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Neil Young was working with Apple on super high-def music format

post #1 of 139
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Canadian rock legend Neil Young said this week that he was working with late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs on a new music format that would offer fans uncompromised studio quality sound in the form of digital music downloads.

In an interview at the All Things Digital D: Dive Into Media conference on Tuesday, Young spoke at length about the lack of quality in today's mainstream digital music formats, arguing that the "low-res world" of MP3s provide just 5% of the data present in the original studio recordings, paling in comparison to the quality of vinyl records back in the 70's.

"We live in the digital age, and we are -- unfortunately -- we only have 5% of the content we used to have in the mainstream," he said. "It's not that digital is bad or inferior. It's that the way that it is being used is not sufficient to transfer the depth of the art."

Super high-def music files that would deliver sound on par with 24/192 files -- the highest-res recorded music today -- present challenges, including an increase in download times to 30 minutes per track and the development of a player suitable to store and handle them.

"The technology exists," said Young. "The internet is fast enough to support it. […] And you could store like 30 albums at high-res in a small device that you could carry around in your pocket like an iPhone."







Asked whether he ever approached Jobs about the project, Young acknowledged that he had indeed spoken with the late Apple co-founder and that the two were "working on it" prior to his passing last year but admitted that "not much" has happened since Jobs passed.

"Steve Jobs was a pioneer of digital music," Young said. "His legacy is tremendous. But when he went home, he listened to vinyl. And you gotta believe that if he lived long enough, he would have eventually done what I'm trying to do."
post #2 of 139
will i be able to hear the difference in my apple headphones? or do i need a $7000 stereo system to hear it?
post #3 of 139
The extra sad thing about the passing of Jobs is also the passing of Apple's pioneering of anything.
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post #4 of 139
Quote:
Originally Posted by Garamond View Post

The extra sad thing about the passing of Jobs is also the passing of Apple's pioneering of anything.

I'm worried Apple's leadership team will think that staying the course instead of trying to invent the next big thing will keep Apple afloat. It will in the short term, but if Apple is not actively trying to disrupt the future, someone else, perhaps people like Neil Young who were inspired by Steve Jobs, will. And that, in 20 years, may turn out to be Steve's real legacy.

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post #5 of 139
It would be a natural fit for to have higher fidelity recordings available through iTunes. Streaming over the 'net, voice recordings, even gaming is going to be fine at these lower rates but musicians and audiences want more music in their music.
post #6 of 139
Quote:
Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post

I'm worried Apple's leadership team will think that staying the course instead of trying to invent the next big thing will keep Apple afloat. It will in the short term, but if Apple is not actively trying to disrupt the future, someone else, perhaps people like Neil Young who were inspired by Steve Jobs, will. And that, in 20 years, may turn out to be Steve's real legacy.

I assume that the short/medium term is covered by plans laid out by Steve Jobs. And there are a lot of places to innovate. Steve Jobs says all the supply chain control is due to Tim Cook. Being able to harness the best on the planet is certainly foundational to any design or product innovation. The best years are ahead.

It's funny but the one constant under Steve Jobs is that Apple is 2-3 years ahead in any product innovation. That the products were so beautiful (well, from an industrial design perspective that is) was just so much icing on the cake. It'll be a new company but I am optimistic about the legacy that he's left. I didn't buy Steve Jobs products. I bought Apple products designed and sold by so many talented people. I don't have any anxiety that this will diminish.
post #7 of 139
Quote:
Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post

I'm worried Apple's leadership team will think that staying the course instead of trying to invent the next big thing will keep Apple afloat. It will in the short term, but if Apple is not actively trying to disrupt the future, someone else, perhaps people like Neil Young who were inspired by Steve Jobs, will. And that, in 20 years, may turn out to be Steve's real legacy.

In 20 years Neil Young will be 86 years old, or do you admit not knowing who Neil Young is (and he probably inspired Steve Jobs, a wild guess as I do not know his musical taste)
post #8 of 139
Without intending to sound as callous as this will sound...

