Neil Young has a bone to pick with the modern state of music. In an interview with Walt Mossberg and Peter Kafka of All Things D, laid out the principles needed to preserve pure musical fidelity without sacrificing convenience.
“It’s not that digital is bad or inferior, it’s that the way it’s being used isn’t doing justice to the art,” Young said. “The MP3 only has 5 percent of the data present in the original recording. … The convenience of the digital age has forced people to choose between quality and convenience, but they shouldn’t have to make that choice.”
So what’s the solution? New hardware capable of playing audio files that preserve more of the data present in original recordings, said Young.
“Steve Jobs as a pioneer of digital music, and his legacy is tremendous,” Young said. “But when he went home, he listened to vinyl. And you’ve got to believe that if he’d lived long enough, he would have done what I’m trying to do.”
“What I like about record companies is that they present and nurture artists,” he said. “That doesn’t exist on iTunes, it doesn’t exist on Amazon. That’s what a record company does, and that’s why I like my record company. People look at record companies like they’re obsolete, but there’s a lot of soul in there — a lot of people who care about music, and that’s very important.”
Lossless audio codecs like FLAC exist but the files are oversized and difficult to put on the most common portable music devices. Not only that, but those with hi-fi digital files are still playing their music out of cheap computer speakers or headphones—speaker fidelity accounts for a huge portion of the depth you’ll get out of music. It takes pushes and pulls from all sides of the industry to elevate sound to where it coould be. But a massive increase in digital signal fidelity without hardware improvements won’t let you hear the other 95% Young is referring to.