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molecular
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Is Neil Young wrong about mp3s?
      #990264 - 29/05/12 06:02 PM
Neil Young speaks his mind HERE

I can't help but feel that he's barking up the wrong tree - especially as 320kbps mp3s are increasingly available, aren't they? Is the problem with the music on his phone not much more likely to be the speakers or headphones, which very possibly have gone down in quality over the years... And as for All Things Must Pass being available in 24 bit, 96 khz, I don't want to open that can of worms again, but is that not insane?

Would the difference between All Things Must Pass properly transferred from the master tape to 320 mp3, and 24/96 WAV be audible to anyone apart from a sound engineer in an anechoic chamber?

Discuss.

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molecular
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Re: Is Neil Young wrong about mp3s? new [Re: molecular]
      #990269 - 29/05/12 06:16 PM
Further on in the article, the writer says this, when discussing the various factors that can affect choice of listening format:

"First, there's the source material -- the tracks the band laid down in the studio, and what medium they used to capture the performance. Was it analog tape? Then a vinyl pressing of that performance will probably sound better than a CD. Was it a laptop recording at 24-bits? Then a high-resolution digital copy can equal the quality of the source."

I'd be interested to hear what anyone thought of this.

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Dave B



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Re: Is Neil Young wrong about mp3s? new [Re: molecular]
      #990274 - 29/05/12 07:04 PM
The facts are a little shaky - I'd love to see the math that proves that a CD has 15% of the original master information... and it is also missing the point that neither vinyl nor compact cassette ever reached the same quality as 1/4" master tapes...

It will be interesting to see if we get more lossless files soon. It's not the technology holding back here - it's licensing.

Oh .. and the wav vs flac argument is insane - any lossless format is purely a data compression format and should inflate to the same as wav. If audiophiles are getting picky over that, then we should start compulsory sterilisation programmes for the good of the gene pool...



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molecular
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Re: Is Neil Young wrong about mp3s? new [Re: Dave B]
      #990278 - 29/05/12 07:27 PM
Quote Dave B:

The facts are a little shaky




That was quite a good joke. I don't know if it was meant to be, but it is.

I'm a big fan of Neil Young, but this just seems to be muddying the waters, and attacking mp3s feels a bit like shooting the messenger - the more sensible comments under the article make good points about the loudness wars, the changes in listening environments and the new dependence on in-ear phones that have accompanied the drift into mp3 prominence. I'd have to agree I think they are much more to blame for any perception NY has that music sounds worse these days.

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zenguitarModerator
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Re: Is Neil Young wrong about mp3s? new [Re: molecular]
      #990305 - 29/05/12 11:38 PM
Although, to be fair to Neil Young, there are plenty of accounts online from long term techs and crew that attest to the acuity of his hearing. He appears to have a rare talent for remembering sounds in great detail and being able to compare what he hears very accurately with what he remembers hearing before. So while I wouldn't discount his opinions, I would hesitate to draw larger conclusions based on them.

Andy

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molecular
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Re: Is Neil Young wrong about mp3s? new [Re: zenguitar]
      #990306 - 29/05/12 11:49 PM
No, I'm sure you're right about his ears - that's why I'm so interested by comments about the fact that the prevalance of mp3s has coincided (to some degree) with other issues, like the ramming of limiters, the rise of the under-skilled home producer (my hand is up!) and the move from listening to music on hi-fi equipment at home to listening on tiny devices through tiny headphones. It surprises me that - according to this article at least - his ire has been reserved for the humble mp3.

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feline1
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Re: Is Neil Young wrong about mp3s? new [Re: molecular]
      #990381 - 30/05/12 11:19 AM
Whomever is wrong in this instance, I should like to imagine them being told so by the Galactic Emperor, in an "It is you who are mistaken... about a great many things" way. That would rock.

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Kaw-Liga
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Re: Is Neil Young wrong about mp3s? new [Re: feline1]
      #990425 - 30/05/12 01:44 PM
I only know that in the cinema, they use very high definition sound on a great sound system, and it sounds much better than cds on my stereo. Still, I don't think blurays in home cinemas sound better than cds. Ergo, it's more important to get a THX approved system than talking about 320 kb mp3 versus for instance 24/96000... if sound quality is of enormous importance.

Edited by Kaw-Liga (30/05/12 01:45 PM)


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Anonymous
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Re: Is Neil Young wrong about mp3s? new [Re: molecular]
      #990453 - 30/05/12 03:38 PM
It's a combination of factors that is confusing this issue. Both my Zen Mozaic and my Nokia x6 are excellent MP3 players, but some players are terrible as are some MP3s I have.