1. Seriously? wtf does neil young know about audio fidelity? he can't even tell how goddam annoying his own voice is. If Neil Young knew jack shit about what actually sounds good, he'd write for James Taylor, or Grover from Sesame Street.

2. most listeners have been "dumbed down" to the lowest common audio denominator since 2001: shitty white earbuds and 128k mp3s. That is not likely to change. Sure, you might demand quality like i do, but we are the minority.

3. One of the side effects of iTunes is that it has relativized music and sound. They are being seen more and more as not much more than accompaniment for motion video. That will never change for classics like beatles and Zep, etc....but it will make it far more difficult for modern bands to rise up like anybody ever did in the past.
post #9 of 139
Just use .flac?

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if i say something confusing please tell me!

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post #10 of 139
So how was Neil going to do this. does he have an electrical engineering degree with expertise in signal processing?

Haven't seen much of his efforts at producing a viable electric car.

http://www.shortnews.com/start.cfm?id=71135

As for 24/192 files. If anyone knows of double blind listening tests that clearly show people can hear the difference between them and 16/44.1, please post a link.

I am still waiting for someone to show they can hear the difference between 223kbps AAC and the original source, let alone higher resolution originals.
post #11 of 139
Neil Young is making himself look a fool. I'm sure we'd all love better sound quality especially without other compromises, but the very idea that anyone in 2011 or 2012 would develop and sell a device that "could store like 30 albums" and that you could "carry around in your pocket like an iPhone" is ridiculous. The original 5gb iPod destroyed the mass market for those things forever. Remember how everyone bought those MP3 players that could hold like 30 albums? Me neither.

Only a rich old fool with money to throw on projects like turning a 40 year old car into an electric car would even entertain the idea of a device that is severely limited in order to make an improvement in sound quality that most people cannot detect. 30 minutes to download a track? Haven't we been there before?

And BTW, some of his music is good, but if you listen to it do you really think higher fidelity would make any difference? I think it would for classical music, violins, piano, etc. where you can really here the bow sliding on the strings, the pound of the piano hammer, etc. But Neil Young? No.

I can just imagine how Steve Jobs (1) was thrilled to talk to the guy and (2) rolled his eyes at this and other brilliant ideas he had.
post #12 of 139
Really? Massive quality on a portable device? I think that's missing the point of portability. Portable devices are designed to take with you on the go, and are often listened to in environments less than ideal for appreciating the full quality of music. Plus, are you going to have people all walk around with $500 headphones? That close to your ear, I don't think there'd be an appreciable difference.

If you have a $7,000 audio system as home, I doubt you're streaming from an iPod.

The quality of iTunes Plus is just fine and dandy for most people's needs. And audiophiles already use other things than iPods.
post #13 of 139
Quote:
Originally Posted by cnocbui View Post


As for 24/192 files. If anyone knows of double blind listening tests that clearly show people can hear the difference between them and 16/44.1, please post a link.

I am still waiting for someone to show they can hear the difference between 223kbps AAC and the original source, let alone higher resolution originals.

I agree. But audiophiles will always think that can hear something that the human ear cannot detect; well at least the difference between one recording and the next.

It's the same people who think super expensive vodka is better than a $10 bottle.
post #14 of 139
Quote:
Originally Posted by reklss41 View Post

will i be able to hear the difference in my apple headphones? or do i need a $7000 stereo system to hear it?

Go buy a nice pair of closed ear Sennheiser 380 Pro: http://www.sennheiserusa.com/dj-prof...dphones_502717

You'll notice the difference
post #15 of 139
Quote:
Originally Posted by nicolbolas View Post

Just use .flac?

SACD Flac rips would indeed be a pretty bit step up from the current. Size would be an issue, and of course most music does not benefit from the SACD treatment
post #16 of 139
Quote:
Originally Posted by Garamond View Post

The extra sad thing about the passing of Jobs is also the passing of Apple's pioneering of anything.

