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.

Also: Shit.

92!

James Randi is a personal hero.

“People who are stealing money from the public, cheating them and misinforming them — that’s the kind of thing that I’ve been fighting all my life,” he said in the 2014 documentary “An Honest Liar,” directed by Tyler Measom and Justin Weinstein. “Magicians are the most honest people in the world: They tell you they’re going to fool you, and then they do it.”

He formed the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry with Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov. He inspired Penn & Teller.

More here.

Norm and Bob

When Norm Macdonald was a young comedian, Bob Dylan invited him over to hang out. Norm tweeted the story, but later deleted it. Available here.

When Bob Dylan speaks, his words seem chosen long ago, his sentences are spare, and he looks right at you, and his countenance is stone. He spoke to me for many hours over two days. There was no alcohol or drugs consumed. He was interested only in writing. I remember wishing I had secretly recorded him, and I remember trying as hard as I could to remember every word he said. I remember he talked over and over about verbs and about ‘verbifying’, how anything could be ‘verbified’. He asked me my favorite book of the Bible and I said Job, and he said his favorite was Ecclesiastes. He then told me that the book of Job I was familiar with was not the original, and then he told me the original.

Golden Dogs

Another Canadian pop band that I’ve forgotten to tell people about.

Luv the guitarz.

Winnipeg Gets It

As reported by The AV Club

In most cities around the world, Brian De Palma’s 1974 rock opera-ish The Phantom Of The Paradise is a cult classic, appreciated mostly by self-proclaimed cinephiles with a taste for over-the-top strangeness. (As our own Ignatiy Vishnevetsky describes it in a piece recommending the film: “[Phantom Of The Paradise] represented the pinnacle of Brian De Palma’s undisciplined early excess: a smorgasbord of camp, Grand Guignol, and bird imagery that thumbed its metal beak at commercial considerations.”) In Winnipeg, Manitoba, however, it was a box-office sensation, and is still a pop-cultural touchstone on par with Star Wars.

This documentary premieres on July 12, and you can bet your bastard ass I’ll be seeing it as soon as possible.

Full article here.

John Byrne’s Studio

Okay, so I have a John Byrne obsession, so what? He’s still got some pretty cool shit in his studio …

John Lindley Byrne (/bɜːrn/; born July 6, 1950) is a British-born, Canadian raised, American writer and artist of superhero comics. Since the mid-1970s, Byrne has worked on many major superheroes, with noted work on Marvel Comics’ X-Men and Fantastic Four and the 1986 relaunch of DC Comics’ Superman franchise, the first issue of which featured comics’ first variant cover. Coming into the comics profession as penciller, inker, letterer and writer on his earliest work, Byrne began co-plotting the X-Men comics during his tenure on them, and launched his writing career in earnest with Fantastic Four (where he also served as penciler and inker). During the 1990s he produced a number of creator-owned works, including Next Men and Danger Unlimited. He scripted the first issues of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy series and produced a number of Star Trek comics for IDW Publishing. In 2015, Byrne and his X-Men collaborator Chris Claremont were entered into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame.

John Byrne, Legend

I was a huge John Byrne fan growing up, so this is pretty dang cool.

More About John Byrne: John Lindley Byrne (born July 6, 1950) is a British-born, Canadian raised, American writer and artist of superhero comics. Since the mid-1970s, Byrne has worked on many major superheroes, with noted work on Marvel Comics’ X-Men and Fantastic Four and the 1986 relaunch of DC Comics’ Superman franchise, the first issue of which featured comics’ first variant cover. Coming into the comics profession as penciller, inker, letterer and writer on his earliest work, Byrne began co-plotting the X-Men comics during his tenure on them, and launched his writing career in earnest with Fantastic Four (where he also served as penciller and inker). During the 1990s he produced a number of creator-owned works, including Next Men and Danger Unlimited. He scripted the first issues of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy series and produced a number of Star Trek comics for IDW Publishing. In 2015, Byrne and his X-Men collaborator Chris Claremont were entered into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame.