Paul McCartney: “Vinyl Is More Sophisticated”

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From an interview with The Guardian:

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Keith Stuart: A lot of the young people who will listen to the Destiny song probably consume music through services like Spotify – they don’t buy albums anymore, they download tracks. What do you think about that? I mean, my sons will probably never hear the last four tracks of Abbey Road in the correct way – unless I force them to listen to my record collection.

Paul McCartney: Yeah, I do think about that. In an ideal world, they listen to what you’ve recorded in the way that you have presented it. But it’s their choice. If they want to read a novel and not finish it, that’s their choice, not mine. I’d just be pleased they were reading it. It’s all changed so drastically.

A lot of kids listen to music on their smartphones through these tiny little speakers. I’m pulling my hair out thinking, “Argh, I spent hours making that high-fidelity sound! Get a decent set of headphones! Please!”

Stuart: They don’t seem to care about sound quality these days, Paul.

McCartney: They don’t, do they? My grandkids don’t. But then the tiniest little noise can be exciting. Things change. Maybe when they get older, they’ll get into vinyl and become more sophisticated. But for me, at least they’re hearing what I’m doing, in some form or another. I mean, I’ve come through vinyl, tape cassettes, CDs, digital downloads … all along, the constant was that a song is required. The delivery system isn’t important. For me, I’d love people to be listening to the music in the most perfect way, so they can experience exactly what we made in the studio. But then it’s the difference between looking at a painting in a gallery and looking at a postcard of it – there’s still something good about that postcard.

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19 Responses

  1. Justin Mayer / Plum Minnow

    More sophisticated??

    Its a compromised format so his line of theorizing is confusing to me.. He gets mad at someone, probably someone so broke the dollar store earbuds are all they can afford, for listening in a way that restricts the fullness of it, yet promotes an alternative format that in and of itself is a narrow band offering with added noise of numerous kinds…

    Can we be certain its a lack of care of quality??? Or is it simply a lack of freaking money to buy everything at the best all the time??? Everywhere i go i see most people shopping at walmart and the dollar stores simply because THERE IS NO FUCKING MONEY ANYWHERE AT THE LOWER LEVELS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The largest part of the bell curve is usually what dictates the level of consumer goods the masses will have access to, and low and behold, shit is what people can afford…

    Now Vinyl is definitely very romantic and certainly reflects upon a time when people were more engaged, but is also what he remembers and grew up in, so his opinion is likely biased to fond memories.

    The reality is, you spend time to make the high fidelity recording so that it stands the best test of time it can and furthermore so it translates best across all listening realms…

    If i listen to something through the tiny speaker on a smartphone, a true professional should be able to convey their message, emotion, energy and feeling through that tiny little speaker…

    I certainly do not require anybody to listen to my music in any way other then the way they want to!!! Because i know my shit is just that good that i can get the point across with tin cans and a string!!!

    That being said, he is correct in the point that the best listening environment on the best gear possible with the largest flattest spectrum available WILL always make for a better experience… He is also right in thinking that perhaps if all kids today could learn and appreciate vinyl it would possibly help them better arm themselves to better enjoy and to get the most out of the music…. Vinyl is truly awesome, but its a PITA and is low fidelity…

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      “my shit is just that good that i can get the point across with tin cans and a string”

      Good for you, cause that’s exactly what they use. 🙂

      And I mean, when was the last time you enjoyed a 55 Hz sub bass on your iPhone?

      I love these YouTube comments: “Dude, where’s that f— ing bass you keep talking about?!? I can’t hear any f—ing bass at all, man!

      Goes for drums, too. 🙁

      Reply
    • Blahblahblah

      People of all levels of income used to listen to music with a better quality of sound than they do today. At least for 20 years, the seventies through the nineties. My family did not have a lot of money but the vinyl records I listened to as a kid through my Koss headphones our console record/8-track player sounded amazing. People of all walks of life afterwards had at least a decent boom box or disc-man to listen to their CDs. The way people now listen to streaming music either through the speakers on their smartphones or laptops or earbuds is taking it all back to fifties and sixties transistor radio levels of sound quality. It really is a bit of a shame that kids won’t even know what they’re missing.

