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Launch of Pono Studio Headphones
Old 30th January 2015
  #5071
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Silver Sonya's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by cakewalk View Post
I have friend with the Astell and Kearn and he recently compared it to a pono and said he regrets spending the bread on the A&K.
I don't doubt it.

Ayre is no joke.

- c
Old 1st February 2015
  #5072
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Pono blind AB test


David Pogue blind AB test
Old 1st February 2015
  #5073
Airwindows
 
chrisj's Avatar
Maybe this is where AB tests get finally (and unjustly) debunked. If people's direct experience too obviously contradicts 'science', they'll abandon 'science' with great eagerness and even an backlash effect.

Which is a good reason not to get too smashy with 'science' and start throwing around conclusions that are unsupported.

Notably, the whole ABX thing. If competing devices 'can't be distinguished' blind but one gives you occasional glimpses of twice the sound quality you can reliably concentrate on (but not ten or a hundred times) you may form opinions that can't be readily supported.

If competing devices 'can't be distinguished' blind but one gives you occasional glimpses of a thousand times the sound quality you can reliably perceive… if every last moment of 'audio enlightenment' is met and matched by the hardware during the flickering of your fallible human perceptions, while the other device reveals the cheap transistors behind the curtain almost enough to be caught out by the ABX test, but not quite… then you're going to think the test is pretty stupid as a guide to life decisions.

Whether you turn against science and rationality in general, and begin chanting and dancing circles around a green Sharpie, is another matter: I think that depends on how personable the representatives of 'science' are, and what they're demanding.

If they're demanding a general public shaming of Pono as lies and snake oil, I think from all accounts they're gonna be waiting for a long time. This doesn't have to be about anti-science in spite of silly aspects of the marketing, but careful handling is necessary or being a 'hater' will backfire.

I'm looking forward to buying my Pono. Recently jumped up to a low-tier high-end tube phono preamp (Counterpoint SA-7.1) and I'm regularly stunned by how musical and believable my old, nearly-forgotten record collection can be.
Old 1st February 2015
  #5074
Lives for gear
No dancing here, no sharpies, just noting that ordinary people can't tell the difference. Are you arguing this is the fault of the listeners? Pono can never fail, it can only be failed kind of thing?

I'm not interested in the thing and none of my experience tells me it matters, and that conforms to "science" generally, but I can't speak for others

Last edited by PB+J; 1st February 2015 at 04:18 PM..
Old 1st February 2015
  #5075
Gear Guru
 
Sounds Great's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by PB+J View Post
Pono blind AB test


David Pogue blind AB test

From the article:

Quote:
The results surprised even me. Whether wearing earbuds or expensive headphones, my test subjects usually thought that the iPhone playback sounded better than the Pono Player.
I call bull!
Old 1st February 2015
  #5076
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doorknocker's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sounds Great View Post
From the article:
I call bull!
First there's the Radio Shack Switcher, how come an assumed hi-res player is not a least treated to a decent switcher? Is it that hard to un- and replug a cable BTW?

I find these kind of tests highly problematic any way. Some people may not actually care that much about resolution which certainly isn't a reason that we shouldn't at least try to improve things. And folks aren't in a relaxed listening enviroment and probably put themselves under pressure to make choices.

Also, the choice of songs for those tests is highly limited. I mean at least get some hip-hop or metal on there and stuff that rides the extremes of soft/loud, high/deep. And for Chrissake - what about listening through actual SPEAKERS? Is that not even a consideration anymore?

Personally I have no interest in re-buying classic recordings once over after tons of CD remasters any vinyl reissues. But only the very fact that there IS a discussion and some real efforts to improve matters should be highly applauded.
Old 2nd February 2015
  #5077
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bogosort's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisj View Post
Maybe this is where AB tests get finally (and unjustly) debunked. If people's direct experience too obviously contradicts 'science', they'll abandon 'science' with great eagerness and even an backlash effect.
Science contradicts our direct experience all the time; this arguably its most important feature! People who only believe what they see or what they want to believe are generally referred to as ignorant, with good reason.

