Neil Young: Vinyl Resurgence is "nothing but a fashion statement"

According to U.K. music paper NME, Neil Young claimed during a recent interview on Frame, a California radio show, that vinyl is "nothing but a fashion statement."

Of course Neil is entitled to his opinion and we will still love him and his music but he is completely mistaken when he made this blanket statement on the radio show:

"A lot of people that buy vinyl today don’t realise that they’re listening to CD masters on vinyl and that’s because the record companies have figured out that people want vinyl."

True, some records are unscrupulously cut from CD masters when high resolution master files exist but Young's blanket statement is simply not true as we all know.

Ironically it is Neil's Pono service that is selling a shit load of CD resolution files to play back on his Pono player that's capable of higher resolution reproduction.

Young did walk back his assertion later in the interview saying about vinyl, "It's a great niche and it's a wonderful thing and I hope people continue to enjoy vinyl and it continues to grow because it's a good thing."

He concluded his contradictory ramble by saying "this is a convenience-oriented society and vinyl is not a convenient thing."

MicallefK's picture

Having a fevered conversation re this post on Facebook, with the usual vinyl-deniers rapping an "I told you so" mantra without knowing the facts, some of which are being spelled out to them by the vinyl faithful

recordhead's picture

I'm so sick of people hanging on to this douche bags every word. This guy charges more for his vinyl releases than anyone. He's right about one thing, "convenience." That's why the cassette, CD and mp3 thrived. Nothing more. I like records, I like CD's. Hell, I like cassettes and 8 tracks! It's the music I'm after but at the end of the day, I (we) like records better. Yes it's a bit of nostalgia too but when I cleaned and played a Temptations LP I picked up from half price books I was blown away by the sound. I can still hear it in my head. I'll bet the CD doesn't come close. I get it Neil, you're pushing Pono. While I'm sure the quality is fine, it's too late, the MP3 is the default. Like vinyl, Pono will be a niche market and nothing more than a fashion statement. Like that stupid hat you wear.

volvic's picture

Yes, we still love you and wish you success with your Pono, but please choose your words carefully.

gMRfk6LMHn's picture

I never thought for one minute that Neil Young was the standard bearer for vinyl! He has consistently said that vinyl sounded better than CD (which is crap is his opinion)and that people were being cheated of good sound and that is why he 'developed' Pono!

James, Dublin, Ireland

my new username's picture

... was the only version with decent dynamic range. This directly contributed to its better impact and listener enjoyment, which is only point for lining anyone's pockets. (And yeah, it was a real SHAME about the cost of that one--$80 MSRP for 3 sides?? is exorbitant.)

Mr. Young would do well to harp on labels' continued policy of releasing digital versions -- even the hi res ones -- as dynamically compressed. It might provide him some insight into one of the reasons why we LP buyers don't consider our hobby a fad.

One more thing, it's really embarrassing to call something a "fashion statement" when no one can legitimately predict fashion.

azmoon's picture are taking it out of context and trying to fan flames that don't exist. So this time I have to disagree with you. He said: "And they're only making CD masters in digital, so all the new products that come out on vinyl are actually CDs on vinyl, which is really nothing but a fashion statement." His mistake was stating "all". But how far off is he really? What % of LPs released these days are all analogue?

Which is true in a lot of cases.

my new username's picture

Although Young didn't do himself any favors by saying "all" I now understand he meant only LPs cut from 16/44 sources are "fashion" statements.

I'm not entirely sure I actually agree with him however, because saying a "16/44 LP" is only as good as a CD assumes you'd have a top-notch CD player or file playback system that's as good as your LP system. It might not be. My current DAC is essentially my computer's DAC ... my turntable setup is incredibly mild and limited, but still better.

And then there's the better artwork, the liner notes and so on.

Michael Fremer's picture
You are conflating "digital" with "CD". They are two different things (unless you think CD resolution is equal to 192/24 or 96/24). Clearly Neil doesn't or he wouldn't have bothered with Pono!

Neil didn't say all or most are cut from "digital" he said from "CD masters".

What percent of new releases are cut from analog tape? Very small percent. What percent are cut from "digital"? Most. At what resolution? That we don't know for sure but many are cut from 96/24 resolution files from what I've been able to ascertain...

AQ Shane's picture

Mikey- this is such an important distinction, thanks for making it and continuing to hammer it home! Being able to retain 20-24 bit depth in converting digital files to LPs is a dramatic improvement over truncating to 16-bits for CDs.

But going further, I've listened to and owned a LOT of high-end digital gear over the years. High-res digital converted to LP always sounds better to me than high-res files played on digital gear. I think it's just the fact that all the filtering and data crunching that makes discreet digital samples sound like a waveform during real-time playback are eliminated. when it's cut to LP, the playback becomes purely mechanical and is easier on the ear/brain.

Or something like that!

Either way, not at all shocking that Neil is changing his tune now that he's got a crowd-funded digital player and files to sell.

curious he didn't put his own money where his ears allegedly are...

JBo's picture

AQ agree with your points but I think the differences in dynamic range are typically so considerable that it is obvious that steps in the mastering process of the different formats diverge in terms of loudness.

Maybe a mastering engineer could confirm this, it's my understanding that digital masters are compressed more and louder to sound "right" on portable players and side-by-side with other loud material. For LP masters they have the luxury to assume the listener is in a quiet environment (hard to play LPs on the subway train) and they don't have to worry to compete for loudness so the mastering engineer can ease off on the compression / loudness.

I'm not sure why this is such a secret topic -- seems in the audio industry this is understood but in the audiophile community its some kind of secret that the masters are quite different for these basic reasons.

Thus a modern LP will generally sound a lot better to a person who doesn't like loudness (like me) than the hi res download even though they may have both started at 24/96.

I don't think people should buy into this idea that the LPs are mastered the same as CDs -- that's nonsense. The opposite is true, the hi-res and CDs are mastered the same typically , one is just not dithered down to 16 bits.

You can see some waveform pictures and measurements on my twitter account @TrueVinyl if you are interested.

JBo's picture

I've ripped tons of records, new and old, and LPs somehow someway almost always have less dynamic compression, it's easy to measure. Try it yourself. I suspect the majority of new modern LPs these days start from hi-resolution files, but the final mastering steps whereby CDs and downloads are squashed does not happen with LPs. I'm no expert on this process but those steps clearly exist and you can easily verify what I'm saying by simply taking one of your LPs, recording it, measuring it and comparing it to the downloads of whatever flavor you want (CD , iTunes, Pono). Compare those to the LP rip and play "which of these is not like the other?". If it's after 2000 or so then the differences are big, if it's an original CD from the 90s then things are more similar dynamically.

AQ Shane's picture

you quoth: "all the new products that come out on vinyl are actually CDs on vinyl ..."

He said all. Which is complete bullshit.

LS35A's picture

What a clown.

azmoon's picture

..he did say "CD". But I just see him as being a bit careless (which he shouldn't be). Based on the past and his LP releases, he truly appreciates the all analogue chain. Anyway, I think he is correct that lots of poorly cut digital to LP releases are bought by people who have no clue about analogue and may indeed be buying into what they see as a "fashion". I certainly don't include most audiophiles in that category, but others seem to be.

DigitalIsDead's picture

Everything about Neil these days is about making money.

SimonH's picture

Not the best choice of words from a seeming Mr Grumpy, the man who can get on with anyone? but he has a point considering some of the crap people must be buying - danger is they kill the golden goose!

rscotts's picture

Dear Mr. Young, Please return to Canada asap, take your pono with you and stop bothering us. I've had enough. Meridian MQA will blow your toy away soon enough.

Archimago's picture

About MQA. Just another way to package PCM audio...

azmoon's picture

seems to get roasted over pricing, making money etc. I agree his LPs cost too much. Some I buy, some I don't. His remastered LPs sound great and are in really nice packaging. But what in this country is not about making money, unfortunately? If it's too high don't buy it.

