Breaking News
Audio DesignLine Blog

Neil Young: Say No to MP3s

Rich Pell
2/22/2012 05:33 PM EST

 53 comments   post a comment
NO RATINGS
View Comments: Threaded | Newest First | Oldest First
kdboyce
User Rank
Rookie
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
kdboyce   2/23/2012 7:04:54 AM
NO RATINGS
On the issue of preferring vinyl over anything else, I just can't bring myself to believe that a mechanical needle tracking indentations in a groove is better than a currently available A-D converter and D-A converter in terms of capturing the 'true sound' of the performance. Why anyone who really knows how vinyl recordings works could believe it is better. Now IF you really could get all the analog resolution captured in a mechanical system which was not only perfect in its recording but also playback, then maybe we have something to talk about. Meanwhile, unfortunately MP3 is here to stay for the masses until Young or someone else comes up with a better digital format that allows the storage capacity and relatively good sound the MP3 currently gives.

dxevc
User Rank
Rookie
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
dxevc   2/23/2012 10:37:43 AM
NO RATINGS
Not to mention the noise, both due to low SNR and due to dust, statics etc. on the vinyl itself.

DrLivIP
User Rank
Rookie
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
DrLivIP   2/23/2012 12:56:08 PM
NO RATINGS
A lot of the argument coming from those who favor vinyl is based on a sense of nostalgia. The needle contacting the record, the static pops, the background noise, etc.; all bring us back to the 60's and 70's. You'll hear the term "warmth" bandied about, essentially replacing the term "noise." For similar reasons guitarists still prefer vacuum-tube amplifiers over solid state. I contend that a lot of the benefits of the digital format have been compressed out in an effort to make the music suitable for things like i-Pods. I would bet that in double-blind tests, many of these myths would be busted. Maybe this is something to send to Jamie and Adam.

another_bill
User Rank
Rookie
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
another_bill   2/24/2012 8:24:57 PM
NO RATINGS
Nostalgia is not the reason guitarists prefer tube amps. They like the way they overload cleanly. Solid state is usually dead linear right up clipping and they clip harshly while vacuum tubes go more and more non-linear. There's no reason this characteristic couldn't be simulated and I'm sure there are solid-state guitar amps that can mimic the "tube" sound and they are probably cheaper than real tubes.

anon9303122
User Rank
Freelancer
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
anon9303122   2/23/2012 3:20:03 PM
NO RATINGS
Let's face it. While tooling down the road in an automobile, MP3 is just fine and a very efficient way to listen to a lot of music without disc changers and the like. At home, I still have my 1980's direct drive turn-table I bought when I was in college and of course the CD player that I have hooked up to the Hi-Fi. ;o)

jfa2525
User Rank
Rookie
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
jfa2525   2/23/2012 3:30:03 PM
NO RATINGS
There should be an option to purchase high resolution audio formats at a premium price, and the new players should automatically recognize and play whatever file format it is given. This will create a new premium market for audiophiles while generating additional revenue for artists and recording companies. I like it, we all win! :-)

jrome
User Rank
Rookie
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
jrome   2/23/2012 3:53:57 PM
NO RATINGS
eClassical.com offers FLAC for the same price as 320 kb/s mp3s (you get both for the same price), and also has many 24-bit recordings for download. And they have a 1/2 price daily special for about $5. So try it and compare. To my ears, what mp3s give up is spatial resolution, especially on loud orchestral passages. Things get muddied.

grinjin
User Rank
Rookie
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
grinjin   2/23/2012 3:56:52 PM
NO RATINGS
It figures a bunch of electrical engineers would pooh pooh the sound of vinyl, but a whole lot of audio engineers, musicians and audiofiles definitively know it sounds better. This is not something the average listener cares about. The ultimate listening devices are those things hanging off the side of your head, coupled with some lumpy matter inside of it. Trained ears can tell the difference between vinyl, digital, mp3, 24bit, 192kHz, tape, lossless, etc, etc - but not all trained listeners will agree either. There is a market for high resolution music, just not a mass market.

rpell2
User Rank
Rookie
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
rpell2   2/24/2012 4:40:38 PM
NO RATINGS
You're certainly entitled to your opinion that vinyl sounds "better." But there are also a "whole lot" of audio engineers, musicians and audiophiles - with equally critical "ultimate listening devices" attached to their heads - who think digital sounds "better." So, subjective opinions aside, we are left with the objective data - i.e., technical specs and measurements - which clearly show that CD/digital is technically superior to vinyl in almost every respect.

