back to article Surprise: Neil Young still hates digital music

Neil Young, who a few years back famously described Apple as the “Fisher-Price” of sound quality, is giving his “I hate digital music” can another kick, claiming that even the late Steve Jobs listened to vinyl rather than his own company’s inventions. Speaking to Peter Kafka and Walt Mossberg at the “Dive Into Media” …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Couldn't agree more

    Listening to overcompressed music is like trying to look at a picture while someone shines a torch into your eyes.

    Current mixes and remasters of "old" songs invariably strive to bring the peak level of every instrument up to the max and to bring the dynamic range down cramming it all into one noisy incomprehensible mess. Try listening to a decent quality CD from the 80s and then compare it to a remastered recording. The artistry of having subtle instrument sounds is lost as they are all brought up to be right in your face. The objective seems to be to make it subjectively as loud as possible, but perceived loudness is at the expense of loss of detail. Then it gets compressed further to mp3, and if you buy that format you can't get back the bits that were lost in the conversion to mp3.

    I bought Bingo! by the Steve Miller band (no accounting for taste I know) on CD and it has to be the worst mix I have ever heard. I played it and never got past about a minute of each track before skipping to the next. I like the music but can't bear the recording/mix. It sounds like every channel on the mixer is cranked up to 11, and even when played quietly it is cringeworthy.

    However, if you can't hear the difference I suppose you don't care. The market long ago stopped striving for excellence and settled instead on providing the minimum quality they can get away with that the majority of people will accept. A cynic might think this was so that later you can charge them again to buy the same thing in a lossless format.

    1. Naughtyhorse

      decent quality CD from the 80s

      anit no such beastie.

      the kit was mostly analogue and pretty crap at that

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        the kit was mostly analogue and pretty crap at that

        Digital v Analogue is a different debate with merit on both sides. IMHO the equipment was not pretty crap and people knew how to use it to make some great recordings.

    2. system11
      Thumb Up

      Cranked to 12

      I think the worst one I've heard so far is 'This Gift' by Sons & Daughters. It's physically uncomfortable to listen to for more than 1 track at a time, and even that is unpleasant.

      I've spent a lot of money getting hold of original non-remastered versions of other albums that I'd sold in the past. Here's a comparison of the original and remaster of 'Money For Nothing' by Dire Straits:

      I've compared the actual CDs on a decent system, it's like night and day. Most of this seems to be driven by catering to people with rubbish playback devices (iPods+etc with stock earbuds) - perhaps they need to start making two mixes of everything, a standard and portable one with higher volume at the expense of range.

      The big problem with all this is not that people in noisy cars or with iPods can get access to music that sounds sort of OK on their equipment, it's that only having that mix available means good quality recordings of some recent music simply don't exist at all. The music is forever unlistenable, you can't fix range compression.

      1. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

        The real reason for remasters

        Eric Clapton, 461 Ocean Boulevard, released 1974, copyright on that would last 50 years and would have expired in 2024, remastered deluxe[1] version released in 2004, so copyright would expire in 2054.

        Oh look, by clever slight of hand, the copyright mafiaa get an additional 30 years copyright.

        [1] deluxe version: copyright mafiaa marketing speak for "we've added the really shit tracks that weren’t good enough for the original record"

        1. Anonymous C0ward

          Does that stop the copyright on the original expiring though?

    3. hexx

      remasters of King Crimson/Yes/Pink Floyd are great example. The more recent remaster is the worse it sounds

  2. Toastan Buttar
    Thumb Up


    Some online music retailers offer FLAC. Just sayin'.

    1. lurker

      Yeah but many of them charge stupidly over-the-odds prices for FLAC.

      1. David Cantrell

        True, many charge over the odds for FLAC. But many don't. And, of course, FLAC is common on sites that fly the jolly roger.

    2. Captain Hogwash Silver badge

      Keep on rocking in the free world!

      As title.

  3. graingert

    Neil Young should talk to Mr Nyquist and look at the Ubuntu one music store

    You don't need ultra-high "resolution" better known as sampling rate, to capture the frequencies available to the human ear, see

    Also there are many music stores, eg 7Digital who run the Ubuntu one music store, that support FLAC audio, an open lossless audio format - a new format/device does not need to be developed: just submit patches if you think you can do a better job.

