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

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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  • Isn’t Steve Jobs the very reason why loss compressed music file are ubiquitous today?
  • 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.
  • I've been saying it for years, MP3 was good in the old days of limited drive space and bandwidth.
    Time to retire the format and go to something more professional; and multi channel !
    No commercial studio uses 44 or 48Khz sampling anymore, not even to mention two channel sound.
    But, like HD movies, it is the Music Industry that does not want to have consumers access to anything better than MP3. God forbid we may be able to make a -perfect- copy for a secondary device without the RIAA getting a cut of their share. All those Executive Salaries and Attorney Fees need to be paid after all.
  • Other Comments
  • The tech industry always need spokesmen to flog new stuff.
  • 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.
  • 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.