DLKG's picture

I haven't bought any of his LP's even though a few look like they would be great to have but his prices are just way too high for me. I'm not opposed to some of the more expensive labels out there because they're most of the time so great but his prices are way beyond comfortable. I belong to an audiophile club and hardly anyone involved owns his records. I'm not sure if it's the price or they just don't like him. I will find out.

BillHart's picture

Some of Neil's early LPs are simply superb sounding: the Lee Hulko masterings of Harvest, the RE-2 pressing of After the Goldrush, etc. My sense is that he does care about sound quality, sought to advance the mass-market through Pono (with a fair amount of sniping which has been documented on these pages) and that the Babel of voices over preferred formats today has left Neil Young in an unnecessary quandary: he is promoting hi-rez 'portable' audio, which does not have to be at the expense of good vinyl. Maybe he does think that the current vinyl bump is nothing more than a fashion statement, but I've learned, from lot's of younger listeners, that they are interested in sound quality, resent the 'hipster' characterization and are willing to go to some trouble to cobble together modest vinyl systems so that they can buy decent old pressings. I think, perhaps, the beat-down he is taking on Pono is getting to him. I still dig his early stuff and that Massey Hall record is a jewel.

Pablo's picture

Hey Digitallsdead,I reckon there are easier ways than Pono and Lincvolt for a man with mountains of dough to make bigger mountains of for perseverance where credit's due.

lpman1989's picture

i'm 25 i do not buy records for fashion i bye records because they sound better end of.I have always been in to electronics but i have digital sound (even the hi res) funny thing is i have lp's that would of been cut from cd master's such as ed sheerans x album however you play the cd and lp back to back and the vinyl still sounds better properly because of a eq difference but i will say if i can get a record that is all all analog of course it sounds better and a friend of mine as seen ed sheeran live and she don't even live vinyl but she thinks vinyl sounds more like the real thing.

sluggobeast's picture

Neil's launching of Pono notwithstanding -- and his past blasting of CD technology -- there's some truth to what he's saying.

My 18-year-old son, a musician who grew up in a house full of vinyl and eclectic music -- buys vinyl and knows it's better. But both he and my 21-year-old daughter said they think a lot of young people are buying it because it's "cool" and they don't necessarily appreciate the superior audio quality. If that's true, hopefully they'll become full-fledged vinyl converts.

McDonalds or Steak's picture

Neil is partly right.

A lot of younger people proclaiming the superiority of vinyl, always in vague cliches are playing it back on the cheapest plastic portable record players with 3 inch built-in speakers (but super-stylish cases), or low end DJ tuntables that do not track right, do not hold pitch and have $2 RIAA stages.

Everyone who just "got into vinyl" says it sounds fantastic, but it absolutely does not when played back on atrocious, tinny equipment. It sounds worse than a CD or FM on a Wave radio or 80s rack system or upgrade car stereo.

This actually bears similarities to when ill-informed writers, marketing departments and popular opinion convinced everyone that CDs were superior!

They are also paying $25 for unremastered DAT-sourced records that used to be be sold for "The Nice Price." But that's not the heart of the issue.

For this market segment, which I think is a big driver of media attention and sales, it certainly is a fashion statement, or worse, an ego-affirming affectation. It can't be about the sound quality when they're listening to records -- the great pressings and the lousy -- through ceramic cartridges and 3" built-in speakers.

Some may trade up to better sound or discover the fun of digging. Most will drop it like all other fashion statements because their professesed appreciation of vinyl is, unfortunately, divorced from the actual sonic qualities of vinyl. And it is less convenient.

JBo's picture

I bought 5 songs on Pono -- I downloaded them and compared them to my LP rips and iTunes downloads using AudioLeak. The Pono downloads measure very similar to the iTunes 256k downloads in terms of dynamic range and the waveform displays visually look the same. The LP versions are VERY different and do not show the the same amount of compression / brickwalling -- not a slight difference but a large difference both visually and numerically.

Sonically, the Pono and iTunes both sound bad to my ears compared to the LPs. Pono and iTunes sound much more similar to each other than to the vinyl. Pono and iTunes sound much louder and pretty close to each other with more extension in the bass (pressure) and top end from the Pono downloads but the same basic sound. The LPs sound relaxed in comparison.

Do this yourself -- don't trust me of Neal -- simply download some tunes and listen and perhaps use an audio editor that can make measurements -- if you have LP rips then play the game "which of these is not like the other..."

The songs I chose were:

George Harrison "Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)"

(I chose this one because it was the first one that caught my eye as a feature release on the Pono website. It sounded abysmal! )

Joe Jackson "Another World"
R.E.M. "Talk About The Passion"
Rain Tree Crow "Blackwater"
The Killers "Miss Atomic Bomb"

You can pick just about any song and compare it to iTunes and then compare it to your vinyl rip or just listen side by side.

The other songs I chose -- I tried to just pick songs that I like -- all sounded compressed / anxious / loud from Pono.

In a weird weird way, the 256k mp3's might sound better to some people than the hi-res due perhaps because the over-compression is just adding more overtones and haze to the sound on the extremes, if you start with bad sound across the spectrum then it may be best to roll off those harsh highs and muddy lows to help put the focus on the fundamentals. I'm sure folks will think I'm insane to say this, but I suspect an overly compressed download may actually be preferable to people than the hi-res for this reason.

The good news about Pono, ironically, is that if there is a CD out there that sounds nice to you this is a good website to go get it and enjoy the portability of a pre-ripped CD. I think Pono / Neal should avoid making goofy format comments and try to sell us on the strength of that simple idea -- hey I can buy CD quality music here and not have to rip them myself. That would actually make sense. Then leave the hi-res thing as a nice little icing on the cake rather than the focus -- because at the end of the day these are CD downloads with a little extra, but essentially the same "master".

Anyway, I find this frustrating because it's so obvious that the opposite of what Neal said here is true -- the hi-res Pono versions ARE the same digital masters as CD and iTunes (they just have not been dithered down to 16 bits or converted to mp3) while vinyl is typically very different -- in my opinion, since I detest loudness, I strongly prefer the vinyl, but that's not the point here -- I contend that a CD, iTunes download, and Pono download are all very similar and from the same source, whereas the Vinyl will be quite different.

Just listen and measure some...

Michael Fremer's picture
Was among the most useful, constructive, insightful and informative comments ever posted to this site. Thank you very much.
JBo's picture

Hey I appreciate those kind words Michael! I will email you a link to the analysis -- charts, measures, etc...

True Vinyl Radio

Mark UK's picture

The vinyl resurgence IS a fashion statement. Any sales increase is microscopic.

Vinyl itself is not a fashion statement. Those who have always liked it will continue to buy it and look after the ones they already have. Unfortunately I never did.

But I do wonder how high-priced turntable manufacturers continue to survive. Those who are 'interested will already have one (I've got a Linn which I hardly ever use). But the 'revival' people, largely pretty young and impressionable, won't pay even Linn 'basic model' prices. And of course Linn make other thins. Most don't.

isaacrivera's picture

VPI, which only makes vinyl related hardware, has been struggling to keep up with demand. Rega keeps coming up with new models as are Music Hall and Pro-Ject. So unless these companies can somehow afford to keep running on red for several years while at the same time spending quite a bit on R&D, I would say you are underestimating the trend.

Michael Fremer's picture
If you wish to assert that vinyl is a "fashion statement" fine. Your opinion.

However saying sales increases of "microscopic" is delusional on your part. Sales are way up.

More than 30 MILLION RECORDS were pressed last year and not to make a "fashion statement". They were ordered by labels not interested in warehousing them. They mostly SOLD.

Few records were pressed and sold ten years ago. So going from ground zero to 30 MILLION is not "microscopic".

Yes, compared to the mainstream market that's relatively small but who gives a shit? Gourmet dining is a small market compared to fast food. SO WHAT? Gourmet dining is a very healthy (and healthful) niche. It's for people who want a QUALITY DINING EXPERIENCE.