    1. Mark Honman

      Shannon's theorem applies to continuous signals

      The Sampling Theory applies to continuous signals, rather different from the complex shapes of musical notes which have attack and decay - not just a bunch of frequencies, but contained within an 'evelope' shape.

      There is also a practical problem with replay of digital audio streams, which is jitter - imperfections in the clock frequency of the digital stream.

      Another lesser problem with signals resulting from D->A conversion is the sampling noise at frequencies above 22.1kHz - while inaudible to adults it may affect the performance of equipment that was designed on the assumption that the input signal contains only audible frequencies. Example: some metal-dome tweeters have resonances around 22-25 kHz.

      But these three effects pale into insignificance when compared with the destruction wreaked by modern dynamic range compression.

      Although the technical performance of CD is better than vinyl, the debate still rages - I think because the shortcomings of vinyl reproduction are less noticeable when concentrating on music. Perhaps because static click are essentially random, and surface noise is concentrated in the lower frequency range and therefore less objectionable.

      1. Richard Taylor 2 Silver badge


        Ummm I would respectfully suggest you go back to school (signal processing 101), I'm afraid your comments on 'complex shapes' are nonsense.

        1. Graham Wilson

          @Richard Taylor 2 - Awww, that's a bit unkind!

          Most unkind, but he has a few valid points further on.

          Shannon/Nyquist is a bit more complicated than finding one's way to the loo in the dark (at least it was for me). >;-)

          I've seen people come off the rails early on with this stuff when they fail to comprehend that a comparatively regular signal represented in the time domain [normal oscilloscope-type display] can contain many complex harmonics. Understanding the mechanics of Fourier maths is one thing, but for some, picturing in their heads how all those signals are represented by a single trace or graph line is another matter altogether.

          If you think about it carefully, it's far from intuitive, especially so when one is simultaneously trying to imagine the same signal in the frequency domain by conceptually looking at right angles head-on down the time domain axis.

          The next hurdle is to understand is why the sampling rate is usually double plus a bit of that of f(max) for simple streams, audio etc. To test someone's understanding of the Nyquist-limit concept, he/she should then be able to explain why the sampling rate of some data streams (certain types of skewed images for example) might ideally need to be three or more times that of f(max).

          Of course, that's just the beginning; stochastic processes/probability theory etc. etc. have been known to produce bad hair days in some, yours truly included.

          1. Richard Taylor 2 Silver badge
            Thumb Up


            I was being unkind quite specifically, and without that basic understanding some of the latter points are not quite comprehensible. Other comments following mine that address some of the more interesting aspects of what we actually hear as opposed to what a simple model (aka frequency limited model) of what we should perceive are very relevant. But we do need to understand the basics first :-)

      2. Jess


        > Another lesser problem with signals resulting from D->A conversion is the sampling noise at frequencies above 22.1kHz - while inaudible to adults it may affect the performance of equipment that was designed on the

        That is a problem, but the frequencies above 22Khz are not passed on to the amplifier (on any decent equipment) the problem is that the level of filtering required causes phase distortions in the frequencies you want to keep. This is solved by digital oversampling, shifting the unwanted frequencies to 98 KHz and above.

        > But these three effects pale into insignificance when compared with the destruction wreaked by modern dynamic range compression.


        > Although the technical performance of CD is better than vinyl, the debate still rages

        This will probably be down the fact the majority of harmonic distortion in a vinyl system is even harmonics, and therefore musically related to the original frequency (i.e. the same note an octave higher, for example), D-A distortion is more odd order harmonics, which just sound wrong. (Which is also true for valve vs. transistor).

        However I doubt this is an issue in any decent quality D-A from the last decade or newer.

        Also on a decent vinyl system pops and clicks actually have a position in the stereo sound field and can be ignored just as a noise in the room can.

    2. Wanda Lust

      Ubuntu One/7Digital

      The Ubuntu One/7Digital store has a sparcity of lossless releases. There are other places such as, artists' websites (e.g. David Byrne) and, IMHO the best,

    3. Kristian Walsh


      That's true if you start from the false premise that only the range from 0 to 20 kHz is audible.

