“I feel like more than just a number.”
Neil Young, Computer Age, (track from the album Trans)
For many years, rock musician Neil Young has been highly critical over the move to digital formats. His beef is simple enough – the digital formats in use today lose too much of the music; MP3 for example only retains about 5% of the data from the original mix. Many people claim this is irrelevant as they can’t hear the difference, but to a musical purist like Young, they are missing something important from what he has created.
Recently he told Walt Mossberg, in an interview for the Dive Into Media conference, that his solution is an ‘iPod for the 21st century’: a new player and a new format that “some rich guy” would produce. He then revealed that he had been talking to Steve Jobs, just before he died, about such a device.
It was later revealed by his publisher, perhaps inadvertently, that the device would be known as a ‘Pono’ and Rolling Stone magazine have found that various trademarks, such as SQS (Studio Quality Sound), have been registered.
In an interesting development, when I pre-ordered the latest Neil Young album (on vinyl of course) I was sent a free, digital download track. It came in the Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC) format, which is open source and can handle 24-bit audio: the same resolution at which most bands record their albums these days.
My impression from the interview with Neil Young is that he’s not convinced that FLAC is quite there as the ultimate digital format. But no doubt the quest goes on and once again, Apple are the one to watch.