Vinyl playback is for those who want a QUALITY LISTENING EXPERIENCE.

That is MY opinion.

You wonder about high priced turntable manufacturers and how they continue to survive because you are CLUELESS about this marketplace.

It is THRIVING all over the world.

Most young people eat meatball subs and "suds" when when they get older their tastes will become more sophisticated. It is incredible that they can get fast food "all you can eat" music almost free but they are willing to BUY records.

They are on the path to really enjoying music in their homes.

Mark UK's picture

But it is wishful thinking though I would like it too.

How many NEW 'expensive' turntables have you purchased in say the last five years? The 'fashion' people don't buy them, they buy the quite good Scout or similar. Or likely cheaper.

That is why I was careful to distinguish the fashion from the non fashion in my post and say Young was half right in my post.

It is the same for vinyl LPs. Compared to other formats sales are microscopic. I suspect far more people snort weird chemicals or build galleons from wooden kits than buy records

isaacrivera's picture

The more expensive products are priced accordingly so that companies can recover their investment and profit from them in less sales than cheaper ones. They do not expect to sell huge numbers of them and that is in part the reason for their price tags. As Michael was explaining, the niche market of fine dinning is expensive because a good restaurant that can sit 20 tables twice a night, still has to pay rent and the more expensive raw materials, so the cost of diner has to cover all of that on a much lower volume than a fast food franchise. Again, if it did not add up those companies would have closed long time ago, but they are thriving and the proof is that they keep doing R&D and coming up with new models, and a lot of those models are in the $2K - $10K price range. These new models are not just repackaging of old stuff, there are tons of engineering innovations and new materials, so their investment in R&D has been significant. Niche is not a problem as long as it is profitable, and it clearly is.

Martin's picture

for I believe the SME 20 and 30.
For the SME 10 I believe it's a bit shorter.
I'm guessing other high end turntable manufacturers it's similar.

Cartridges are being made and sold in the 5,000 to 10,000 USD range. Supply is having a hard time keeping up with demand.

It isn't easy making stuff to this build quality.
People are caring enough to buy this sort of quality.

Michael Fremer's picture
Is obvious from your comments. When I publish the actual number of records pressed around the world in 2014 you will see that the increase is anything but "microscopic".
Tim_Corn's picture

Frank had it right... SHUT UP AND PLAY YOUR GUITAR

Audiobill's picture

Diana Krall's new album "Wildflower" released today. I'm listening on Tidal and, based on my first impression, I'll probably buy it. HD Tracks has the Deluxe 16-track version available at 24/48 only. Acoustic Sounds says its 180-gram vinyl (2 discs). Music Direct says its Standard Vinyl (2 discs). Amazon two vinyl discs. All on the Verve label. It appears to be a digital master, but I couldn't determine this with a quick search of the usual sites. The prices are all relatively the same, so I'm assuming it's the same album at all of these stores. I'd be interested to get your thoughts.

my new username's picture

... the available resolution of something on HDTracks is indicative of that title's maximum available resolution. And that the Krall recording is likely mastered to 24/48 and the LP cut from that, albeit possibly less-compressed (which I do realize constitutes being a different master but I think you know what I'm saying here.)

The truly curious thing is that reissues from analog sources are often quite higher, like 192kHz or at least 96kHz. Seems to be an acknowledgment that the old tapes possess more content than new digital recordings, which only begs more questions as to why they'd knowingly dumb down new recordings ...

Michael Fremer's picture
Reaction varies widely. One friend said the new DK was 'stunning' on vinyl: quiet backgrounds and very well recorded. Another said he bought it on both CD and vinyl and thought the CD sounded better.

So far I've only listened on Tidal on my iPhone (I'm away from home) and even that way using the phone's speaker, I can tell it's a sweet recording...

Swervn's picture

I was a kickstarter for the pono as I was looking for a portable player that could give me some resolution approaching my vinyl. My ipod obviously was not cutting it. I have been collecting and listening to vinyl since the 1960's. I have a good collection of original pressings and have added some new remasters of some of them and some compare favorably, some not so much. I downloaded the 24/192 version of Neil's Live Rust album to do an apples to apples comparison. I was "at the show" and have the original pressing. I find the remastered download to be actually quite suppressed, with crowd noise sharp and prominent in the original and much less so in the download. I find my 24/96 rips from original vinyl to be superior to most downloads. One thing to note tho, the JRiver software that pairs with the pono (PonoMusic World) does a fabulous job of ripping CDs to 16/44 files. I have found the pono to be a very viable portable player for my vinyl rips when used with quality headphones/earphones and in the car.

So if vinyl is a "fashion statement" I guess I've been very fashionable for a very long time. And I always thought I didn't give a hoot about fashion ;)

Catcher10's picture

I never liked anything Neil Young recorded, there must be a reason and I just read why.
Always go with your first instinct....

audiof001's picture

The vinyl resurgence isn't as much a fashion statement than it is a profit opportunity. Now that people are used to paying $20-50 for a vinyl release, vinyl is again hot. I greatly appreciate the young people out there jumping on the vinyl bandwagon. Whether they are doing for fashion's sake of for audio quality, at least they are helping keep our hobby alive. Quit hating on the youngsters, support them. Maybe they are building their collections now with a cheap table but plan to get better equipment in the future... just like we all did!

Jazzfan62's picture

of the sound, but equally because of the experience. I love the sound of the needle hitting the record. It provokes that "Ok, time to relax and get into some music" feel. Who knows, maybe part of the reason I like the sound is because I'm relaxed and totally into it. It is like nothing else I do. I deal with iPads and computers the whole day. You put a mouse or iPad app in my hands, and I go straight to "Why the hell is the album artwork taking so long to build? Why is the iPad app freezing? Why is my computer locking? Why is the first song in my library playing when I start the app when they fixed that 3 versions ago? Why couldn't it find my album art work when I loaded that CDs? When was the last time I backed up my library? To me that becomes running music playing apps, not listening to music. The computer and iPad will not enter my listening room again.

Mark UK's picture

I say Young is half right and half wrong. We are in vinyl long term and always have been, so it's not 'fashion'.

The 'younger' people buy fairly low cost turntable and have never had one before.

What happens?

The 'boss' ignores one half of my post completely and flames the half he disagrees with.

audiof001's picture

Young people buy low cost turntables BECAUSE they've never had a table before. As their friends get better systems they'll all learn from each other.

I bought my first turntable at 22 years of age - a new AR XAA, for $88. All I could afford at the time. Eventually traded it in on a new Lenco. Built my own speakers. Vinyl was $2.89 a record then at the cheapest store. $2.89 then is equal to $16.38 today... about the same as many pop vinyl prices. Give 'em time to build a bit of a collection and learn to appreciate it. They'll buy better tables eventually. I did... I now have a Well Tempered Turntable (lots of upgrades), Neat Shield MO 19 idler and a Pro-Ject Perspective.Give the young support and allow them time to appreciate and learn.

It's fun looking thru the racks of used albums around young people. As the lone old man alone in the racks for years, I welcome the company.

McDonalds or Steak's picture

For many decades almost every household in America had a low cost turntable. And over the years, the vast majority of them replaced them -- with newer low cost turntables, until they switched to other media. Just as most of them replaced their cheap video players, receivers, CD players and tape decks with new cheap video players, receivers, CD players and tape decks.

Your presumption that a cheap turntable is a gateway into higher end gear is not supported by ample history. Of course, it will be true for many of the people who comment on this site. That's why they're here in the first place. As a generalization, it's doubtful.

Mark UK's picture

They are basically long obsolete.

He's in cloud cuckoo land. But unlike him, most Ferrari owners do not go around insulting everyone who don't think like them.

Michael Fremer's picture
Now you are projecting. Go post on a Ferrari forum that the cars are "long obsolete" etc.
sandyu's picture


First, let me say I like Michael Fremer's "Analog Corner" more than I like Neil Young and his current music. So I want ol' Mikey to be right about this one.