      The 20 kHz figure for hearing response is an average derived from the perception of simple tones emitted from speakers outside the ear canal. Age, health, genetics and general variation within the population mean that some people can hear above this. In some experiments, with emitters placed against the bones of the skull rather than outside the ear, people could detect signals up to 100kHz.

      But even assuming that everyone's hearing is limited at 20 kHz, you need to consider that your hearing doesn't behave exactly like a Shannon/Nyquist system. Consider the effect of beat frequencies where the two fundamentals are above the nominal range of hearing, but their beat product is audible. On a conventional A/D process, these are stripped by the initial antialiasing filter, and thus lost, so the easiest solution is to up the sampling rate. Doing this also prevents any uneven response from the antialiasing filter allowing alias frequencies into the processing chain (where they will interfere with the high-frequency information you want to capture).

      Sampling at a higher rate also allows greater phase accuracy, and reduces the negative effects of off-phase signals when sampled at low numbers of samples per cycle (as you approach the Nyquist Frequency, the phase on an input tone causes a change in the resulting amplitude. Worst case is at f=0.5fs, where a 90 degree lead/lag results in no output signal at all). Phase of signals is also important for placing sounds in a stereo sound-stage, and the most significant part of the spectrum for this is the high frequencies.

      There's lots of reasons for going to much higher resolution audio, and once you do, of course you can pack it with FLAC, because the format imposes very few limits on frequency or sample resolution; but the FLAC file format alone can't solve the original problem of not recording the signal accurately enough.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I wonder ...

        100KHz ... that's RF. I wonder if these subjects could actually "hear" the signal as opposed to psycho-acoustically experience it as some other sensation via induction of the signal into the auditory/facial nerve(s).

        I'd also imagine that, mechanically, the eardrum couldn't vibrate at 100KHz (not even in young chilodren) and what they were hearing was perhaps a sub-harmonic that fell in the normal auditory range.

        I don't know so do correct me if I'm just spouting nonsense.

        But I did find your comment interesting and thought-provoking.

        1. Kristian Walsh

          Probably some secondary effect, alright.

          Most far-out theory is that it may have even been an inductive coupling from the speaker coil directly to the subject's brain.. hmm, that's how my induction hob works, so could be something in that.

          ... I just remember reading about it once and the research itself was pretty sceptical about whether the subjects were actually "hearing" the thing at all, but they were definitely perceiving it.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward


            Yup, this is what I figure as well. Induction makes sense.

            Although dogs and cats probably could actually acoustically "hear" ~ 100KHz I'd be very surprised if humans could -- at any age.

      2. Graham Wilson

        @Kristian Walsh -- Right, but....

        Historically, we've ended up with 44.1 and 48kHz sampling rates as part of standards, now we're forever trying to get around their apparent limitations (although in double-blind tests I've never conclusively picked them as noticeably inferior to say 96kHz, nor could any of my colleagues who adamantly considered themselves as members of the Golden-Ear Brigade).

        Clearly, it would have been better to have moved the 'Nyquist-limit problem' down into the analog domain and then let one's ears do the integrating (but when the standards were set this would have been considered an extravagant waste of bandwidth and storage).

        What I mean by that somewhat strange comment is that had the baseband been 0 to 40kHz and the sample rate 96kHz then phase issues with clocking/sampling would be insignificant even though the 2:1 ratio would have been retained (remained the same). Scaling up to 196kHz would then essentially achieve nothing.

        It could be argued that a better approach than increasing the upper baseband frequency limit to 40kHz would probably have been to increase the depth of the sampling from 16 to 18 or 20 bits (dynamic range limitations are unquestionably audible under good conditions). I'd certainly favour this approach over increasing the upper recordable frequency limit.