But again, I think it has a lot to do with that endless confusion between the pleasing artifacts inherent in analogue playback systems and the original capture/processing. I described it here

Neil Young, I suspect, is hankering after a sound that is not provided by (actually avoided in) digital playback systems. In other words, Neil Young would probably like the MP3s if the original wavs were first taken off vinyl discs!

That, and the fact that his hearing won't be what it was back in the day. (I've still got pretty good hearing today (about 17.5kHz at 38 years) but I can still remember being sat in a sand pit as a kid, listening to birds and street sounds with that ultra clarity I've since lost.)



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chris...
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Re: Is Neil Young wrong about mp3s? new [Re: Kaw-Liga]
      #990458 - 30/05/12 03:58 PM
Quote Kaw-Liga:

I only know that in the cinema, they use very high definition sound on a great sound system, and it sounds much better than cds on my stereo.



That'll be because the cinema has a better / bigger speaker system, not any specific limitation of CD.


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molecular
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Re: Is Neil Young wrong about mp3s? new [Re: ]
      #990490 - 30/05/12 07:11 PM
Quote J.A.S:



But again, I think it has a lot to do with that endless confusion between the pleasing artifacts inherent in analogue playback systems and the original capture/processing. I described it here

Neil Young, I suspect, is hankering after a sound that is not provided by (actually avoided in) digital playback systems. In other words, Neil Young would probably like the MP3s if the original wavs were first taken off vinyl discs!






I used to have a copy of John Martyn's "One World" on cassette and also the CD release - the cassette sounded rubbish in a lot of ways, but the snare drum on "Dancing" was AMAZING on the cassette - something in there was just really rounding it out, and on the CD release was just a bit of a naff weak snare sound. I very much considered recording the tape onto a blank CD for that song... I also tracked a snare drum track onto a cassette before re-importing into Pro Tools once and it had a lot of the results I was after.

But that's kind of the point - I still reimported it into Pro Tools, and I didn't lose the distortions I was after.

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Anonymous
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Re: Is Neil Young wrong about mp3s? new [Re: molecular]
      #990492 - 30/05/12 07:26 PM
Quote:

But that's kind of the point - I still reimported it into Pro Tools, and I didn't lose the distortions I was after.




That is the point yes, and people seem to confine this complaint to music. It's not like there are people complaining about what 'Get Carter' looks like on DVD, because the effect of the original 1970s film is preserved in the digital format. That said, I suspect the ear is more discerning than the eye in many ways.

Of course, MP3 compression is going to introduce distortions (like MP4 for video will) but at higher bit rates and a decent player it should to be good enough to enjoy it fully.


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Richard Graham



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Re: Is Neil Young wrong about mp3s? new [Re: ]
      #990601 - 31/05/12 12:09 PM
Quote J.A.S:

Quote:

But that's kind of the point - I still reimported it into Pro Tools, and I didn't lose the distortions I was after.




That is the point yes, and people seem to confine this complaint to music. It's not like there are people complaining about what 'Get Carter' looks like on DVD, because the effect of the original 1970s film is preserved in the digital format. That said, I suspect the ear is more discerning than the eye in many ways.

Of course, MP3 compression is going to introduce distortions (like MP4 for video will) but at higher bit rates and a decent player it should to be good enough to enjoy it fully.




I've seen people on Amazon complaining about the video quality of Quadrophenia (the film) on BluRay, and others explaining why they are wrong. Check this out:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Quadrophenia-Blu-ray-Region-Philip-Davis/dp/B005UX F1P6

FWIW I think most music sounds best coming off vinyl, then off a decent CD player, then lossy formats. The quality of the converters and output stage blur the distinctions between lossy/lossless digital formats. I'd rather hear a 256kbps mp3 played through decent converters than a CD played on a cheap CD player.

But best of all, I like the sound of music played from vinyl, it has a lot more depth and seems alive in a way that digital does not. Perhaps I've never heard really great digital!

And you can't keep a record player/LP collection in your pocket!

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Anonymous
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Re: Is Neil Young wrong about mp3s? new [Re: Richard Graham]
      #990615 - 31/05/12 12:57 PM
Quote Richard Graham:

I've seen people on Amazon complaining about the video quality of Quadrophenia (the film) on BluRay, and others explaining why they are wrong. Check this out:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Quadrophenia-Blu-ray-Region-Philip-Davis/dp/B005UX F1P6




From what I remember seeing it on telly, the original print of that film has always looked pretty poor quality. Perhaps the high quality of other blue-ray/HD discs in their possession only pronounces this further. I'd bet it was shot on quite a tight budget too, you can tell by the soundtrack. (I've always struggled to take that film seriously because some of the actors sound like they're on helium!) But I still say, for arts sake save celluloid!