Quote:
Notably, the whole ABX thing. If competing devices 'can't be distinguished' blind but one gives you occasional glimpses of twice the sound quality you can reliably concentrate on (but not ten or a hundred times) you may form opinions that can't be readily supported.
Our brains are hard-wired to be shallow thinkers, optimized for quick decisions rather than in-depth analysis (which would have been fatal out in the tundra). Opinions are an evolutionary short-cut to proper analysis because life is far too complicated to analyze every decision. Thus almost all our opinions can't be readily supported. If we want a stable platform for our beliefs, we turn to the scientific method. Without it, we can't know if "occasional glimpses of twice the sound quality" (whatever that means) are real or just more Bigfoot sitings.
Old 2nd February 2015
  #5078
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Our brains are hard-wired to be shallow thinkers, optimized for quick decisions rather than in-depth analysis
In fact, I brains may be hard-wired to believe stuff...

The Belief Engine --- Committee for Skeptical Enquiry

I don't know how "scientific" the article is? It made sense to me. In fact, I believed it, which might prove just it's point!
Old 2nd February 2015
  #5079
Airwindows
 
chrisj's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Thad E Ginathom View Post
In fact, I brains may be hard-wired to believe stuff...

The Belief Engine --- Committee for Skeptical Enquiry

I don't know how "scientific" the article is? It made sense to me. In fact, I believed it, which might prove just it's point!
…so it reinforces your experience, and you typically listen to all your music through a Radio Shack switcher with your headphones on backwards?

Props for honesty, if not for your monitoring system
Old 2nd February 2015
  #5080
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by doorknocker View Post
First there's the Radio Shack Switcher, how come an assumed hi-res player is not a least treated to a decent switcher? Is it that hard to un- and replug a cable BTW?

I find these kind of tests highly problematic any way. Some people may not actually care that much about resolution which certainly isn't a reason that we shouldn't at least try to improve things. And folks aren't in a relaxed listening enviroment and probably put themselves under pressure to make choices.

Also, the choice of songs for those tests is highly limited. I mean at least get some hip-hop or metal on there and stuff that rides the extremes of soft/loud, high/deep. And for Chrissake - what about listening through actual SPEAKERS? Is that not even a consideration anymore?

Personally I have no interest in re-buying classic recordings once over after tons of CD remasters any vinyl reissues. But only the very fact that there IS a discussion and some real efforts to improve matters should be highly applauded.
Are you really arguing that the differences are so subtle that the radio shack switcher obliterated them? What's in there--audio quality absorbing gel? I suppose he used inexpensive cables too?

If the difference can only be heard on elaborate and expensive rigs that ordinary people don't have then my skepticism is only increased. The more money one commits to hearing this difference the more determined on becomes to hear this difference.
Old 2nd February 2015
  #5081
Gear Maniac
 

Some time ago I was reading about a test Fabien from Tokyo Dawn Labs introduced, so I made a little video about. Nothing scientific, just a quick demonstration with sine waves.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=fPOCmJ4LDCk

After making this video, I remembered Chris and others mentioning here that Pono uses some kind of different DA-filtering system than standard players and DA-converters (Average filters or something..?)..

I was wondering could this be a reason why some people find Pono more pleasing even with matching files? Perhaps the DA-conversion filter reduces or changes the problems IMD might cause with high sample rates and loud / clipped masters?

I really don't know a lot about the subject, just thinking out loud if this might explain something about Pono.. And might also explain somewhat why with some material, many people don't hear a big difference compared to other players?

Those who are better informed are welcome to enlighten me.
Old 2nd February 2015
  #5082
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bogosort's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Soundslikefog View Post
After making this video, I remembered Chris and others mentioning here that Pono uses some kind of different DA-filtering system than standard players and DA-converters (Average filters or something..?)..

I was wondering could this be a reason why some people find Pono more pleasing even with matching files? Perhaps the DA-conversion filter reduces or changes the problems IMD might cause with high sample rates and loud / clipped masters?
The two are unrelated. Any in-band IMD acquired from high sample rate tracking/mixing/mastering cannot be undone by the playback DAC filter, regardless of type. It's very much like aliasing: once it's part of the signal, you can't get rid of it.
Old 2nd February 2015
  #5083
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doorknocker's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by PB+J View Post
Are you really arguing that the differences are so subtle that the radio shack switcher obliterated them? What's in there--audio quality absorbing gel? I suppose he used inexpensive cables too?