        Perhaps a theoretical case could be made for fixing phase errors when employing a 40kHz baseband by using a 4x f(max) sampling frequency but I'd require some rather strong evidence before I'd be convinced.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Kristian Walsh

          Historical decisions

          I remember reading that Philips wanted to emply 14-bit sampling mainly because they had a line of 14-bit DAC chips. Sony, the other partner in the venture, insisted on 16-bit sampling even though the converters at the time struggled to produce anything meaningful below 14-bit resolution, in order to future-proof the system "into the 21st century" (not a bad prediction)

          The 44.1k limit was imposed by mastering requirements. The only readily-available recording medium with the bandwidth required to store the digital bitstream was U-matic broadcast videotape. Unfortunatley, the record and playback equipment, being designed for broadcast use, inserted blanking signals at the end of every "scanline". However, 44,100 samples at 16 bits per sample plus error correction, allowed maximum use of each scanline period on NTSC players, and so a "standard" was born.

          Later formats, freed of the requirement to be compatible with equipment designed for a completely different purpose, used 12/24/48k as their sample rates, because it pushed the "near-Nyquist" problems higher out of the audible range. This is why DAT, DVD and BluRay use 48, 96 and 192k sampling respectively.

          Actually, here's a very interesting article explains this history, first hand, and better than I can:

  4. PT


    The last Neil Young album I bought, probably about 25 years ago now, sounded as if it was recorded in a garage on an old Grundig using a crystal microphone. I don't think higher resolution audio would have done any good, especially given the musical skill of his Wyld Stallions - uh, I mean Crazy Horse - backing band. It's the only music CD I ever threw away.

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Trouble is, that "rawness" makes his stuff some of the best going for shining an umpty-million candlepower searchlight on the limitations of audio playback systems. Many of the things that make a reasonable fist of autotuned music are utterly shit at harmonics, fingers squeaking on strings, foot shuffling, breath sounds and passing aircraft.

      Oh and it's "Wyld Stallyns" BTW....

  5. Neil Greatorex

    Neil Young - I remember him

    Heh, got a brother in law who thinks he can sing, in the Neil Young style (you know; nasal & whiney) all I can say is that cats & bats in the area are fucked when he opens his gob :-)

  6. Naughtyhorse

    if he cared about quality...

    maybe he should:

    tune his guitar one a year, whether it needs it or not.

    open his fucking mouth and enunciate.

    try to get he band to occasionally play in the same key and time sig

    and get a fucking vet to do something about crazy horse

    fucking pompous dinosaur

  7. carter brandon

    LMFAO at the replies. Much as I love Neil Young, I have to agree with all the negative comments

  8. Antti Roppola

    El Reg has Digital Audio covered

    This article in El Reg last November does a great job of diving into the technical nitty gritty of Neal Young's grievances. Worst thingis that things like widespread ignoring de-emphasis flags gets people used a particular forms of distortion to the point that audio as Neal intended might "sound funny".

  9. Jolyon Smith

    @graingert... "high resolution" <> sample rate

    Sample rate is the number of "slices" of the music you can take in any quantum of time. But that's only 1/2 (at best) of the "resolution" (perceived quality) equation.

    Another key part is by how much each slice can vary from the slices taken either side of it and the difference between the minima and maxima of each slice - the dynamic range.

    Besides which, the sampling theorem you link to relies on interpolation to reconstruct the "original signal". But "approximate a facsimile of" would be more accurate than "reconstruct". If there is some subtlety in the original that the interpolated reconstruction glosses over then you haven't reconstructed the original at all.

    Now, whether you notice the difference... that's a whole different question. But saying that just because you can't notice the difference there is no difference is just flat out wrong.

    Ask any digital photographer about the difference between RAW and JPEG for example... they will tell you there is a significant difference. But ask someone just looking at a RAW image on screen vs a JPEG of the same RAW, and they will say there is no difference.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: dynamic range

      Okay, so the human ear (a good one) has a dynamic range of approximately 140dB correct?

      IIRC DVD audio is defined as being 24-bit linear PCM or AC3; taking the former case, that means there are 2/2²⁴ approximately different amplitudes that can be represented:

      Python 2.7.1 (r271:86832, Sep 3 2011, 03:15:40)

      [GCC 4.4.5] on linux3

      Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.

