Steve Jobs and Neil Young: Comment of the Moment
Quite a bit of discussion regarding the news that "Steve Jobs Preferred Vinyl" Says Neil Young.
The widely picked up quote was preceded earlier by Neil Young's announcement that he supported the Occupy Audio movement due to his "anger over today's sound quality".
Which brings us to the Comment of the Moment:
This story grabbed my interest, because I know of Young's long term dedication to sound quality. And also just because it was an interesting idea that these two could be discussing a major move forward.
But realistically, I wonder how far he could ever have got with Jobs (or could get now, with just Apple). I suspect Jobs and Young would have struggled to find common ground. Jobs may have liked vinyl, but he liked Apple a whole lot more.
True, the iPod itself is quite an innovative product, but from the very beginning, it was about quantity over quality, "1000 songs in your pocket" and all that crap.
And mainly what it is is a shamefully locked piece of equipment, a vehicle for Apple's proprietary obsessions.
We've had "hi-def" digital sound for at least 15 years now, even DVD Video has 24-bit sound written into its standard (Google the Bob Stuart interview in Stereophile). Yep, you can run off a lovely hi-def audio disc on a cheap DVD-V blank.
We've had hi-def digital disc formats that didn't too well commercially - DVD-Audio and SACD, and now we have hi-def audio on Bluray. And we have what may be the true home of hi-def, computers. And where has Apple really been in all this? Nowhere. Jobs and Apple have been completely silent on the subject, and where their equipment can even handle this stuff, they're usually very late to the game.
Instead, they've had a separate but extraordinarily lucrative existence where they developed the iPod and iTunes, got people buying a song at a time for a dollar a time, and did nothing to disabuse people of the idea that MP3 was all they needed.
If Jobs knows vinyl sounds great on his billionaire-class turntable, why didn't he do more to promote higher quality digital audio for the plebs? He's had ten years with the iPod, more than enough time considering that during the same period, audiophiles have adopted high quality computer audio in a very big way.
Instead, the iPod is more about what you _can't_ do. No SPDIF or other way to get the digital signal out to a DAC. If you want to do that, you have to buy a Wadia box (licensed by Apple) for $300. And that's not the external DAC, it's just a digital middleman. Unlike an external DAC, which can be an extremely versatile audio device that deals with multiple sources, it presumably has no function other than getting digital off an iPod and passing it along. You can't plug it into anything else or do anything else with it. For $300! It's basically a license in box form.
Now it would be perfectly possible for Apple to just build digital-out capability into its iPods - in the same way a $30 PC soundcard can do it, a DAT player can do it, a CD player can do it (I do all three right now). Instead, the iPod is permanently prevented from reaching its full hifi potential - as a digital transport - unless you take Apple's approved, Apple-takes-a-cut-of-the-money route. Isn't it interesting how the iPod, in 2012, can't do things that a CD player or a DAT could easily handle in 1990?
Compare that to how you freely move music files around on a computer, swap between computers, send out to a DAC, basically do whatever the hell you want with them, and you see that the iPod is classic crippleware.
Now how many of us really believe that the Jobs-Young summit would have produced results that weren't weighted in Steve's favour? I've got the greatest respect for Neil Young and what he's achieved for audio over the years - he's a frigging _hero for the way he's pushed this issue - but I'm convinced Jobs would have obstructed or circumvented him one way or another.
So what have we got?
Neil Young: brought out the Archives - his BABY - on Bluray.
Steve Jobs: Blu-ray? What's that?
And there you have the difference between the two in a nutshell.
A lot to consider in this comment.
So we'll just say that we're always searchin' for quality -- rather than quantity. But -- generally -- we can't always get what we want, but we're happy we get what we need. :)