Unfortunately, speaking as a logician, I can't say that.

First: Neil Young said that for some vinyl is "nothing but a fashion statement," and that "a lot of people that buy vinyl today don’t realize ..." etc., etc.,

And in both statements he's perfectly correct: Some -- let's face it -- are indeed into the fashion (or "lifestyle") aspect of analog, and there are some who don't bother to inform themselves about how vinyl records are created.

Unfortunately, those aren't personal opinions, they're verifiable facts. So, Mr. Fremer, why not just admit it? And move on?


Now, it's your opinion, sir, those folks are in the minority. Fine. Maybe they are. Nobody's disagreeing with that, not even Mr. Young.

But the difference between your personal opinion and what Young actually said, which is verifiable, is the difference between logic and personal opinion.

On the other hand, we see Michael Fremer is countering Neil Young by saying: "More than 30 MILLION RECORDS were pressed last year and not to make a "fashion statement."

Sadly, that's exactly the sort of statement that's known in logic as a "universal" -- the easiest of all statements to disprove with logical analysis.

Here's why: If I can find just one exception to your statement about the buyers of the "30 MILLION" albums sold, then your "universal" statement is disproved, since now we have what's known as a "contradiction."


So we need to ask: "How can you, sir, be so sure about the motives of every single one of those 30 million purchasers?" Because, if we do ask that, here's what we discover:

First, Taylor Swift's "1989" alone sold 1.3 million CDs — in its first week!! (Which'd be almost 94 million over a year's time, for a single artist.) Now that "30 MILLION" for a year doesn't look quite so big, does it? Meanwhile, the circulation of Stereophile remains in the lower five digits. What all those numbers tell us: Digital remains the norm, analog is the outlier, and audiophiles listeners are in the minority.

Second: The folks at VPI, your shining example of turntable manufacturers, may not understand as much about the kids buying their Nomad turntables as they might imagine. (Q.: Why does the dustcover for a Nomad, which costs nearly $1500, cost an additional $370? Q.: Why does the headphone output overdrive reasonably priced headphones? And so on...)

Third, those buyers of three-digit turntables aren't ever going to be buyers of five digit turntables, as you suggest. And the reason that's true won't be found in Stereophile, but in the Bureau of US Labor statistics: Most Americans are struggling to survive, have been for decades, and the outcome of most of those struggles will, necessarily, prove unsuccessful.

Unless things change, a $30K turntable, with a with a $3K cartridge on $7K tonearm, hitched to a $5K phono preamp, with a $1.5K vacuum record cleaner, simply isn't going to be in the cards for most Americans. For most of us, top-of-the-line will be a Pro-Ject Debut Carbon. Them's the facts, and they ain't so pretty.


OK, sure, I myself like vinyl and actually prefer it to "digital," whether you're talking about CDs or streaming. And that's why I'm running a $600 cartridge in a $1500 turntable to a $400 tube phono preamp.

But, when it comes to the Logic Box, the situation is irrefutable: Mr. Fremer's statements are easily contradicted by the facts, while Mr. Young's statements aren't contradicted.


... And, finally, sir, I've been a Life Member of the Ferrari Club of America, since 1968, back when there were only around 500 of us, and ol' Enzo himself had built us fewer than 600 examples since Ferrari Sp.A had started up in 1947.

Nowadays, Ferrari Sp.A. builds 600 cars a month (most of them headed for China).

And, no, it isn't just me, but a lot of us out here don't much care for the post-"Magnum PI" cars from Ferrari -- and certainly not as much as we do for a vintage GTE 2+2, the Barchettas of the early years, the 275 GT/B (Steve McQueen drove one), the original 250 GTO and its street version, the 250 Lusso, or even my own 1959 California spyder.

Don't believe me? Check out the recent auction prices: How about $38 million for a 1962 250 GTO, a car that was actually slower, in its day, than a 5-liter (i.e., Weber-carb on a Moon manifold, 327-inch poked and stroked) Shelby Cobra coupe. (How come Ferrari lost the Manufacturer's Cup to Ford.)

Look, pal, if you really believe it's unanimous that all FCA members like the more recent ones -- which to me resemble nothing so much as suppositories built from paper origami -- as much as the vintage ones you really need to get out to an FCA national meet sometime and talk to a few of us.

Sir, all the best Ferraris were built before 1967, and most of the best were built before 1964.

... True, that's a "universal," but if you look to find its contradictory, it might take you awhile.

(Mr.) Sandy Untermyer
Appling, GA

Michael Fremer's picture
i agree that way back when, a turntable was not a gateway. It was the only way. Then cassettes took over and the CD. It is true that most people will go for cheap and easy i.e.: Spotify, etc. or iTunes.

However, people today getting into vinyl, particularly younger music fans, are generally drawn to it because of the sound (unless you buy the "hipster" argument, which I don't but only time will tell).

Therefore I think the vinyl buyer of today listening on an inexpensive turntable is drawn to the sound and will continually upgrade. I hear that from readers too by the way. Young ones asking about the next affordable step up.

audiof001's picture

Thanks Michael for offering your opinion here. I prefer to think the glass is half full regarding the young and vinyl. I read years ago that the average household in the 1950-60's only had a collection of 16 lps. If there are indeed 'hipsters', they'll likely have a similar number of lps intended to impress played on poor but oh so stylish equipment. Those truly interested in vinyl will continue to collect and, I believe, upgrade for even better sound. Like I said, we did, why not them?

AQ Shane's picture

@Mark UK
It's not that I and others here disagree with Neil it's that he's lying and spreading misinformation to sell his crowd-funded player.

Neil Young has said on talk shows and everywhere he can that CD and MP3 sound sucks, and now he says " all the new products that come out on vinyl are actually CDs on vinyl."

He didn't say some vinyl releases, he said all. This is an inexcusable lie he's telling to get people to buy his player and his files, many of which are ironically CD-res files.

I don't give a shit what Neil thinks about vinyl or anything else so I'm not flaming him for having a different opinion. I'm flaming him for being a liar while pretending to be something he's not. He's pretending to be a Robin Hood saving everyone from bad sound, and he's really like anyone else shilling a product and lying through his teeth to sell it.

He's falsely denigrating new vinyl releases from Beck, Lucinda Williams and countless others. And he deserves to be flamed for it.

JBo's picture

Well said AQShane -- note to self, when selling a product don't twist the facts, mislead, or alienate a core market for your product with careless comments.

Watch how Tidal markets their product in comparison -- they don't diss CD or vinyl quality -- to the average person CD means hi quality visavi mp3. So the average person seems to trust what Tidal is saying / doing -- they get it. Notice how Spotify is taking note of what they are up to... Tidal may influence Spotify which may influence Apple and we'll see all boats rise.

It's the audiophile market that wants to go beyond CD quality -- which is great and should be Pono's target audience if hi-res is his mantra -- I'm one of those guys -- but Neal's comments and my experience with 5 Pono downloads suggest to me that I can't trust what he has to say because they sound awful and that makes me wonder what short cuts he is taking in the player as he appears to be a careless businessman with little respect for his potential market.

AQ Shane's picture

Another thing I'm curious about is how much skin Neil has in this game and who is really going to make money from Pono if it succeeds.

The player is crowd-funded, which means the traditional risks of going into business by developing and marketing the product appear to have been circumvented.

But if it sells does Neil cash out?

All that said and asked, I do appreciate that whether it succeeds or fails Pono and Neil have put sound quality front and center in the broader public discussion. Even if idiots like David Pogue debunk it, the conversation was started and framed by Neil and his player.
Same question on the Pono store. Is Neil's money tied up in this or other people's?

Just curious.

Michael Fremer's picture
Neil's comment didn't anger me as much as it disappointed. It was unnecessary and gratuitous but looking back, Neil has always been about good sound and he's gone out of his way to promote it.
Michael Fremer's picture
What you've posted here bears little or no resemblance to everything else you post. So you're back here with a "who me?" and it just doesn't cut it.
PaulMossUK's picture

Neil sounds like the chauffeur in Spinal Tap.

