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Pono = Full Employment for Mastering Engineers? Digital Converters
Old 12th March 2014
  #1
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Pono = Full Employment for Mastering Engineers?

As a listener, I'm so pysched for Pono. For those of you employed as mastering engineers, do you think it's going to lead to jobs remastering every significant album? Or do you think it will just be basically re-transfers of the master tapes onto higher resolution digital formats, handled largely in-house by the labels, and not much actual remastering going on?
Old 12th March 2014
  #2
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Unfortunately a lot of the damage happens in the mix.
Old 12th March 2014
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I don't expect Pono to fix bad mix choices. I expect it to create a market for the first good-sounding music format since vinyl.
Old 12th March 2014
  #4
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Originally Posted by Deleted User View Post
As a listener, I'm so pysched for Pono. For those of you employed as mastering engineers, do you think it's going to lead to jobs remastering every significant album? Or do you think it will just be basically re-transfers of the master tapes onto higher resolution digital formats, handled largely in-house by the labels, and not much actual remastering going on?
A lot of people have been offering FLAC versions to their clients for a while now (years for me). I don't think albums that have been squashed will be redone, but at the very least, those who own better than average playback systems (good DACs, amps, speakers) might be able to hear a difference between compressed (320kbps) and full rez. I know I can, so I'm a bit excited to learn more about the Pono player for my own enjoyment.
Old 12th March 2014
  #5
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Sure, I do a lot of my listening to FLACs, but I'm not sure I would call them full res. I have a feeling in a few years when we look back at 16/44.1, we'll feel like we'd been cheated.
Old 12th March 2014
  #6
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As much as I'd like to see the digital file formats move forward, I don't think a proprietary format like this is the way forward.

First, the natural market for this is old guys like me, who still actually pay for music. We're a dwindling demographic, and many of us will resist the idea of the labels tapping our wallets just one last time, for the same music we paid for on vinyl and CD's. No matter how good it sounds. I might buy Kind of Blue or the White Album in high res, but I'm not going to replace my whole collection one more time, when it still sounds damned good as a 44.1/16 CD on my listening gear. And that kills the business model. You can't make this fly on just a few re-issues. It has to be something as big as CD's replacing vinyl, or MP3's replacing CD's, or it will die on the vine like SACD.

Second, there are two or three generations now who have never paid for music once, in their entire lives. They're not going to suddenly start paying "$14.99-$24.99" per album, and buy a $400 player that has no other media use, just to hear high res music on their crappy earbuds, car stereos, and computer speakers. For that market, the bottleneck is both the quality of listening gear, and the cultural resistance to paying for anything. If you can't connect with others and share your music, it's invisible to this demographic. And that's the BIG demographic for music, now and in the future. Pono is an archaic, vestigial format in terms of today's social media.

I think there is a future, eventually, for higher res formats. But it has to be open source or it won't take off.
Old 12th March 2014
  #7
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Originally Posted by Foldedpath View Post
As much as I'd like to see the digital file formats move forward, I don't think a proprietary format like this is the way forward.

First, the natural market for this is old guys like me, who still actually pay for music. We're a dwindling demographic, and many of us will resist the idea of the labels tapping our wallets just one last time, for the same music we paid for on vinyl and CD's. No matter how good it sounds. I might buy Kind of Blue or the White Album in high res, but I'm not going to replace my whole collection one more time, when it still sounds damned good as a 44.1/16 CD on my listening gear. And that kills the business model. You can't make this fly on just a few re-issues. It has to be something as big as CD's replacing vinyl, or MP3's replacing CD's, or it will die on the vine like SACD.

Second, there are two or three generations now who have never paid for music once, in their entire lives. They're not going to suddenly start paying "$14.99-$24.99" per album, and buy a $400 player that has no other media use, just to hear high res music on their crappy earbuds, car stereos, and computer speakers. For that market, the bottleneck is both the quality of listening gear, and the cultural resistance to paying for anything. If you can't connect with others and share your music, it's invisible to this demographic. And that's the BIG demographic for music, now and in the future. Pono is an archaic, vestigial format in terms of today's social media.

I think there is a future, eventually, for higher res formats. But it has to be open source or it won't take off.
Dude, it's a free, open format! FLAC. They thought this through well, not some hack job like iTunes. As Neil Young says, Steve Jobs told him he only listened to vinyl, not that digital crap.

