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Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Listening to the 'Harvest' Studio Master with Neil Young

Neil Young & Gilad Tiefenbrun
Broken Arrow Ranch, California

Earlier this year, Neil Young blogged on high resolution audio technology and on PureTone, the Cloud-based audio system for his Lincvolt car.

Here's an update on Studio Master audio quality and cars, although we're not exactly sure how this all ties together as the blog refers to a Buick -- which we assume is LincVolt?

From Linn Blogs - Listening to the 'Harvest' Studio Master with Neil Young:
The Buick had a laptop in the trunk loaded with music, connected to an outboard 24-bit DAC, and an iPad in the front which allowed Neil Young to select easily between studio master, CD-quality and two variants of mp3 (bad and worse!). We rocked out to the studio masters, the music so loud that one of the door panels removed itself.

But whenever he selected a lower quality he would complain loudly and bitterly, turn down the volume, and curse that the music industry had allowed not just mp3, but even CD-quality to come into being and permeate the mass market. There was genuine sadness in his voice as he explained that Harvest Moon, his 1992 follow-up to the original, had been recorded at only 16-bit, the depth of emotion in the music lost forever during the process. (Sad really that the supposed breakthrough of the digital recording process has resulted in roughly fifteen years of recordings that can never be heard at anything better than CD quality.)

What struck me most was Neil Young's passion for the quality of music, not just his own, as we played through some other studio masters including Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding. The man is on a mission to demonstrate to the key influencers in the music industry the difference that quality makes to the listener's emotional connection.

The blog goes on to discuss Studio Master as possibly being released as a proprietary format. We disagree and feel this should be an open format which does not require purchase of yet another playback device.

Full blog at Linn Blogs - Listening to the 'Harvest' Studio Master with Neil Young. (Thanks Paul M.!)

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At 8/09/2011 07:28:00 PM, Blogger BIGCHIEF said...

So, Mr Gilad Tiefenbrun found himself riding along with Neil in a Buick 'Eldorado'? I'm aware that Neil is fond of collectable cars, however, he sure has a rare one here indeed!

At 8/09/2011 07:49:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i wholeheartedly agree with this comment.....and makes me think of all the money i ponied up to buy a BluRay player to listen/watch the archives.

I don't think i would make the same mistake twice. BluRay Archives, IMHO, are a novelty. I watched a few times, then just listen to the MP3s. Long live BluRay Live (ahem).

from the article:

As exciting as this all is, I have, however, one great fear; that the major labels may not be able to resist the temptation to put these studio masters out in a proprietary format. There remains a point of view among certain industry executives, totally misguided in my opinion, that the commercial potential can only be realised through an encrypted format, requiring people to buy new playback devices in order to experience these files.

It's been tried before, it's failed before, and it would be doomed to fail again.

At 8/09/2011 07:50:00 PM, Anonymous aRF said...

I'm so pissed off at the video quality of the blu ray disc of "A Treasure" , I find it difficult to take any of this stuff seriously. Sound, video - what's the diff??? Shit is shit and money is money...rake in some more Neil. I'd rather give it to you than Wall Street.

At 8/09/2011 08:04:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

yea, i heard many bad reviews of the Treasure BluRay quality. Thus, i refused to buy it.

I'm all for great sound, but most people don't have the high-end and price audio equipment to really take advantage of it.

The world is changing......

At 8/09/2011 09:00:00 PM, Blogger BIGCHIEF said...

I performed a similar demonstration to anyone who would listen, comparing C.D.'s to Vinyl recordings on a massive stereo system that I had set up in my 'garage/studio'. As I would entertain my guests with Neil Young records on analog vinyl at extremely high volumes, they would appear to 'melt' into their seat with pleasure as any true audiophile would have, givin the opportunity to experience listening to such an awesome system such as this. Then, after my guests would become accustomed to the volume levels, I would proceed with my experiment. When the 'album' was finished, I would insert a C.D. version of the same recording at the exact same volume levels and without fail, the results were always the same. My little experiment would always conclude with my guests complaining of a near painful experience, comparing it to scratching glass, or being pelted by darts or needles. Instead of the 'warm, syrup-like sensation', they described it as a shower of billions of tiny icecubes. This back to back experiment repeated itself with the same results without fail irregardless of who my subjects were. It just proves what a sacrifice we've made in our listening experience in exchange for the few benefits that those 'compact disks' have to offer. Another fact that is rarely mentioned is how the record industry must have reaped absurd profits when you consider the total cost involved in manufacturing a vinyl L.P. along with the costs of packaging with attention to the jacket and the artwork. With a digital disk that can be produced for pennys, along with the inexpensive plastic case and virtually non-existant artwork and liner notes, it all translated into profit for the record industry. If anything, there was an increase in cost to the consumer when the C.D. was introduced to the market place. Well, "They give you this but you pay for that"!

