mixed into the next to AVOID silence at any price, it doesn't really mean that that's the complete definition of music... there are still millions of people out there who enjoy other styles.. ..like in Asia, where I live...

    3) The artifacts of audio compression does NOT really involve frequency loss, even though lower sample rates does. The biggest artifact of audio compression is in the TIME DOMAIN - it adds 'delays' and 'echoes' to the music. Thus the sizzly cymbals ( it's a phase phenomenon ) and the tinny hihats etc. The timing between low and high frequencies is affected, which can not be corrected once it happens. To be fair, digital EQs does the same thing - a low-quality real time digital EQ can make any lossless playback sound MP3-ish..

    4) The main problem - that is not addressed in any of the comments above - is that compressed - and re-compressed - files are NOT EDITABLE. The artifacts of audio compression becomes very obvious once you want to edit/process an audio file - just like editing a low-quality jpeg in Photoshop. Now, lots of music today is based on sampled sounds - most taken from other music recordings - albeit a whole loop or just a snare drum. This recycles the 'blurry hihats'etc. back into what is supposed to be prime-quality material, and we are - as I understand Neil claims - slowly losing our references.

    So, it's the culture of ignoring sound degradation ( and I don't mean using it as a creative tool ), ignoring dynamics, adapting all music to fit the maximized super-compressed style of background music ( so you can still hear it whithout really listening ) that I think he is actually reacting on. I am anyway.

    Does really easy, streamlined, no-listening-effort-required, stereotypical music streams HAVE to be the de facto standard for all music ?

    However, I can't really see why Apple should be more to blame than anyone else.

    Could it be because they are supposed to represent ambitions of quality in user experience....

  95. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    @Matt Thornton

    I think you'll find that most, if not all 'scene' releases are at 192k not 128k due to the far better sound quality. Your obviously using bad sources (Limewire) fed by retards. It is a piece of p!ss to tell the difference between 128k and 192k mp3, so i'm not surprised the guy who did the 128k v's cd test got it right every time. 192 v's cd though might be a bit closer....

    The point I think made by most people here is that of convenience, I'm sure everyone would love to be able to hear it as the artist intended in all it's lossless glory, but until they produce a way of us actually getting that content at a reasonable price then it's just a pipe dream. Hell I can't even afford to upgrade from the 30gb to the 160gb ipod, not at those prices. It give's me nothing more than just extra capacity so it's somehwat hard to justify it just so I am not lazy and can keep my entire collection on it at once.

    AC because of the obvious P2P references :)

  96. Doug Glass
    Go

    Momma Used to Say

    As my momma used to say, "You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear."

    If you want high quality sound, you have to have a high quality sound rig. If you want portability you're very unlikely to get really high quality sound. Each of use have to decide what's important to us, what we can afford, and ignore those who say we're wrong.

    As to Mr. Young, well, he just got himself a whole bunch of free publicity. His net worth must have dropped below the $500,000,000 danger set point.

  97. Liam
    Thumb Up

    hmmmmmmm

    1: get a decent amp... my lovely yamaha has all kinds of facilities for enhancing compressed music. it basically manages to tweak high and low frequencies to make mp3s sound as close as possible to their CD counterpart. of course most people's speakers are too shite to notice the difference anyway!

    2: "He hopes the medium will become the de facto standard because of its (supposedly) superior sound quality." - wtf? stop blu-ray bashing! its definately the best audio quality we can get at the moment! i haev listened to a few blu-ray and the sound quality is noticably better than dvd quality audio... depends on what kind of equipment you are using!

    3: "Everyone who cares about the audio quality that much listens to vinal any way" - erm.... i guess 99% of people's turntables are not good enough to hear better than a decent CD player... i have technics decks (used to DJ) and vinyl does degrade over time... whereas CD doesnt. plus you get sick of changing records every few minutes... not to mention 'defluffling' all the time and a lot of albums will be 33 with many tracks packed onto one side... not the 45s of dance music with one tune lasting a whole 12" (im not talking the basshunter shite either lol)

    i do agree that we should be able to get better quality downloads... seems odd that most places are selling drm'd 128k albums for the same price you can get the CD album imported for!