      Reply
  2. jon777

    Fair comment Justin. At least music is a bit more affordable in real terms these days. Late 60s an LP cost a quarter of my young wage.

    Reply
    • Justin Mayer / Plum Minnow

      No doubt!

      My Dad was huge into vinyl and music, listened to many a record on a good system… He used to blast it for me and i’d dance in the crib… I came up with the CD myself and had a pretty good sized collection of them, another great medium.

      Last time i helped my Dad move his records in boxes he made himself i nearly broke my thumb! It’s incredible that we can now put his whole collection on a little flash drive you can slide in your pocket.

      It’s oppositely a terrible shame that the formats that have become the norm aren’t that good and how the technology was built leaving audio as just a throw in afterthought whereupon it seems the industry in general started creating their product to conform within the limits of the technology…

      Nothing stopping them from putting a radio like mastering chain in each device to leave to the user to turn off and on as they see fit, which would then leave the need for radio like mastering null and void, and the professional craftsmen could then make the product as it demands to be made.

      It ultimately leaves the end user experience compromised to the point the transmission of the message and energy and emotion of it is sacrificed for no good reason whereupon it may have caused lasting subconscious negative results to their enjoyment of it, thus making it a less regarded art-form in the recorded sense. Add to that the sheer amount of it everywhere and it almost had no choice but to become background fodder.

      The beauty of it all is the great ability for essentially every last person to enjoy music one way or another, and that’s what music is supposed to be all about…

      Justin Mayer

      Reply
  3. SJUK

    Sorry Justin – but did you actually read the above article. Pauls reference is to “tiny little (mobile device) speakers” not to “dollar store” ear buds which are almost certain to sound better than the transducer within the device. And as for your comment “If i listen to something through the tiny speaker on a smartphone, a true professional should be able to convey their message, emotion, energy and feeling through that tiny little speaker…” Are you seriously suggesting Dark Side of The Moon can be equally enjoyed / appreciated (in terms of emotion and energy) through a mobile device – or indeed just about any other well produced / engineered recording. Do you understand why bands incorporate a bass player and a drum kit has a kick-drum – the instruments that tend to produce the most continuous / peak “energy” with regards to Rock/Pop/Dance music. Do you really think dance music would have the same “emotional” impact if everything below 500hz was removed – lol !

    Reply
    • Justin Mayer / Plum Minnow

      Sorry Justin – but did you actually read the above article. Pauls reference is to “tiny little (mobile device) speakers” not to “dollar store” ear buds which are almost certain to sound better than the transducer within the device. And as for your comment “If i listen to something through the tiny speaker on a smartphone, a true professional should be able to convey their message, emotion, energy and feeling through that tiny little speaker…” Are you seriously suggesting Dark Side of The Moon can be equally enjoyed / appreciated (in terms of emotion and energy) through a mobile device – or indeed just about any other well produced / engineered recording. Do you understand why bands incorporate a bass player and a drum kit has a kick-drum – the instruments that tend to produce the most continuous / peak “energy” with regards to Rock/Pop/Dance music. Do you really think dance music would have the same “emotional” impact if everything below 500hz was removed – lol !

      My point about the ear buds was a further point towards the tiny little speaker and Sir Paul’s desires for people to buy decent headphones, so your point is nullified, but thanks for comin out!!

      As for my comment, why yes, yes SJUK, absolutely 10000000000000000% percent.

      Will it be as profound and as good as if i listened to it through the greatest flattest system in the World?? Of course not, but that wasn’t the point i was making. If wanting to know what point i was making, a little bit of respect along with simply asking me as such would have provided you with the answer…

      Apparently you do not understand SJKU, that the middle range of the frequency spectrum is where all the real energy is in music and that so long as a device can at least transmit that range even just satisfactorily then the transmission and energy and emotion will not be lost. Why do you think Vinyl is regarded so highly among many people?? Because it is mid range effective along with a time in music where most people had very good mid-range in their music…

      SJKU, it’s not a matter of thinking Dance music will have the same emotional impact, it’s knowing it does, if it’s any good! High passing at 500hz is a red herring point that has nothing to do with the topic at hand… I listen to music all the time through my smartphone speaker and i assure you, the kick drum is always there… Again, let me remind you, that of course it will always be better if listening through something better.

