T Bone Burnett Unveils New Audio Format That He Calls the "Pinnacle of Recorded Sound"

Bob Dylan re-recorded some of his own songs for the Ionic Original, which allegedly bests vinyl, CD and streaming in sonic fidelity

BY Kaelen BellPublished Apr 26, 2022

T Bone Burnett has debuted a new analog audio format (which looks more or less like a vinyl record) that he's dubbed "the pinnacle of recorded sound." 

As reported by Stereogum, it's called the Ionic Original, and it's a disc that allegedly beats out vinyl, CD and streaming in terms of sonic fidelity. Burnett recruited Bob Dylan for the project, who re-recorded a handful of his own songs for the launch. 

In a statement, Burnett described the Ionic Original like so:

An Ionic Original is the pinnacle of recorded sound. It is archival quality. It is future proof. It is one of one. Not only is an Ionic Original the equivalent of a painting, it is a painting. It is lacquer painted onto an aluminum disc, with a spiral etched into it by music. This painting, however, has the additional quality of containing that music, which can be heard by putting a stylus into the spiral and spinning it.

He continued, writing:

When describing the quality that raises analogue sound above digital sound, the word 'warmth' is often used. Analogue sound has more depth, more harmonic complexity, more resonance, better imaging. Analogue has more feel, more character, more touch. Digital sound is frozen. Analogue sound is alive.

A press release states that Burnett hopes to "reset the valuation of recorded music." In line with that goal, he's created a new company called NeoFidelity, Inc., which plans to record and distribute future Ionic Originals.

This seems like the kind of thing — much like Tidal or Neil Young's Pono music player — that causes a bit of ruckus before more or less fading from the public consciousness as people default to the cheaper, pre-existing options. But who knows! 

As Stereogum points out, this isn't Burnett's first stab at reinventing the high-fidelity listening experience. In 2008, he was a proponent of the audio system Code, a disc that aimed to produce higher-quality sound on DVD players. John Mellencamp's Burnett-produced album Life, Death, Love And Freedom was released on the Code format that same year, but it doesn't seem to have made a splash otherwise. 

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