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Neil Young Says MP3 Isn't Good Enough; Neither Are CDs

By - Source: AllThingsD | B 110 comments

Neil Young believes that it is time that we finally demand a much higher audio quality in digital music.

It has been no secret that MP3 files are an insult to music lovers and barely good enough to be played on a decent home stereo as they only carry about 5 percent of the original source data of the music. Even CDs and their WAV format hold only about 15 percent. Chatting with Walt Mossberg at the D: Dive Into Media conference, Young revealed that he wants to save the art of music and end the era of MP3 on a device that is capable of downloading and playing music with all data available.

“Steve Jobs was a digital pioneer, but when he went home, he listened to vinyl,” Young said. He is convinced that Jobs, had he lived longer, would have come up with a device that would have support music playback in its pure form. Young did not elaborate what device this could be, but noted that "some rich guy" could be developing it. A possible solution that would work much better for music enthusiasts could be DSD, short for Direct Stream Digital, a technology developed by Sony and Philips for that uses pulse-density modulation encoding. The format uses 1-bit sampling at 2.8224 MHz, which is 64 times higher than the 44.1 KHz used by CDs. The result are huge audio files, about 300 MB for five minutes of audio. There are very few music publishers offering DSD files at all.

Of course, the convenience of downloading a song in a few seconds today would be lost, at least as long as we are tied to relatively slow broadband connections that are well below 100 Mb/s on average. Also, your ISP may not like the idea of 300 MB music files. Stream 1000 songs per month and you may accumulate an extra 300 GB of data, which is enough to get you branded as excessive data user. Much higher quality of music would be something few of us would complain about, but the infrastructure clearly needs a lot of work.

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  • 29 Hide
    JackFrost860 , February 6, 2012 8:35 AM
    Isn’t Steve Jobs the very reason why loss compressed music file are ubiquitous today?
  • 21 Hide
    cchambers , February 6, 2012 8:20 AM
    I think most people today value convenience over quality. Therefore, I don't see a big enough demand for this higher quality music in my lifetime. Personally, I'd love it.
  • 19 Hide
    memadmax , February 6, 2012 9:30 AM
    tweens don't care/know about high quality music.......

Other Comments
  • -9 Hide
    doive1231 , February 6, 2012 8:09 AM
    The tech industry always need spokesmen to flog new stuff.
  • 21 Hide
    cchambers , February 6, 2012 8:20 AM
    I think most people today value convenience over quality. Therefore, I don't see a big enough demand for this higher quality music in my lifetime. Personally, I'd love it.
  • 4 Hide
    Thunderfox , February 6, 2012 8:24 AM
    How can someone as old as Niel Young have the hearing capacity to distinguish between an MP3 and anything else?

    Is there a difference between MP3 and CD? Yes, but that is the price of convenience, and it's not like there aren't already better formats than MP3 anyway. Mp3 is desirable because everything can play it and it has no DRM.

    Is there a difference between a CD and DSD or SACD or whatever newfangled formats may arise? A bit perhaps, but most people would be hard pressed to notice it. And besides, how much music over the last few decades was mastered digitally? Was their equipment comperable to the quality of DSD? If not, get ready to buy all your music in new remastered DSD editions again.
  • 29 Hide
    JackFrost860 , February 6, 2012 8:35 AM
    Isn’t Steve Jobs the very reason why loss compressed music file are ubiquitous today?
  • 14 Hide
    ickarumba1 , February 6, 2012 8:50 AM
    We already have 320kbps MP3 and FLAC. That's good enough. I seriously doubt many people, if any, can really distinguish between the current high-end formats and this new DSD format.
  • 12 Hide
    Anonymous , February 6, 2012 8:57 AM
    the german magazin CT has made a test wiht so called "gold ears" a few years ago.
    experts when it comes to audio, people with the absolut hearing.

    they should decide if it was played from CD or MP3 (a good hardware MP3 player was used).... THEY FAILED MISERABLY. it was 50% right 50% wrong... just as if you had guessed or thrown dices to decide what is MP3 and what is CD.
    .


  • 5 Hide
    Anonymous , February 6, 2012 9:02 AM
    of course high rate MP3 are used for this test (not 128 kbits).... forgot to mention that.
  • 11 Hide
    billybobser , February 6, 2012 9:20 AM
    According to my Digital Signal Processing course, you only need to sample at 2x the max frequency to have enough data to fully reproduce the signal. Which is roughly 44khz (2x the top end of human hearing and a bit more).

    What they may lack however is quality sound reproduction hardware (digital signal processors are expensive and a bit too big to fit into an mp3 players) so the lame and brute force method of solving this issue would be to sample it so much that you wouldn't need to hardware to reproduce it, which to me is retarded and would essentially take us back to analogue.

    That's my understanding of my course however, may be wrong!
  • 12 Hide
    vishal s , February 6, 2012 9:21 AM
    I don't know 'bout others but I want a new high quality format.
  • 2 Hide
    southernshark , February 6, 2012 9:28 AM
    ThunderfoxMp3 is desirable because everything can play it and it has no DRM.Is there a difference between a CD and DSD or SACD or whatever newfangled formats may arise? .



    That's one thing I don't understand about this "tech" website. It seems to be full of people who ravenously stick to old technologies and old ways of doing things. It reminds me of the big box PC arguments where people bash smaller/lighter technologies.