    @ "Apart from a few hi-fi enthusiasts, nobody cares about sound quality, as long as they can hear their music. The few deeply enthusiastic (/anal) fans are free to shell out thousands of their hard-earned to satisfy their needs." - i take it you've never listened to how much better a decent amp and speakers can sound over shitty equipment? once you have had a decent system there is no going back. i hate going to some people's houses, 2 shitty speakers sat next to each other in the corner of the room... its like watching 14" TVs again!

    @ "I'm pretty sure most people can't tell the difference between DVD and Blu-Ray." - only people who are blind and stupid or using BAAAD equipment. its all these people using £400 HD TVs at 720i wondering why it doesnt look as good as they expected.. the difference to normal people is MASSIVE! same with using cheapo dvd players compared to marantz etc...

    @ "What is ironic is that the colour reproduction in everyone's shiny new high-def LCD screens is appalling compared to their old CRTs." - erm... as said before only shitty LCDs... mine is 1.3 hdmi spec and compares very well with my old sony trinitron CRT... baring in mind that the CRT was 32" compared to my toshiba 42"

  98. Mark
    Coat

    abundance of crap

    Re. above from "hi robb"

    You are an old git. I say that as an old git myself. Modern music does sound shit and lifeless, but I'm not sure whether it's because of the sound quality or because it just is shit and lifeless. Or maybe I'm just too old for it.

    The quantity of storage and available music (through downloading etc) has become so plentiful that music has become devalued. There's so much crap music and crap sound quality, it's like the quantity is trying to be a substitute for quality. It doesn't matter as long as you can have 20000 songs on your mp3 player, right? Perfect for the short attention span MTV, iPod, Limewire generation. Now that really is the voice of an old git!

  99. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    It's in the software, silly

    If your mp3s sound tinny it's probably because you haven't bought the audiophile solid-gold oxygen-free software to play them with. And of course C++ sounds much better than plain old C or Java. The real aficionado will insist on hand-crafted assembler for exactly this reason.

  100. Fihart

    Poor auld Neil....

    ...hasn't done anything decent since Buffalo Springfield (well okay, since CSNY).

  101. Alex
    Jobs Horns

    IPOD users are t*ssers

    I challenge anybody to listen to dark side of the moon in MP3 format. The Hammond organ sounds like it's on full spin cycle.

    Who wants to listen to portable music anyway? We have the radio, the trees, the birds and the bees. Plus if you do stick wires in your ears you are more likely to be run over or mugged.

  102. Zmodem
    Black Helicopters

    Bass

    mp3s sound tinny because they, no compression rate can low bass hz, with most shops sell variable compressed files

    Vqf should have won the war except it doest sound street

  103. Xpositor
    Unhappy

    So what we need...

    ...is an online store offering the user a wide choice of formats/encodings/bitrates in which they want to receive their music - the higher the perceived quality the more you would pay.

    Drum roll, in through the door, may I present to you www.allofmp3.com - ah, snag, sighs.

  104. Tam Lin
    Thumb Up

    @Johan Vavare

    He's right. I had to mention this because, well, I never noticed that actually happening here before.

    As for why Apple, maybe it's all those no-fi devices being sold to make your iPod a "stereo". Perhaps it's those sqr(-1)-fi bud things you could - but shouldn't - stick in your ear. Or, it might be just that Job's head is the biggest target floating above the parapet.

  105. Frank Bough
    Alert

    What a colossal load of bollocks

    My iPod (80GB - ie larger than a 50GB Blu-Ray disk) is used to store and play CDAs transcoded as Apple Lossless MPEG4 files. It's not as good as a CD player or a DAT machine, it's BETTER. If DVDAs were rippable, I'd use those or SACDs as my source. They aren't so I can't. It's not Apple or the rest of the CE industry that's stopping us enjoying higher resolution audio, it's the record industry.

    Young, if you're listening, take your complaints up with them. Or just shut up.

  106. TimM

    Point is...

