Neil Young savages Apple over audio quality

Commentary: In launching his own archive of music, the Canadian legend says Apple has influenced labels to not create high-quality sound.

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

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Apple does not make him happy.

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Could it be that Apple doesn't have a heart of gold?

Could it also be that Tim Cook's company has an ear of tin?

Music legend Neil Young seems to believe that Apple has single-handedly wrecked the audio quality of music all over the world.

In launching a new archive of his own work, helpfully entitled Neil Young Archives, the Canadian iconoclast took the ax to Apple.

"Apple Music controls the audio quality that is served to the masses and chooses to not make high quality available, reducing audio quality to between 5 percent and 20 percent of the master I made in studio in all cases. So, the people hear 5 percent to 20 percent of what I created," he said.

I'm not sure this can all be laid on Apple. After all, Spotify has twice as many subscribers as Apple Music.

Apple, though, is a more enjoyable target.

"Apple not offering a top-quality tier has led labels to stop making quality products available to the masses," said Young.

Neither Apple nor Spotify immediately responded to a request for comment.

However, do the, um, masses know? Or has music become so much more a disposable product that, as one song can easily be replaced by another, the desperation for true quality simply isn't there?

Young has tried several times to wage his war against what he sees as this audible denigration. 

Two years ago, he pulled his music from all the streaming services. A year later, it returned to Spotify and, yes, Apple Music. 

He tried to launch his own, high-quality audio hardware, the Pono player and a Pono store. These largely fell on deaf ears. Yet earlier this year, he announced a successor. This was a streaming service called Xstream that promised high-res music for a "normal price."

Young believes Apple now has the capability to deliver perfect sound on the iPhone. Why, he complains, won't the company do it?

"Apple was built on music," he said. "There is a great opportunity to rescue the art form that helped Apple become great."

Of course, Apple promises that its new HomePod, delayed till next year, will at least deliver supremely enjoyable sound at home. 

I wonder if Young will buy a couple, just to test them out.