Neil Young Criticizes the Vinyl Resurgence: and He’s Right

I’ve disagreed with a lot of what Neil Young says about digital music, but he’s made a statement that I agree with. Young discussed vinyl records on a California radio show, and his comments have been reported by the New Musical Express:

“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. 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.”

He’s right. Mastering for vinyl is very different from mastering for CD. As an article in Recording magazine explains:

“There is a lot of poking and prodding that is often done to get the stereo signal to fit into place, because the LP has less information on it than the original master tape does. Often, you’ll see mastering engineers roll off a lot of the very low bass and add a false bass peak around 200 Hz or so, just to compensate for the mechanical limitations of the equipment. The other alternative is to reduce the running time per side radically.

“The one thing that saves us from bass being a big problem is the RIAA pre-emphasis curve. Most of the noise in the recording process is at higher frequencies. So on record, we pre-emphasize the signal by pumping up the highs, and then on playback the phono amplifier has a roll-off curve that is the exact inverse of the curve in the record chain, which rolls them off. This means that the music has the same frequency response, but the noise is reduced, primarily on the high end.”

Also, another thing that most people who tout the qualities of vinyl don’t realize:

“Another issue here is that the frequency response of the disc is different in the outer grooves and in the inner grooves, because the stylus is moving much faster across the outer grooves (it goes through a greater distance per revolution). This means that the mastering engineer may have to tweak the high end response up progressively during the cutting process.”

It is well known that many early CDs sounded very bad because they were made using masters for LPs. Now we’re seeing the opposite. It’s possible that some labels are doing specific masters for vinyl releases, but it’s very unlikely. I’m glad Neil Young has pointed this out.

By the way, read why vinyl doesn’t sound better than CDs.

18 thoughts on “Neil Young Criticizes the Vinyl Resurgence: and He’s Right

  1. I’ve never understood people’s fascination with vinyl. I’ve only owned a few LPs, and the last one I purchased was in 1979.

    • I’ve got several hundred vinyl albums, and I’ve a huge affection for them – I can remember when and where I bought each of them. They’re kind of a diary of my youth! I still occasionally buy vinyl…but the thing about vinyl LPs is the whole package is superior to the packaging of CDs or downloads, and there’s the fact you have to take care of them!

      But almost all my music buying is of CDs or downloads these days. Too many advantages.

  2. I’ve never understood people’s fascination with vinyl. I’ve only owned a few LPs, and the last one I purchased was in 1979.

    • I’ve got several hundred vinyl albums, and I’ve a huge affection for them – I can remember when and where I bought each of them. They’re kind of a diary of my youth! I still occasionally buy vinyl…but the thing about vinyl LPs is the whole package is superior to the packaging of CDs or downloads, and there’s the fact you have to take care of them!

      But almost all my music buying is of CDs or downloads these days. Too many advantages.

  3. Vinyl….back when musicians made money, people appreciated music as well as artwork.

    Just like digital photography has done to images, digital music has degraded music to the point no one will pay for it.

    Nicely done digital, nicely done.

  4. Vinyl….back when musicians made money, people appreciated music as well as artwork.

    Just like digital photography has done to images, digital music has degraded music to the point no one will pay for it.

    Nicely done digital, nicely done.

  5. Recently I was given some tracks(digital) by an artist to mix a little and final polish.

    You will not guess what I heard?

    Chhhh….wupwup…pop…chhhhh etc

    This guy had put on some artificial pops and clicks onto his clean tracks because he wanted a ‘vinyl’ sound!

    I’m very confused right now!

  6. Recently I was given some tracks(digital) by an artist to mix a little and final polish.

    You will not guess what I heard?

    Chhhh….wupwup…pop…chhhhh etc

    This guy had put on some artificial pops and clicks onto his clean tracks because he wanted a ‘vinyl’ sound!

    I’m very confused right now!

  7. Both Neil Young and Kirk are wrong about all LP’s coming from CD. Not all do and it only take a little effort to find out which ones are mastered from original tape as many still are and are on 180 and 200 gram records that sound amazing. This is actually well known so do a little research before making statements about things you don’t understand.
    Kirks diatribes against vinyl are getting old not least because they are wrong in many respects.
    First of all everything colors music. Music starts almost completely as analog and if you use a DAC to make it digital then guess what. Dac’s color music. So do receivers and speakers. So does airplay and bluetooth not to mention creating lossy files. It’s not rocket science to understand this.
    I have lots of iTunes music much of which is mastered for iTunes. I have FLAC files higher than CD quality and the same as CD quality. I have subscriptions to Apple Music, Spotify, and Pandora.
    I have high quality airplay speakers and a high end Yamaha receiver with very nice sub and surround sound speakers.
    I also have a Clearaudio Concept turntable which sounds amazing. Full, warm, and you can feel the weight of the music. Not all records sound better and you have to pick and choose but when you choose well its better than any of my other sources.
    So get off your high horse about vinyl, much of what you said is wrong and my ears can’t hear waveform measurements and the other data purporting to show what we are hearing isn’t what we are hearing..
    Most interesting is that you think you are telling people something they don’t already know about vinyl. Most people who are into it know this and much more than you.

  8. Both Neil Young and Kirk are wrong about all LP’s coming from CD. Not all do and it only take a little effort to find out which ones are mastered from original tape as many still are and are on 180 and 200 gram records that sound amazing. This is actually well known so do a little research before making statements about things you don’t understand.
    Kirks diatribes against vinyl are getting old not least because they are wrong in many respects.
    First of all everything colors music. Music starts almost completely as analog and if you use a DAC to make it digital then guess what. Dac’s color music. So do receivers and speakers. So does airplay and bluetooth not to mention creating lossy files. It’s not rocket science to understand this.
    I have lots of iTunes music much of which is mastered for iTunes. I have FLAC files higher than CD quality and the same as CD quality. I have subscriptions to Apple Music, Spotify, and Pandora.
    I have high quality airplay speakers and a high end Yamaha receiver with very nice sub and surround sound speakers.
    I also have a Clearaudio Concept turntable which sounds amazing. Full, warm, and you can feel the weight of the music. Not all records sound better and you have to pick and choose but when you choose well its better than any of my other sources.
    So get off your high horse about vinyl, much of what you said is wrong and my ears can’t hear waveform measurements and the other data purporting to show what we are hearing isn’t what we are hearing..
    Most interesting is that you think you are telling people something they don’t already know about vinyl. Most people who are into it know this and much more than you.

  9. Complteltey wrong that all new vinyl is mastered from digital sources.
    A lot is from tape and often the master tape.
    Do some research.

  10. Complteltey wrong that all new vinyl is mastered from digital sources.
    A lot is from tape and often the master tape.
    Do some research.

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