Quote:

But best of all, I like the sound of music played from vinyl, it has a lot more depth and seems alive in a way that digital does not. Perhaps I've never heard really great digital!




Well, unless you capture the vinyl digitally. Digital recording is so transparent, it doesn't add anything of its own, unlike tape or vinyl. I even remember recording vinyl onto minidisc and really liking the results.


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Tartaruga



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Re: Is Neil Young wrong about mp3s? new [Re: Richard Graham]
      #990667 - 31/05/12 04:08 PM
Hi
Lots of CD’s have different mastering/mixing,than the original vinyl.In some cases,the mix is completely different,done at a different time.
I suppose there was a time were most commercial vinyls were ‘chain’ mastered with not much care,just for the production to ‘exist' on CD,without the original care at mastering.
And,there’s the case where the artist took a completely different artistic choice 10/15 years after.
I remember the example of Franck Zappa’s ‘Tinsel Town Rebellion Band’(example),where mix,mastering and even musicians were different from one to another…
For comparison,we need to compare vinyl and CD released at same time,mastered by the same person,from the same recording media…My 2c…
Cheers!


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Airfix



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Re: Is Neil Young wrong about mp3s? new [Re: molecular]
      #990670 - 31/05/12 04:15 PM
I have mixed 4 track MD onto cassette tape - with nice results!


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sc1460
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Re: Is Neil Young wrong about mp3s? new [Re: molecular]
      #990703 - 31/05/12 10:00 PM
Young said. "We live in the digital age, and unfortunately it's degrading our music, not improving."

I think he's right about that, it isnt just the mp3 though, its the whole combination of steps from analogue to digital to compression to analogue thats driving the beast. That plus software plugins where everyone is just turning all the virtual knobs to 11. Songs are increasingly brighter, hugely compressed, louder and belted back through poor converters into awful headphones or appalling radio limiters. Its a massive move from quality to convenience. Lazier, but more accessible.

I had a record player with speakers when a teenager! My daughter has an mp3 player with headphones where the bass is so over the top the vocals recede into the background. The speakers she had are the angry bird ones! Well I put my foot down and got her a Arcam Solo CD player with Monitor Audio Bronzes - her reaction "[surprised] oh that sounds really really nice...

In 10 years with huge broadband speeds and massive drives perhaps we can listen to lossless files all the time, and maybe this generation of mixers will finally tire of their abuse of digital and focus on the music again.....rant over ;-)


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Anonymous
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Re: Is Neil Young wrong about mp3s? new [Re: sc1460]
      #990706 - 31/05/12 10:17 PM
I would say that's the fault of the users though. All this endless tweaking. That's what I'm saying in this thread.


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molecular
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Re: Is Neil Young wrong about mp3s? new [Re: ]
      #990707 - 31/05/12 10:19 PM
Quote J.A.S:


From what I remember seeing it on telly, the original print of that film has always looked pretty poor quality. Perhaps the high quality of other blue-ray/HD discs in their possession only pronounces this further.




I may have missed someone else mentioning this, but I remember buying a lot of CDs of re-releases in the 90s that bore explicit warnings that the clarity of the CD medium meant that the noisiness (and other limitations) of the masters would seem much more apparent. I can't remember how it was worded, but y'all must know what I'm talking about.

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molecular
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Re: Is Neil Young wrong about mp3s? new [Re: ]
      #990709 - 31/05/12 10:24 PM
Quote J.A.S:

I would say that's the fault of the users though. All this endless tweaking. That's what I'm saying in this thread.




There is definitely *some* crazy s*** going on, though - my new iphone came with it's "sound enhancer" set to ON by default, hidden away somewhere in it's preferences. Not a feature you would even know existed unless you were poking around in there. Or possibly if you read the manual, but let's stay realistic. So the manufacturers of players are second guessing their customers' listening habits and mucking about with the sound of carefully made masters very much behind the scenes.

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The Telenator



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Re: Is Neil Young wrong about mp3s? new [Re: molecular]
      #990733 - 01/06/12 07:59 AM
I don't think it's the fault of the user. Even most of the musicians I know are pretty clueless about the various codecs and formats available in which to render their music, so how can we expect the average listener to understand any of this? They take what they can get in most cases, and you can't sell them vinyl if they can't even buy a decent record player without paying for a pro DJ unit, and you can't sell them FLAC if Windows 7 won't play it on its regular media player. We can't expect them to bend over backwards or read a dissertation on best formatting. They just want to play a bloody tune! Let's get reasonable here.