    It's fine enough for people to argue "who cares?" because few have decent equipment, but that if you think about it, you are being sold music which you may want to keep for years and will never be able to hear it in better quality should you one day get better equipment.

    Should be stressed though most of the poor quality MP3s are the result of bad quality rips, which is prevalent because extremely few people know how to rip properly or use the right software to rip exact copies (that don't just sample off the decoded audio, but actually read the raw data exactly), and don't notice because they play back on an iPod with the crappiest of crappy earphones. Combined with the poor quality encodings that commercial companies use when flogging download music.

    Anyway, the problem is that CD is lower quality than Vinyl, and downloadable music in the form of MP3, AAC, whatever is lower quality still. Matters not to the majority when they are under 18 and don't care, but the music still suffers and when they grow up, get a decent job and can afford the kit to enjoy "proper" music, they'll realise their entire collection is actually shit and the industry no longer produces anything of decent audio quality. The only way they can hear music as intended is to go to a concert (talking of which, how many who say MP3s are great, have gone to a concert and heard so much detail they never hear in their MP3s?).

    Worse is the fact they are being ripped off at CD prices for less than CD quality, with no packaging, and DRM on top!

    P.S. Bet if this article hadn't mentioned Apple, the responses would have been quite different ;)

  107. Johan Vavare
    Paris Hilton

    MP3 information

    @hi_robb:

    I have to say I really agree with the points you are making. If you read my post above I'm sure you will notice that.

    However, when you say: "it's those frequencies which you can't hear which give the space between the band members, and the ambience of the studio etc,"

    it's actually a bit screwed up.. it not FREQUENCIES it is TIME DOMAIN artifacts that kills the acoustics, combined with a 2xsingle-channel analysis rather than a stereo image analysis during encoding that does that. There are no 'frequencies you can't hear' - except above/below your hearing range.. but there are acoustics/ambience such as early reflections ( echoes in the <30ms range ) and late reflections ( >30ms ) that gives the space between the band members. And, yes, audio data compression has a tendency to destroy that information.

    Another important point about MP3 quality;

    The MP3 protocol does NOT specify the encoding method, only the DECODING method. Since it's all about psycho-acoustics and predictions of a listener might or might not hear, the encoding algorithm has a big significance in the resulting quality. And, there are many different encoding algorithms out there - all encoding to MP3. Thus, only focusing on bitrates might be slightly misleading.

    I am not sure, but I think AAC was developed by Dolby, and that the encoding algorithm is specified in the format. That would make it at least a bit more reliable than MP3, but not necessary better..

    Paris, because she sure shouldn't be compressed.... :)

  108. Pete

    @ShaggyDoggy

    > How do you do "over 100% modulation" ?

    You overdrive the transmitter, so if you have a 100 Watt Tx, you modulate it with more than 100 Watts of "music"

    >Once you get to 100% what happens next ?

    You generate a ton of 2nd harmonic (bad, but the listener doesn't hear that) to your A.M. frequency. So if you transmit on 1000kHz, you create interference at 2000kHz but for the listeners, they don't hear the 2000kHz signal, it just seems to them that the quiet passages aren't so quiet, and the loud bits sound louder.

  109. Johan Vavare
    Paris Hilton

    @Tam Lin

    You have a point about the iPod docking stations, and as Apple has a very high reputation on design, I guess most people assumes that it's valid for sound quality, too...

    Hmmm, in all honesty, I have found many comments being quite 'right' here throughout the years.. but thanks anyway :)

    Paris, cos she wont know the difference anyway..

  110. Sean Aaron

    whatever...

    I rip 256kbps AAC/MP4 44.1KHz/24 and it sounds CD quality to me on my iPod Nano 3G. I wouldn't buy normal iTunes DRM-enabled 128k MP4s, but the iTunes+ stuff sounds perfectly fine.

  111. Johan Vavare
    IT Angle

    Back to the future

    As long as compressed audio is used for direct listening ( without processing ) and there are alternative high-quality formats available, I think this discussion is more of a 'style debate'. However, I read lots of articles/reports talking about the future of music sales as being COMPETELY BASED ON DOWNLOADS. The day when you have to download a free-but-advertisement-financed stream as the ONLY format available for a new album/song the compression formats will actually really start to matter. Let's hope that there will be some remnants left of the culture that actually led to the development of audio recordings, compression, etc.

