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Neil Young was working with Apple on super high-def music format


Canadian rock legend Neil Young said this week that he was working with late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs on a new music format that would offer fans uncompromised studio quality sound in the form of digital music downloads.

In an interview at the All Things Digital D: Dive Into Media conference on Tuesday, Young spoke at length about the lack of quality in today's mainstream digital music formats, arguing that the "low-res world" of MP3s provide just 5% of the data present in the original studio recordings, paling in comparison to the quality of vinyl records back in the 70's.

"We live in the digital age, and we are — unfortunately — we only have 5% of the content we used to have in the mainstream," he said. "It's not that digital is bad or inferior. It's that the way that it is being used is not sufficient to transfer the depth of the art."

Super high-def music files that would deliver sound on par with 24/192 files — the highest-res recorded music today — present challenges, including an increase in download times to 30 minutes per track and the development of a player suitable to store and handle them.

"The technology exists," said Young. "The internet is fast enough to support it. […] And you could store like 30 albums at high-res in a small device that you could carry around in your pocket like an iPhone."

Asked whether he ever approached Jobs about the project, Young acknowledged that he had indeed spoken with the late Apple co-founder and that the two were "working on it" prior to his passing last year but admitted that "not much" has happened since Jobs passed.

"Steve Jobs was a pioneer of digital music," Young said. "His legacy is tremendous. But when he went home, he listened to vinyl. And you gotta believe that if he lived long enough, he would have eventually done what I'm trying to do."