If the difference can only be heard on elaborate and expensive rigs that ordinary people don't have then my skepticism is only increased. The more money one commits to hearing this difference the more determined on becomes to hear this difference.
I never heard music played through Pono but interestingly enough nor have 99,9% of the posters here.

All I'm saying is that IF you do a test regarding high-resolution audio, then at least use decent auxiliary gear and have the sound played back through SPEAKERS and not only headphones.

All this test 'proves' is that the few people that took it didn't make out a difference. In the same way that most people won't hear the difference between you singing through a U47 as opposed to a RODE NTK. Whether this makes the quest for better audio reproduction unnecessary and whether this means that nobody will ever hear a difference is up to you.
Old 2nd February 2015
  #5084
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by doorknocker View Post
I never heard music played through Pono but interestingly enough nor have 99,9% of the posters here.

All I'm saying is that IF you do a test regarding high-resolution audio, then at least use decent auxiliary gear and have the sound played back through SPEAKERS and not only headphones.

All this test 'proves' is that the few people that took it didn't make out a difference. In the same way that most people won't hear the difference between you singing through a U47 as opposed to a RODE NTK. Whether this makes the quest for better audio reproduction unnecessary and whether this means that nobody will ever hear a difference is up to you.
Maybe--I suspect if you asked people to do a focused A/B test with exactly that gear they would hear the difference: there's an eq difference, you can chart it. I suspect even a "naive" listener would hear it if asked to concentrate. Maybe not though
Old 2nd February 2015
  #5085
Quote:
Originally Posted by bogosort View Post
...Our brains are hard-wired to be shallow thinkers, optimized for quick decisions rather than in-depth analysis (which would have been fatal out in the tundra)...
What about the Machiavellian nature of chimpanzees?

Re: the AB test...15 people; Radio Shack switcher; controlled variables; normalisation to inferior audio quality? I'd like to see a more thorough, in-depth anaysis...but I can understand that the mindset of many casual listeners will be indifferent to improved quality.
Old 2nd February 2015
  #5086
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisj View Post
…so it reinforces your experience, and you typically listen to all your music through a Radio Shack switcher with your headphones on backwards?
It's an idea, I suppose...

But no, it was the article on the brain as a belief engine that I, err... believed!
Old 3rd February 2015
  #5087
Gear Guru
 
Sounds Great's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by doorknocker View Post
All this test 'proves' is that the few people that took it didn't make out a difference.
Actually it said they did find a difference, and the preference was for an Iphone. lol
Old 3rd February 2015
  #5088
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stratology's Avatar
 

Neil Young actually responded to Pogue, and inadvertently revealed why the artists who endorse Pono hear a difference:

"So I wrote to Pono — and heard back from Neil Young himself.

“Of approximately 100 top-seed artists who compared Pono to low resolution MP3s,” he wrote, “all of them heard and felt the Pono difference, rewarding to the human senses, and is what Pono thinks you deserve to hear.”
"


Arstechnica has a review as well, which reveals that Pono uses Android version 2.3, which is hopelessly outdated, 3 major releases behind the current 5.0.
Old 3rd February 2015
  #5089
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stratology's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by doorknocker View Post

All this test 'proves' is that the few people that took it didn't make out a difference. In the same way that most people won't hear the difference between you singing through a U47 as opposed to a RODE NTK. Whether this makes the quest for better audio reproduction unnecessary and whether this means that nobody will ever hear a difference is up to you.
So, did anyone actually perform a double blind with better equipment (AB switch with gold contacts?? )? Audiophiles or sound engineers as test subjects?

Pogue's test is the first actual double blind that I've seen, dismissing it without any actual scientific data from other double blind tests is not good enough, IMHO.
Old 3rd February 2015
  #5090
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doorknocker's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by stratology View Post
So, did anyone actually perform a double blind with better equipment (AB switch with gold contacts?? )? Audiophiles or sound engineers as test subjects?
There's no need for better equipment but rather NO additional equipment - nobody is listening through switchers in the real world, Radio Shack or not.

And ever since buying a Whirlwind A/B box for guitar and realizing it TOTALLY killed the sound (using both outputs from a cheap Danelectro tuner sounded way better - like day and night) I realized that those things are not just audiophile nonsense.

I think a test should be done through speakers as opposed to just headphones.