      >>> import math

      >>> levels = 2.0 / (2**24)

      >>> range = 10*math.log10(levels)

      >>> range


      >>> range = 20*math.log10(levels)

      >>> range


      Bloody close don't you think?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        But then compress everything into 6db dynamic range. Even cassettes had the noise floor at -30db or so so you could understand a little compression to reduce audible noise, but when you have >110db, why use only 6db of it?

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. MJI Silver badge

        If CD is so great why does DVD-Audio sound better?

        Higher sample rate and more resolution.

        And it sounds better than CD.

        As to MP3, always to me sounds like something is missing.

        1. h3

          re : MJI

          Reason why DVD-Audio (or SACD) sounds better is because you get a better mix.

          (Same mix I think should have just been on the normal CD).

      2. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

        Re: No, you fail

        "A CD can construct the original wave. 16 bits and 44.1 KHz is enough for perfect reproduction of a band limited signal."

        You are just plain wrong. You first convert a continuous wave into discrete numbers - you get quantisation noise. The lower your sampling rate, the lower the signal to quantisation noise ratio will be. That's why they have to add dither to CD signal after AD conversion.

        Next, you need to reconstruct a continuous wave from discrete numbers - so your DAC must interpolate between samples. The lower the sampling rate, the higher the interpolation noise.

      3. hexx

        "Add to that, that a high resolution MP3 or AAC (256+) is indistinguishable from the CD for the vast majority of the population regardless of equipment."

        - no and no and once again no

        1. chr0m4t1c

          I think you over-estimate the hearing capabilities of the bulk of the population; if they could tell the difference then they wouldn't have switched from portable CD players to MP3 players in the first place.

          My father-in-law genuinely can't tell the difference between Metallica and Paloma Faith, as far as he's concerned they live in a box labelled "stuff I don't like". It/'s the same story with the majority of my friends, they categorise music as "good" and "rubbish", mostly based on whether they encountered it before or after they turned 20 or if they identify with the image of the artist or not.

          It saddens me greatly, but I think you'll find they are the majority and that they can't tell the difference. If they could, then Simon Cowell would be a pauper.

        2. phr0g

          yes, and yes, and once again yes.

          Download foobar2000 (a music player), then the ABX comparison plugin.

          Get one of your CDs and rip to WAV.

          Now convert that WAV to a 256 kbps MP3 using EAC and the LAME codec.

          Now put both files into foobar and try to tell them apart in a scientifically proven way...You won't be able to.

  10. Synja

    I thought Neil Young died.


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      It's Not Dead Yet.

      Unlike his career.

  11. Purlieu

    Dynamic Range vs Compression

    Tell me, what is the point of having a medium (cd) with a 93 dB dynamic range and then compressing the source material to within 0.5 dB of FSD ?

    1. Piro

      That's all to do with shitty mastering

      Well, of course. Shitty, louder and louder mastering, is what has ruined a lot of digitally stored music.

      Adding more dynamic range only gives mastering studios a higher target to aim for and compress against.

  12. Mako

    " the “Dive Into Media” conference* "

    Is that asterisk part of the conference's name, or have you guys forgotten to add your footnote?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Most of my music listening (I'm 40+) tends to be in the car (most cars have lousy acoustics), on the way to / from the pub (on cheap headphones) , or background whilst working on something else or as I'm cooking.

    Sometimes I'll sit and listen to music alone, but not often, and so in almost every case conveniece comes above quality for me.

    Are my MP3's lossy? Are they compressed? Certainly.

    Do I notice in the enviroments I listen to the music in? Sometimes but not very often.

    I don't want big files that fill up the phone, or memory stick I have in the car, I want quick access, smalll pocketable devices, quality thats good enought for my use and lots of choice.

    1. MJI Silver badge

      Car music

      My car is pretty quiet.

      I went the amplifier, CD changer, decent component speaker route.

      My CD changer can handle MP3 and MP3 on CD-R do sound stilted compared to CD-DA.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Each to their own

      I'm glad someone said it.

      Each to their own, I hate DIY and football, doesn't mean I don't respect the practioners of said arts. Same with the audiophiles, they get a kick out of it but to most people MP3 is good enough to get to listen to music. Like AC above said, most of us play music in absolutely awful sound environments, like cars. noisy trains and buses or simply on in the background as a pick-me-up to keep you going through a tedious job.