There are other factors at play as well. In the industry we have been itching for the longest time to get away from MP3 for better formats. A lot of what has controlled things through all these years is the patents and usage rights on other formats. At the start, MP3 as well was a bit of a problem here. I've lost track now, but I believe we are due for a couple more of these patents to expire soon.

The difference between MP3 at 320 and a WAV or FLAC may be an inaudible one to most listeners, but some do hear it (have to know what to listen for). At 320 and given a solid block of time, those MP3's will cause listening fatigue where WAV will not. Another factor that concerns me is that even in 320 some 80% or more of the recording's original information is lost. No psycho-acoustic algorhythm can completely make up for this.

Not only do I agree with everything Mr. Young said, the sad part is that he's only scratched the surface. I think about an entire generation (or two) growing up never knowing what a high-quality recording sounds like. Imagine living your life in black and white, having never seen anything in its real colours. Another way you will hear it described is as 2-dimensional as opposed to 3D. Today's music sounds 'flat' -- no reference to pitch here. These MP3's -- especially in 192 -- sound flat, breathless, missing bass and ultra-high definition.

Just as an endnote: Those warnings about sound quality on the older CD's were put there because at that time new recordings were being made digitally while the older music in analogue was being re-released on CD. Analogue could never come anywhere near the incredibly low noise floor inherent to digital, so it simply wasn't fair to put the two types side by side, looking the same in their packaging, without some sort of notice on the older recordings. Done properly, analogue can have a sufficiently low SN ratio, but playback on a good digital system catches everything.


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molecular
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Re: Is Neil Young wrong about mp3s? new [Re: The Telenator]
      #990751 - 01/06/12 09:44 AM
Quote The Telenator:

I don't think it's the fault of the user. Even most of the musicians I know are pretty clueless about the various codecs and formats available in which to render their music, so how can we expect the average listener to understand any of this?




I *think* that by users, he meant users of plug-ins and digital audio equipment that are easy to over-use (i.e. musicians and engineers, not end listeners)

Quote The Telenator:

The difference between MP3 at 320 and a WAV or FLAC may be an inaudible one to most listeners, but some do hear it (have to know what to listen for). At 320 and given a solid block of time, those MP3's will cause listening fatigue where WAV will not.




Listening to anything on "buds" on the underground will cause fatigue - I would maintain that the vast majority of ways that our modern way of life degrades our listening/production are true across the board and equally true of any half decent format. The fact is that the kidZ are doing a lot of listening not even out of there headphones, but the phone's internal speakers, or on laptop speakers - this has been covered - anyway the point is Neil Young, at least in this instance, doesn't pay any of these things any attention. He doesn't cover over-compression, he doesn't cover the sort of hell your master has to go through as part of getting broadcast on most FM stations, he doesn't address things like sneaky sound "enhancers". So I totally agree with him that people are listening under worse circumstances than they used to, but to imply that it would all be fixed if these kids were listening to over-compressed and sound-enhanced tracks on a laptop's internal speakers in gloriously detailed 24/96 is not giving the mp3 a fair hearing: literally.


Quote The Telenator:

Another factor that concerns me is that even in 320 some 80% or more of the recording's original information is lost. No psycho-acoustic algorhythm can completely make up for this.




Neil makes a similiar point in the article, claiming that even a CD contains only 15% of the info of the original master...

Obviously if you just look at the maths (but maybe not properly), then going from 24bit to 16bit = MASSIVE loss of information, but we all know, having read this and many other threads on this forum, that this is not the case.

Surely there's no point in trading stats unless they have some kind of relevant meaning - and everything I've read would suggest that even in lab conditions, most people won't spot the difference between a CD and a 320 mp3. So all the information that would ever reach their brain is reaching their brain. File size does not = amount of information.

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Hugh RobjohnsAdministrator
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Re: Is Neil Young wrong about mp3s? new [Re: molecular]
      #990810 - 01/06/12 11:50 AM
Here's my two penn'eth:

Quote:

Neil Young is right: Those songs on your iPhone do sound like crap




I don’t have an iPhone, but actually the music I have on my HTC sounds quite acceptable, and ditto on my classic iPod. Most is ripped at 320kb/s MP3 and while I can still hear artefacts in a few cases the vast majority is very good and certainly very acceptable in the locations where I use this as an audio source – in the car, on the train and on planes.

Quote:

… the outspoken musician expressed his deep dissatisfaction with the MP3 format and called for an end-to-end reboot of the consumer digital audio ecosystem, from file formats to playback devices.




People get the playback devices they are prepared to pay for, nothing wrong with any of the iPods I’ve tried! And there are plenty of file formats to suit all applications. The issue might be that people mis-use the formats available,and some education might be beneficial in that respect. But dissing the entire digital universe for the sake of a few who know no better is far more destructive and unhelpful in my opinion.

