Neil Young Provides High-Res Options for Fans and Audiophiles, Overcoming the Chicken and Egg Puzzle

With the shift to digital, whether CDs decades ago or streaming more recently, purists have decried the narrowing of the audio fidelity on offer. Neil Young has always stood tall when it comes to providing listeners the best possible experience. For a brief moment in time he was a leading artist in support of the late, great format called DVD-Audio. He then went it alone (mostly) with his Pono format. Now he has endorsed a delivery platform that promises to tie together the software and hardware needed for a superb listening experience.

In what could prove to be propitious timing in this time of clampdown, Lenbrook International, developer of the BluOS hi-res wireless premium distributed audio and music management platform, proudly announced earlier this month the integration of the Neil Young Archives, the high-resolution, studio-quality streaming online archive of famed rock icon, Neil Young, into the BluOS platform.

What does this mean? Effective immediately, Canada- and US- based users of BluOS Enabled products from NAD Electronics, Bluesound, and DALI Loudspeakers will be prompted to update their players for the unique opportunity to freely sample Neil Young Archives’ “Song of the Day” and “Album of the Week” in high-resolution, with a tap of a button in the BluOS Controller app.

This announcement effectively addresses the chicken and egg conundrum that has hobbled many new platform launches: will there be software to enjoy if the hardware is purchased? Ol’ Neil has decried streaming (“if I could pull the little white buds from folks’ ears when I see them on the street and tell them there are better ways to listen I would,” Young has essentially stated several times).

Lenbrook and Young both got their start north of the border. In 2018, Canadian-born Young launched his Neil Young Archives, an ambitious project that models a novel way for artists to distribute unique content to their fans without the damaging compression so prevalent in today’s mass market streaming music world. For $20 annually, Young’s website and app provide access to all of his audio, video, memorabilia, notes, lyrics, original manuscripts, and news. It boasts tens of thousands of members, and Young adds new content often.

Neil Young in concert just south of the Canadian border. Stephen Stills, Neil Young: Long May You Run, July 4, 1976 Niagara Falls (photo by Brad Auerbach)

Meanwhile, Canada-based Lenbrook International was in the midst of growing its reach with a new and modern audiophile customer seeking a completely new performance standard and user experience supporting high-resolution 24/192 audio streaming, layered with multi-room music capabilities. Such an innovative solution had never before been made commercially available and the Bluesound brand, with its BluOS operating system, had been setting new standards and winning awards worldwide since its launch in 2012.

“It is important to me to be able to offer my life’s work to music lovers in its highest resolution. I want them to experience my music in the absolute best quality possible on their devices,” says Young. “Creating Neil Young Archives has enabled me to support and partner with established hi-res audio brands using BluOS to achieve great improvement over mainstream consumer devices and bring the true beauty of music to you.”

Content without the pipe to deliver it to the consumer is a non-starter. Many folks on the hardware side have had the temerity to believe a brighter, shinier mousetrap will bring content providers scurrying to their doorstep. But content providers are loathe to see new platforms build their business on the back of the content provider’s intellectual property. When hardware and software folks can get in the same tent and attain alignment, success follows. I am looking at you DVD format, as a perfect historical example.

Ever restless, Neil Young has again pushed the edge of the envelope.

 


Brad Auerbach has been covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.

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