What else can you tell us, oh mighty visitor from the future?
post #17 of 139
Quote:
Originally Posted by cnocbui View Post

So how was Neil going to do this. does he have an electrical engineering degree with expertise in signal processing?

Don't be so fast to diss accomplished people for having educated themselves far beyond their original field.
Jeff 'Skunk' Baxter is the prime example of this (even though I'm not a fan of the direction his brilliance has taken him.)
post #18 of 139
While I agree there is some quality lost in most of our digital music, I find it really hard to believe we're only hearing "5%". Really? Is he just making up numbers?
post #19 of 139
Quote:
Originally Posted by ddawson100 View Post

It would be a natural fit for to have higher fidelity recordings available through iTunes. Streaming over the 'net, voice recordings, even gaming is going to be fine at these lower rates but musicians and audiences want more music in their music.

I'm surprised they haven't done that. When iTunes LP was announced I was surprised they didn't included high quality files with those tracks. I never bought a single iTLP but would have had the music been SACD-esque quality in Apple Lossless. I think thu could have reinvented the album.


Quote:
Originally Posted by nicolbolas View Post

Just use .flac?

How about Apple Lossless since it's supported by iTunes and all
iDevices.


Quote:
Originally Posted by GQB View Post

What else can you tell us, oh mighty visitor from the future?

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post #20 of 139
Quote:
Originally Posted by mausz View Post

In 20 years Neil Young will be 86 years old, or do you admit not knowing who Neil Young is (and he probably inspired Steve Jobs, a wild guess as I do not know his musical taste)

I wouldn't be surprised if Jobs listened to Neil Young. It is well known that he loved Bob Dylan and the Beatles. I could picture his taste encompassing Young, as well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pendergast View Post

I agree. But audiophiles will always think that can hear something that the human ear cannot detect; well at least the difference between one recording and the next.

It's the same people who think super expensive vodka is better than a $10 bottle.

I don't know about vodka, but I can tell you with certainty that some $30 bourbon is far better than any $10 bourbon.

As for the rest, it is important to keep in mind physical limitations. The human ear has limits (around 20,000 Hz for most young people (although I did know one middle aged guy who was tested and could hear reasonably well at 23,000 Hz) and that drops off dramatically for older people. I was playing with my car stereo the other day and realized how much of the high end is gone from my hearing. After all the time spent in front of loud speakers, Neil Young's hearing is probably useless in deciding on what constitutes high quality.

Add to that the fact that the iPhone/iPod/iPads are designed for portable use. Even with noise canceling headphones, I really can't hear all that much of the detail in the places I listen to my iPod.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mdriftmeyer View Post

Go buy a nice pair of closed ear Sennheiser 380 Pro: http://www.sennheiserusa.com/dj-prof...dphones_502717

You'll notice the difference

Good quality headphones do make a difference - even with my high end hearing loss. But even the best headphones will not make the difference between lossless and Apple's high end AAC noticeable to most people under most conditions.
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post #21 of 139
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

"The technology exists," said Young. "The internet is fast enough to support it. []"

ha ha. the internet might be, but at&t's network is not ... they don't even have enough confidence in their own network to allow a download of a file larger than 20MB.
post #22 of 139
Quote:
Originally Posted by mdriftmeyer View Post

Go buy a nice pair of closed ear Sennheiser 380 Pro: http://www.sennheiserusa.com/dj-prof...dphones_502717

You'll notice the difference

Oh, no doubt. But will you notice the difference of the quality Young is preaching? Probably not that much.

I think actually your statement makes the point that existing quality is not the main problem, but the speakers and headphones most use to listen.
post #23 of 139
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

I don't know about vodka, but I can tell you with certainty that some $30 bourbon is far better than any $10 bourbon.

Oh, with certainty. But bourbon is vastly different than vodka. The whole point of vodka is to distill it so that it's essentially tasteless, and very smooth. Many cheap vodkas are terrible, but many are quadruple-distilled and very smooth, and cost a fraction of so-called "premium" vodkas; they score nearly the same or sometimes better in blind tests.