Quote:

Bitrates for most tracks on iTunes average 256kbps AAC audio encoding, which is drastically inferior to the quality of recorded source material in almost every case.




‘Drastically inferior’! Really? A touch of exaggeration there I think. The whole point of lossy codecs is that, when used as the designers intended, the losses are imperceptible. The human hearing system is very complex and very flawed in how it perceives sounds. Lossy codecs take advantage of those weaknesses -- but there is a lot of variation in the human form and some people will be more perceptive than others which is why we should err on the safe side. Instead, a lot of people erred on the side of smaller file size, used MP3 in a form where the artefacts weren't imperceptible, and that's why it acquired a bad name. It was the way it was being used, not the system itself at fault. The design engineers were trying to be helpful, but I don't think they should have offered different data rates at all, or if they did they should have had labels like 'normal', 'compromised' and 'really crap' instead of 320kb/s, 192kb/s, 128kb/s

Quote:

By Young's estimation, CDs offer only 15 percent of the recording information contained on the master tracks.




I’d love to see the maths on that. This is the kind of utter nonsense that destroys the more sensible elements in his arguments. Shot a big hole in the left foot…

Quote:

"We live in the digital age, and unfortunately it's degrading our music, not improving."




He probably has a point, but it’s not the technology per se, in my view, but the way people are choosing to use it.

Quote:

… the MP3s in your iTunes library don't do the original recordings justice.




Certainly true if people use too low a data rate…

Quote:

and far inferior to an analog source like a high-quality vinyl pressing or original master tapes.




Oops… that’s the other foot gone! Ask any mastering engineer with twenty years of experience of cutting vinyl and they’ll be very happy to explain the problems they have transferring audio accurately from master tape to vinyl, all the things it doesn’t cope with, all the compromises they have to make. And that’s before we look at the way the master disc relaxes and the sound quality changes between the cut and when the disc arrives at the plant, the metalisation process and the changes that brings, the raw vinyl quality and the disc weight, and so on. And then we have all the vagaries of different record player stylus shapes, tracking weights, pickup designs, vertical tracking angles, arm lengths and the distortion that introduces, wow and flutter, RIAA curve inaccuracies, preamp overload distortions from clicks and so on and so on…

Vinyl might sound nice – I love it myself – but let’s not be so stupid as to say it accurately mirrors the master tape in any way.

Quote:

The iPod isn't an audiophile device




It was never meant to be. It is the modern cassette walkman – convenient music for the masses.

Quote:

…hardware and software have reached the point where we can build something better.




Yes… that’s been the case for years, and there have been better products on the market for years too. But ‘better’ often means less portable, much more expensive, much less convenient…

Quote:

FLAC ... can handle 24-bit audio, which is the same resolution at which most bands record their albums these days.




But a largely pointless replay resolution in most domestic situations, and totally wasted in any kind of noisy environment such as commuting. The truth is that even 16 bit is over-specified for domestic replay in 99% of situations.

Quote:

By buying WAVs, you can avoid the potential data loss incurred when the file is compressed into a FLAC. This data loss is rare, but it happens.




Only if it is broken!

Quote:

Proponents of DSD will tell you it's the closest thing to analog tape available.




…and they’d be wrong too! There are fundamental issues with the original DSD format, which is why higher-rate forms of DSD were eventually launched… and even those are compromised. Linear PCM at 24/96 is about as good as it gets if the converters are designed properly.

Quote:

Was it analog tape? Then a vinyl pressing of that performance will probably sound better than a CD.




Commercial vinyl pressings do often sound better than the CD release of the same thing…but not for any magical ‘analogue sound’ reasons. One very common reason is that the format mastering is different, with much less aggressive compression and limiting on the vinyl version simple because the vinyl format can’t cope with it, while the CD can.

Quote:

If that's the level of quality Neil is striving for, it's attainable.




Absolutely. As I said, I think it’s all about how people choose to use the tools and the media we have available. The quality is there is we choose to use it. Sadly, most people don’t – they want cheap, and they want easy, and they like the ‘digital fixes’ rather than honing their skills and crafts.

Hugh

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Technical Editor, Sound On Sound


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feline1
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Re: Is Neil Young wrong about mp3s? new [Re: molecular]
      #990819 - 01/06/12 01:12 PM
In a way, there's almost no point giving a point-by-point technical demolition of these fallacies (as Hugh has done above) -

becuase what Neil Young is saying isn't *really* about technical matters. It masquerades as being a technical thing, but really if you translate the words, you get something like
Quote:

"Ooooooh! I'm an arrrrtist! and aesthete! My taste is sooooo superior to the like of youuuuuu! And I can afford to indulge my superior taste! Yessssss! Because I'm extrrrrrremely rich! Mmmmm"




That's all this kind of nonsense boils down to.
To prove I'm right: when I sit on the train every day commuting to work, with about 145GB of AAC and MP3 files on my iPod, just about hearing them over the babble and air-con and train engine, NONE OF THEM ARE BY NEIL YOUNG. Coincidence???

