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Neil Young: Steve Jobs preferred vinyl, wanted new format

updated 04:10 pm EST, Tue January 31, 2012

Neil Young contends Jobs wanted better audio

Musician Neil Young in an interview at the D: Dive Into Media conference made the contentious claim that Apple's late chief Steve Jobs would have been pushing hard for improved audio quality. The "Needle and the Damage Done" creator claimed that Jobs, despite creating the iPod for digital music, preferred to listen to vinyl records at home. Apple's co-founder would have allegedly been working on higher quality devices, not just formats like Apple Lossless, to improve audio quality.

To Young, digital music was good but threw away too much of the data in compression. Although not mentioned in the summary of the interview, the artist suggested that even a format like Apple Lossless to him still only had about 10 percent of the original quality. Listeners had been pushed into choosing "between quality and convenience," a decision they didn't have to make, he argued in a revisit of earlier views.

It's not apparent how well, if at all, technology could reach Young's targets. Apple Lossless, and earlier high-end formats like FLAC, were designed specifically to preserve everything included in the recording. Some of the issues are tied directly to hardware: at 700Kbps on average, lossless formats' bitrates make them almost three times larger than a typical 256Kbps iTunes track. Upgrading would take a 64GB iPod touch from tens of thousands of songs to several thousand, while it might also put too much strain on a 3G network for someone streaming through iCloud or a direct subscription music service like Rdio.

It's also uncertain how much of the story is just inference by Young versus reality. Jobs helped design the iPod based on his own feedback, and while a fan of classic 1960s rock, he typically saw his devices as advancing music rather than taking it a step back. Young may have as much been expressing hopes as views, since he has made a consistent effort for high quality sound himself through strategies such as putting his whole music history on Blu-ray.

by MacNN Staff



  1. BigMac2

    Joined: Dec 1969


    File format is not the issue here

    "To Young, digital music was good but threw away too much of the data in compression. Although not mentioned in the summary of the interview, the artist suggested that even a format like Apple Lossless to him still only had about 10 percent of the original quality"

    Mr. Young like many audiophile misunderstand all issues about digital music. Apple Lossless and Flac format like said their name are lossless, which mean every bits and value is preserve and identical to the original.

    The issue here is the source not the format, while it's possible to record and play 196khz 32bits float AAC file with a MacBook, all digital songs commercially available on the market (physical and downloadable) are 44100hz 16bits samples only, the same sampling quality since the birth of the Audio-CD (in the 70's). Labels are the one to blame here.

  1. climacs

    Joined: Dec 1969


    also, too

    if you're going to be an audiophile purist and insist that everyone else be one also... you also must carefully choose your speakers, your headphones, and forget about earbuds entirely.

    That ship has sailed. Musicians care deeply about reproducing full fidelity of music recordings; does anybody really think that there's a single teenager alive fussing about the quality of their Justin Bieber MP3s?

  1. facebook_Robert

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Jan 2012



    Presumably the best way to improve audio quality is to make disks out of wax, and etch bumps into them, the vibrations can then be picked up by a needle.

    Look - the appeal of vinyl is nostalgia - nothing else. It's inferior sound quality in every way.

  1. ElectroTech

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Hearing tests and audiophiles

    I just cringe every time I come across some self professed audiophile. They likely have poor and untested hearing while claiming that they can hear the difference between 'X' format and 'Y' format. If they would take a hearing test, they would find out that they can't tell the difference and realize that they are just prejudiced snobs. If they want the original fidelity, they would reproduce the sound studio control room and listen through the headsets of the mixers.

    If Neal Young wanted great sound from his own recordings, he would get better strings on his guitar that don't produce that annoying squeak as he slides his fingers up and down the frets. What a jerk.

  1. ennerseed

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Vinyl is inferior?

    do you know anything about vinyl? Beyond that your dad listens to 80's music on it?
    Do some simple reading.

  1. Aeolius

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Brother we gotta go...

    "Said the Condor, to the Praying Mantis,
    We're gonna lose this place, just like we lost Atlantis."

  1. FoxFour

    Joined: Dec 1969


    To paraphrase something said about Young a while b

    "I hope Neil Young will remember/[modern] man don't need him around anyhow."

  1. dprimary

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Yes Vinyl is inferior

    The how stuff work has so many errors it is just spreading myths. Vinyl has phase problems, limited channel seperation, tracking issues, limited frequency response, and less resolution then even 44.1-16 bit recording let alone a 24 bit master. The stylus quikly wears away the high frequency on the pressing. The heat and pressure on a stylus is mind boggling. The cutting lathes to create the master are hard pressed to cut much above 16kHz.

  1. yticolev

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Audio CD 1970's?

    Not. 1982.

  1. facebook_Brandt

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Feb 2012


    comment title

    Steve Jobs changed the entire world with his visionary outset and revamping of wireless media and communications. He’ll be a name which rings out through history for evolving the way we live, share and communicate. I was compelled to create a portrait of him, now In Memoriam on my artist’s blog at

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