Bourbon, like all whiskeys, changes in flavor so much while it is aging in a barrel, and the point of the spirit is flavor. That said, it's a misnomer to conclude that an expensive bourbon is better than a "cheap" bourbon. It's usually because of age, but age doesn't necessarily make things better; it just changes the taste (often sweeter, as the liquor absorbes the sugar in the wood). Personally, I prefer higher-proof 10 year bourbons, as opposed to lower-proof 18 year batches.

My original point was that humans are prone to a self-fulfilling prophecy of *thinking* something is better because it is supposedly "better". Blind test often show reality.
post #24 of 139
Um, we don't need to evaluate Young's music or his engineering acumen on this. I'm not understanding the attacks on his person and music. He's simply pointing out that the present standard in digital music is a drop in quality, which is 100% accurate. If you read about the history of MP3 you will see that preservation of the original fidelity of the music was not a goal. Compression and portability were.

With decent equipment many, many people can tell a difference. I would enjoy more opportunities to download FLAC-level quality music from major vendors like iTunes and eMusic. Even support for FLAC in iTunes would be nice. No, this is not the same major market as cheaper, more lossy compressed music files, but I like that Steve Jobs was hearing from an advocate on higher-quality digital music.

And goodness, would it be a *bad* thing if such a thing were to pass? Hardly.
post #25 of 139
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pendergast View Post

I agree. But audiophiles will always think that can hear something that the human ear cannot detect; well at least the difference between one recording and the next.

It's the same people who think super expensive vodka is better than a $10 bottle.

+1

Psychology plays a huge part. That's why drug trials use double-blind tests and include a placebo.

In the 1980, the Canadian stereo magazine, Audio Scene, did double-blind listening tests that compared several power amplifiers. Once all the equipment was properly grounded, the golden-ears audiophiles could not tell the difference. I happened to talk to one of the participants a few weeks later. He still thought that there are significant differences between the sounds of the amplifiers, but he could not hear the difference because Audio Scene must have rigged the experiment. It reminds me of a funny article in Mad Magazine: "Believe it or not, John Shmeddly read so much about the bad effects of smoking that he quit reading."

A few issues later, Audio Scene magazine reported on their double-blind test comparing top-of-the-line phono cartridges. Initially, the audiophiles could tell the difference. Then the experimenter equalized all the phono cartridges so that they all had a flat frequency response. This time, the audiophiles could not detect the differences. If I recall correctly, most people preferred the sound before the frequency response was flattened out (i.e., when the sound was less accurate). So, the moral of that story was, "Buy any high-quality phone cartridge and use an equalizer to tailor the sound to what you like best."

So, I, too, would be interested in any double-blind listening tests that compare different digital formats. It's important that the tests be double-blind (i.e., not even the experimenter who is turning the knobs and pressing the buttons knows which audio format he is listening to).
post #26 of 139
If he can hold patent for it he will be rich in 20 years. Neil Young's Canadian old-age pension is running low.
post #27 of 139
Quote:
Originally Posted by Garamond View Post

The extra sad thing about the passing of Jobs is also the passing of Apple's pioneering of anything.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post

I'm worried Apple's leadership team will think that staying the course instead of trying to invent the next big thing will keep Apple afloat. It will in the short term, but if Apple is not actively trying to disrupt the future, someone else, perhaps people like Neil Young who were inspired by Steve Jobs, will. And that, in 20 years, may turn out to be Steve's real legacy.

Mind if I group you two together?

"Sad" and "worried." Where does this seemingly automatic hand-wringing come from?

There is an alternate assumption available to you, backed up by Tim Cook's statements about amazing products in the pipeline. Jobs and Ive and who knows how many others at Apple invented a factory for invention itself. Or a think tank for invention, if you prefer that wording.

