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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Comment of the Moment: Releasing "Time Fades Away" on CD - Does It Really Matter Anymore?


"It's like stashing Mona Lisa in the basement."
Petition Signature Signer #6628 by Gareth D.

The Comment of the Moment is regarding the viability of vinyl vs CDs on the post Neil Young's "Ditch Quadrilogy" Re-Re-Release Coming by rkennke:
I find this whole discussion about hires audio formats rather religious than anything else. Sure you get tons more information in 192KHz/24bits depth, but IMO it's all useless. It's pretty much proven that humans cannot hear anything beyond 20-22Khz. Most people fail to hear anything around 15Khz already. Try it out yourself. As per the Nyquist theorem (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nyquist%E2%80%93Shannon_sampling_theorem), a sampling freq of 44Khz is about perfect. Hence the 44Khz of regular CDs. Remains the discussion about dynamic depth of 16 bits. This could be debated, but I haven't heard of a single double-blind study yet that conclusively proves it makes a difference to anybody.

I believe the notion of CD quality being inferior stems from badly mastered CDs. Back in the 80s and into the 90s, equipment for CD mastering and engineering experience hasn't been as good as it is now. We really got lots of badly mastered CDs, and Neil Young's catalogue is no exception, sadly. And we still do, nowadays CDs are often mastered too loud. But it's not a failure of the format, it's a failure of proper mastering. Some records are just superb (e.g. the remastered 1st 4 from Neil Young), especially in recent years, there are many excellent CD quality records out there.

As for vinyl records. I love them. But I do not love them for their superior sound quality. I love them for the improved artwork. I love them for the ritualistic putting record on the turntable, then placing the needle on the record, later, turning the record around, heck even the slightly romantic crackling of dust. Sound quality? Well... for one, the dynamic range is fairly limited on a record. The groove can give you just so much. Especially in the lower ranges, the range is so limited that records are mastered with lower frequencies turned down, and the playback equipment required to amplify it back up (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RIAA_equalization). The 'sampling frequency' is fairly limited too: vinyl consists of crystals, and you just don't get infinite many crystals (e.g. samples) within a groove. Then there's the issue that 'outer grooves' have a better quality then 'inner grooves', that's because the stylus has a higher effective speed over the vinyl at the outer edge than it has at the middle (kindof like higher sampling frequency). That's one of the reasons why often you find quieter songs at the end of one LP side. A well mastered LP will leave a lot of empty space in the middle for that reason. There are some terrible LPs (take NYs Freedom) that squeeze 30minutes+ on each side. Modern well mastered LPs only take up 12-20 minutes per side. And real hi-fidelity pressings even come in 45rpm (as some of Radiohead's records do, for example). LPs are really not that great, sound-quality wise.

I hope that Neil makes up his mind and re-releases TFA, TTN and Zuma (On The Beach is fine as it is) on CD. It's still the most common format, even though declining, and no, neither MP3 nor PONO is for me. LP with CD quality download seems ok. (Will the re-releases come with such download option?) In the meantime, find the pulled TFA HDCD master from the 90s out there.. it's great (better than any LP rip).
Thanks rkennke for the comment. Provocative.

So. Does releasing Neil Young's "Time Fades Away" on CD... does it really matter anymore? Or can we just retire the petition and be done with and move along?

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7 Comments:

At 8/21/2016 08:49:00 PM, Blogger wardo said...

I'm lucky to own a vinyl copy of TFA, purchased in the early '90s used for under $10, with lyrics poster. Even when I had money I could never convince myself to spend more for a used LP than it would have cost had I bought it the day it was originally released.

I still play my records, but most of them were either bought new when first released or used for less. As much as I'd love to have a pristine copy of one of Neil's albums on heavy-duty vinyl mastered in the 21st century, as soon as I put the needle down, it loses its pristineness. (I know that's not a word.) I'm not going to spend $25 and up on something pretty I won't risk listening to.

Meanwhile, I have a rack full of every officially released Neil Young CD, and the release of On The Beach filled part of the hole between Harvest and TTN. TFA on CD will help complete the picture. Yes, I know it will sound horrible to Neil's ears, but since I'm not getting rid of my beloved used LP, it won't be a sacrifice. And it will be more affordable.

 
At 8/22/2016 10:26:00 AM, Blogger Edward Lawrence said...

Yes, it really does matter!

 
At 8/22/2016 10:29:00 AM, Blogger Roberto Winkler said...

Nice comment overall but aside of Shannon theorem and other 'details' I basically think that the quality / genration of masters from which CDs have been generated is the real issue.
As for PONO and hires..you know that it's a romantic approach that Neil has to Music in all its embodiments.

BTW I still have my lps and seldom buy some, but cds and digital (flac only) are much more user friendly. Hard stuff to play vynil in my car :)

 
At 8/22/2016 10:41:00 AM, Blogger Andy said...

I'd love this to come out on CD! I'm a 90s kid and my Neil collection is on CD. I have almost every Neil album on CD, so this feels like a hole in my collection. I like vinyl, but CD was the format I was raised with and the format I enjoy the most. I like the clean sound and the convenience is unparalleled among physical formats.

 
At 8/22/2016 11:52:00 AM, Blogger Bri B said...

All this talk of the demise of CDs is wrong. Look what they said about vinyl in the past !
So are we not going to see Archives Vol 2 on CD ?
Neil should get moving and reissue all his catalogue in the format that the majority of his fan base still use - CDs !!

 
At 8/22/2016 12:40:00 PM, Blogger sergio falcone said...

We need "Neil Young official release series discs 5-8" on cd. Thank you.

 
At 8/22/2016 04:52:00 PM, Blogger rkennke said...

I didn't mean to imply that releasing TFA (or any other record) on CD doesn't matter anymore. Quite the contrary. It does totally matter. It seems particularily odd since Neil Young cares so much about audio quality, and still most of his catalogue is still only available on not-exactly-great sounding CDs (and 2nd hand, probably worn out LPs).

 

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