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Re: Is Neil Young wrong about mp3s? new [Re: Hugh Robjohns]
      #990825 - 01/06/12 02:13 PM
Quote:

Commercial vinyl pressings do often sound better than the CD release of the same thing…but not for any magical ‘analogue sound’ reasons. One very common reason is that the format mastering is different, with much less aggressive compression and limiting on the vinyl version simple because the vinyl format can’t cope with it, while the CD can.




As a matter of clarification then, do you agree that a decent vinyl rip to digital (e.g. to lossless WAV or even MP3 @ 320kb/s) should satisfy those who are hankering after what they hear directly from vinyl discs?

Thanks


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Anonymous
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Re: Is Neil Young wrong about mp3s? new [Re: molecular]
      #990826 - 01/06/12 02:15 PM
On that "how it's used" (the tech) point.

This can be applied to lots of things, H&S laws, knives, cars that can do 200mph... the list goes on. But it's "how things are used" that ends up being our experience of them. I mean it's that point of interface between the human and the technology that gives us the experience of the technology.

For instance, did anyone expect SMS to be used in the way it is by so many. I see people all the time walking down the road, sitting in a cafe and so on, glued to their phone, thumbs akimbo! Missing all that's happening around them. The fact that the majority of guns are owned by responsible country dwellers doesn't stop the cry (jsutified probably) for more gun control when some lunatic goes on a shooting spree.

So i can see NY's case. I'm sure he knows that CD can be used to produce very good reproductions, but for the most part, they aren't. And the MP3s get ripped from CDs which as has been detsiled above allow for some really crappy mastering. The end result is that the average listener isn't getting the same 'quality' as they were in say the 70s with their vinyl and Rotel HiFi.

The fact that vey high quality is available to a technicians and artists working towards a CD relese doesn't really matter. If they are holding the gun the wrong way round because they can't use the handle properly then the end result is disaster.


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Anonymous
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Re: Is Neil Young wrong about mp3s? new [Re: molecular]
      #990829 - 01/06/12 02:24 PM
All those year of scientific tests to better things and we end up with mp3s etc because it makes money.

If anyone wants mp3s for their library good luck to them. As an audiophile, comparing the difference in "quality" when it comes to a well recorded track (including performance too), it's a no brainer.

Mixers go through great lengths to understand their equipment. and use millions of pounds worth of gear to see their masterpieces heard through an inferior medium. It must be soul destroying, like a session musician playing for someone who can't sing because they have a nice tush!

Convenience wins always, but blinds truth and beauty, but the ear can be easily fooled.


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Anonymous
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Re: Is Neil Young wrong about mp3s? new [Re: ]
      #990831 - 01/06/12 02:28 PM
Quote J.A.S:

Quote:

Commercial vinyl pressings do often sound better than the CD release of the same thing…but not for any magical ‘analogue sound’ reasons. One very common reason is that the format mastering is different, with much less aggressive compression and limiting on the vinyl version simple because the vinyl format can’t cope with it, while the CD can.




As a matter of clarification then, do you agree that a decent vinyl rip to digital (e.g. to lossless WAV or even MP3 @ 320kb/s) should satisfy those who are hankering after what they hear directly from vinyl discs?

Thanks




Funny, I was having one of these futile arguments with HR on here some years ago about digital sounding awful when I mentioned that having transfered a load of old 8-Track tape to digital using a reel-to-reel and a Yamaha AW machine, the files sounded surprisingly good... Thinking this would provemy point i actually managed inadvertantly to prove his point. It's not the format particularly, it's something else.


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Anonymous
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Re: Is Neil Young wrong about mp3s? new [Re: ]
      #990832 - 01/06/12 02:36 PM
Quote ow:



Funny, I was having one of these futile arguments with HR on here some years ago about digital sounding awful when I mentioned that having transfered a load of old 8-Track tape to digital using a reel-to-reel and a Yamaha AW machine, the files sounded surprisingly good... Thinking this would provemy point i actually managed inadvertantly to prove his point. It's not the format particularly, it's something else.




Digital was bad at one point OW, when there were problems with the LSB but the standard is different now for the consumer, but something is only as strong as its weakest link.