I think there's a high degree of correlation between the type of people you describe who refuse to pay for music, and the typically bad music that they listen to. I think a whole lot of people who refuse to pay $10 for an iTunes album of Arcade Fire, Santigold, whoever, would gladly pay $15 for a 24/96 album that blows away CD quality. And look at the amount of stars they have in the video - this thing could actually be a marketing success. So not only would the good part of the music industry have a huge new revenue source, but the disposable crap might start to disappear because no one will pay for that. Let the cycle continue...
Old 12th March 2014
  #8
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Originally Posted by Deleted User View Post
Sure, I do a lot of my listening to FLACs, but I'm not sure I would call them full res.
FLAC supports 24bit. Full resolution meaning the project's native rez (24bit recordings are common, even when mixing to 2" tape, the capturing ADC will be 24bit).
Old 12th March 2014
  #9
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Okay, I haven't been following this (obviously), so if it's just a high-res FLAC file then that's cool.

How are the labels handling that, though? Are they actually releasing non-DRM'd files of their back catalogs in 192/24? How does that business plan work? Or is this like early Sony MiniDisk, where there isn't a way to move the files off the Pono player in full resolution?
Old 12th March 2014
  #10
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Originally Posted by Franco View Post
FLAC supports 24bit. Full resolution meaning the project's native rez (24bit recordings are common, even when mixing to 2" tape, the capturing ADC will be 24bit).
Right, but those are very rarely found. Now there will be a big enough market for 24/96 FLAC that the labels will re-transfer a lot of the good stuff. Which brings me back to my original question.
Old 12th March 2014
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Originally Posted by Foldedpath View Post
Okay, I haven't been following this (obviously), so if it's just a high-res FLAC file then that's cool.

How are the labels handling that, though? Are they actually releasing non-DRM'd files of their back catalogs in 192/24? How does that business plan work? Or is this like Sony MiniDisk where there isn't a way to move the files off the Pono player in full resolution?
Yep, DRM is done. DRM files never even really existed. 95% of files listened to on iProducts are pirated. Apple could have made iPods only play legit DRM files that they sold, but they realized there's a much bigger market in selling hardware for pirated files.
Old 12th March 2014
  #12
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Originally Posted by Deleted User View Post
Right, but those are very rarely found. Now there will be a big enough market for 24/96 FLAC that the labels will re-transfer a lot of the good stuff. Which brings me back to my original question.
I'm sorry, not to sound condescending but I don't think you realize that for the last few years (over a decade), most albums have been recorded at 24bit, with sample rates up to 192kHz (which FLAC can support).

Typically, the sampling rates are lower (48k is what I see most often) so there's no need to "re-transfer". All that's required is a conversion of the original files to FLAC at whatever resolution they currently are.

If you're talking about albums from say, 50 years ago - most of those have already been digitized to 24bit.

If you're asking about an increase in jobs in the Audio Mastering field, from my POV: maybe a few more clients asking for additional FLAC versions for their projects.
Old 12th March 2014
  #13
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Originally Posted by Franco View Post
I'm sorry, not to sound condescending but I don't think you realize that for the last few years (over a decade), most albums have been recorded at 24bit, with sample rates up to 192kHz (which FLAC can support).

Typically, the sampling rates are lower (48k is what I see most often) so there's no need to "re-transfer". All that's required is a conversion of the original files to FLAC at whatever resolution they currently are.

If you're talking about albums from say, 50 years ago - most of those have already been digitized to 24bit.

If you're asking about an increase in jobs in the Audio Mastering field, from my POV: maybe a few more clients asking for additional FLAC versions for their projects.
Any album that doesn't exist in 24/192 (which is a lot of stuff, maybe most, including catalog) needs to be re-transferred off the tape with the latest and greatest converters.
Old 12th March 2014
  #14
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Originally Posted by Deleted User View Post
Any album that doesn't exist in 24/192 (which is a lot of stuff, maybe most, including catalog) needs to be re-transferred off the tape with the latest and greatest converters.
Ok, I give up. Laters!
Old 12th March 2014
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"Pono's preservation of the fuller, analog sound already has the ear of the Big Three record labels: Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group and Sony Music. WMG – home to artists including Muse, the Black Keys, Common and Jill Scott – has converted its library of 8,000 album titles to high-resolution, 192kHz/24-bit sound. It was a process completed prior to the company's partnership with Young's Pono project last year, said Craig Kallman, chairman and chief executive of Atlantic Records."
See above quote from an article.

Have you ever personally interacted with Craig Kallman while you were employed by one of the top mastering houses in the world? Because I have.

Just wondering if people think all labels will just do in-house transfers like this or if we'll see a lot of "Rolling Stones Re-mastered for Pono", etc. Seems like every other year is an excuse for a new remaster, so you'd think the emergence of a hi-res market would be as well.
Old 12th March 2014
  #16
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Originally Posted by Deleted User View Post
See above quote from an article.

Have you ever personally interacted with Craig Kallman while you were employed by one of the top mastering houses in the world? Because I have.
Eh, no. I'm afraid you win that pissing contest.

"...has converted its library of 8,000 album titles to high-resolution, 192kHz/24-bit sound. It was a process completed prior to the company's partnership with Young's Pono project"

Does it say that they did this BECAUSE of their partnership to Young's project? I'm not reading it that way. It's basically what I had said earlier ("If you're talking about albums from say, 50 years ago - most of those have already been digitized to 24bit.")