    When the CD format was designed by Philips, they consulted many classical music experts, like Herbert von Karajan etc. to make sure the format was good anough to carry all music styles. Will that happen with online streaming formats, or will they be chosen only to fit +-3dB dynamic commercial mainstream music ?

    Worth thinking about, really....

    IT?, because this is a job for the IT community..

    ( Sorry for talking too much, but this is interesting )

  112. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    Blame Apple?

    I think Young is blaming Apple because Apple has sold the vast majority [of late] of MP3 and AAC players [does anybody else use AAC in a player?]. They could of set some type of standard but didn't.

    Surely with a 160GB iPod they could allow non-lossless formats as an option.

    I'd blame Apply ob the over-hyped over-priced products. I'll take my $40 512MB Lyra any day. Drag and drop my MP3s in the player's drive unlike the crappy proprietary and buggy iTunes that you need just to transfer music.

  113. paul
    Jobs Horns

    iPods are crap

    Prepares to be flamed.....(except by webster the wan*er)

    But this is an important comment - you spend hundreds of pounds on an Ipod - and you get 50p headphones.

  114. Frank Bough
    Stop

    There seems to be a large number of...

    wankers on here that believe an iPod cannot play uncompressed audio. iPods CAN. they can play AIFF, WAV and Apple Lossless MP4s.

    I've know for a long time that Apple-bashers based their vitriol on total ignorance, but I'm surprised to find that there are so many tossers out there who've never touched an iPod, considering the massive sales of the thing.

    Mr AC, take your 512MB (!!) Lyra and cram up your cretinous, know-nothing backside.

  115. Oisin Conroy
    Boffin

    DVD-A

    Quote: Young has long resisted new-fangled digital music technologies

    Not true, actually, Neil Young was always been a strong proponent of high resolution audio, releasing many of his titles on DVD-Audio.

    It makes sense that he would embrace high res audio on Blu-ray.

    I'm all for high-res audio myself. I use 320kbps on my iPod though which is good enough for the road and for hooking up to portable speakers. For home use, I prefer to listen the the original CD,

  116. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    He's right

    Downloadable compressed sound files sound like crap, dull and flat. I remember the first time I burned a CD from an album I bought on iTunes and popped it in my (moderately good) car stereo system. "What the hell is wrong with this??"

    If I like an album enough to want to buy it, I buy the CD to listen to at home and in the car, and rip it to my mp3 player for portable listening. To me, $10 spent on a downloaded album is a waste of money if it sounds like a 1970's 8-track tape.

    CD's are fine for me . . . and DVD Audio disks for special occasions (i.e., recordings good enough to sound better than on CD).

    And please don't tell me about vinyl. Sure, if you have a $5000 transcription turntable and can afford to buy a new copy of the LP after every 6 plays, fine. Otherwise, you are dealing with monauralized bass and mid-bass, clicks, pops, hiss, high-frequency distortion and mistracking, sound quality that degrades toward the inner grooves, wow, flutter, rumble, acoustic feedback . . . yuck, memories of the bad old days.

  117. Richard Porter
    Happy

    I like woody songs...

    not tinny ones.

    Young is quite right. Lossy compression (including DAB) knocks the stuffing out of music.

  118. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    Quality of the music is far more important than sound fidelity

    It seems most people are so obsessed with sound fidelity that they are no longer able to listen to the music.

    There's a recording of Pablo de Sarasate playing his "Zigeunerweisen" on an old wax cylinder, made around the turn of the 19th century, the sound quality is obviously awful, there is lots of noise, little if any dynamic range and the higher registers are almost inaudible (unless you know the piece well, you probably wouldn't notice anything played on the E string above first position, nor any of the artificial harmonics), yet, it's one of the most outstanding recordings in history if you know how to listen to music instead of sound fidelity.