      So who’s next then?? I am more then willing to have intelligent meaningful respectful conversations with respectful people, i no longer have a fraction of a millisecond for b.s.!

      How i reply and what i say is conducive to how i am approached or treated… If i appear rude, it may only be due to what i am receiving and how people are being to me.

      I’ve never done anything but respected music and the crafts and the art-forms and anyone who is making it and listening to it…

      Thank-you, come again!

      Justin Mayer

      Reply
  4. Anonymous

    Unfortunately, vinyl doesn’t sound nearly as good as digital — unless you like mud, of course.

    But Sir Paul is spot on about listening gear!

    Computer speakers and Apple’s white earbuds can destroy everything.

    That’s what we should discuss instead of the usual vinyl, tape and 24/96 tracks that nobody can distinguish from iTunes downloads in blind tests.

    Reply
    • Jimmy T-Bone

      Really? If you’re trying to imply that an MP3 can remotely compare to a vinyl you’re tone deaf!! I would give you the argument that a newly released digital FLAC file from a digital source can out “perform” a vinyl, perhaps. But lets say you have the highest quality FLAC file of Dark Side of The Moon and compare it to a 1973 pressing (modestly played mind you, there is wear involved) there is absolutely no way in hell the FLAC or MP3 can hold a stick to that pressing. Just complete lies! … or complete intolerance to the surface noise between songs that disappears into sonic bliss when the music starts… OR… maybe your idea of critically listening is driving in your car in rush hour traffic and distracted. Seems like most people under 35 have no clue how to critically listen unless they are a musician. Either way, that 1973 copy will sound great in 50 years while your digital formats become obsolete to the latest marketing format. Vinyl is and always will be a RECORD of an event.

      Reply
  5. axgrindr

    I just (re)bought Wings Wild LIfe on vinyl. Not a reissue but a great condition copy from back in the day.
    It is just sooo awesome to hear it again on a record player.
    cost me 55 euros though.

    Reply
  6. Willis

    Good music, bad music, whatever – the audio quality from smartphone speakers is horrendous.

    Reply
  7. M

    The title quote is wrong. he didn’t say vinyl was more sophisticated, he said maybe his grandkids will get into vinyl as an expression of being more sophisticated. Now we see the nerd rage as people who never listened to anything even approaching a reference system spout off about how noisy vinyl is. Seriously? If your vinyl is noisy maybe you need a new needle, and need to clean & store your records.

    Vinyl is dead as a consumer medium because most people can’t give it the care, nor can they afford anything beyond a baseline of mediocre equipment. However, for those that care enough (known as audiphiles) & have enough money to afford it, vinyl is a great way to listen to music. But in order to get this, you need to underetand that your minimum buy-in to hear this starts at around $2000 for an all analog singal path.

    Since most people (including me) don’t want to spend as much, we settle for the cheap but good enough quality of CDs since you can put together a decent system for a much less. If you have rhe means $2000 of digital friend equipment can get close to matching the analog assuming you have real speakers — read “a sub of at least 12″ & 3 way speakers with at least 8″ woofers.” Also, if you think lossy mp3s or even lossy AAC can come close to the quality of analog, you need to do some serious reading. Then again most people do not have trained ears and can’t hear the difference between a lossy & lossless digital audio file. So, your results may vary.

    It all boils down to how well you can hear & at what point you are satisfied with the quality. But remember: If you have never heard high quality audio, you are not qualifed to dismiss the opinions of those that have.

    Reply
    • jw

      The buy-in to a very satisfying analog system is NOWHERE NEAR $2,000. Especially with all of the well cared for vintage equipment that’s around. That’s kind of absurd, & that type of junk scares people away from hi-fi audio.

