Neil Young on the state of audio quality

Neil Young on audio fidelity:

As Young himself cited, even CDs offer only 15 percent of the recording information from the master tracks. Pare that down to 256 kbps files, and you’ve lost a great deal of richness and complexity in audio.

Not sure where that 15% comes from, maybe from recording at 96/24 or 192/24 and then mastering down to 44/16. But the problem with that argument is that you, a human being, are probably not capable of hearing anything over 20khz anyway.1

I commonly see 1411kbps of a WAV file used as an argument about the huge quality loss when compressed down to a 256kbps AAC file.

Consider jpegs and tiffs. If I have a 30meg tiff and compress it to a 1 meg jpeg have I really lost 97% of the quality of the original image? Could your eyes tell the difference?

This is using numbers to figure out a difference you can only tell with your eyes and ears.


  1. The Nyquist theorem explains why the recording industry has settled on a 44.1khz sampling rate.