Wobbly
User Rank
CEO
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
Wobbly   2/24/2012 6:36:52 PM
NO RATINGS
Vinyl particularly fails as you near the inner radius of a 33 1/3 RPM LP. Insufficient linear velocity plus exaggerated tracking error. Exotic tone arm designs can fix the tracking, but can do nothing about the lack of velocity. Couple that with surface defects, debris, and microphonics, and I don't understand the allure at all. Note, I grew up with vinyl, I still have quite a bit of it, but I won't be buying any new.

old account Frank Eory
User Rank
Rookie
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
old account Frank Eory   2/23/2012 4:00:58 PM
NO RATINGS
The headline is a bit misleading. Consumers said no to MP3s years ago, and what Neil Young was actually complaining about (I followed the link and read the article) was the loss of quality of even today's most popular iTunes format -- 256kbps AAC -- and the CD format itself. As others have alluded to, fidelity requirements vary with listening environment. I have no problem with 256kbps VBR AAC when listening in the car, or even with good earbuds on my iPhone or iPod Touch. But when playing digital audio through my home system, I would prefer something better. I agree with jfa2525, there should be an option to buy hi-res formats, which indeed would bring in extra revenue and be a win-win for everyone. SACD never took off, despite it's effective 20-bit resolution and wide frequency response, but that may have more to do with it being yet another plastic disc than with a perceived lack of demand by consumers for higher quality. Wouldn't it be nice if iTunes offered SACD or even higher quality downloads at a premium price?

rpell2
User Rank
Rookie
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
rpell2   2/24/2012 3:19:09 AM
NO RATINGS
The term "MP3" in the headline is being used loosely to refer to lossy compressed formats in general. And while iTunes and its 256-kbps AAC format is undoubtedly the 800-lb gorilla of consumer music downloads, most other services like Amazon and Google etc., still sell MP3s. And MP3 still appears to be the most popular music sharing format.

anon9303122
User Rank
Freelancer
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
anon9303122   2/23/2012 4:22:01 PM
NO RATINGS
The loss of sound quality associated with CD's has less to do with the medium and its associated signal processing, but what the recording companies do to the audio when they "re-master" for CD's. The loudness issue is one that is (relatively) well-known.

anon9303122
User Rank
Freelancer
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
anon9303122   2/23/2012 4:24:26 PM
NO RATINGS
I don't buy the golden ear crap either. Those folks just somehow fancy themselves more worthy of wasting their own money. But hey, they keep the economy ticking along by making Monster Cable folks very rich. ;-P

Raul_77
User Rank
Rookie
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
Raul_77   2/23/2012 4:29:03 PM
NO RATINGS
Perhaps the answer already exists, the 1Bit 5.6MHz proposed by the professionals: http://guitarramania.com/index.php/contenidos/home-studio/350-ahora-resulta-que-menos-es-mas-grabacion-digital

Duane Benson
User Rank
Blogger
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
Duane Benson   2/23/2012 5:58:54 PM
NO RATINGS
Digital cameras make a good analogy here. Only recently has the typical point and shoot digital camera matched up to the quality of a half-decent 35mm camera. Most phones are still quite a bit lower in quality. But phone cameras an digital point and shoot are insanely popular and have been for a number of years. The majority of folks just don't care. What they need is simply to capture an image, not reproduce an image as faithfully to real life as is possible. The same holds with music. Yes, some people want to come as close to concert hall as possible, but most people don't want or need that. They're happy just be be able to carry around a bunch of songs. It's not a technology issue. It's one of what the consumer needs and is willing to pay for. Clearly consumers are willing to pay for the audio quality available in today's Mp3s.

Rick_Hille
User Rank
CEO
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
Rick_Hille   2/23/2012 6:33:46 PM
NO RATINGS
For the record (pardon the pun), I do believe Golden-eared individuals do exist and are capable of discerning subtle audio artifacts to a degree that would shame us mere mortals, who are evidently satisfied with our "Portable Picnic Players...", to borrow a quote. But seriously, I would wish and expect any new High Quality digital format to receive unconditional approval from at least a group of industry respected "ears". I agree with Frank E's observation regarding MP3; it is the wrong format to focus on for discussions of audiophile level High Quality audio.

katgod
User Rank
Rookie
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
katgod   2/23/2012 8:11:16 PM
NO RATINGS
There is likely a gaussian distribution for peoples ability to hear variations in sound quality. I think a number of studies have been done that show your average person can not tell the difference between a good 256 Kbps MP3 and a non compressed source. Do some people prefer vinyl or tube sound, yes I am sure they do, it depends on what you are used to, both have large problems as pointed out like poor signal to noise and added distortion and the benefit of soft clipping. The biggest problem with recordings today is the over use of dynamic range compression, this works well for cars but is bad for home use. Ultimately most of this is not important, what matter is the content, in which case even in live venues there are usually problems with the fidelity but that is out weighed by the enjoyment of the music.

joe.schoelen
User Rank
Rookie
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
joe.schoelen   2/24/2012 6:30:26 PM
NO RATINGS
Well, it's my opinion that Neil Young's voice sounds better with lossy compression. In fact, if the compression algorithm completely lost his voice I think the music would sound better.