      Also, not everyone needs a 12″ sub. That’s retarded. Needs vary according to the room, & an a decent 8″ sub can produce the relevant frequencies for most people. My bedroom stereo is an Outlaw 8″ sub & two B&W shelf speakers, & that’s a very satisfying stereo in it’s own right.

      If you’re willing to research a little & be patient, you can put together a really, really satisfying stereo for south of a grand. It’s actually cheaper than it’s ever been to get great vintage equipment.

      Reply
    • M

      You might be happy with your setup, but I am not — considering I have never heard an 8″ sub approach the quality of a 12″ sub. Unless you have a enough experience listening to high quality setups, you can’t really judge an 8″ sub against what you haven’t listened to long enough. 8″ is not a sub: an 8″ woofer is (as a fellow Audio Engineer puts it) “a 1 note fart machine” because it simply can’t reproduce the full range of sound at fidelity: they drop 3, 6 or more dB at the outer limits of its range & that is not fidelity. Also if 8″ was enough then why are there even 12, 15 & 18″ subwoofers available to consumers? “Fi” in HiFi means (paraphrased) “faithfulness in sound reproduction” which means how close to the original encoded audio it sounds. A High fidelity system means it should sound as close possible to the artist’s intent. A clean amp is needed & those usually start at at least 500 for anything at that quality level. I wasn’t talking about vintage equipment. I was talking about high fidelity equipment • either near audiophile or reference level.

      Reply
  8. jw

    I think most kids, at some point, hear quality audio through a car stereo. A good percentage of the middle class kids buying iPhones end up riding in someone’s Audi or Lexus or whatever, with a finely tuned Bose premium stereo or whatever, listening to Beyonce on the radio. Lord knows Paul McCartney’s grandkids have. It’s not as if they’re saying, “Oh, I didn’t know music could sound full & rich & clear & dynamic! It never occurred to me that I was only getting a portion of the signal through my earbuds!” It’s that they literally don’t care about the fidelity. Music means something completely different to them than it does the baby boomer executives who are marketing the music. And for the kids that do care, they buy vinyl or they buy Beats headphones &… that’s better than how things were 8 or 9 years ago. I mean it’s not like earbuds are THAT much worse than the headphones that came with a Sony Walkman or Discman. And the current earbuds are actually worlds beyond what the original ones were.

    But that’s why kids don’t want to pay for music. Not because they don’t have to, but because it serves a different purpose to them. If they had to, they still probably wouldn’t. The industry needs to do a deep dive on exactly what role music plays in the lives of the millennial. (Yes, free music set the stage for millennials to care less about music, but that’s beside the point. At this point we’re stuck with what we’re stuck with.)

    Reply
  9. Bailey

    For me, being a younger person (born before the millennium, but after the time vinyl was declared “dead”), I can say that vinyl is my number-one way to listen to music. As someone who loves music, I’ve always been fascinated with the process of pressing and playing a vinyl record. The quality, when you have an expensive enough system, is fantastic. I love the high-fidelity sound I get off my turntable, especially when I’m spinning Paul McCartney’s last full-length studio album, NEW. However, for convenience sake, I also enjoy taking his music on my iPhone through a cheap pair of headphones while I go out for a walk so I can listen to his music in a format that, as he admitted, is more practical to the world we live in today. You just can’t take vinyl with you everywhere you go, unless you transfer your vinyl discs to digital, which defeats the purpose of having an analogue disc. I do make digital copies of every one of my records, new and used, as soon as they enter into my possession because it sounds nice in the car to get the warm vinyl feeling whenever you want, even if the disc or turntable isn’t present.
    The bottom line is that I can appreciate everything as far as music goes. And, if I want to be out in the world and being active, I can’t sit around my turntable all day. The quality isn’t top notch with the cheap headphones, but I do still enjoy having the music, because I can still enjoy the melodies and singing.
    Also, yes I did buy Paul McCartney’s Hope for the Future on vinyl. It’s spinning beside me at this very moment. 🙂

    Reply

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