Werd's picture

It appears Neil Young is annoyed by Vinyl. Somehow competing with his Pono that he doesn't like.
"Fashion Satement" he claims, like a model walking down the runway wearing a turntable for a hat?

bpw's picture

Neil Young has become the Old Man he sang about 40-odd years ago on an LP mastered from - gasp - analog tape. What a sad commentary from him. He's done.

Mark UK's picture

He's a pretentious old fool with NO influence on young people, most of whom have never heard of him.

He never was any good. He's got a high pitched squeaky whining voice and sings through his nose. If someone said "I hear the term 'nasal voice' sometimes, what does it mean?" he would be the perfect example, right alongside that woman in the Carpenters or the fat one in the Mamas and Papas but worse than either. At least being women they have an excuse for being so high pitched too, but the is no excuse for singing out of your nose, with him or them.

My toes curl when I hear him. I feel almost 'embarrassed' for the guy, he's so awful.

And his songs are total rubbish. Try listening to the words of 'After the Goldrush'. They are about as meaningful as a monkey with a typewriter would produce.

DLKG's picture

Mark UK Said:
He never was any good. He's got a high pitched squeaky whining voice and sings through his nose. If someone said "I hear the term 'nasal voice' sometimes, what does it mean?" he would be the perfect example, right alongside that woman in the Carpenters or the fat one in the Mamas and Papas

Karen Carpenter has a nasal voice??? She had the most beautiful voice of anyone on the planet. It was totally smooth with a beautiful middle register. How could anyone say that about Karen???


Michael Fremer's picture
I now feel honored by you considering your comments about Neil Young. He continues to have a great influence on young people. The continue to dress, sing, play influenced by his music, which they also obviously still listen to.

Of course you are entitled to your opinion about Neil but I'm starting to think your bitterness is more deeply rooted.

Mark UK's picture

Turntables are a niche market and the brief 'recovery' of vinyl is a fad. Only us cranks will remain as we never moved on, but this 'recovery' may add a few 'newbies' who stay the course. Most won't.

Vinyl is lovely, as is the attached ritual. 'Accurate' it isn't. So it isn't HiFi, by definition. It was just as near as we could get at the time.

Anyone who believes anything else is deluded.

High quality high priced turntables?
They are even more of a niche market. An EXACT equivalent of my pair of 'London Best' Holland and Holland Shotguns. The Caliburn particularly so because of its low quantities and it being mainly handmade, but that's a bit 'budget' compared.

We all like this sort of stuff. Think of the continuing success of the Kondo Ongaku. I would like one myself. But few can afford 'everything' so we have priorities on our 'works of art'. Which is basically what this stuff is.

And I didn't get to be able to pay for those shotguns (and the expensive ritual that goes with their English use) by being clueless :)

Glotz's picture

Neil sickens me these days, but you do too. You know nothing of accuracy concerning turntables, or you would have never made that statement. You're pissed now that people put you in your place. Just because one owns a good turntable does not mean it has been set up to be accurate or musical.

Moreover- music made from a turntable, a mechanical interface, is literally CREATING music real time. All digital production is a facsimile. LP's created from digital files STILL CREATE music and the analog waveform in real time. Digital playback uses a digital process to recreate a waveform, regardless of how accurate. There are a million problems linked with jiter and pre and post-ringing that have NO PART of an analog waveform or music, and are artifacts created by that digital process. They are very consonant with music.

isaacrivera's picture

You seem to be in the need to insult something or someone but haven't quite figured out what or why.

Whether YOU or I or ANYBODY specific can afford or is willing to spend on X or Y is not a measure of such being able to sell and succeed. People buy luxury cars and homes, fancy clothes and shoes. Expensive watches are the rage, who needs a watch anymore when you have a smart phone in your pocket? Clearly there is plenty of people with enough disposable income to spend on well-made stuff. Clearly people value craft and design. I say let them enjoy those things. Let them create more business and prosperity for others by spending their cash. The fact that the companies that produce those goods stay in business and develop new products is its own proof that they are viable. Your shock and disbelief are irrelevant. Thank God!

And what was that about vinyl not being HiFi? You must be tone-deaf. There is no other explanation. Nobody with full hearing capacity who has been around can make such a statement. My condolences for your bad hearing. Be aware that your health condition does not define the hearing capacity of others.

Mark UK's picture

I have said TWICE that I prefer vinyl as it is more involving.
But the background noise can spoil it sometimes.

The rest of it about craftmanship etc I said exactly same as you have said.

So what's your problem? I don't have one. We seem to basically agree.

isaacrivera's picture

But then go ahead and make nonsensical statements like vinyl is not HiFi. You try to pick fights with the AP readers and then play misunderstood.

Honestly, if you are have significant problems with background noise you need to (a) consider spending a bit more on your cartridge and/or (b) have the arm/cartridge alignment done by somebody capable. I have a good cart and my table is razor-sharp tuned and I have no noise problems. Is there an ocassional used record with a pop? Sure, but (1) it is very rare. (2) The music is so involving that it does not really matter, (3) it goes away with a record cleaning and (4) I've had as many problems with CDs that faded, skipped or simply refused to play--not even mentioning broken jewel cases. And finally (5) how many times have you heard live music without background noise?

Michael Fremer's picture
Your comments are idiotic and factually delusional. If your purpose is to annoy me and AP readers you have failed. If your purpose was to make yourself appear to be a bitter wanker you have succeeded.

I am compiling the 2014 pressing numbers directly from the pressing plants. The increase from 2013 is impressive.

It is not a 'fad' by definition. Vinyl still sounds more life-like than digital. So let me explain this to you for the last time:

. Recording is as much an art as a science. When digital recording started the first things major studios did when they heard it was to buy up Pultec tube compressors and vacuum tube microphones. WHY? Because the sterility of the recordings made them unpleasant. Why? Because MICROPHONES SUCK. ALL OF THEM. THERE IS NOTHING SACROSANCT ABOUT MICROPHONE FEEDS.

Recordings are works of art not scientific documents. If a mastering engineer chooses to "rough up" a sterile recording with some tube compression or whatever else is in his arsenal he's taking a "PURE" recording that you venerate and he's messing with it.

Then he's EQ-ing it to his tastes ON HIS LOUDSPEAKERS, which are probably not mine or yours. And then he's giving it to the world, probably on a mediocre sounding CD that I know you think is perfect. I don't. SO PLEASE ENJOY THAT CD.

If another mastering engineer takes the high resolution digital file and cuts lacquers and I buy the record and it sounds MORE LIKE LIVE MUSIC THAN DOES THE CD....THAT IS ALL I CARE ABOUT I COULDN'T GIVE A HORSE'S ASS IF IT SOUNDS MORE LIKE "LIVE" BECAUSE OF ADDITIVE COLORATIONS AND/OR DISTORTIONS....

Any more than the mastering engineer who took the sterile recording and added some tube compression did likewise to make the final result more pleasing to his ear. He's concerned with his final result whether or not it's the result of added colorations and/or distortions.

If your particular fetish is to reproduce what he's done in your home (but on different speakers, which are the most COLORED part of the whole thing, then KNOCK YOURSELF OUT.

If I and AP readers prefer one last bit of processing and that makes it sound EVEN BETTER then that's what we're going to do whether or not you like it.

Mark UK's picture

You certainly don't like opinions that vary from yours, do you? You just YELL and throw insults. With a small amount of worthwhile opinion if you can sort it out from the chaff.