Sparky_Watt
User Rank
Rookie
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
Sparky_Watt   2/24/2012 6:45:49 PM
NO RATINGS
We can't forget in this mix that, objectively, the "better" sound of vinyl and tubes is much poorer than most good quality digital. There is more noise (as already pointed out) and more harmonic distortion. The thing is audiophiles LIKE the distortion these formats provide. It is not really that they are truer to the original sound. It is that they are a more pleasant "interpretation" of it. The "warmth" that audiophiles attribute to these formats is not the added noise (pop, hiss, wow, and flutter) it is the distortion. This can be digitally simulated. It would be interesting to see how a high quality digital recording, the same recording with "simulated vinyl", and a vinyl recording of the same thing fared in a double-blind test.

Alex.Specker
User Rank
Rookie
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
Alex.Specker   2/24/2012 7:04:30 PM
NO RATINGS
The ultimate for me would be the availability of the raw tracks in their native format. Then I could "mix" and "master" them the way I liked and preserve the highest quality or compress as desired. All very possible with today's technology.

screwme
User Rank
Rookie
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
screwme   2/24/2012 7:08:49 PM
NO RATINGS
I agree that MP3 digital audio is not what it should be in terms of inherent sound quality. I don't really have a way ( at least I haven't take recordings to my spectrum analyzer to verify), but I can determine some artist's recordings are much cleaner, crisper, more dynamic range. So it would seem that the capability is there, just not used. Why? We don't use video caset tapes anymore, even more we're moving from DVD formats. There's a whole new market out there!

screwme
User Rank
Rookie
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
screwme   2/24/2012 7:21:47 PM
NO RATINGS
The comment that the hearing is rather like a normal distribution, in fact is true. I did a simple study in college. Though it is much more complex than a signal generator and a pair of headsets. Hearing is anything but flat, with a -3db point at 15K or so. Most people (within 1 std dev) can distinguish between the full quality original and the MP3 rendition. It's not 100% and it varies depending on the music content, People are so used to listing to crap on crap systems they just don't know. My system is crap but I have access to a studio so I know what good as it gets sounds like. People we don't have to listen to crap. Oh please don't be too harsh on old Neil.

bigspark
User Rank
Rookie
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
bigspark   2/24/2012 8:05:33 PM
NO RATINGS
Forty years ago, a friend had just toured an RCA pressing plant where vinyl records were made. He commented on the technicians using micro-chisels to remove major imperfections from the master dies. Specsmanship was popular for audiophiles. But low harmonic distortion (which sounds good)was reported far longer than intermodulation or crossover distortion (which don't sound good). Now, it's hard to find any meaningful specs. MP3 is so frequently used in acoustically disastrous environments that the listeners are unlikely to be able to discern quality. At home, I listen with higher quality equipment, and can hear the difference with low quality media, whether it's vinyl or something else.

Bill.Graham
User Rank
Rookie
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
Bill.Graham   2/24/2012 8:27:53 PM
NO RATINGS
The irony here is that, in my opinion, Neil Young doesn't make music worthy of worrying about sound quality of 256kbp/s versus FLAC versus whatever. The typical rock or pop album goes through so much studio manipulation including compression that I think the benefits of one format over another are moot. If you listen to well made CD's such as those from Sheffield Labs or Opus 3, a layperson (a brass ear if you will) can hear the difference. Garbage in garbage out. For 95% of the music sold on iTunes the 256 kbps AAC is adequate. Fix the source first. Good recording in, good sounding digital files out. Most of the significant issues with compressed formats happen at the higher frequency ranges. How middle aged golden ears tell the difference is beyond me. Having said that, now that disk space is cheap I do rip all of my CDs into lossless format :)