      I do film and digital photography and I will happily bore the pants of people about the technical details of that, but most people are happy to snap away to get a general idea of what they want. Does it bother me? Sometimes, yes. I know that with just a few tips their pictures would be ten times better, do I tell them? Of course not ( well maybe when I'm little worse for wear down the local on a Friday night! ). I know they're happy-snappers and if they're happy good luck to them!

      For me personally I'm sorry but after 30 odd years of listening to heavy metal an MP3 encoded at 192kbps is good enough. People beating the crap out of their instruments while a man/women screams, yelps and grunts over the ensuing racket, believe me an MP3 is good enough to allow the music to help keep me sane and happy!

      So downvote as you wish but please before you do, bear in mind that we all have different priorities in life and for most us we simply need a background tune to make us feel a little better and if a simple, if inadequate, 5MB MP3 does that, where's the harm?

      1. MJI Silver badge

        Music can be distracting as well

        Noisy environments - music I find can be annoying, this is when I would rather not listen.

        Never been into walking around listening, rather have music when it is quiet and I can relax.

        Lots of sounds competing to me = stress and headaches.

        I like Heavy Metal too.

  14. Jon Massey

    digital media aren't the problem

    It's the mastering engineers who compress the living daylights out of everything!

  15. Fihart

    Fond as I am of old Neil he has some odd ideas about fidelity, given the abysmal quality of some of his recordings and the way he has made an art form of guitar distortion.

    Personally I prefer CD to MP3 because I'm old too and can find tracks more easily in physical media than hunting through menus.

    I have many vinyl albums but only a few (early Decca stereo and EMI Motown monos) which could really be said to sound better than the best CDs -- mainly because they were mastered at high levels (probably with lots of compression) and using valve (tube) equipment, so have a warm sound.

    Many 'classic' 1970's US rock albums recorded on analogue transistorised studio equipment sound appalling on vinyl but may have been improved when remastered to CD.

    Well produced material (e.g. The Doors albums which were recorded in a simple manner like modern jazz ) sound better once remastered to CD.

    I have CD-Rs burnt from MP3 tracks converted to WAV and most sound okay to me.

    Though Neil Young's music with Buffalo Springfield and some with CSNY is fabulous, a great deal is idiosyncratic to the point of being eccentric -- as are his views (like those of most musos) on electronics.

  16. El Zorro

    Rather than target digital music...

    ...I suggest he pursues a change in the law, and give SO13 a new remit to shoot anyone with a mobile speaker phone playing R&B on a train.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You mean

      what they call 'R&B' these days?

      1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

        Precisely. I have no problems with people playing proper R&B (Ray Charles and the like)

        1. El Zorro

          Of course of course, but the sad truth is, even the best music sounds like a mind-splitting cacophony through a small 1 inch mobile phone tweeter

          1. MJI Silver badge

            Or normal monitor speakers

            My daughter is happy listening to music through a computer monitor it sounds dreadful, luckily a 5.0 system can easily out power it, then my wife moans.

        2. genghis_uk

          What happened there???

          One minute R&B was Rhythm and Blues (ok, with a bit of Soul, Funk and Rock 'n' Roll thrown in at various times).

          Then it suddenly became people unable to hold a note, wailing endless scales with little or no rhythm at all - looking at you Ms. Carey...

          The 80'shave a lot to answer for musically!

  17. Mark Fenton

    Neil Young singing.....

    ...he sounds just like the old creepy guy from Family Guy.

    The only way to make him sound better is to turn it off. Quickly.

  18. Ru

    "nobody currently pursuing higher-quality digital audio"

    That's not strictly true; you can get some properly daft 'audiophile' grade digital music out there if you hunt.... its just that hardly anyone bothers to make anything other than MP3. At least they tend to be selling higher bitrate MP3 these days. A few places sell a moderately sized FLAC range ( is my usual destination) but they're strictly in the minority.

    I don't bother downloading lossy digital music on general principle. I'm prepared to pay a little bit of a premium for FLAC (or, at a pinch, WAV or ALAC) but in its absense I'm off to Amazon and Ebay and the like, hunting for second hand CDs.