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Hugh RobjohnsAdministrator
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Re: Is Neil Young wrong about mp3s? new [Re: ]
      #990854 - 01/06/12 05:17 PM
Quote J.A.S:

As a matter of clarification then, do you agree that a decent vinyl rip to digital (e.g. to lossless WAV or even MP3 @ 320kb/s) should satisfy those who are hankering after what they hear directly from vinyl discs?




Personally, yes... but I'm sure the vinyl die hards will still claim the process still loses something magical -- and with inadequate equipment I'm sure it does.

Pete Thomas, the man behind PMC monitor speakers, takes great delight in transferring his prized vnyl collection to CD and playing them at trade shows to great acclaim. He does use a very expensive turntable (not sure about the cartridge), Bryston RIAA preamp, Maselec equalisation and Prism converters so it ought to be good... I've always enjoyed listening to his transfers anyway.

Hugh

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Hugh RobjohnsAdministrator
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Re: Is Neil Young wrong about mp3s? new [Re: ]
      #990856 - 01/06/12 05:21 PM
Quote ow:

The end result is that the average listener isn't getting the same 'quality' as they were in say the 70s with their vinyl and Rotel HiFi.




True... in many cases it is significantly better! Sure enough anyone mad enough to willingly rip or buy 128kb/s MP3s isn't getting anything good, but more sensible use of the technology wins hands down.

In the 70s I was listening to cassettes with little top end after a few dozen plays, and audible flutter. I was listening to vinyl with distortion routinely as high in single figures, with snap crackle and pop all over it, and wow from off-centre holes.

Sure, those with expensive systems had a good experience, but the vast majority didn't. Much as it is today, I suspect.

hugh

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molecular
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Re: Is Neil Young wrong about mp3s? new [Re: ]
      #990858 - 01/06/12 05:26 PM
Quote Music Manic:



If anyone wants mp3s for their library good luck to them. As an audiophile, comparing the difference in "quality" when it comes to a well recorded track (including performance too), it's a no brainer.






Personally, I favour well performed, well recorded, really nice sounding mp3s.

--------------------
Anto mo Ninja, Watashi mo Ninja
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Re: Is Neil Young wrong about mp3s? new [Re: molecular]
      #990866 - 01/06/12 05:58 PM
Quote molecular:


Personally, I favour well performed, well recorded, really nice sounding mp3s.




Subjective, objective?!!


Quote:

..... the ear can be easily fooled.





Edited by Music Manic (01/06/12 06:01 PM)


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Anonymous
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Re: Is Neil Young wrong about mp3s? new [Re: molecular]
      #990874 - 01/06/12 06:46 PM
I'm sure that all NY is really trying to do is create a buzz of eliteness in order to inject some demand for a higher quality/price unit. It's all very well having all this wondefull digital music but the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and it's knackered sales and subsequently knackered the wonga available to develop artists, maintain studios and St John's Wood florists So we've lost a lot more than sparkly cymbals.


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molecular
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Re: Is Neil Young wrong about mp3s? new [Re: ]
      #990875 - 01/06/12 06:49 PM
Quote Music Manic:

Quote molecular:


Personally, I favour well performed, well recorded, really nice sounding mp3s.




Subjective, objective?!!






Neither, just perfectly possible.


Quote:

..... the ear can be easily fooled.





Well, certainly the brain can be fooled into thinking that some things sound better when it thinks a particular knob is being turned, or when it thinks it is listening to "high quality" audio - even when neither is true (e.g. in a blind testing). One of my favourite stories from this forum was about audiophiles doing a blind testing on what they thought were two different very high spec expensive speaker cables: and the winning cable turned out to have been old coat hangers jammed in the banana sockets. I can't remember where it was, though

I'm not sure what point you are making with the fooling the ear thing, though?

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Re: Is Neil Young wrong about mp3s? new [Re: Hugh Robjohns]
      #990876 - 01/06/12 07:00 PM
Quote Hugh Robjohns:

Quote ow:

The end result is that the average listener isn't getting the same 'quality' as they were in say the 70s with their vinyl and Rotel HiFi.




True... in many cases it is significantly better! Sure enough anyone mad enough to willingly rip or buy 128kb/s MP3s isn't getting anything good, but more sensible use of the technology wins hands down.




Ha! I see what you did there.

But it's not being used properly is it? It's being used to brickwall everything and then cheekily distribute low quality MP3s and the consumer is getting crap! It's the old gun round the wrong way scenario.

It's a bit like the NHS. Yes we CAN use the facilities and skills to great effect, it's possible, but in many cases people are left to wallow in urine. Or computer systems to quickly regulate economies or organise infrastructure. Yes, used properly and in the right hands we have the technology to make the world a paradise... but it just isn't.

