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LEFSETZ LETTER: The Sound Problem

Did the CD kill rock music?

I've got a state of the art CD player. So advanced, the CD moves, not the laser/lens. I haven't used it in at least a year. But today I wanted to hear the new Soundtrack Of Our Lives CD. And based on the expansive sound of the previous album, I wanted the music to FILL THE ROOM! I DIDN'T want to listen on my computer speakers.

Although the album hasn't gotten fully positive reviews, so far, I've truly enjoyed it. But the sound is positively AWFUL! It sounds like the band is playing in a closet and the music is being transmitted by one of those horns the RCA dog is listening to. Despite the high quality of my equipment, what's coming out of the speakers resembles what came out of the Admiral TV in our den in the sixties as opposed to high fidelity.

Rap is about the words. Hip-hop records tend to be compressed. It's not about the RICHNESS, but the aural ASSAULT!

Whereas rock music is something DIFFERENT! Rock music is something you FEEL! Something that doesn't just envelop you, but PENETRATES YOU!

The initial CD of "Back In Black" is quite fine. But, after hearing the slightly improved first remaster, I decided to break out the vinyl.

I was absolutely STUNNED!

How many times have I played "Back In Black". Didn't the vinyl gurus tell us to only play the record once every twenty four hours?

Sure, I took EXCEPTIONAL care of my vinyl records. But I played the CRAP out of "Back In Black".

But when I put on the vinyl record, I was STUNNED!

I kept turning up the CD. There was an ear-splitting sound. Akin to a fire alarm. But when I dropped the needle in the VINYL GROOVE, I felt like I was being KICKED IN THE GUT, the whole HOUSE started to shake.

Really. As I raised the amplification on the CD, it was painful, but it was painful in my HEAD! Whereas when I raised the volume on the vinyl record my ears didn't hurt, rather my body felt like it was at a…concert.

Used to be the albums tried to replicate the live experience.

CDs sound NOTHING LIKE the concert experience. Hip-hop is a STUDIO medium. Irrelevant of the merits of rap, does it rule because rock sounds positively AWFUL in the conventional digital format?

God, I'd like to play you the vinyl version of Joni Mitchell's "Hejira". It's like swimming in a sea of liquid soap. You're BATHED in the sound. But on the CD, the music is CLEAR, but it washes right OFF OF YOU!

Worse is James Taylor. God, to listen to "Sweet Baby James" on vinyl is to SEE that horse crossing the prairie. On CD, the song barely rises above the level of ditty.

Neil Young was not wrong. CDs suck. To the point where nobody's got a problem with MP3s. You see the ORIGINAL is so bad, that to hear something slightly inferior…WHO CARES??

We were sold a bill of goods.

SACD should have ruled. But do you need SACD to hear RAP?

Acoustic music lives live. As does rock. But metal, even metal LITE sounds like crap on CD. Listen to "Wanted Dead Or Alive" on vinyl. THEN you'll understand why Bon Jovi was gargantuan. Listen on CD and "Slippery When Wet" seems kind of quaint. Guys in outfits having a go of it in their parents' basement before starting their blue collar jobs. But on vinyl, even this LIGHTWEIGHT band sounds like a champ.

Contact Bob Lefsetz | View Lefsetz Letter Archives

NOTE: The views expressed in this editorial do not necessarily reflect the opinion of CelebrityAccess, Encore or its employees.