RWatkins
User Rank
Rookie
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
RWatkins   2/24/2012 8:34:43 PM
NO RATINGS
Yeah, yeah... The discussion of "quality music" misses many of the real points that need discussing. If I listen to music in my car, with road/car noise and people talking around me, quality of the recording is not very important. If I listen to "free" music, the artists would like me to buy their pay media and should actually prefer to limit the quality there as well, much as AM radio stations playing pop music did in my youth. The FM radios were capable of delivering high quality sound even long ago, and really were the starting point for the type of discussion here. If someone really "wants" distorted music, DSPs or FPGAs can be readily adapted to simulate the noise sources and distortions associated with historical and problematic reproduction equipment by modeling the distortion, and going all the way back to wax or metal cylinder players. As for me, I HATE sound systems that distort intentionally. I literally have to walk out of one venue I visit weekly during the music as they generate squeals in the 10KHz+ range that most of my fellows cannot hear but are painful to me.

BrusselsSprout
User Rank
Freelancer
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
BrusselsSprout   2/24/2012 8:44:21 PM
NO RATINGS
Ehemm, Pardon me, but the mp3 format supports a variety of compression levels. It can accomodate anything from the crap that alows you to fit hundreds of tracks onto a floppy to a lossless compression level that will exactly duplicate CD data. It seems silly to denigrate the mp3 format when it is the choice the user makes that determines the quality of the audio content. As an example, even a tin ear will easily note the difference between a CD recording and the equivalent itunes mp3 version of pipe organ music. While I may grant that the first few times a vinyl record is played it might be a better experience than CD, the CD wins hands down for repeatably good quality renderings.

przemek
User Rank
Rookie
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
przemek   2/24/2012 8:46:27 PM
NO RATINGS
Seriously, the differences between decent bitrate mp3 and all those 'golden ears' 24-bit 195kHz super-audio formats won't make me spend more dough, and definitely wouldn't induce me to buy my music collection _once_again_. That trick only worked once, when we moved from vinyl to CDs :)/ However, if the recording companies released pre-mix material in multi-track format, so that we could play Marcus Miller's bass to Miles Davis' trumpet, I might be interested.

JamesTPDI
User Rank
Rookie
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
JamesTPDI   2/24/2012 9:48:03 PM
NO RATINGS
I buy MP3's from Amazon because they are 320Kbps. Not the lower quality Apple 256K. I also moved my CD collection to 320KBPS MP3's. I listen in a room created for movie (7.1) and audio (stereo PCM) watching / listening. I still have records on the same system (although I listen to them less and less). I believe that the speakers position and amplifier tuning for the room represent the largest factor in listening and I am still amazed at the absolute quiet and quality of the digital recordings that are made well. There is still junk being made, but that is not the fault of compression!

rpell2
User Rank
Rookie
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
rpell2   2/24/2012 10:32:39 PM
NO RATINGS
I think Amazon only offers 256-kbps MP3s. (Other sites, such as Google Music, do offer 320-kbps MP3s however.) And, as pointed out earlier, the 256-kbps AAC files from iTunes should be technically superior to MP3s of the same bitrate.

JamesTPDI
User Rank
Rookie
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
JamesTPDI   3/16/2012 1:30:05 PM
NO RATINGS
You are correct. I either miss remembered or the bit rate is not what it was from Amazon.

sj90
User Rank
Rookie
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
sj90   2/24/2012 10:54:53 PM
NO RATINGS
A few years back I was playing vinyl at home when both my kids (early teens) came home. They walked in the door and immediately asked what I was listening to. Both said it sounded so much different, and better, than anything they've heard before, even CD. Unprompted and without having a clue what I was doing. My son wanted to start listening to my classic rock on VINYL! Maybe as we age we don't hear as much difference.

R. Mark Clayton
User Rank
Rookie
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
R. Mark Clayton   2/24/2012 11:25:22 PM
NO RATINGS
CD was vastly superior to vinyl, both on spec' (dynamic range, absence of wow and flutter etc.) and on any audition. To my surprise it was difficult to tell a [decent] MP3 from a CD despite compression of around 90%. This is easily demonstrated if I listen to "Stairway to Heaven" which I have on all three. The vinyl is hissy with pops (OK old record, but it wasn't that much better when brand new), but the CD and MP3 are indistinguishable, with no noise in the quiet bits and true HIgh FIdelity throughout. Sure it is possible to have a higher data rate for audio, but for no discenrable difference for 99% of listeners and certainly NOT something worth paying $$$$ for. I do want more bits with my music - I want the video to go with it! Sadly the only video of the above that I have is mono, because the director (a certain James Page) only recorded it that way at Middison Square Gardens :-((. RMC PS if you want better sound quality these days - buy bigger speakers.