    In any event, unlike the other "tech" people on here, I actually do like new tech and new ways of doing things. The current MP3 quality is very poor and we would certainly be better off and be capable of enjoying our music much more if we had higher quality formats.

    As such I hope that Neil is right and that new formats are presented to the public within a reasonable time frame. I see a lot of people investing in higher quality speakers, but the reality is that those speakers don't do you much good if you are listening to an MP3, or even a CD.
  • 12 Hide
    Anonymous , February 6, 2012 9:30 AM
    DSD is the format of SACD and it has been around for many years. It is definately sounds much better than even the best sounding CD (if the source material is worth it). I have many SACD and hope the format survives.
  • 19 Hide
    memadmax , February 6, 2012 9:30 AM
    tweens don't care/know about high quality music.......

  • 10 Hide
    RogueKitsune , February 6, 2012 9:33 AM
    I personally can't tell the quality difference of a MP3 at 256kbps and one at 320kbps. So High quality mp3's are good enough for me. I see no point in wasting HDD space for quality that i can not perceive
  • 3 Hide
    ivaroeines , February 6, 2012 9:49 AM
    peter111@aolcomthe german magazin CT has made a test wiht so called "gold ears" a few years ago.experts when it comes to audio, people with the absolut hearing.they should decide if it was played from CD or MP3 (a good hardware MP3 player was used).... THEY FAILED MISERABLY. it was 50% right 50% wrong... just as if you had guessed or thrown dices to decide what is MP3 and what is CD..

    There is a problem with most blind tests is that most of them ( if not all ) are conducted on a system that are set up by the ones that make the test, the participants will then be unfamiliar with the sound of the test system. The human brain have a marvellous ability to "correct"/ mask faults in any given input, either it being visual or audible. Think about this, the last time you bought a tv, pc-monitor or sound system, what was your first impression, was the picture/ sound better or worse than your old one, my guess is that the first impression was that the picture/ sound was worse or that it wasnt any better. For it to be a blind test that shows a real picture the test need to be made on systems the testers are familiar with ( basically their own system ). I do believe that blind tests are important, but they need to be conducted in the right way, the audiovisual field is full of placebo effects, if you truly believe a component or format is better than another then the impression will be that is better even if it produces the same or poorer results. There are even some people that think that blue ray are better than VHS, that just shows how easily fooled people can be.
  • 0 Hide
    Filiprino , February 6, 2012 10:00 AM
    I prefer VORBIS, it's better than MP3, with less bitrate you get the same quality, or better quality with the same bitrate.
  • 17 Hide
    ProDigit10 , February 6, 2012 10:04 AM
    it would be a lot better to just start recording music at 24 bit 48kHz.
    As for MP3, it is an outdated technology, much like a Pentium single core processor.
    Developed in the early 1990's, it's been superseded by OGG, which at this moment still rains as king.
    After OGG is AAC, which is extremely good for ultra low bitrate recordings (like speech and teachings for mobile media or web media).

    MP3 shines in no area.
    The only issue with 24 bit music, is that it is yet not compatible with OGG or AAC encoders.

    24 bit music has a dynamic range higher than the ear can hear (more than 144dB, which is also more than vinyls), and at 48kHz recordings (in reality are 24kHz recordings as they are 2x24kHz audio signals), with interpolation, is going beyond the range of the ear. The ear can only hear somewhere between 20Hz and 20kHz, most of them only 30Hz to 16kHz.

    So in essence, there is no reason why to go as far as developing a new medium. Just develop new hardware that is capable of encoding/decoding 24bit 48kHz audio into an OGG container, and you'll end up with an indistinguishable audio from the original, minus the cracks and pops and wear that vinyls have!

    Why waste infinite amounts of raw data that one can't hear anyways?

    It's like saying "Let's create a tv that records X and Gamma rays too!", that way our recordings of 1 minute video can increase in size drastically, but people won't notice a thing anyways, because their eyes are still limited to the visible frequencies!
  • 14 Hide
    nevertell , February 6, 2012 10:07 AM
    ITT- people with onboard audio controllers and 50 $ gaming headphones.

    Have you never used amped headphones ?
    Maybe you can't tell between an mp3 and a .wav file with "modern" pop, but you sure as hell can tell between a lossy mp3 and a flac if the song has 3-5 REAL instruments, not a synthesizer and a pc. You aren't blown away by the difference, but in the parts of the song, where all of the instruments are playing, the mp3s sound crushed. It's like youtube video vs blu-ray- you can tell the difference, but if you're sitting 10 feet away from a 22" screen, you wouldn't give a damn about the quality. But if you can, you will notice it.

    Damn my iphone with it's 8 gigs of memory and apples alac format....
  • 3 Hide
    ivyanev , February 6, 2012 10:16 AM
    Technology is ever evolving , but i don't expect to see some player for thousands of dollars that doesn't play mp3.New format is OK but have to be industry standard.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , February 6, 2012 10:20 AM
    According to this article: "Even CDs and their WAV format hold only about 15 percent."

    I'd really love to know the source of this assertion. What does the author suggest is in the missing 85 percent? Is it frequency information above 22 kHz? Is it the low level information buried in quantization noise? Is it something else entirely? The quoted figure as it is given in this article just does not make sense to me without some idea of to what it is supposed to refer.
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