Maybe all the focus on Steve Jobs and his "disruptive" style has obscured the fact that the Jobs vision is acquirable, transferable and widely shared to begin with. It isn't disruption that Apple does, except as collateral damage, perhaps. What they do is creation, based on what would be great, or insanely great.

This has been an endemic feature of Silicon Valley, at least the countercultural subset that Apple and the Macintosh comes from. It's the Right Path that the invention of digital technology affords, and it's what is now institutionalized at Apple. It was a discovery that grew out the alternate realities explorered in the sixties, and it won't, or can't, be undiscovered.

The other path, the Left Path, is the one that Microsoft and IBM took, the one that we should have worried about more all these years. That path knows nothing about insanely great, but only rises to a certain level of competence. (But notice that MS is now trying to be great, for the first time, with their new emphasis on interface.)

What I'm saying in this ramble is that it is not legitimate to assume that the source for inspired products has dried up with Steve gone. He helped, maybe more than anyone else, to uncork a genie that can't be put back in the bottle. That genie is the networked computer for everyone, whether in portable form, or on the desk, or on your wall in the form of of a TV. And the mandate that it has to be so great that everyone wants one.

Recall the Apple University, where these discoveries are probably in the opening syllabus, and quell your doubts.
post #28 of 139
It really sounds like it is one of those fake projects that newbies get assigned to.
Apple has moved away from discs and hard drives into SSDs, which makes this sound quite strange.

Vinyl of course sounds far better than even SACD and there is no reason not to offer premium tracks in AAC at a bit rate of 1024kbps or more. That will happen but I just don't see where the work is needed.
post #29 of 139
You kids and your downloaded music.

If I want hi fidelity I'll listen to my SACD's.
post #30 of 139
Quote:
Originally Posted by Garamond View Post

The extra sad thing about the passing of Jobs is also the passing of Apple's pioneering of anything.

There's nothing to back up that statement. Starting with the fact that tech moves so slow that the stuff that Jobs started 2 years ago as an idea won't be seen for another 10 or so. Second, Jobs wasn't the only brain at Apple. Heck he might not have even been the biggest brain.
post #31 of 139
Quote:
Originally Posted by wws View Post

Um, we don't need to evaluate Young's music or his engineering acumen on this. I'm not understanding the attacks on his person and music. He's simply pointing out that the present standard in digital music is a drop in quality, which is 100% accurate. If you read about the history of MP3 you will see that preservation of the original fidelity of the music was not a goal. Compression and portability were.

With decent equipment many, many people can tell a difference. I would enjoy more opportunities to download FLAC-level quality music from major vendors like iTunes and eMusic. Even support for FLAC in iTunes would be nice. No, this is not the same major market as cheaper, more lossy compressed music files, but I like that Steve Jobs was hearing from an advocate on higher-quality digital music.

And goodness, would it be a *bad* thing if such a thing were to pass? Hardly.

You're referring to the MP3s of old. iTunes uses a much higher method of encoding, and I'd wager that the majority of people cannot tell the difference between it an lossless in normal listening environments.
post #32 of 139
Quote:
Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post

I'm worried Apple's leadership team will think that staying the course instead of trying to invent the next big thing will keep Apple afloat.

Given Apple's cult of secrecy you don't know what 'the course' is to know if staying on it is a bad thing.

Quote:

It will in the short term, but if Apple is not actively trying to disrupt the future, someone else, perhaps people like Neil Young who were inspired by Steve Jobs, will. And that, in 20 years, may turn out to be Steve's real legacy.

You say that like it's a bad thing. Jobs didn't create everything himself even at Apple and so what if folks are inspired by him to try to change the world. Someone like Neil Young might have enough respect in the music world to get the labels to allow higher quality files, lower prices, etc. Just like someone like James Cameron might get his fellow directors and the studios to get the stick out of their butts about digital movies being restricted to 720p with 2.1 sound and no features released six months after the movie has been cam'd etc. And a JJ Abrams might do the same for TV.