    Likewise with so many recordings made by great artists in the last century, all long before there was any decent recoding technology. Many of these historic performances are unmatched by performances of today's artists despite all the high tech and impeccable sound fidelity available now.

    Ever heard of a work called "The Rite of Spring" by Igor Stravinsky? Try comparing some CDs with recordings of it. All of the recordings made since digital recording became available pale in comparison to recordings of this work made in the 1950s and 1960s. Yes, the sound quality is an order of magnitude better on the recent recordings, but the performances just aren't. It will take another Karajan or Bernstein to come along and record this work digitally in a way that *musically* matches historic performances recorded on the lesser capable technology of the day.

  119. Oliver Collett
    Thumb Down

    Some perspective

    Personally, I don't have a problem with compressed (mp3 type compression) audio quality. I don't think the ipod sounds too bad either.

    I bet in a controlled environment you'd struggle to find anyone who can tell the difference between 320kb MP3 vs. WAV or even 192 vs. Wav. Time and time again people have failed in double-blind tests to tell the difference in high end audio equipment and supposedly superior audio formats.

    Dynamic range compression is however another matter entirely - imo it's most of the reason behind why people still claim vinyl sounds better (it's the only sane reason i can think of). A quick waveform analysis of a modern CD will show you that nowadays they compress CD's literally to levels of distortion (you'll notice flat peaks at the loudest parts). That WILL make a difference in sound quality just as driving an amplifier too hard will.

    www.theaudiocritic.com is an excellent site, this article in particular is a favourite of mine:

    http://www.theaudiocritic.com/back_issues/The_Audio_Critic_26_r.pdf

  120. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yes yes yes, when I stop buying food, I'll buy expensive audio equipment

    No wait, I won't.

    Do I know that better gear exists? Yes.

    Does a bit rate of 192 sound just fine to me on my car stereo, laptop, desktop? Yes.

    Do I give two guanos about being able to hear the outer limits of frequencies in music? Not really, no.

    Telling me that I'm horribly wrong about the quality of music I listen to or the gear I use is retarded as:

    a) My hearing isn't that great (nor is the hearing of anyone over the age of 16 ferchrissakes). So I can't tell much if any of a difference and....

    b) Spending umpteenth thousands of dollars on expensive audio equipment isn't my top priority and honestly? Never will be.

    Regarding Mr Young: I'm suspecting his codger-"get off my lawn you damn kids" rant is more inspired by a desire to plug his new blu-ray compilation.

    As he sells his music on iTunes I seriously doubt that he really considers them the bane of music everywhere. But they make a great target.

  121. rick buck

    compressed minds of the recording industry

    I, too am a sound engineer, having done shows at places like Disney, worked eith Chet Atkins, Ralph Stanley, and Ben Folds, and say the problem is with the studios wanting (and acheiveing) to sell the public a lower quality product.

    As other engineers have noted, once lossed up, and compressed down, the files can not be fixed. They will always sound like crap!

    Having a studio system worth over $100,000.00 is sure nice when I want to listen to LP's, or early cd's, and BlueRay. But the crap being put out by the mainstream studios leaves much to be desired.

    Why do you think the receivers now come with sound processors in them? To make up for bit-cheating, level boosted, overly compressed, over-processed, lossy radio fodder, played back on a toy with (in the words of Billy Joel) "Three Inch Speakers" > and that is if you are lucky.

    It is a good thing that I prefer Indie type music, 'cause many of them have left the Big Studios, and are doing it themselves, > well maybe with the help of some good old fashioned soundmen like myself, and putting "IT" out there on their own.

    Nothing like the feeling of cutting out the "the man", and doing it like it should be done, (as Frank said) "Doin' it My way"!!!!

    And people have been sold a bill of goods for many years >remember Dolby Noise Reduction? > They said "you can not hear it", but anyone with a decent system that includes tweeters had no trouble being disappointed in the reproduction of the sound with that system. >wake up and smell the hosers, 'cause they are cheating you when you download.

    And finally, my M-D player sounds great, if I do not use the LP settings!!! unknownsoundman@yahoo.com

    PS: "We could use some more talent in the monitors!"