Dale Shpak
User Rank
Rookie
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
Dale Shpak   2/25/2012 1:09:00 AM
NO RATINGS
The trouble with subjective evaluations is that they are subjective. To many people tube gear "sounds better" because the harmonic distortion that it adds to the signal is psychoacoustically pleasant. This distortion also helps to mask other nasty errors in the recording process. I prefer high-resolution digital audio. If you have 192kHz/24-bit recording/playback and the A/D, D/A, amplification and transducer chains have excellent linearity, low timing jitter, fast response (speakers too!), and are "time-correct", you realize that vinyl + tube gear isn't accurate, it is just "warm and fuzzy". Historically, the biggest problem with 44.1 kHz recording was the phase distortion introduced by the antialiasing filter, but there have been improvements since then. The only problem with a truly accurate signal chain is that you hear all of the mistakes, poor recording techniques, and poor electronics used in the recording. There are many recordings that just don't sound good if the audio system is "too accurate" and unforgiving. I suggest playing excellent source material using accurate equipment and playing less-than-stellar material using warm/fuzzy gear. Music is not simply sinusoids: temporal response is very important, not just frequency response. Do yourself a favor and listen to high-resolution audio on an excellent sound system ... I guarantee that you will be amazed. MP3's are a just a convenience that caters to our modern low-quality "throw-away" society. Friends don't let friends do MP3's.

abraxalito
User Rank
Rookie
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
abraxalito   2/25/2012 2:06:42 PM
NO RATINGS
The 'digital vs analog' arguments will run and run without ceasing while they're about formats rather than real world implementations. The 'vinyl is superior' crowd are generally in the $10k+ arena - and most people's digital implementations suck. The 44k1/16 bit CD format sounds fine to my ears but that's only with semi-custom engineered converters, not the off-the-shelf 'low bit' aka sigma-delta ones which are audibly not transparent owing to noise modulation effects.

Dale Shpak
User Rank
Rookie
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
Dale Shpak   2/25/2012 5:50:13 PM
NO RATINGS
Many people are impressed when they see photo of a Bernini's "Apollo and Daphne". Most of these will appreciate it more after they visit Galleria Borghese!. You will only appreciate the difference if you actually experience HD audio. (But make sure that the source material is of "Bernini" calibre).

seaEE
User Rank
CEO
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
seaEE   2/25/2012 6:15:37 PM
NO RATINGS
I think there is some confusion here. It's not the sound that was really better in the 70's. It's the music itself that was better. "I wanna put on my my my my my dancin' shoes"

TFlynn
User Rank
Rookie
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
TFlynn   2/25/2012 7:30:23 PM
NO RATINGS
So much confusion. Opinions on what's better & what's good enough. This isn't an argument about vinyl vs CD vs MP3. It's about moving the bar higher. Look a video. It's progressing, VHS/Beta (mono to stereo to surround) then DVD (stereo/surround/DTS)to Bluray (High defs) to 4K in future. I'm mean to refer to the content is improving, 320i, 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080p, 4K (rough trend). You can buy the same video content in improving quality. Some people have paid 3 times for the same content (VHS, DVD & Bluray). What about audio? Hasn't really improved much. Some argue it has stepped back. I think the jist is to get together & move the bar higher. The source is recorded in multi channel high bit & high bitrate format. It then gets beaten & stuffed into a lossy MP3 or AAC format. Perhaps the argument is create a "standard" higher bit/bitrate multichannel Audio consumer format. Kind of like 7.2 DTS without video. I'm not sure if I made sense!

Clance
User Rank
Rookie
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
Clance   2/25/2012 11:07:55 PM
NO RATINGS
I have, for some years, used a laptop for music at live shows (difficult to find pianists). The method I use is to make the WAV file mono (I don't need stereo) and save the resulting file as ADPCM. The resulting file is only fractionally bigger and can be played on an elderly (slow) laptop using SNDREC32 as provided by Microsoft. This player has the advantage that it stops at the end of the data stream (Media Player does not). The audio result is of sufficient quality for the purpose. I have had people give me particular tracks in MP3 format which I have to convert to WAV. Some of them sound terrible, probably due to a low bitrate.