I thought forums were for opinions. Not 'Hail to the Chief' all the time :)

isaacrivera's picture

You pick fights and then claim to be the victim, but you've been egging it all along. You have proven that you are capable of annoying people if you regurgitate and repeat enough nonsense. You are abusing the patience of your host and fellow readers--and I don't mean because you have a different opinion. You can say whatever you want, but in other blogs you would be called a troll and your comments would not be published or you would be banned. And yes, this is Michael's blog and he can post his opinions in his tone freely. That is why people come here, to get MF's take. Why would that be an issue? It's not like he is an elected official or gets paid with your taxes. Don't like his voice? Go somewhere else!

profound desire of the gods's picture

"I don't think it(Pono) can sound better than vinyl, because vinyl is a reflection and any digital is a reconstitution. it's not the same thing." Neil Young
21:30 Neil Young on Why High-Resolution Music Matters - Supersession FULL 2015

isaacrivera's picture

Vinyl sounds better. Hirez is more convenient and portable and it sounds "as good as digital can get". I can live with that.

Mark UK's picture

Oh my! What a welcome to a relative newbie to this site who hadn't said much before but found this 'Neil Young' thread interesting.

You will REALLY put off any of the Vinyl 'revival' people who are fool enough to come here among the long established fuddy-duddies.

It's not a blog, it's a forum. Look at the top. His 'blog' is separate.

Keep worshipping your medium-sized frog in the tiny pond. I will stand on the bank. If still allowed later I will come and worship your little King on occasion.

isaacrivera's picture

I hate to break it to you, but it's a blog and you are commenting on a blog post, in this case about Neil Young. And while I am educating you, it has already been pointed out to you in a previous post where you were being an equal pain in the ass to click "reply" at the bottom-right of a comment if you want to reply to someone else's comment. If you do so the original commenter gets notified. I only saw your addressing me by chance.

Lastly, if you want to be welcomed in a new community, mind your manners. Difference of opinion is not a problem, being a nuisance is. I don't know in the UK, but elsewhere calling your host a "medium-sized frog in the tiny pond" and your fellow readers "worshipers" is not going to go well. It is what you have been doing all along and you are surprised people reply in ALL CAPS?

No you are not surprised. This is clearly what you are looking for. This is the last time I address you on this blog. Enjoy your music.

audiof001's picture

I too have grown tired of the 'Mark UK' commentary and came close to posting a similar response earlier today.

Mark UK's picture

This is not 'his'. It is just an offshoot of Stereophile, Fremer's main paymaster.

No different from 'Audiostream', another Stereohile offshoot which has an identical format to this site. But Lavorgna is unfailingly courteous, even to those who disagree with his opinionSo he receives courtesy in return.

But Fremer, with his planet-sized ego, responds to disagreement with rudeness.

(Why is that? He is not 'well known', even in the HiFi world, it is not as if you have to mention his name when buying anything, is it?)

OldschoolE's picture

I'm not trying to be all white knight or anything, but you don't know Mr. Fremer well at all. In my experience, he does not have a planet sized ego. He is actually very ethical and honest, at least from what I've seen. "Responds rudely with those he disagrees with"? I think it's the other way around often times from what I've seen. Also there is no inflection in written word so unless meaning is clearly stated often times there is no way to know if someone is joking or just giving information in a matter of fact way instead of being rude. Also, just reading some comments in various articles, especially this one, I would get pretty miffed too! I have no dog in this fight, but I for one have grown sick of the hate speech towards Mr. Neil Young who I happen to very much appreciate his music he has given us over the years. Plus the guy is what...something like 70 years some respect and know that we all age and all mis-speak at times.
nough said.

Michael Fremer's picture
Can you show me posts from visitors to AudioStream who write that digital audio is a "fad" and disparage it the way you do vinyl? I doubt it. I am not a rude person and you'll notice I do not remove your insulting comments. They speak for themselves. However to write that I am not 'well-known' simply indicates that you haven't a clue.

I'll tell you this Mark: I never got into this to become "well-known". I got into it to help promote good sound, high-performance audio and later to help save vinyl.

That was my mission at a time when everyone said "vinyl is going away" (sort of like you do now Mark).

That is what I dedicated myself to doing. I didn't make much money at it for a long time. It was just out of zeal and idealism. It's turned out well for me financially and otherwise and that is very rewarding and satisfying.

That you don't think I'm "well-known" is at this point just plain funny.

Mark UK's picture

An 'Inky-fingered scribbler' as they used to be called. Nothing else whatsoever. Why's he so big-headed? And why is he held in 'high' regards by a few people? It's not as if he says anything different from any of the others.

And of course his big-headedness is why he made all this fuss about the other site not accepting his comments. He's nothing 'special' there or anywhere else. Just another poster like you or me. They don't have to accept our posts either.

Journeyman's picture

Mark UK if your idea is to antagonize the readers of AnalogPlanet I'm sure you are doing an amazing work looking at the replies they make, but one thing is to have a strong opinion and stand by it (damn I do it all the time on my own space), other is to be rude just because you don't like a person you actually never meet live. Cmon Mark UK I'm sure you enjoy this hobby but "name calling" is no fun.
I'm not defending the man (I actually wrote against doing such a thing when someone around here went all white knight) but the man is in fact a reference for vinyl enthusiasts even if you don't like him, that can't be changed.
Mark UK if you continue to be rude nothing good will come from it and people will just ignore your comments (Been there done that). So be constructive and have fun!

Journeyman's picture

I'll not lie and I'll stand my ground on this one like John Rambo in the third installment... XD
I think there are a lot of young people around who are going to Vinyl because its cool and hyped (kids like that), don't get me wrong plenty of my tumblr followers love vinyl but sadly I think Neil is right in this one.
Now Neil isn't the best one to go "against" a niche market, I think Pono sells way less than turntables, so showing the finger to some of the audiophile niche that enjoys vinyl is not the best way to sell his service and hardware but thats me.
This return of vinyl format is actually not a good thing for vinyl collectors in the long run stuff will get even more expensive and harder to get, plus some media will be bashed to death because some people don't know how to handle it. It's me opinion and yes I know this site is for Vinyl lovers and I don't want in any way attack anyone around here, because lets face it, its no fun and internet flamewars are stupid (but still fun I admit).

Journeyman's picture

"It's no fun" - attacking people directly but I admit I enjoy watching a good ol flamewar, it brings good memories of my old ban hammer, ah the joys of bashing trolls and banning them again and again. XD
Btw this blog should have an edit system (5min or something) because one can't edit bad written comments and that sucks. cascading text isn't very fun.

Michael Fremer's picture
I can edit comments. Of course I don't without permission but if you post a second comment with the edited corrections I can do my best to find both and delete the unedited one...
Journeyman's picture

I'll keep that in mind in the future, usually I review my writing but grammar mistakes and typos can happen.
Anyway I'll try my best no to ask for such thing Mr. Fremer. I must do with what I have. Best wishes.

Mark UK's picture

I have never known anyone respond as rudely as Fremer has EVERY time I disagreed with him. Not that I care - I'm not 'upset' or anything. I just do the same right back. I don't suppose he cares either.

But you will see I have commented more positively on a couple of other threads. EG - though I'm not going to buy it I like the record cleaner/dryer he drew our attention to yesterday. Even though I first said I don't think it will exactly encourage those new people thinking of coming from an iPod :)

But he gets the courtesy he gives to others. I'm far from the only one he has replied to rudely should they be so bold as to disagree with his 'Moses Tablets'.

Journeyman's picture

Sometimes you are pretty aggressive on your comments Mark!
When people have a passion for something then tend to protect it even if sometimes they look rude. Best advice is to go see some of his videos and hear the man speak, it way different than text.
You are on my time zone, I'm in Portugal. Enjoy your music.

Michael Fremer's picture
If you come here and write that vinyl is a "fad', you are not just disagreeing with my opinions, you are disagreeing with the very purpose and mission of this website.

And because I think I know the readers here pretty well, you are insulting them too.

Not just on a particular opinion or position, but on a global level.

You seek to inflame and then you're surprised by the response?

Mark UK's picture

I just put the '1812' on my Linn/SME/Koetsu Black. It's six in the morning here That'll wake up the neighbors dog :)

Journeyman's picture

If you use the reply under my comments I'll reply to you but because I have no way of following this comment are I'll not see updates made after my comment. Wordpress has that system but this format doesn't so please use the "reply" or I'll not answer or even read your future comments.
Best wishes.