Will record labels see (and take advantage) of an opportunity to make money ("mastered for Pono" etc.) Yea, but the fact that it's already FLAC and in its infancy makes me think they're not going to invest money into "remastering" older projects, but hey, what do I know - I've only worked with lowly independent artists and tiny indie labels.

But since you've worked with "one of the top mastering houses in the world", what's the deal with the new "latest & greatest" converters? What's in the works that beats the pants off the typical top mastering grade converters out now?
Old 12th March 2014
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Just wondering if people think all labels will just do in-house transfers like this or if we'll see a lot of "Rolling Stones Re-mastered for Pono", etc.
No.

Apple can nullify much of the effect of any Pono success fairly quickly and almost effortlessly. By enabling 24bit/192k support on all iDevices and possibly offering FLAC support (which they won't since ALAC support is already offered). Apple is sitting with almost all albums in at least 24bit/96k all conveniently secure on their server farm waiting and with a few lines of codes can switch from lossy to lossless instantly. What advantage does Pono have then, besides the hideous design?

All my LPCM music is already in the open source ALAC format and a lot of recent digital purchases have been 24bit/96k ALAC (eg the Miles Davis mono releases from HDTracks). If Apple offered hi-res options, I don't see any reason to choose Pono over what I already have a use.

cheers,
Reynaud
Old 12th March 2014
  #18
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Originally Posted by Deleted User View Post
Apple can nullify much of the effect of any Pono success fairly quickly and almost effortlessly. By enabling 24bit/192k support on all iDevices and possibly offering FLAC support (which they won't since ALAC support is already offered). Apple is sitting with almost all albums in at least 24bit/96k all conveniently secure on their server farm waiting and with a few lines of codes can switch from lossy to lossless instantly. What advantage does Pono have then, besides the hideous design?
Well, I remember a discussion a while back on this with Apple. I believe many of the older players, like the first and second gen iPod Touch players wouldn't be compatible with high rez files, so users would need to upgrade their players anyway (assuming they'd be interested in high resolution anyway). Then, you have DRM and the limitations of how many devices you can put the music on, how many times they can be downloaded, etc.

FLAC, being open source is way more flexible and once you have the file, which is essentially an uncompressed format, the user can then create CD versions and even MP3s (for those playback systems that won't be going away any time soon).

I can't comment on anything regarding the player, but it sounds like they've got a good DAC built in there. These days, a very decent DAC can cost as low as $100, so I'm guessing the device itself is of better quality than the iPods/iPhones out now (assuming these guys know that beating the quality of the current Apple DACs is important as well). I've got a 2 yr. old Macbook pro, the DAC isn't anything special (currently use a Schiit Modi, which sounds MUCH nicer than the Macbook's audio out and it's $99).
Old 12th March 2014
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Doesn't Apple have some "HD" format - 256 kbps mp3?! ALAC never took off like FLAC. For audiophiles, the better components in the Pono and different outputs, memory expansion, etc., will make it worth it. For the more average music fan, you'll have all these top artists saying "if you want my music in the best quality, get it on Pono not iTunes."

Franco, no hard feelings, man. About the converters, say if the most recent version of Springsteen's catalog that exists in 24/192 is from some transfer ten years ago, there will be much better converters available today. That's all. So I assume a lot of good stuff will be re-transferred/remastered. I'm just excited for the possible advent of digital music that really sounds good.
Old 12th March 2014
  #20
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Originally Posted by Franco View Post
so users would need to upgrade their players anyway
In others words Apple's core business? hmmm. And there's your single reason for them doing just that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Franco View Post
you have DRM
Apple hasn't used DRM since 2009 but as early as 2007 certain new releases (such as the Beatles releases) were DRM free.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Franco View Post
limitations of how many devices you can put the music on, how many times they can be downloaded
I have eight devices and all have a copy of purchases. How many devices would you like to use simultaneously? I struggle with one.

More importantly, I don't need to purchase from Apple (I have only ever purchased two tracks from iTunes itself), HD Tracks (and many other Hi-Res services) offer ALAC, DRM free and I can move purchases to the multitude of devices I own. Plus I can buy physical and create ALAC versions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Franco View Post
FLAC, being open source
You might have missed the bulletin but so is ALAC. Here's some weekend reading: Apple Lossless Audio Codec.

You may also want to have a gander at the Core Audio Format which is very flexible and extensible.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Franco View Post
is way more flexible and once you have the file, which is essentially an uncompressed format, the user can then create CD versions
"ALAC is a data compression method which reduces the size of audio files with no loss of information. A decoded ALAC stream is bit-for-bit identical to the original uncompressed audio file." Amazing.

