In the iPod age, music sound quality has been dumbed down to “Fisher-Price toy” levels, rock star and tech enthusiast Neil Young said Wednesday at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech Conference.
“Apple has taken a detour down the convenience highway,” Young told the Brainstorm audience after taking the stage for an interview with Time Inc. editor-in-chief John Huey. “Quality has taken a complete backseat - if it even gets in the car at all.”
Young talked about what he considers to be the poor audio quality of MP3s, creating electric-hybrid cars, (his “obsession”) and a long-term, multimedia archiving project of his entire career (which he says should be available as a series of Blu-Ray discs later this year.) Young hopes that becomes the basis for an alternative digitial platform featuring higher quality sound that will be made available to other musicians. Young spent most of his time on stage lamenting what he feels is an increasing focus on convenience versus quality in today’s iTunes/iPod-dominated music industry. And he wasn’t afraid to criticize companies - Apple (AAPL) in particular - that he feels have brought down audio standards. An Apple spokesperson wasn’t immediately available for comment. Huey noted that when he once visited Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ home, the living room featured a turntable and and a stack of LPs. Young complained that music has become “like wallpaper” - more Muzak than music. “We have beautiful computers now but high-resolution music is one of the missing elements,” he said. “The ears are the windows to the soul.”