Walter Schoombie
User Rank
Rookie
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
Walter Schoombie   2/27/2012 6:49:51 AM
NO RATINGS
For anybody interested in Audio reproduction and the myths surrounding sound production - PLEASE read the audio critic. (www.theaudiocritic.com) There is a collection of magazines - although 10-15 years old that is still very relevant. The issue today is NOT the signal chain - even cheap CD players measure such that you are not able to hear the difference. The big issue is still at the input and output (microcphones, recording, speakers & room) of the system.

cello1000
User Rank
Rookie
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
cello1000   2/27/2012 7:36:06 PM
NO RATINGS
There are a considerable number of issues involved here which many of the above responses have touched on. Although I work as a power supply design engineer, I grew up as a teenager playing classical symphonic music in various youth orchestras. Audio became a hobby for me only as I progressed into my 20’s and 30’s. I have spent about 20 years of my adult life building and listening to home audio equipment to help sort out these subjective issues. Correct engineering of equipment is a necessary but not sufficient condition to guaranteeing good sound. It takes many years for the human ear/brain mechanism to learn how to “perceive” music and sound, just as it takes many years to become a fine wine or gourmet food connoisseur. I have yet to hear of any serious, scientific “double blind” tests run for wine tasters or for food critics. Yet taste is a subjective quality just as hearing is. People who subscribe to scientific reductionism are unwilling to accept the current shortcomings of the electrical engineering paradigm that prevails in the "scientific" audio community. Most double-blind studies that have been run have been "rigged" by the biases of the people who constructed them to disprove the phenomena of subjective audio quality. The intent has been to prove that linear, steady state, Fourier analysis is sufficient to characterize the sound quality of equipment and recording formats. Without giving a whole seminar on the subject the basic problem is this: You do not listen to just MP3 or vinyl or CD’s. You listen to the entire sound chain plus the source material. Quality problems in just one area or several can influence whether or not you can hear differences with other parts of the sound chain. Further, differences in ear training make a tremendous difference in how good/bad something actually sounds. Getting the entire sound chain right and developing the ear training to hear problems can easily take half a lifetime to accomplish.

another nickname
User Rank
Rookie
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
another nickname   2/27/2012 9:18:20 PM
NO RATINGS
I think Neil Young should stick to music. The real world standard of sound quality is live music on a stadium within a crowd of several thousands drunken devotees. He should know better that music experience is not limited to a sound and even sound itself as neuron excitements caused by air vibrations is not making complete picture. People listen to music and it reminds them something and it results in some emotional experience and that is way more important then loss of quality due to encoding and compression.

WKetel
User Rank
Rookie
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
WKetel   2/28/2012 3:46:13 AM
NO RATINGS
What nobody has mentioned yet is that the real reason to make a change is to sell "new and improved" equipment. Yes, poor quality MP3s sound worse than good vinyl, but that is not the reason. The new format will have far more RIAA-mandated anti-copy functions than anything we have seen yet. Just wait, with the new format you can download to your portable player, but you can't copy it to your home player. Let us be realistic: it was never about sound quality, it was about money, both for the recordings and also for the equipment. Neil Young is OK, but listen to Erick Clapton for the very best music.

seaEE
User Rank
CEO
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
seaEE   2/28/2012 4:56:05 AM
NO RATINGS
I would like to think that sound quality will improve. Memory continues to decline in price and this will allow higher fidelity to be stored. Of course, as the price of memory drops, the desire to have ever larger personal music libraries grows. Do the two forces null each other out? Are we doomed to have huge libraries of mediocre quality, or will the size of the library and the quality of the recording improve in parallel? Or, will we get 64 bit sound, with 63 bits devoted to anti-piracy? ;)

sharps_eng
User Rank
Rookie
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
sharps_eng   2/28/2012 11:59:58 PM
NO RATINGS
Having worked on top-quality studio equipment, analog and digital, I learned what sounded good and bad, and why. I listened to live music, badly amplified, and also to good concerts. Good speakers and acoustics are almost the whole story, but not all good news, because truly transparent monitors will reveal the aliasing and huff-puff in bad MP3s, while every scratch in your vinyl gets its full dynamic range - Oww! So, for real quality go listen to acoustic live sets; learn to play yourself; or make your own recordings. Otherwise, its a jungle, but if they establish a premium standard the unforeseen consequences may be that 'regular' releases will be dumbed-down and if anyone complains, they can go premium, hey? Health warning: I respect my ears most of the time, but I occasionally indulge in playing rock at frightening levels to get the adrenaline which was part of the experience. But I will pay the price...