  122. Alex Barwell

    Mixed feelings

    Hate his music with a passion, but agree with his comments. High sample rates if you really do have certain doggy attributes (No, not being able to lick those...) but really the problem is an excessive shift to quantity over quality. Capacity should be much higher now with ML codecs - what would you pay for either 80GB disk or 8GB flash now?

    BTW, just because something has a big 'PRO' badge on it (like some of the kit mentioned previously) doesn't make it so - often the reverse

    :)

  123. Mike Moyle Silver badge
    Coat

    All due respect, but Neil is flat out WRONG.

    It's the EYES that are the windows to the soul.

    ...of course, being a musician (of sorts), he WOULD get it wrong.

    We graphics people, OTOH, understand these things!

  124. ShaggyDoggy

    93dB

    Yes CD has a 93dB dynamic range, so why are modern recording compressed so that the level hardly deviates by more than a dB ?

    Wait ... it's so it sounds good on a iPod ... silly me.

  125. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    For the benefit of the deaf, LISTEN!

    Sure, Young has a poke at iTunes, probably because it’s the major distributor of on-line music on the internet and it, like all of it’s imitators want to deliver music at a substandard quality.

    Ask a person in a repro house if he/she thinks jpegs are better than CMYK separated lossless tiffs or lossless eps files and they will laugh at you. The same goes for music.

    By all means, collect sub standard mp3 music files, but if you get a windfall and purchase some good audio equipment, don’t expect them to become better. The quality was removed from them before you purchased them. In fact, they will most likely sound worse because your new equipment will show up how crap the recordings were.

    Even on my PC, I can tell the difference between a max quality Lame encoded mp3 and a CD. A Sonic Fury (Santa Cruz) card on some very old Altec Lansing (hissy) speakers. The CD sounds better, surprise!

    Some people are just bloody deaf, I remember talking to some folk about Nick Cave’s “Abattoir blues”:

    Me – Did you think that the squeak on the bass drum pedal should have been oiled?

    Them – Uh?

    Me – You know, the bass drum pedal, it’s got a squeak, and it’s really prominent?

    Them – What squeak?

    Me – Play it now, listen, it’s got a squeak.

    Them (playing it) – I can’t hear a squeak.

    Me – Oh, forget it.

    If I were a musician, spending time and money creating the sound I want, I’d be annoyed that the majority of my listeners are deprived from the same quality I listened to, not because of the equipment they own, but because of the format they use.

    Audiophiles are not necessarily mega rich people who purchase a couple of meters of speaker cable for 500 pounds or convert the top story of their house into horn speakers (A guy in Japan did this). If you like music, you purchase the equipment needed to play it that’s within your means. Wanting your music to sound better is not a crime, but providing music that CANNOT sound better is.

  126. Andrew McLachlan
    Boffin

    Yep his right, but....

    Compression is horrid, we all know it. Even though I used to work in the Audio business I took the easy road and did all my CD's at 128kbps...

    It was all good for a while.

    Then I upgraded the sound system in my SUV from a stock one to something much better.

    Boy do I care again - it sounds bloody awful!

    Re-did a few CD using EAC (Exact Audio Copy) and Lame, minimal compression and some other tweaks...huge difference.

    However, it's till easier to buy of iTunes and just hit the road and that is still 128 unless you get iTunes Plus.

    Convenience or quality...

    You can however see it from the Musicians point of view, they spend all this time crafting their sound and we don't really get to hear it as they intended.

    If anyone has been lucky enough to be in a studio and hear the master recordings, it's pretty damn amazing!

  127. Greg McGarvey
    Thumb Up

    "new-fangled digital technologies"

    "Young has long resisted new-fangled digital music technologies"

    Another reason this is not true is the fact that Neil was one of the first people in the United States to have a full digital recording studio, somewhere around 1983.

  128. Philip Bergen
    Thumb Up

    Apple fan agrees - much to my own surprise!

