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Hey Hey, My My: MP3, It's Time to Die

Rocker Neil Young trashes the quality of today's MP3 format; calls for a new high-quality digital download for serious audiophiles.

OK, so Neil Young didn't utter those exact words at The Wall Street Journal's D: Dive Into Media conference Tuesday, but he might as well have.

The legendary rocker and longtime critic of the ubiquitous MP3 format was at again today, trashing the sound of today's digital music files, which he says convey only a tiny fraction of the aural splendor conceived by musicians.

The Journal reports that Young, in an onstage interview at the conference in Dana Point, Calif., said the heavily compressed music files most of us listen to today capture only five percent of the sound created by musicians in the studio.

"This is the 21st century," said Young. "We have five percent of what we had in 1978."

Like many audiophiles, Young prefers vinyl records, which have a warm, natural sound that digital audio can't match, according to vinyl fans.

A New Digital Format?

Young proposes a new high-quality digital format for audio geeks, one that captures all of the information squeezed out of compressed files.

One problem with his idea: Humongous files. Young estimates each song would take about 30 minutes to download, and that digital players designed for his audio format would store roughly 30 albums, according to the Journal.

As for piracy, Young calls it "the new radio," a means by which today's kids listen to new music.

Young's ideas are interesting, but is there really a mass market for ultra-quality digital audio? Back in vinyl's heyday of the 60s and 70s, most people didn't buy pricey, wall-sized stereo systems that played The Dark Side of the Moon in its full quadrophonic glory. Rather they were content with scratchy transistor radios, marginal home hi-fi systems, and AM/FM radio.

Truth is, things haven't changed all that much. The iPod's audio quality is good enough for most music fans, even if it's far--well, very far--from perfect.

Contact Jeff Bertolucci at Today@PCWorld, Twitter (@jbertolucci) or jbertolucci.blogspot.com.

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