I see your point though, from a purely technical point of view digital can provide a very good listening experience.


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Kevin Nolan
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Re: Is Neil Young wrong about mp3s? new [Re: molecular]
      #991451 - 05/06/12 09:31 PM
I can see where Neil Young is coming from on two fronts (without suggesting his 'maths' is valid):

- Rock and Roll emerged substantively as a recording medium in the analogue age. Hence, all of the issues that arise with analogue, whether deemed technically inferior to digital technologies, are vital to 'the sound' - the correct sound for rock and roll - but are now lost. I can see how, to someone of that era who rightfully expects all that historically delivered that sound - will regard technically superior, but significantly different, digital equipment as being actually inferior at delivering the desired sound. Isn’t that why people seek out vintage synthesizers and UAD tape emulations?

It may be that digital perfection is technically superior, but it is significantly poorer at delivering the sound Neil Young requires.


- There is no doubt in my mind that CD is hugely inadequate as a sound reproducing medium. Over recent years I have been hard at studying orchestral scores. As part of this I have equipped myself with a range of orchestral scores from among the best regarded recordings, to study with the orchestral scores. I also have a season ticket for Ireland's National Symphony Orchestra where I attend concerts on Fridays from September to May. So I am regularly given the opportunity to hear the work live and also listen to the CD and I can tell you, in virtually all CDs, a vast amount of the orchestration is woefully mis-represented (by necessary but often porrly judged sound engineering decisions because of the limited 'sound space' on CD) or indeed just inaudible, while even a casual direction of my concentration to a particular orchestral line in a live performance reveals it with clarity. There is a vast difference in the quality of well performed orchestral music to even the very best recording played over an excellent HiFi system.

In my opinion, we are at least decades away (at the apparent current rate of progress) of realising the capability of reproducing sound that is equal to the very best live performance. Here again, I can well imagine Neil Young comparing his experience in the very best studios or live scenarios and then listening to a reproduction form CD on even an excellent play back system and feeling completely underwhelmed.

As we all know, experiencing music is subjective but also as complex as we humans are; and there can be little doubt that CD, or any of the lossy formats, are but a passing and wholly inadequate (but currently acceptable) means of replaying music that to people in decades to come will seem as crude as the wax cylinder seems to us.

We're nowhere near the capability of perfect reproduction of music.

Kevin.


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Airfix



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Re: Is Neil Young wrong about mp3s? new [Re: Kevin Nolan]
      #991466 - 06/06/12 01:50 AM
Quote Kevin Nolan:




- There is no doubt in my mind that CD is hugely inadequate as a sound reproducing medium.



That was beautiful Kev. But, I'm distraught! Why did I not capture at 192kHz? - I will never forgive myself.


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Hugh RobjohnsAdministrator
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Re: Is Neil Young wrong about mp3s? new [Re: Kevin Nolan]
      #991515 - 06/06/12 11:23 AM
Quote Kevin Nolan:

...in virtually all CDs, a vast amount of the orchestration is woefully mis-represented (by necessary but often porrly judged sound engineering decisions because of the limited 'sound space' on CD) or indeed just inaudible, while even a casual direction of my concentration to a particular orchestral line in a live performance reveals it with clarity.




You're blaming the wrong thing. This is not the fault of the CD as a medium. Tape, vinyl, tin cans and string or whatever form of audio redording system to care to contrive all share exactly the same failings in this respect. What you describe are the inherent limitations of the stereo format, not the physical recording or replay mediums.

The 5.1 surround format is a small improvement, but is also pretty flawed in the way you have identified. The Ambisonic format is better still if the height element is reproeduced accurately.

The simple fact is that our ears and brain are capable of extracting far more information when in the same acoustic space as the source than can ever be relayed via stereo which is, at best, an entertaining illusion of reality. Just as watching a film, photograph or painting doesn't and can never provide the same information that you would glean from your own eyes if you were standing in the filmed location.

Quote:

There is a vast difference in the quality of well performed orchestral music to even the very best recording played over an excellent HiFi system.




Quite so! But it is impractical and unaffordable to hire a concert hall and the LSO every time I want to listen to a favourite classical work... so I'm quite happy to tolerate the compromises involved in a well made stereo recording when that solution is more appropriate.

Recording and reproduction systems based around wave field analysis might be able to deliver something much closer to the real experience but, as you say, is still decades away in any affordable and practical form.

hugh

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A. AuCr



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Posts: 144
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Re: Is Neil Young wrong about mp3s? new [Re: molecular]
      #991539 - 06/06/12 03:01 PM
Re: Wave field...

A light-field camera has recently been commercialized. I really do wonder how far behind an audio equivalent might be...


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