Just remember: a person who won't read has no advantage over one who can't.

cheers,
Reynaud
Old 12th March 2014
  #21
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For audiophiles, the better components in the Pono and different outputs, memory expansion, etc., will make it worth it.
You must know a different breed. The ones I deal with regularly either listen to vinyl or stream DSD or only purchase from Hi-Res Stores, playing back on systems that cost more than the majority here have invested. Pono will seem like an unnecessary toy.

The average consumer has no clue as to what DSD, Hi-Res, FLAC, ALAC or any of the other terms mean and they most likely do not care.

Consider that close to 30% of Americans do not use the internet. At all, and that is in arguably the largest music market. That's a large percentage either buying physical or just listening to the radio. They're certainly not using iTunes or HD Tracks or anything online and probably won't know what Pono is except what is mentioned in a magazine or newspaper article.

cheers,
Reynaud
Old 12th March 2014
  #22
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Fiio X3 looks like better spec, has none of the proprietary crap, will undoubtedly end up being much cheaper, looks cooler, and isn't tarnished with the Neil Young/old fart image.
Old 12th March 2014
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Fiio X3 looks like better spec, has none of the proprietary crap, will undoubtedly end up being much cheaper, looks cooler, and isn't tarnished with the Neil Young/old fart image.
Except no one's ever heard of that. Pono's Kickstarter video has many of the biggest artists in music singing its praises, and will create a market for hi-res music so there's something to actually listen to on your x3.
Old 12th March 2014
  #25
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Originally Posted by Deleted User View Post
As a listener, I'm so pysched for Pono. For those of you employed as mastering engineers, do you think it's going to lead to jobs remastering every significant album? Or do you think it will just be basically re-transfers of the master tapes onto higher resolution digital formats, handled largely in-house by the labels, and not much actual remastering going on?
Nothing wrong with flat-transfer of original master tapes to high-rez. Let newer generations hear what was!


BTW - latest original CD acquisition: "Fragile" by Yes. Cat# A2 19132 - last of the original run before the remasters. What a listen!! Vintage Yes at their best.

$3 at a Salvation Army store!
Old 12th March 2014
  #26
It's gonna take much more than a device to fix this industry.
Old 12th March 2014
  #27
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It's gonna take much more than a device to fix this industry.
A mindset!

Starting with consumers - one by one. There really is no place for it in GS. It starts in the streets, and in living rooms.
Old 12th March 2014
  #28
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Except no one's ever heard of that. Pono's Kickstarter video has many of the biggest artists in music singing its praises, and will create a market for hi-res music so there's something to actually listen to on your x3.
Actually, people who are interested in DAPs generally, have heard of it. Go and check anythingbutipod.com etc. I have more friends who have heard of the X3 than have heard of the Ponyo (or whatever it's called). I think if you check the reviews you'll find it has been universally acclaimed, is actually available to buy now, and is more fully featured and cheaper than the Ponyo.

Anyway, since when did people hearing about something make it better or worse?

I've been listening to quality audio for 39 years, I don't need some grumpy old hippie to tell/sell me what "high" fidelity is.

Sticking with my Cowon J3 for now, but will undoubtedly upgrade to a Fiio X3 in the near future.

(Was very tempted to post the Ghibli Ponyo theme song in Japanese, but held back...)
Old 12th March 2014
  #29
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Originally Posted by Babaluma View Post
Actually, people who are interested in DAPs generally, have heard of it. Go and check anythingbutipod.com etc. I have more friends who have heard of the X3 than have heard of the Ponyo (or whatever it's called). I think if you check the reviews you'll find it has been universally acclaimed, is actually available to buy now, and is more fully featured and cheaper than the Ponyo.

Anyway, since when did people hearing about something make it better or worse?

I've been listening to quality audio for 39 years, I don't need some grumpy old hippie to tell/sell me what "high" fidelity is.

(Was very tempted to post the Ghibli Ponyo theme song in Japanese, but held back...)

High-fidelity refers to the playback system and playback formats themselves - not necessarily what is encoded on them or played back on them.


A lot of music from the early Yes era may not have been of the highest sonic quality, but it doesn't need to be tinkered with via modern technology.

Everything is a compromise, and I'd gladly accept - and promote and share - compromises in the original source vs some of the compromises made today.
Old 12th March 2014
  #30
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Originally Posted by The_K_Man View Post
Nothing wrong with flat-transfer of original master tapes to high-rez. Let newer generations hear what was!
What took you so long?

I've yet to do my research on Pono so I'm not too familiar with it. But it sounds interesting. I doubt it will change anything on the ground though. The niche market never changes the mass market, and right now, the mass market downloads music for free or on iTunes as cheap as possible and listens to it on their cellphones. Still, if this keeps the record execs living in the manner to which they've become accustomed, it'll all be worth it. They've managed their industry so well up to now.
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