Plus everyone is so keen to praise Tim Cook on the charity stuff, the return to education concerns, the worker abuse etc as if he came up with all of it the night after he was officially CEO (which I strongly doubt) but perhaps with the various technologies at a bit of a stand still in terms of what Apple etc have to work with maybe they will stay the course on the tech side and inside grow in other more social ways. And is a $90 Billion company giving a little out to the world and using their strength to force some very useful social change really a bad thing. Sure in some ways its a giant PR stunt but if it works even it could bring in a few sales.
post #33 of 139
I found it hard to believe that SJ listened to vinyl. This is truly amazing!
post #34 of 139
Quote:
Originally Posted by BenJammin54 View Post

While I agree there is some quality lost in most of our digital music, I find it really hard to believe we're only hearing "5%". Really? Is he just making up numbers?

I do not think that is what Neil meant. Less than 5% of all music has been made available in a hi-res format. You can buy hi-res tracks on a site called HDTracks, but there are not many other sources out there at the present time.
post #35 of 139
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pendergast View Post


If you have a $7,000 audio system as home, I doubt you're streaming from an iPod.

I do and I do.

Quote:
The quality of iTunes Plus is just fine and dandy for most people's needs. And audiophiles already use other things than iPods.

Not this one.
post #36 of 139
I feel that this might have something to do with the number of overall audio channels and the way in which the signal sent to them.

Possibly including something similar to a TOSLINK 3.5mm optical output (like many of their products) on every device, but with expanded capability to work with legitimate 7.2 channel recordings... or something of the sort. (Don't limit your mind to a TOSLINK optical cable - Apple could be bold enough to introduce their own). This way the audio would be sent digitally and also work to further industry recording standards. I would love to hear all of my songs recorded in a studio originally intended to record 7.x audio channels. This would impact the movie/game world substantially also.
post #37 of 139
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pendergast View Post

I agree. But audiophiles will always think that can hear something that the human ear cannot detect; well at least the difference between one recording and the next.

It's the same people who think super expensive vodka is better than a $10 bottle.

Some folks hear better than others. Just like some see better than others too. The problem with most people, especially under 30, have never heard properly mastered music. Most of todays recordings are poorly done. It's all in the mastering, so you do not need a $7000 sound system or $500 headphones to be able to tell the difference.
post #38 of 139
Quote:
Originally Posted by GQB View Post

Don't be so fast to diss accomplished people for having educated themselves far beyond their original field.
Jeff 'Skunk' Baxter is the prime example of this (even though I'm not a fan of the direction his brilliance has taken him.)

You are inferring that Neil Young has indeed educated himself so that he is now a qualified electrical engineer and that I therefore should give him credit for doing so.

AFAIK, he hasn't, so I don't feel I have to give him credit for something he hasn't done.
post #39 of 139
Digital music isn't destroying sound fidelity, the loudness war is.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loudness_war

Most "remasters" just punch the volume up to such an extreme that you lose any variation in the sound quality.
post #40 of 139
Quote:
Originally Posted by mdriftmeyer View Post

Go buy a nice pair of closed ear Sennheiser 380 Pro: http://www.sennheiserusa.com/dj-prof...dphones_502717

You'll notice the difference

Totally agree. It's like if people argued that 256-color or 16-bit graphics are plenty either because they have bad monitors are can't be bothered with looking at 2 pictures side by side to see the difference themselves - apparently, the fact that you can't visually see the difference in higher quality audio somehow must mean it's not there? (Though technically if you played/re-digitized it you would see a difference in the waveform...)

A well-dithered 16-bit graphic will look good too - think CD. It doesn't mean that 'true color' (24 bit) won't look better - or ever higher bit depth / higher resolution. At some point you won't be able to tell the difference - 24/192 is pretty damned good and probably going higher won't make a difference for most people's systems. Storage is cheap, bandwidth just keeps improving, so why not get a good copy of the music or at least have the option?

This isn't an argument about whether cryogenically freezing your wall outlet will give you purer sound, it's quite demonstrable.
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