    Actually you have all heard the sound suck in various ipods, I'm sure. Especially if you use the EQ, there will always be some obvious distorsion. I never understood why Apple could not fix a seemingly simple bit range saturation problem. At least they have finally fixed it in the new iPhone, which sounds great.

    But here comes a real life story: I believed VBR 192 kbit/s would suffice for everything. I even made blind tests to confirm that 160 was the limit where the compressed sound was undiscernible from CD original.

    Then I got a pair of high end speakers and a burr-brown equipped receiver (for the interested: Gamut Phi7 and Onkyo SR 805). Still everything sounded great. I was as happy as any man with new high effect toys can be. And then I switched from signal cable to optical.

    It completely DESTROYED most of my music (especially modern rock suffers badly). It sounded awful, hard and crashing sounds escaped my previously fabulous setup. I started checking for errors and found none. Then I inserted the original CD and this time chose Apple lossless. Fantastic detail at any volume! Gorgeous nuanced high resolution sound! Wow!

    The funny thing is I had no idea that the previous sound was below par. It sounded great. Now it is greater. And ears are picky indeed, now most everything sounds poor, because I have experienced Hi-Fi.

    Morale: do not buy great hi-fi equipment unless prepared to suffer the consequences Mr. Young is suffering in these posts. Everyone will (rightly) start calling you a snob.

    /Philip Bergen, snob.

  129. TONY
    Thumb Up

    NEIL YOUNG IS THE MAN!!!

    Neil Young is the man and when it comes to sound and music... the man knows what he's is talking about. No one is more dynamic than he... take a look at his career...he's done EVERYTHING!!! HAS HAD A 40 plus year career and still sells records and tickets... and is high respected in the music biz. I've seen the guy 14 times! The man has a close relationship electricty! WHO ELSE IS STILL WRITING AND PERFORMING THEIR OWN SONGS?, GOOD SONGS BY THE WAY! Ipods do suck for sound... you cant beat the conveince its true, but the sound is terrible.. there is no warmth at all. Nothing beats vinyl records.... NOTHING. If you have a good record and a decent player....they sound... by far, way better then a CD. The music feels like it's in the room with you and you can listen a lot longer...where as a CD or MP3 starts to wear on you nerves and you ears. We have been going backwards in this department. Neil is not a crotochty old fart... you'd be surprised at the shape he's in. He's a musician and many are coming out against the MP3... not just older folks. They want their music to (surprisingly!) to sound good! Most people I know who are really into music collect and play only records..cause they know what music should sound like. We need more people like Neil Young to speak out against these shitty standards offered to us today. ROCK ON NEIL!

  130. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    metrics

    Re:

    One of the last audio comparisons I saw (a proper one with metrics rather than bs) still gave mp3 (via the LAME codec) the edge on AAC. Reason given - codec more mature so the implementation is about as good as it could be whereas AAC still has

    BS!

    Anyone working in professional audio design know that metrics: signal to noise ratios, harmonic distortion figures, IMD, frequency responses don't prove one sound system is better than another!

    The metrics are used in design to give something to work towards, at the end of the day, you test the performance by listening.

    CD systems always come out tops in terms of the metrics compared to Vinyl, but everyone knows a good vinyl system sounds superior to CD!

  131. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Only one aspect

    There is much variance caused by different headphones, ear-buds, speakers with the i-pod. Considering the size and capacity of portable mp3 players they are, on the whole, a good thing for most people. At least when using an I-Pod I don't have to endure the horrible acoustics and jackass audience behavior in the converted sports arenas that many live concerts are held in.

  132. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    What's the problem?

    I'm stating the bleeding obvious, but here goes anyway:

    Why can't folk buy a CD and play it on a CD player? You can get portable ones, negating the need for ipods, flash MP3 players etc etc. Not only that, you have your music there 'til you destroy it, should you want to.

    It's only the manufacturers that have caused these problems by making stuff easy to copy. If you give folk the means to copy stuff...

  133. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interesting Point

    Yeah, if I was a musician (and I only dabble) then I would probably a bit miffed about the drop in the quality.

    A bit of a step back really, just because bandwidth is sort of metered.