rpell2
User Rank
Rookie
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
rpell2   3/1/2012 1:40:51 AM
NO RATINGS
Here is another comment on MP3s and recording quality that was sent in via email: "One of the most important aspects is that modern mastering techniques squash the dynamic range so much that we are not even beginning to use the range available on a CD. There are a bunch of links at the bottom of the page I am linking to below - if you care about audio you will follow them: http://www.cdmasteringservices.com/dynamicrange.htm I agree completely with "fatigue". This did not happen in the old days, and MP3 lossy technology is NOT the problem. Basically, even when I buy a CD of a "digitally remastered" piece of music, I am getting garbage that I don't want to listen to. Secondly, as you point out in your point 1, MP3 lossy technology can do a great job of 192kHz sampled audio without creating ridiculous sizes specifically by being lossy. That could be vastly superior to CDs, especially now that our tolerance for file sizes has gone up considerably. Standard CDs could NOT capture the high sample rates, but MP3s can. MP3s can be lossy but can be very high quality. What about 320kbps (I used to do that) and VBR technology for reasonable file sizes and excellent audio? MP3 is the punching bag here but if someone wanted to master extremely high quality music MP3 is also the solution! A lot of CDs, especially older ones (or it may have been the players) suffer from problems with frequency range. The sample rate is too close to Nyquist, so the anti-aliasing filters AND the reconstruction filters contribute to problems. A higher sample rate encoded to lossy MP3 at a good bit-rate would solve that problem."

cello1000
User Rank
Rookie
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
cello1000   3/7/2012 7:09:57 PM
NO RATINGS
The analysis above merits further comment: The fatiguing quality of some CD's often has to do with things like low level / high frequency harmonic distortion being added to the signal. This generally sounds harsh to the ear, even though the THD numbers show little difference compared with "non-fatiguing" sources. Slew rate distortion and class AB output stages in Op-amps are often contributors, as are other factors. Vacuum tubes are far less likely to produce a fatiguing sound quality than solid state, Bipolar devices. Many solid state designers prefer to use JFETS amd MOSFETs instead of Bipolars in the signal chain for this reason. Vacuum tubes are also interfaced with D/A converters or used in mixing consoles for the same reason. The effect of phase shift impacting subjective sound quality has also been ignored by too many "scientific experts". Brick wall cut-off filters at 22 KHz produce serious sonic aberrations in high quality recording. For one thing, the quality of the stereo image suffers. Of course, if you do not believe stereo produces a subjective sound image in a room, then by scientific analysis, stereo and mono should sound the same and Richard Blumlein's original patent from the 1930's was nothing but a scam. Phase shift in loudspeaker crossovers has also been an issue since the late Richard Heyser wrote his landmark paper on time domain spectrometry analysis of loudspeakers. Many knowledgeable audiophiles now use only 1st order, 6/dB per octave crossovers with impedance compensating Zobels so that phase shift and time smear in loudspeakers does not subjectively degrade audio quality. Although phase shift and time smear can be objectively measured with test equipment, many in the "scientific" audio community still refuses to believe that it impacts subjective sound quality.

jimfordbroadcom
User Rank
CEO
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
jimfordbroadcom   3/8/2012 6:01:05 PM
NO RATINGS
Ah, a subject near and dear to my heart! @another_bill - I believe there was a discussion online recently in which some tube amp builders theorized that the sound of tube vs. solid state had less to do with the active device and more with the passives that surround it. For example, since a vacuum tube is a high impedance output device, it requires a transformer to be used when driving a low impedance load like a speaker, and the magnetics of the xfmr greatly affect the sound. High voltages used in tubes may also required different types of capacitors, which further affect the sound. These guys actually built a transistor amplifier with all the accoutrements of a tube amp, and lo and behold, it sounded just like a tube amp! Not that even the passives are the main thing that affect the subjective sound quality; I went to the Consumer Electronics Show from 2001 to 2005 (before my 2nd kid was born when I could do such things) mostly to attend the High End Audio Pavilion as well as the nearby The Home Entertainment (THE) Show. I found that from year to year, my perception of the quality of a particular manufacturer's system varied greatly. One year I was blown away by mfr. X's stuff, the next it just sounded so-so or vice-versa. Mfr Y's stuff sounded OK one year and fantastic the next! I concluded that rather than the mfrs changing their equipment radically from year to year (unlikely), that it's really hard to "get it right" when you're actually listening to the entire chain from the musical instrument and/or voice through the recording chain, to the reproduction chain, as well as the spaces where it was recorded and played back.

