Neil Young slams MacBook Pro’s ‘Fisher-Price’ audio quality

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It's just "garbage."
Photo: Marc-Olivier Paquin/Unsplash

Neil Young believes there’s a big problem with making music on a MacBook Pro. In a recent interview, the acclaimed singer-songwriter slammed the “Fisher-Price” audio quality you get with Apple’s newest notebooks.

Young also revealed that Steve Jobs knew about his concerns, but felt that MacBook audio was good enough for consumers.

“A MacBook Pro? What are you talking about?” Young responded when Nilay Patel, editor-in-chief of The Verge, asked about making music on an Apple notebook during the most recent episode of The Vergecast.

Patel mentioned Apple’s new 16-inch MacBook Pro, which boasts the best audio quality we’ve ever gotten from an Apple notebook, thanks to a six-speaker stereo system and “studio-quality” microphones.

“You can’t get anything out of that thing,” Young said.

‘Products for consumers, not quality’

Think of your favorite band or artist. No matter what kind of music they’re making, chances are a Mac is involved somewhere. Apple machines have become the industry standard for everything from recording to editing.

But you won’t catch Young using one, at least not on its own. The only way you can get good audio out of a MacBook, he said, is to add “an external DAC and do a bunch of stuff to make up for the problems that the MacBook Pro has.”

“The DAC is no good in the MacBook Pro,” Young said.

DAC stands for digital-to-analog converter. It’s what our electronic devices use to turn the analog audio signals made by musical instruments (or our voice) into digital data. A DAC also allows that digital data to be sent back to analog devices, such as headphones and speakers.

Apple doesn’t pack more professional DACs into its notebooks because “they’re aimed at consumers,” Young explained. “That’s what Steve Jobs told me. He told me that exact thing: ‘We’re making products for consumers, not quality.’ So they don’t want audio quality.”

Music made on MacBook Pro is ‘garbage’

Young went on to say that audio quality is deeper than visual quality. A ton of data must be captured if you want to hear everything in a piece of music. “Now, when you talk about doing that on a MacBook Pro, it makes me barf,” he added.

The veteran rocker said newfangled digital technology just can’t capture the essence of music.

“It’s about quality. It’s about sound,” Young said. “It’s about the real thing … What happened when you opened your mouth and sang? What went into the air?” We can’t capture that with new technology, Young said.

But the fact of the matter is, countless artists are making great music on a MacBook Pro. Many use the machine to work on tracks and albums while they’re on the road. And for some, it’s the only computer that’s required.

Patel told Young about Oak Felder, a previous Vergecast guest and Grammy award-winning songwriter and record producer, who uses a MacBook Pro to put together tracks for the likes of Nicki Minaj and Demi Lovato.

You might not be surprised to hear that Young was not convinced. Music made with new technology is “garbage,” he said.