  19. This post has been deleted by its author

  20. Jedit

    Neil Young hates digital music

    Which is presumably why the Blu-ray and DVD versions of his Archives: Volume 1 box set include codes to download all the songs as MP3s.

  21. Graham Bartlett

    Compression - which type?

    On the one hand we've got MP3 (or Ogg, AAC or WMV), which does to sound what JPEG does to pictures, i.e. throw away detail you might not notice. Low bitrate MP3s certainly do sound awful (particularly on cymbals). Higher bitrate MP3s are much better, and if you're listening in a noisy environment then you may well not notice the difference.

    On the one hand we've got dynamic range compression which makes the softer parts louder, which if overdone can kill any light and shade in the music.

    Both are problems, but if NY is opposed to digital audio then his beef is almost certainly with the former. A lack of dynamic range in recordings is certainly a modern problem, but it's nothing to do with whether it's digital or not.

    1. Jess--

      it does seem as though modern recordings are getting worse in terms of the sound quality in general (and its been noticeable since the early 90's with the explosion of electronic dance music).

      There are however a few exceptions, one that springs to mind was faithless with an old copy of insomnia still being a favourite for setting up sound systems for a lot of pro's (perhaps the groups original members classical musical background had something to do with a decent mix coming out)

  22. bill 36

    you aint heard nothing

    until you've heard an old Quad 22 setup with a pair of ESL55 speakers and a matching Quad FM tuner.

    Frightening clarity and so good that they still demand high prices 50 years later.

    1. Juan Inamillion

      Ain't that the truth

      I was at someone's house recently who has that set up... I insisted he fire it up.


      And he's a musician. And has thousands of vinyls and CD's...

      Just sayin...

    2. Heathroi

      Quad 22

      Why are you offering up a 50yr old amp that's on ebay for 2200 dollars for a rebuilt version, it might be great. but doesn't add anything to Neil's argument about digital music.

  23. PaulR79

    Vinyl was listened to by Saint Jobs?! I MUST HAVE A RECORD PLAYER AT ONCE!

    Whether true or not I don't much care. I'm not a massive music fan, in fact I probably listen to far less than most, but I know how expensive audio enthusiasts' equipment is and that's for a reason. You can't squeeze that much high-end equipment into something you carry around in your pocket, you can have it at home. To put it another way I can watch movies on my phone if I really want to but I wouldn't compare it to a home cinema setup. One is convenient and allows me to watch something on the go, the other is if I want a better experience.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    SACD ...

    There's an excellent master quality format out there freely available for purchase that'll play in any the majority of SONY Blu-Ray players (even the bottom end ones) and makes CD sound silly (even from the 80s) and that's SACD. Sadly the 'kids' and there damned mp3 accessibility requirements largely scuppered the market. Quantity not quality again and again and again ...

    Seriously though, the (temporary) triumph of mp3 over SACD and DVD-A was heartbreaking to anyone who actually cared about music and not sound/noise.

    1. the-it-slayer

      You know who to blame for that?

      The record industry itself! Kids wanted music on their MP3 devices (pre-Apple iPod days) because:

      a) CDs were still ridicilously expensive

      b) The record industry did not want to recognise the digital age

      c) SACD/DVD-A players were still very expensive and didnt come in macro/mini-hifi's very often

      d) Napster was born

      People like Neil Young are just moaning old gits and won't stand up to do something about it. Talk about trying to run down the new generation. What does that help to do? Nothing.

      A lot of these so called kids do have good quality headphones when they care about music. It's just the record industry refused to provide the goods at a decent price. Piracy conquered and CD will be history within 10 years.

      1. MJI Silver badge

        RE : the-it-slayer

        a) Definately

        b) True

        c) Pioneer DV575 changed the price angle

        d) I have seen it

        Prices well I have no idea what the future of music will be

    2. MJI Silver badge


      I liked it too - not much around now though sadly.

    3. phr0g


      Lack of the ability to extract the files wrecked that.

      Oh and that it doesn't actually sound any better than CD. The only reason it sounds better is the mastering. That's it.

      I've been through the whole HD downloads scam. I used to buy studio masters from Linn and HDTracks...