    As a consumer of music I expect the songs I like should play ok on a mono tape deck, that is the dance music standard.

    But for high end stuff where someone really knows their art, then yes whatever gives the best fidelity should still be prized.

  134. Steve Wallis
    Happy

    God cannot be wrong

    Neil rocks!!! And he's right, the sound quality of my iPod is not up to much. It's too tinny!!

  135. Ethan Grammatikidis
    Thumb Up

    Declining standards

    Maybe he's motivated by a precipitous decline in standards on Apple's side. I have a clamshell iBook (2001-ish), and the audio output is frankly wonderful. It makes the Sound Blaster Live in my main comp sound like mere onboard audio. A pity the old clamshell can't handle modern codecs.

  136. Ethan Grammatikidis
    Flame

    AUGH!

    Separate to my other comment, the number of people I want to HIT in this thread is... well, I don't usually want to hit anyone. What on this planet possibly gives so many people the right to ground their statements in the fantasy that if they can't hear something, no-one else possibly could either?

  137. James Anderson Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Right to criticise apple!

    Not because of iPods because they are caplble of lossless high quality sound, but, ofr the iTunes store which sells you tracks at twice the price of a CD with half the quality.

    The CD format was constrained by what could be achieved for a reasonable cost by the available technoligy twenty years ago.

    It is ridiculous that twenty years later with no technical constraints

    Apple are overcharging for tracks which are less than CD quality.

    Admitedly they do make some tracks available as lossless ACC but then you must overpay even more for only CD quality.

  138. Jonathan Janowski

    @Ethan Grammatikidis

    "Separate to my other comment, the number of people I want to HIT in this thread is... well, I don't usually want to hit anyone. What on this planet possibly gives so many people the right to ground their statements in the fantasy that if they can't hear something, no-one else possibly could either?"

    Yeah, someone saying that "nobody can hear those frequencies" is annoying. I'll out myself as one of the ACs (when I stop buying food...) and defend my angle on this.

    Those of you that still have hearing can enjoy your crazy good sound systems. I will call you an audio snob, but I do understand that it's your deal not mine. I know that you may not be targeting my post in particular but this is the internet, where all things are taken personally. My original post was a plea for the audiophiles to stop telling people that it was somehow wrong for not wanting insane gear.

    Hearing audio at 192-320 kbps is perfectly enjoyable for me. When I say that I can't hear the difference, I mean it. The gear I've got is decent, but not decent enough to tell any discernable difference between the mp3 and the cd (128kpbs is another story altogether).

    I can't see paying an crapload of money on an uber sound system so I can hear how terrible the music I've bought off of beatport or itunes sounds on it. It sounds perfectly fine on what I have and the better gear would actually detract from my enjoyment of the music.

    My 2p

  139. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Of course Apple owns all the rights to all the music

    and so they could just sell it at any price, or even give it away for free, also they could just distribute in any format and any quality they like, it is just that they are nasty and greedy that they charge money and that they have some stuff with DRM and at lower quality than CD. Its all up to them, nobody else has anything to say in how they distribute and for how much. The recording companies have nothing to say and the musicians also have no say.

    Come to think of it Apple doesn't have Beatles tracks because they hate the Beatles, they could just distribute Beatles tracks if they wanted but they don't want to. The surviving Beatles and the heirs of the two deceased members of the band have of course absolutely no say in all of this.

    People, if you think you can sell music online as you please without the music industry allowing you to do so, if you think you can decide all the details without the music industry telling you what you can do and what you can't, then why don't you set up your own iTunes shop? You should outsell Apple in no time.

  140. Dave

    @J.P. Pachet

    "Old man, look at my life"

    Make that...

    "BPI, look at my files "

  141. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    conversion

    Has anybody realised how the quality of D/A converter can affect the sound? The buzz always mentions how low the bitrate is, or poor compression algorithms, but it's rather the matter of good converters dedicated for audio. Your 192kbps mp3 will sound much better when played on audio equipment rather than via your laptop's green headphone plug.

  142. Zmodem
    Linux

    ph0r I.T.

    everything on the planet is a job for mechanical engineers

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019