At 8/09/2011 09:35:00 PM, Blogger BIGCHIEF said...

Regardless of how advanced or superior a format such as BluRay is, what does it benefit you when the video itself is inferior. How much pleasure can you get out of watching black and white still's such as the case with Crazy Horse/Fillmore? How long can you watch a record spinning on a phonograph or a reel to reel machine? As for the 'Treasure', when your source for video is amateur film makers using inferior equipment, pulled from various you-tube clips, what does it matter if your format is BluRay or Etch-a-sketch? You don't need a high-tech medium to stare at an album cover for several moments. I suppose I'm just venting over my frustration over the lack of previously unseen video on the first installment of the Archives. BluRay may be state of the art at the present time, but it's only as good as the source that it represents.

At 8/09/2011 11:45:00 PM, Blogger punkdavid said...

You should do what I did. Rip the audio from the blu-rays in 24 bit, and play it from your computer through decent headphones. Then you don't have to worry your wittle head about bad video quality while listening to the nice, warm music.

At 8/10/2011 07:52:00 AM, Blogger SONY said...

And I believe Neil said the BD was put out due to the superior audio quality over CD, and that the videos were just there for 'those who like pictures'.

Personally, I like the Tresure video stuff. It's a bootleggers delight, and Southern Pacific certainly solidfies the 'shakey' pictures format. Actually the sychronization of the videos is quite revolutionary compared to anything else put out in recent times, even though time-life infomercials have been showing us live shots of artists with studio songs playing for years.

I will agree that minutes to hours of watching an LP or reel-to reel- spin is somewhat ineffective to the experience, its more the audio that is being promoted thru BD. I would suspect and hope that as the archive timeline presses forward the imagery amd videos will upgrade as technolgy grew and Neil's interest in documenting it expanded.

At 8/11/2011 10:30:00 AM, Blogger Peter Johnson said...

...The audio that Neil recorded in the eighties was pretty much all digital CD-quality, so the audio on the Treasure Blu-Ray is really no improvement over the CD.

In my opinion the Blu-Ray of A Treasure is an absolutely terrible product - at first I thought it was joke, the idea was so bad. This whole thing of taking one sound performance and layering it over a different video is a total waste of time and effort. In my opinion it would be more enjoyable to just to have the original concert audio on the video part - you can still have the best-sounding takes on there as well as "audio only." Way too much thinking has gone into it, when the most simple solution, in this case, is probably the best one.

I wouldn't buy the Treasure Blu-Ray again, but the CD is really, really good (it would be even better with Interstate and This Old House!).

I'm not going to buy another new format until Blu-Ray has it's potential realised by Neil, which I'm confident it will.

At 8/11/2011 10:12:00 PM, Anonymous aRF said...

...and as for Wall Street, isn't it about time for the common man aid festival? I mean, why just focus on farmers for cripe sake? We're all hurtin'. Have you tried finding a job lately? Food? How about a concert for me! I'd take the hunderd bucks Mr. Wall Street dollars up his ass paid for a ticket.

At 8/13/2011 04:09:00 PM, Anonymous Mike said...

...and then in 5 years time we'll all have to upgrade to "STUDIO MASTER HD", and then "STUDIO MASTER HD2.0" etc.

I also see no way that the industry will embrace a new format without it being severely crippled with Digital Rights Management stuff.

Nice try and I really appreciate the effort though. When this comes out, I'll definitly download some .torrent files of some 24/196 FLAC files (once someone figures out how to crack the format - no doubt being raided by the police shortly after). But in the meantime, I'll stick with my $5 second-hand vinyl. It was good enough for all the musicians ears back then - it's good enough now.



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