I’ve been listening to Neil Young’s Earth album without Pono. I don’t have a Pono player and Neil Young claims that’s the best way to listen to his new Earth album besides good old vinyl. Neil Young is a bit of an audiophile and if although he’s a proponent for high resolution digital music files, he vehemently argues against the rest including iTunes, Spotify, Tidal and the aging dinosaur CD format. It’s no secret that Neil Young has a stake in the market and survival of high resolution audio, it just seems counterintuitive to release Earth on CD as that’s a format he’s railed against for years. However, CD is probably the easiest way to get this album to the masses, as the vinyl version was not available when this review was written.
As I listen to Neil Young’s Earth album without Pono and on CD, I notice that the album sounds very flat for an album that’s supposed to be a live album albeit with some animal enhancements.
The flatness is not the fault of his touring band, The Promise of the Real or Mr. Young. Nor is the flatness caused by the studio trickery with the animal enhancements. The flatness seems inherent in the format, which this album was delivered. The dynamics seem off on this recording and are somewhat tinny and thin sounding. I don’t think the blame can be put on my system as my audio setup is decent, it’s nothing fancy and for my purposes, it does an amicable job with vinyl and Blu-Ray audio. I would even argue that my stereo does a decent job with some other CD releases such as the recent Jethro Tull 5.1 Aqualung reissue and some streaming audio but Earth sounds barren without Pono or vinyl.
Whether or not I hear the Earth album as it’s intended is an unknown conclusion. I enjoyed Neil Young + The Promise of the Real’s Earth album and the imaginative enhancements. I guess I’m a sucker for anytime Neil Young brings out his rocking side and decides to do a 28 minute version of “Love and Only Love.” So the next time he puts out an album, I’ll have to start saving some pennies for the proper way to hear it.