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Tom Scholz Calls Digital Audio ‘Huge Step Down’

Tom Scholz
Gary Pihl,

It isn’t every day that Boston mastermind Tom Scholz emerges from his studio to hit the promotional trail to talk about a new record, so when fans had a chance to ask Scholz questions about his creative process, they took full advantage.

The Q&A session took place via MusicRadar, following his recent interview with the site; readers sent in a slew of questions — including queries about “his idiosyncratic recording techniques, his gear, the recently issued Tom Scholz Collector’s Choice #10 Tom Scholz 1968 Les Paul and Boston’s brand new album ‘Life, Love & Hope‘ — which Scholz deigned to answer in a new post.

One topic that provoked a particularly passionate response from Scholz was the rise of digital audio, which he views as a step backward from the pristine sound he’s always pursued on behalf of Boston. “My pet theory is that digital reproduction is a huge step down in audio terms,” mused Scholz. “There are a few big things wrong with it, which is why a lot of people don’t think it sounds so good. The first step down was with 16-bit CDs, and then there were MP3s, which are even worse than that — those were the final blow.”

Referring to the loss of fidelity “an ethereal effect, not something that people are necessarily aware of while it’s happening,” Scholz argued that “The proliferation of MP3 files have really diminished people’s appreciation of music. If your own choice was to listen to music on some terrible speakers all the time, would you listen to it more or less? And if you had great speakers with huge, perfect clarity, would you listen to it less? So I think it’s diminished people’s interest in music, and that’s hurt sales.”

As a guy who’s spent the better part of his life dissecting sound, it’s hard to argue against Scholz here, although it’s worth noting that a growing number of fan reviews of the most recent Boston record have pointed out that the mix leaves something to be desired. His comments regarding “terrible speakers” also seem somewhat disingenuous — rock records were being mixed for cruddy little car speakers long before the advent of the MP3. Still, as any vinyl enthusiast will tell you, there’s just something about analog sound that you can’t get out of a digital file.

Next: Top 10 Boston Songs

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