Guess Who Listened to Vinyl?

Yep… You got it! Steve Jobs was a vinyl addict. According to Neil Young who was reportedly working on a new iPod with Steve Jobs prior to his death, in the office it was iPod but at home the music was vinyl.  Hence, the particular system that you see here!

According to many recent interviews, Neil Young and other music executives were working with the iPod creator to create new software and Super Hi-Def  iPod. As most of we Neil Young Fans know, Neil Young is not a fan of digital music or the devices that played it. In most interviews, Neil Young had indicated that even the best musical systems were only able to re-produce approximately 15% of the muisc that was actually on an album. Seems a little off doesn’t it however it seems that true music buffs, like Steve Jobs agree to some extent.

To all of you who feel that Neil Young is wrong, consider this; Yes, most of today’s music is recorded digitally but even the recording engineers feel that playback on vinyl sound better than any digital playback source. If you consider some of the “how comes”, consider this. Once a track is recorded, for vinyl reproduction the track is converted from Digital (0’s & 1’s)  to analogue which is a simple sine wave. There are no noise floors, the only limiting factor is the ability of the phono cartridge to pick up the info from the grooves and the ability of the tonearm, platter and plinth to control the resonance. In other words, no error correction, no artifical noise floors, just simple geometry.

If the info is played back in a digital format including hi-rez, if there are any errors on the disc like tiny marks, finger prints etc, the error correction kicks in which diminishes reproduction. Throw in the fact that the frequency response is hampered by noise floors – One a 20hz, the second at 20khz, this is another huge negative for digital music.

Why?  It is said that the instrument with the greatest bandwidth is a piano which is credited with reproducing 8 Octaves of music. Lore also has it that in order to hear this range, the system of reproduction must be able to reach 2 Octaves above and 2 octaves below. This means that the system must be able to reach and extended bandwidth so in order that a 10 khz note is reproduced, your playback system must reproduce two octaves up which would be 40khz or 10, 20, 40 khz (simple breakdown). In that digital players are limited by noise floors, the highest fundamental not they reproduce is around 5khz (20, 10, 5) while the lowest fundamental would be around 100hz.

What this means is not only is the tone impacted on but also image field, liveliness of music, openness and instrument position – the whole thing. For those of you out there who play an instrument, you know that a recording however done does not truly replicate live music. Digital is always too clear, too bright, too mechanical. It has no soul. Yes Digital has come a very long way and can sound very good. But compare an album on a $500. turntable and same disc on a cd. The difference is immediately apparent – even if the CD player exceeds $1000. more than the turntable!

Apparently, Steve Jobs recognized the differences and wanted to surround himself with people who could help him create the ultimate digital format. Hopefully someone at Apple is still listening and wants to pick up the torch. Digital is the future, but we need more pioneers like Steve Jobs and more performers like Neil Young as a force to perfect the format.

Finally, don’t be complicit in the musical fraud that is happening out there. Go to concerts, see live performers and listen. Ever wonder why you get a headache after listening to an MP3 or iPod for hours? Demand musical perfection, not complacency!

More thoughts from Gord

gord@allthatjazzhifi.com