I've been reading about PONO, Hi-res files and the loudness wars for the past week or so. I even downloaded Foobar's dynamic range tool just to see the differences between FLACs ripped from my older CDs (released in the 90's: the Doors, Pearl Jam, Beatles), an more recent CD and remasters that I purchased as replacements.Now I want to compare a couple of albums I own on both Vinyl and CD, through my very non-audiophile system.
The compression issue is very interesting. There's definitely a quantifiable issue. Can I hear it? I don't know. But it's definitely something that's effecting the listening experience for everyone. Even for those of us that don't realize it because we're not paying attention. The Hi-res issue seems more debateable and the environment needed to even possibly appreciate the improvement seems to be out of my reach and the reach of so many others.
I'm rambling on because I've gotten the sense, from reading about PONO, that there's an extreme bias against digital formats, from CD to mp3, that seems to be the overriding drive behind creating a Hi-Rez ecosystem. But there seem to be a huge issue regarding how albums are being mastered. I keep reading that CD is a more capable container for music than Vinyl, but the mastering is often highly compressed, so the Vinyl master sounds better. That compression carries forward to lossy formats that are usually ripped from CDs. But, if you buy a glass from Amazon, and it arrives broken, do you blame the box?
It seems to be that the better discussion should be around changing the loudness culture at the source, creating CDs that are more dynamic, creating lossy versions that are more dynamic. That's how Neil Young can bring better sounding music to more people. Otherwise he's bringing better sounding music to Audiophiles and Technophiles. There's nothing wrong with that. It would be nice if Audiophiles had a place with they can more comfortably and easily purchase music they could trusts was Hi-res and well produced.
I feel, as a music lover who does care about my listening experience but isn't able to take the leap into Audiophile territory, that CDs and lossy downloads are how most folks, casual listeners, and music lovers like myself, experience music. If mastering is such and issue, then there's a lot of room for improvements in those formats. If the focus is saving the sound of music and improving how we all experience it, then that market can't be ignored.