Mark UK's picture

Not a specifi reply to anyone.

And I personally think filling up my mailbox with notifications and all the pings are a PITA.

This is a reply directly to you so I used it :)

Journeyman's picture

make a filter for the notifications/blog subscriptions, that way it looks tidy and you can delete them faster.Sadly the Reply is the only way I can actually read comments more or less in real time.
This blog comments system need and update, one can't edit or subscribe to the comments, bah...
Best wishes.

David_Cormier's picture

"This return of vinyl format is actually not a good thing for vinyl collectors in the long run stuff will get even more expensive and harder to get, plus some media will be bashed to death because some people don't know how to handle it."

I've had the same discussion with a friend who was saying the the vinyl resurgence was bad for collectors because the prices were going up and the young hipsters were destroying the records with their Crosley turntables.

I have to say that I disagree with theses arguments. Of course, it's true the price of records (both used and new) is going higher because of the new hype for vinyl. In my view, this has both good and bad. Of course, you have to pay more for your records, which is bad for your wallet. The day when you could find an original Zep, Pink Floyd or Blue Note for $2 because people were treating their records as "junk" and getting rid of them to buy everything again on CD is long gone. But the high price of records and the popularity of the medium make it possible for some good record stores to stay in business and make good profits (which is good for collectors). The fact that records now have a value also incite some people who have records sitting in their basement for years to put them on the market and get a few bucks for it. These records are now up for grabs by the collectors.

Now about the young people who destroy all these new records with their cheap turntable, I think it is overgeneralization. Of course, it exists, but people were also destroying records with their cheap Dansette record players in the vinyl heydays and you still can find gems today that were released 30, 40, 50 years ago. Also, while Crosley tables and the likes seem to be an affordable popular option for some people that get into vinyl, a lot of people also opt for a used but well maintained table or a reasonably-priced quality new turntable (Pro-Ject, Rega, etc.).

My 2 cents! ;)

Journeyman's picture

Its a good view about the collector side of things...:-)
Some 2 Cents are nice to receive.

Michael Fremer's picture
Were bad then and bad now. The records played on the groove chewers then are in the $1.00 bins, which is where new records played on Crosleys will end up too...worse, the kids buying now will have a bad experience and stop.
Jazzfan62's picture

I have gone to several concerts listened to the same music when I got home. I don't even pretend to understand why, but vinyl sounds much more like the live experience to me. I equate it to watching and LED vs an LCD TV. An LED TV may have better brightness, better black level and far better edge enhancement. So, technically it is more precise. When I look at it though, "I think, damn that is so rediculousely clear. I don't see anywhere near that clear if I look at the same thing in person". That is precisely the experience I have with the digital version vs vinyl. It is so pristine it's unnatural. I still buy the CD if vinyl isn't available, and do enjoy it. However, I consider it a compromise to what I hear live. I can't tell you how many audiophiles take the path of wanting more and more detail. I went down that path and I ended up constantly grasping at some unobtainable end. However, when i started focusing on recreating what I hear in person, my enjoyment factor went way up. To me, vinyl playback gets closer to recreating that live experience.

Michael Fremer's picture
And I really don't care if the cause is some kind of "additive distortion". Recording is both art and science. If that final step to vinyl adds a dose of realism, I'm all for it. Microphone feeds and indeed one guy's final digital mastering is not the holy grail.
DLKG's picture

I totally agree with your assessment.

Billf's picture

Of course, a reasonable reading of Young's interview is that he was talking only about vinyl that is pressed from CDs and offers no sonic improvement over its digital parent yet is sold as an audiophile upgrade for a premium price. This is an absolutely valid point to make. Do we really need to manufacture a controversy where none exists? How does that advance the cause?

Michael Fremer's picture
But beyond that it was unnecessary and inflammatory. It's a snotty thing to say anyway. I happen to like the format better. I like the packaging better and I like playing records. And not because it's a 'fashion statement."

However I remain a big Neil fan. This is a nothing dust up.

and I would say if an LP is cut from a CD resolution file (as opposed to from an actual commercial CD) it can sound better than a CD. Why? If the studio D/A converter is superior to the one in your CD player the record may very well sound better. Digital fans report that ripped CDs sound played back as files better than played CDs..I'm not interested in getting involved in that hornet's nest. Just reporting what I've been told.

JeffR714's picture

Mr Fremer
Knows about analog I read his reviews and he knows what he's talking about when it comes comes to anything analog. His opinions have been spot on and I've purchased many titles that he's recommended. Bottom line is that the statement Neil Young made is stupid and not true!

Jim Tavegia's picture

I have not worn a 45 or lp around my neck ever. Fashion state my patootie. He should stop doing interviews, but I will stop reading all he has to say from now on.

McDonalds or Steak's picture

I have a tie with plastic 45-inserts patterned on it. So I guess vinyl is part of my fashion. People stare at it and say "dang, that thing looks so familiar but I can't place it . . ."
I've also seen t-shirts and jewelry with Technics 1200 icons.

Werd's picture

I am full a digital listener. I've had TT's in the past. I would still be a analogue guy if not for the inconvenience.
I just do not have the room for records. However i understand the reality of analogue ouput in terms of TTs.
There are good TTs and poorly set up ones using mediocore gear. This only makes for more fog.

As a digital file player i use analogue playback as a reference. I still have access to some very nice TTs and tone arms including cartridges. This type of playback tells me what i want from my digital playback. I strongly encourage this reference even if it isn't easily accessible.. TTs do the exact same thing as a cd player (visa versa) The play back however is pure analogue from a TT and not from digital. The question is does pure analogue relate to familiar human association to music.. For me the answer is yes.
I find it hard to believe that this simple comparison isn't realized between analogue and digital.

audiof001's picture

Maybe it's time for 'Like/Dislike' buttons to be added below posts on this site? I disagree with so many (if not all) of MarkUK's posts but don't wish to honor his angst and anger with responses.

fl77's picture

When the recording, mixing and mastering are professionally executed and with an audiophile cd player (I use the Rega Appolo), the cd sounds good. But I prefer lp sound because the sound is more spacious, more live and the drums sounds better every time...

About the last lp of Neil Young, is anyone know how he was made ? (from cd, digital or from analogue master ?). And do you know why the price is very hight ? (in France: 80 euros - 90 usd).

StevieG's picture

It's a throwaway line to dismiss the vinyl resurgence as a "fashion statement", but Young is right when he says a lot of new LPs these days are made from digital sources. I can see his point about "fashion statement" for those that buy records from a digital source. If you, in essence, end up with a big black vinyl CD, then it's not about sonics, but something like nostalgia or trends, etc.

I came to vinyl because CDs always left me wanting. There were things which obviously put me off, like the hardness and glassiness of many CDs, but there was also an elusive quality missing that left me wanting more. When I got my TT and listened to my first record in 20 years, I knew and felt immediately what I had been missing. The sound was organic, full-bodied and engaging. I was swaying to the music and tapping my foot to the beat unconsciously. It was music again.

My preference for vinyl over CDs is not based on dogma. There was an initial nostalgia for the records of my youth, but that fades and what you are left with is the music. I don't care to enter in any vinyl vs. CD debate about what is better. I know what sounds consistently better to me. Of course, I am speaking in general-I have some very good sounding CDs and some very mediocre sounding records.

But getting back to Mr. Young...I think he makes a great point about what I see as the monumental scam of the record industry and record dealers (esp. dealers that emphasis they are all about "analog" sound)in releasing vinyl records from digital sources without clear and unambiguous warning labels on the covers. I thought the 2009 Beatles reissues on CD were great, but the following records released a few years later from the same digital sources were a huge disappointment. There was no life to the music. It was flat and dead-sounding. Uninvolving. I don't care anything about nostalgia and I don't want to listen to a big black CD. Releasing records from purely digital sources is a scam on par with the original release of CDs that promised perfect sound. And in that sense, Mr. Young is right on the money.