jimfordbroadcom
User Rank
CEO
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
jimfordbroadcom   3/8/2012 6:01:15 PM
NO RATINGS
Another reason for going to CES was to pick up SACD's for $15 instead of the usual $25 in the stores when I could find them. I don't know what they're going for these days. There are definitely audible differences in the discs themselves as well as the players. One year at CES there was a demonstration of various mfrs SACD players, but they all had different artists' music in them so it wasn't really a fair comparison. They had headphones plugged into them, and I can remember that the Marantz player sounded particularly good, while the Phase Linear one was awful! The Sharp player sounded good, but I wished I could have turned up the volume a bit. Content is indeed key, and I agree with joe.schoelen and Bill.Graham that Neil Young's weak, wavering voice is better left unheard, to put it politely. As well as his weak, wavering lead guitar, although his song writing and acoustic guitar playing are fine. Let somebody else do his songs, fer God's sakes! On a side note (no pun intended), as some of the folks here have mentioned distortion, some years ago I was mentioning that Young's song "Hey, Hey, My, My" (or is it "My, My, Hey, Hey"?) sounded like he had blown a speaker. One of my fellow guitarists said that he had heard that Neil Young couldn't seem to get enough distortion for the song, so he sliced up his speakers! Yes, there is such a thing as too much distortion, although I'm a big fan of distorted guitars. And @cello10_#1, that's Alan Blumlein, not Richard. Blumlein was the chap that came up with (patented, anyway) stereo recording and reproduction, among many other useful things such as the long-tailed pair (differential pair). With that, I'll shut up now.

cello1000
User Rank
Rookie
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
cello1000   3/9/2012 10:54:42 PM
NO RATINGS
Thank you for the correction on Alan Blumlein, the original inventor of stereophonic recording. As for differences between transistors and tubes, that topic has been argued for the past 50 years. One issue often overlooked is that solid state devices create a piezo, electro-mechanical resonance coloration to the original electrical signal. Electrical signal changes create piezo mechanical changes in the crystal structure which then create a piezo-electrical signal coloration added back on top of the the original electrical signal. This is probably why audio equipment made with the early Germanium transistors always sounded so horribly tinny and metallic compared to their more modern silicon counterparts. Differences in base charge injection and removal and storage time may also be a factor in the differences in sound between Germanium and Silicon. If you run a linear A/B solid state amplifier at full output with say a 1KHz sinewave, but with no speaker connected, you can actually hear the power output devices mechanically "sing". As the output devices warm up the silicon/germanium crystal gets "softer" and less prone to mechanically resonating. Continued below.

cello1000
User Rank
Rookie
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
cello1000   3/9/2012 10:54:52 PM
NO RATINGS
Base charge injection and removal also seems to be responsible for the audible problems with Bipolar transistors. This is particularly true with Class A/B power amplifier stages. Adding larger than normal emitter ballast resistors - say in the 1 ohm range - helps with base charge removal as well as with softening up the abrupt turn-on turn-off characteristics of these devices. Otherwise, Bipolar Class A/B output stages create an edgy, razor sharp sound not encountered with vacuum tube amplifiers. High negative feedback only makes the problem worse, by increasing the number of higher order harmonics produced, even while reducing overall THD. Adding large value capacitors across totem pole biasing networks also helps with proper charge injection and removal, and creates a subjective difference to the dynamic sound presentation. Class 'A' solid state amplifiers always seem to sound better than class A/B solid state. John Curl once said to me that a vacuum tube is an inherently "purer" device than a transistor because of its physics of operation. Digital recording added another layer of sonic issues on top of the issues created by solid state amplifier design. MP3 compression then created another layer of issues on top of that.

jimfordbroadcom
User Rank
CEO
re: Neil Young: Say No to MP3s
jimfordbroadcom   3/9/2012 11:11:14 PM
NO RATINGS
@cello10_#1 - Thanks for all the detail. Lotsa stuff I did not know, especially about bipolar power amps. Interesting that you would mention piezo resonance of solid state devices because I've always heard that the vacuum tubes had mechanical resonances in the audio frequency range. Microphonics it's called and can be perceived to be good or bad. And your mention of the decoupling caps on the biasing networks just reminded me of a discussion I attended at the LA Amp Show last October. Several tube guitar amp builders talked about how while many EE's think that the more decoupling the better, subject to cost and size constraints, that's not the case for guitar amps. By extension to hi-fi audio amps, too. Too much capacitance makes an amp sound "dead". Too little and it rings or even squeals. Not that I've had much experience tinkering with audio, but I do know what sounds good. To me, anyway. Thanks!

Radio
NEXT UPCOMING BROADCAST
EE Times Senior Technical Editor Martin Rowe will interview EMC engineer Kenneth Wyatt.
Top Comments of the Week
Like Us on Facebook

Datasheets.com Parts Search

185 million searchable parts
(please enter a part number or hit search to begin)
EE Times on Twitter
EE Times Twitter Feed
Flash Poll