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Jeff Wexler

Neil Young talks about analog vs. digital

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My father shot this piece with Neil Young talking about analog sound, digital sound, and his approach to creating and recording music. Quite a unique perspective, pretty far out there ---- but hey, it's Neil Young!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Saw Neil again play in Pasadena about a month ago.  He's still in fine form!  His current backing band is great too.

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Neil is great on the process of making (and finding and capturing) musical art, and the contribution of an analog tape deck and its tape to his sound.  There is a diff between digital and analog capture of audio for sure, but someone should tell Neil that just as he feels all the ultimate divisions of digital sound (samples) are somehow all the same, so are all the "lands" of magnetic oxide on the analog tape he's using.  That uniformity of the particles of the magnetic oxide of tape was long in coming and contributed to tape acquiring a better signal to noise ratio as formulas improved.  High end users of analog tape, esp classical music recordists still argue over this issue in deciding which brand/type of tape to use.   2nd thought, don't tell Neil, since it's all working for him just fine.  Good questions from HW, asked in a way and by a person Neil takes seriously enough to answer eloquently (ie not just another Youtube interview kid).

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Interesting, Thanks Jeff. Yes Niel's pretty far out there.

His hi-res digital 'Pono' player never caught on, and I did not think it would due to the high price of the player and music (in the Pono format whatever that was).

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15 minutes ago, Rick Reineke said:

Interesting, Thanks Jeff. Yes Niel's pretty far out there.

His hi-res digital 'Pono' player never caught on, and I did not think it would due to the high price of the player and music (in the Pono format whatever that was).

 

I don't think a 24 bit player can make a difference for most listeners, and especially in less than ideal conditions. 24 bit recording gives a lot of headroom when recording (which is good for dynamic sources that will be somewhat tamed in the mix) and it will help to reduce quantization noise when mixing lots of tracks.

 

Could anyone imagine Pono succeeding with the extraordinarily smashed dynamics of current pop and rock releases? I remember "Monarchy of Roses" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers in which it seems that the mastering engineer somewhat solved a system of nonlinear equations, delivering a mastered mix that, adding an enormous amount of distortion when playing it somewhat sounds like music. Seems to be mastered so that the distortion due to the hundreds of clips per second are part of the music.

 

Try an experiment. Play it (on iTunes, for example) reducing the volume from iTunes (ie, in the digital domain) and raising it in the analog domain (monitor volume) and you'll notice how it loses "sparkle" even if you march levels. 

 

 

 

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I can tell from this video that your dad HW had some charm and it was working on Neil Young. There is a point in the video where Neil Young is turning away, maybe thinking about walking away from the camera.  Your dad pulled him right back with a few words, and resisting the reflex to flee the interview,  Neil Young stays and engages the questions seriously.  Really cool video. Thanks for sharing this.

 

 

I like Neil's analogue-to-digital signal path explanantion too. 

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