Billf's picture

Could it be that the new infatuation of the major labels for vinyl is due to the fact that, unlike CDs, vinyl cannot result in unlimited consumer perfect copies or downloading? Those phenomena have pretty much ruined the industry's foothold on consumer music sales. As a result, although a lot of vinyl is transcendent, much of it, like the Back to Black series, is exactly the overpriced crap to which Young obviously refers. Demonizing him and misquoting his correct observation does not advance the ball here.

Michael Fremer's picture
While a few here have "demonized" Neil most have not and I certainly did not. Cutting from CD when there's an analog tape is cynical. Cutting from 96/24 less so.
Mark UK's picture

I said it was a fad with the newbies. Not 'us'. I was careful to make that distinction.

You have accused me more than once of saying things I didn't say and then 'attacking' that.
EG - Where did I say Ferraris were obsolete? I didn't imply it either. I merely said Ferrari owners don't get uptight with people who don't want one.

'Microscopic' You say 30 million new pressings were sold last year.
That is ONE vinyl record per 12,000 people

mmarston's picture

There are 360 billion people now?

isaacrivera's picture

Pretty sure 6 billion people divided by 30 million records is 200. Even if your math is as bad as your general judgement of the industry, thanks for underscoring this fact because it actually is a pretty good way of looking at it. That means there could be 40K record buyers in NYC alone where I live, assuming your ONE vinyl per person. Let us not forget this number does not include the used record market, which also seems to be thriving. Also, those 6 billion people includes children and those beyond the developed world. In terms of actual world consumers the stat looks a lot better.

Jazzfan62's picture

Or does he look like the guy from Harry Potter that tuns into a rat.

Jazzfan62's picture

Is what I meant

Audiobill's picture

OK. So I now have the LP version of Diana Krall's Wallflower. I'm at work, so I can't yet comment on the sound or pressing quality. It appears to be 180-gram. Since no mention was made anywhere on the album or the sticker on the shrink wrap, I'm assuming it's standard (read noisy) vinyl. The sleeves are cheap, white, uncoated paper. The 24/48 digital download which is available at HDtracks and Acoustic Sounds adds four tracks ("In My Life" and "Yeh Yeh" as well as "Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word" and "Wallflower" recorded live. The prices are the same on Acoustic Sounds for the LP and digital download. HDtracks is selling the LP for $2 less. The LP jacket lists several different recordists and venues, primarily Jorge Vivo at Verve Sudios in Santa Monica and Steve Price at Air Studios in London (engineered by Jochem van der Saag and Jorge Vivo). Among the additional recording venues listed is Capital Studios in Hollywood with Steve Genewick manning the Pro Tools board. It was mixed at Blue Studios in Agoura Hills, CA. I did not see any mastering or plating credits.

OK. So what am I getting by purchasing the LP? The source appears to be 24/48 digital. Maybe Neil Young is onto something (self-serving as it may be). In this case the LP appears to be satisfying the need to have the latest "fashion." I'll report more once I play it on my Rega RP3. I can compare it to the Tidal 16/44.1 version streamed though my Schiit Bifrost (Uber Analog, USB Gen 2) DAC. If the LP version sounds that much better I may pop for the digital download for further comparison (Is this fanatical?)

I am sure that on a mega-buck system the LP version can sound better. But, there are so many variables in a playback system (cables, speakers, preamps. amps, phono stages, power sources (not to mention DACs, turntables, tonearms, and cartridges). Pono offers convenience and potability for not too much money. These "hi-res" digital files can be stored and played back using any of a myriad of systems.

LP's provide great sound, but when the source is not analog or hi-res digital, I'm not so sure if they make good sense. Price and convenience are factors, too.

I applaud the current availability of vinyl, especially when it comes to the current trend in new music, but it remains to be seen whether this is fashion-based, or not. I have hundreds of LP's and will not discontinue buying them for convenience/price reasons. But when CD's were the only medium available for new music during the 90's, I bought hundreds of them, too. The bottom line is I love listening to music. The decision is what makes the most sense for me in spending my limited music dollars. Many sources (LP's, CD's SACD's DVD-A's, Pure Audio Blu-rays, hi-res digital downloads, CD quality streaming services) all coexist nicely in my modestly-priced system.

Audiobill's picture

The quality of the vinyl for Diana Krall's Wallflower LP is very good. Close to excellent. Flat and quiet except for some slight clicks on Side C. The 12 tracks are spread three to a side on two discs. Track 3 on Side B is "If I Take You Home Tonight" written by Paul McCartney for this album. You may remember that Diana Krall was involved in the production of Sir Paul's Kisses on the Bottom album of a few years ago. I only had time last evening to do a detailed comparison on one track, so I chose this one because of the song's lack of familiarity for me. I compared this track on the LP to the same track streamed from Tidal at 16/44.1. I took time to make sure the volume levels were the same before I began my detailed listening. What I discovered was very surprising:

The track from Tidal definitely produced more inner detail as well as greater frequency extension at both extremes. This was apparent in the upright bass at the low end and Ms. Krall's voice at the high end. Her voice sounded chesty on the LP, open and airy on Tidal. I could distinguish individual instruments in the intro on Tidal. The cello line was easily identifiable. The Tidal sound was more nuanced. The strings all blended as one voice on the LP. The LP sounded more laid back, less involving, less dynamic, rolled off in the highs. The kick drum on the Tidal version had more impact.

I felt as though I was hearing two different masterings. It was as if the LP was mastered to compensate for preconceived limitations of the vinyl medium.

I guess its possible that my cartridge is not set up properly. That seems highly unlikely since it was set up professionally by a high end store owner who has been selling Rega gear for around 25 years in Dallas, which is also where the importer, The Sound Organisation, has been located all those years. Rega cartridges are very difficult to misalign when installed in an RP3. However, to check this, I will compare the LP version of Lyn Stanley's Lost in Romance album to the DSD version that I downloaded from Acoustic Sounds Super HiRez store (when time permits). The LP version sounded decidedly better the last time I listened, which was shortly after her latest album, Potions, was released. Of course, cartridge alignment is only one of a myriad of finicky details that are required to produce the desired results from vinyl.

To be continued...

Ohjoy50's picture

I would agree with him that what's the point to buy vinyl if its cut from a digital master which is a big issue and concern for me with new music. It is getting more and more difficult for mastering engineers to get original master tapes, only the big name engineers.

"But" with that said, he has forgotten all the analog records that are out there and still many of the newer ones still being re-mastered. lol I think he is really trying to promote Pono and missed a big one there. In his interview at CES he stated that analog records are still the best format and loves them, but its not convenient and he cant play them in his Cady lol. Still love you Neil
Hey he is trying to promote high quality music reproduction so you have to give him kudos for that.

bongo-hifi's picture

As I mentioned on another thread. Neil Young in an interview in another UK music publication MOJO expressed his disappointment with the sound quality of many of his re-issues which was the motivation for his getting behind the *Hi Res" Pono player.
For someone claiming to value sound quality I was perplexed to read on and find that he was recording his latest album A Letter Home in a Lo-Fi 1940's Voice-o-graph booth with Jack White at Third Man Studios. Jack White is of course known for his gimmick novelty record pressings.
So hey Neil "nothing but a fashion statement."

BILGUANA's picture

Just get a better DAC and all will be well. Except for all of those thousands of poorly mastered CD and so-called Hi-Rez files. I use an old MSB Power DAC and it completely beats all vinyl in all aspects of sound quality. .

jags79's picture

When I saw Neil Young's pic I thought Michael Fremer was writing about a new Uriah Heep pressing of Very Eavy Very Umble. I don't think what Neil said is so offensive. It's probably pretty accurate really. Michael Fremer kind of surprises me though. I think a vinyl record cut from even a 24/384 master file would still suck.