How Does It Sound?

“I remember being in a car on Neil’s ranch with him when CDs first came out, and he was lamenting how the sound was so damaged. He was pretty horrified by it, and I was kind of amazed. He really made me aware of the damage the fidelity had taken.
“I don’t have Neil’s ears to really get as bothered as he is by it,” Lofgren says, “but it is an extraordinary difference when you know what you’re doing and you get the sound right.”

This week’s obsession is the fantastic article The Pagan Mechanic Rides Again: Neil Young’s Adventures on the Hi-Res Frontier in Wired.

Stuff I learned, down various internet wormholes, which you all probably know already:

A CD holds about 600-700 MB of data. At the time the format was invented, that was 50X as much as a hard drive, so it seemed incredible. But music takes a lot of memory. The goal was to compress an album (say, 60 minutes of audio) onto that CD. That can be done if you sample at 44.1kHz (roughly twice the max frequency of adult human hearing) and limit the bit depth to 16 bits per sample. That gives a maximum dynamic range of 96dB between the quietest and loudest sounds – thought to be decent enough for the human ear.

A good way to start a fight among audiophiles is to suggest that we don’t need anything better than 44.1kHz/16bit. Many people insist that they can hear a difference; double blind studies do not necessarily bear this out. This blogging nerd set up a great test including the Goldberg Variations, to see if audiophiles could tell the difference between 24 bit and 16 bit. They pretty much couldn’t.

When mp3’s came along, they allowed us to compress musical data by a factor of ten. A 30 megabyte, three minute CD song becomes a 3 megabyte mp3 abomination. It sucks the life out of the music!
Neil Young says so!

His attempt at a hi-res audio player – Pono – is now wreckage in the compression and loudness wars won by lo-res streaming like Spotify. He wrote a book about it: To Feel The Music: A Songwriter’s Mission to Save High-Quality Audio.

But lo! Nowadays since we’ve all got bandwidth coming out our ears, with cloud storage and whatnot, audiophiles are excited about bigger, uncompressed audio files.

– wav: 10 MB per minute
– aiff: 10 MB per minute
– FLAC: 5 MB per minute
– DSD: 40 MB per minute

“DSD [Direct Stream Digital] has become the audiophile standard, higher than the 96-kHZ/24-bit FLAC-based audio of Tidal Hi-Fi, and even higher than the 192-kHZ/24-bit FLAC favored by Neil Young Archives.”

Listen to the inventor of DSD! You won’t understand a single word! Noise shaping and pulse-code modulation! That looks like a damn oscilloscope behind him so you know he doesn’t fuck around:

You can now obtain DSD files of a few of your favorite artists. And Amazon and Apple are getting into the hi – res game. To play hi-res files back, you’ll probably need at least a high quality DAC (digital audio recorder).
The company Qobuz has hi-res Replacements!
Itrax has other power pop like Mozart, Stravinsky, and Glenn Gould.

Mr. Young, in the meantime, has set up the cool steampunk, idiosyncratic, wonderful $1.99-per-month Neil Young Archives where you get what the artist intended. I’ve been enjoying my time there.

I’m Sure We Can All Relate Redux

Somehow never heard Billy Bragg’s original until the other day. Early twenties suck as bad as the teenage years, just for different and more complex reasons.

Sorry-not-sorry for providing lyrics …

I was twenty one years when I wrote this song
I’m twenty two now, but I won’t be for long
People ask me when will you grow up to be a man
But all the girls I loved at school
Are already pushing prams

I loved you then as I love you still
Though I put you on a pedestal,
They put you on the pill
I don’t feel bad about letting you go
I just feel sad about letting you know

I don’t want to change the world
I’m not looking for a new England
I’m just looking for another girl
I don’t want to change the world
I’m not looking for a new England
I’m just looking for another girl

I loved the words you wrote to me
But that was bloody yesterday
I can’t survive on what you send
Every time you need a friend

I saw two shooting stars last night
I wished on them but they were only satellites
It’s wrong to wish on space hardware
I wish, I wish, I wish you’d care

I don’t want to change the world
I’m not looking for a new England
I’m just looking for another girl
I don’t want to change the world
I’m not looking for a new England
I’m just looking for another girl
Looking for another girl
Looking for another girl
Looking for another girl

Exhibit B

Makerbot recently posted a Terry Bozzio video.  Here is further support for what research has proven time and again: that non-sociopathic drummers use their spare time to acquire too many drums, which they then overplay.  In some ways the above video is a more disturbing example.  For where Mr. Bozzio employed instruments in a range of pitches (therefore demonstrating some higher-order thinking), this character for some reason has about 50 of the same crash cymbal,  and seems intent on hitting them all.  A drummer with only basic skills could do the same thing with two.  WTF?

May 20, 1987

As some of our kids are rounding the bases on their senior year of high school, I thought I’d share a journal entry from 33 years ago. By the way, I don’t journal with any consistency, this was just something I did specifically for that school year. Sorry if this is lame, I’ll try to leave the boring parts out. But I often find myself trying to remember if we did the same stupid shit my son and his friends do now. Of course we did.

Friday, I turned in my English paper, went to Wendy’s for lunch with Mike and Jeff, then headed to Target for battery operated water guns. Afterwards, we went to graduation practice till about 3:15, then had the water fight to end all water fights. It started with water guns and balloons, then people started pulling out big buckets and coolers. David hit Mr. Phillips (our principal, who was a total dick) in the side of the head with a water balloon from about 35 to 40 feet. It was truly beautiful.

We did that until about 4:30 and then I squishily drove home to take a shower and get ready for our last high school dance ever. Eric’s band played but not many people showed up. They’d just started “Blister in the Sun” when this security guard came from nowhere and stopped the band mid-song. She said she had to end the dance because of all the “bad apples” getting in fights and drinking.

So the dance was over by about 10:30. Doug, Jeff, Mike, David and I met at my house and we decided to head Downtown. That was lame, and we ended up at a convenience store where I bought a bag of cookies and Coke. The highlight of the evening was seeing some guy laying out on some steps, possibly dead.

Sunday, I went to baccalaureate and then lunch with the family. I rented three movies from Blockbuster while we were out: Maniac, which I didn’t get to see, Westworld, and Shock Treatment, the sequel to RHPS. Bryan, Jay, and Mon came over to watch some of Shock Treatment with me before we went to the park to hang out with a bunch of people. When we first got there, Eric and Scott were racing around a parking lot median, in a Mercedes and Toyota Supra, respectively. Then Eric threw a log through the windshield of a car that appeared to be abandoned and took off. Everyone else (besides me, even then I knew this was idiotic) put dents in the sides and busted out the headlights for some strange reason. We made a fire at the pavilion while Katy, David, Doug, and Jay went to get s’mores fixings, Cokes, and chips. After they came back we told ghost stories.

The next day I went with Chris to alumni brunch, which had great cinnamon rolls. Later at graduation, Wade pulled out a long, red scarf as he walked across the stage. Mr. Phillips told him he would pay for that and tried to take away his diploma. I haven’t talked to Leigh Anne (a girlfriend I was ghosting) except on graduation night. She congratulated me. Today I wrote thank you notes and cleaned out my car. I’m thrilled to be graduated and can’t wait for summer – Florida is just around the corner. I’m getting scared of college (the unknown factor fear) but am excited all the same.

This Is An Absolute Classic

As near as I can tell, Jiskefet was a Dutch sketch comedy show that came and went for 16 seasons between 1990 and 2010. Here’s their take on how British sports appear (and sound) to the rest of the world.

Fucking brilliant.