I love Neil Young. I have followed his career for as long as I can remember, and I love his music. However, Neil’s comments today about audio and the MacBook Pro are just completely wrong and nonsensical.
I’m not sure if his comments were a stunt to help sell his book or if he’s just lost touch with reality. Despite his hatred for digital, the things Young had to say today about the MacBook Pro were way off base.
Let’s take a quick look at what the MacBook Pro has to offer in terms of audio before we tackle the rest of Young’s comments. According to Apple’s web site, the 16-inch model has High‑fidelity six‑speaker system with force‑cancelling woofers; Wide stereo sound; Support for Dolby Atmos playback; and Studio‑quality three-mic array with high signal-to-noise ratio and directional beamforming.
That’s quite an impressive hardware list to get on a laptop. Now let’s look at the things that don’t make sense to me.
The only way you can get it out is if you put it in. And if you put it in, you can’t get it out because the DAC is no good in the MacBook Pro. So you have to use an external DAC and do a bunch of stuff to make up for the problems that the MacBook Pro has because they’re not aimed at quality. They’re aimed at consumerism.
I’ve been recording in my studio for many years, and I have a lot of the DAC (digital-to-analog conversion) gear that Young is talking about. If I plug in my Universal Audio Apollo 8 into my MacBook Pro, I have studio-quality gear at my disposal.
There are no “problems” to deal with. The MacBook Pro is a workhorse that can handle any amount of audio that I want to throw at it. The Mac is the engine that is powering everything else I’m doing.
There are instances where people will record a song idea into the MacBook Pro using the built-in mic. Usually, these are ideas, songs written on the road, on a tour bus or hotel room. If these songs are chosen by the band to be released, the ideas are recorded into full-fledged songs.
So what exactly is Young arguing here? Does he not know the quality of the DAC gear is high-quality enough to make an album, even on a MacBook Pro? Is there a specific album he thinks is poorly recorded? I sure would like to know the answer to that one.
I’ve talked to many well-known artists over the years that have recorded songs into phone voicemails, voice memos, cassette tapes, and all kinds of other crazy mediums. I’m also sure that Young used some of these tricks to record some of his song ideas before they were released. Clearly, these were not great quality recordings.
To me, Young seems to be arguing something that is halfway between “analog is better,” and for some reason, “the MacBook Pro sucks.” He’s just confusing all kinds of thoughts that don’t fit together at all.
I believe that analog has its place in music. I won’t dispute that. Recording on tape was great back in the day. However, the industry has moved away from many of the old analog way of doing things. It’s opened up the music world to artists that would never have had the chances they do today.
Apple, to its credit, has tried to make recording music a positive experience for its users. From GarageBand and Logic to the higher-end features of the MacBook Pro, Apple has brought together a team of passionate, world-class audio engineers to work at the company.
Apple has also used some of the best people in the music industry, like the legendary Bob Clearmoutain, to help develop the AAC codec it uses on Apple Music. The company did this to help create a better codec, so we hear better music.
Let’s look at some of the artists that won Grammys this year that use Logic and, therefore, a Mac: Billie Eilish & Finneas, Lizzo, J Cole & 21 Savage, Chemical Brothers, and Jacob Collier.
We also know of a lot of other artists that use Macs and Logic to create music and soundtracks like Coldplay, Ed Sheeran, The Weekend, Fall Out Boy, Ramin Djawadi (Game of Thrones, Westworld), and many others.
Many of the studios Young would have artists go into to record their music are now gone. Closed. Forever. They couldn’t make it work in the new music economy. That’s sad, but it’s true. Studios are also costly, and most young artists would never be able to afford a recording studio.
The truth is, we have a way to create an end-to-end recording solution and do it all on a MacBook Pro. That is a good thing for music and the people that create the music we listen to every day.
Neil Young took his well-documented hate of digital recording and turned it into an undeserved, nonsensical slam on the MacBook Pro.