      So one day I downsampled some to 16/44.1 and did some extensive ABX testing in foobar...

      Guess what, the 16/44.1 sounds EXACTLY the same.

      HOWEVER, the 24/96 AND 16/44.1 downsampled versions often sound better than the CD version...why is that I wonder??? Answer...The mastering.

  25. s. pam

    Neil Young sounds like a bunch of glass in a blender with a live frog

    and still sucks at whatever bit-rate you encode/decode him at.

  26. kurkosdr


    Let's get some things cleared

    -CD-DA (Audio CD) can reproduce the entire frequency range and dynamic range the human ear can hear (22Khz is the maximum the ear can hear, 44.1Khz is the sampling of CD-DA, so the 2 times the maximum frequency sampling theorem is satisfied)

    -You must have a CD player with a "proper" DAC to hear the full quality of AudioCD, or a CD-player connected to an external DAC using firewire/SPDIF/HDMI. Presence of 4x oversampling is required for a DAC to be concidered "good". WIthout oversampling, the digital to audio conversion is not that good.

    -Most commercial AudioCDs today are badly mastered so that they play well on car stereos (the loud car stereo with it's over pronounced bass practically ruined the CD).

    -If you can't get a good CD master, get a DVD-Audio

    -Audio CD or DVD-Audio must be converted into flac .

    -MP3s are lossy. And not even "transparent". The difference over the uncompressed can be heard. Get over it people.

  27. Semaj

    Nobody Cares

    Radio is incredibly popular still and the quality on that is terrible, even with technological advances. In it's heyday it was even worse. These days it is common to see "normal" people listening to music from the tinny loud speaker on their phone as they walk around. Also from what I've heard, younger people are using YouTube to listen to music.

    The masses just do not care one bit about music quality, never have and never will. Enthusiasts will all ways buy good kit and vinyl or CDs even if they get a bit pricey and even if there is a free alternative.

    I like what he says about piracy being the new radio though, he seems to kind of get it.

    1. MJI Silver badge

      Youtube music is bad

      I think I'll block it in Hosts again, the quality to me is painfull.

  28. Armando 123

    Neil Young is still alive?

    If you call that living. Honestly, the last time he was relevant was when Eddie Veddar dragged Neil's drug-addled carcass in front of the music press as a grandfather of grunge.

    Maybe he can blame this on Nixon as well.

  29. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    You may like NY or not, but

    He is right on both counts:

    A - the mainstream audio quality is deteriorating and seems to do so with each new technological iteration. Simplicity and convenience comes at the cost of quality and the industry, wittingly or unwittingly, promotes this process. They dumb down the content and then they bring down the quality to the lowest common denominator, commoditising and devaluing the music. Then they complain about what they themselves have done.

    B - "piracy" is one of today's discovery mechanisms. I am absolutely convinced that if RIAA will somehow manage to completely stop piracy their client's sales will suffer dramatically.

    1. Juan Inamillion

      Point B

      You sir, are absolutely spot on.

      Well done.

      Point A was good too

  30. David 45

    Compression trashes the music

    Surely it's not so much the fact that it's digital but I would suggest that it's more all down to the hideous audio compression and processing that wrecks modern-day recordings - likewise, radio these days. All engineered to try and make sounds seem "punchier", with the result that everything these days sounds (to put it bluntly), utter crap! Painful.

  31. Tankster


    "Old Man" is my 8 year old's favorite song so STFU bitches!!!

  32. This post has been deleted by its author

  33. 42

    Spot on guys

    I have just started doing live sound engineering again after a long break. I hate the modern trend to have compression on the compression. WHen mixing live I use the minimum possible compression, and people at gigs have been coming up to me and saying, "Thats the best sound I have heard here in years" There is not one digital device in the signal chain.

    People get used to the quality they listen to regularly, and the relatively poor sound of MP3 makes a live band thru a cranking all analog system sound awesome to them. Its a bit like hammond organ/leslie simulator, they can sound really impressive on their own, but when put up against the real thing, there is no comparison. The way the Leslie effects the air in a room is impossible to simulate. Good to see so many well informed posts here too!

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