The whole thing reminds me of the 'converters don't make a difference' discussions here on GS that happened a few years ago.

Check this, the article claims that '....the human ear can’t discern audio quality beyond 16 bits.' Wow, I get it now : I'm superhuman!

It Sure Seems Like Neil Young’s Pono Player Is Bull**** - Stereogum
Old 3rd February 2015
  #5091
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stratology's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by doorknocker View Post
There's no need for better equipment but rather NO additional equipment - nobody is listening through switchers in the real world, Radio Shack or not.

And ever since buying a Whirlwind A/B box for guitar and realizing it TOTALLY killed the sound (using both outputs from a cheap Danelectro tuner sounded way better - like day and night) I realized that those things are not just audiophile nonsense.

I think a test should be done through speakers as opposed to just headphones.

The whole thing reminds me of the 'converters don't make a difference' discussions here on GS that happened a few years ago.

Check this, the article claims that '....the human ear can’t discern audio quality beyond 16 bits.' Wow, I get it now : I'm superhuman!

It Sure Seems Like Neil Young’s Pono Player Is Bull**** - Stereogum
A simple 'no' would have sufficed.

There are assumptions, and there is testing. Assumptions are worthless.
A double blind test may show that there is an audible difference or not. Predicting results one way or the other without actual testing is pointless.
Old 3rd February 2015
  #5092
Airwindows
 
chrisj's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by stratology View Post
Audiophiles or sound engineers as test subjects?
I heard (elsewhere) from one of the top mastering engineers in the business, who'd heard one in person. (If he'd wanted to get into a slap-fight with gearslutz he would be here, so I'm not calling him out by name: not all forums are taking such a contentious view of Ponoplayers. Some are like 'it would be nice if this worked')

This guy had just been listening to Prism converters in a mastering studio (which will run you from three to twelve thousand dollars, just for the converter). He then heard a Pono player, not double blind but he's a working sound professional familiar with the sounds of $12K and up converters and ancillary equipment.

He said it was good. Solid decent high-end professional quality digital audio without problems. This is someone who does consider that 'DACs with problems exist' and they're not all the same.

There was no claim that it was the most spectacular thing ever: this guy listens to spectacular digital for a LIVING, that's his job. His delight was pretty confined and there was no claim that it beat up the Prisms and took their lunch money, it just didn't disgrace itself in the least. I don't think he was running it balanced, just normal.

Mind you, the Pono is what, $400? For a $400 toblerone to put up a decent showing against reference gear way out of my class (and I've gone to some trouble: Lavry, Channel Islands monoblocks, I am not an iPod guy on earbuds), that impresses me, and I trust this guy's take a lot more than some internet crusader with a Radio Shack switcher box and lame headphones on backwards. It might just outperform everything I've got, and that would be interesting.

Like going to check a mix in the car, I might end up making some decisions after checking to see how they are on the Pono, perhaps through my hotrodded HD600s.

I think anybody who is giving credence to these internet muckraking article writers is being foolish or even disingenuous. You don't drag a bunch of people out of McDonalds and interview them on whether Thomas Keller's 'French Laundry' restaraunt is good, after feeding them some table scraps out of a doggy bag and telling them 'this in the restaraunt would cost you thousands of dollars!'. Yet Neil Young manages to get an actual company to make affordable gear with audio to his standards and preferences, and everybody loses their minds.

I'm siding with the successful mastering engineer, and wondering if some of these hit jobs are paid off to do so… or just trying to get Facebook 'likes' by playing to the prejudices of strangers who have no idea from audio.
Old 3rd February 2015
  #5093
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bogosort's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Arthur Stone View Post
What about the Machiavellian nature of chimpanzees?
What about it? My point is that humans generally do not scrutinize their own beliefs in any rigorous sense. Presumably, neither do chimpanzees.
Old 3rd February 2015
  #5094
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bogosort's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by doorknocker View Post
There's no need for better equipment but rather NO additional equipment - nobody is listening through switchers in the real world, Radio Shack or not.

And ever since buying a Whirlwind A/B box for guitar and realizing it TOTALLY killed the sound (using both outputs from a cheap Danelectro tuner sounded way better - like day and night) I realized that those things are not just audiophile nonsense.
I can't speak to the quality of the Radio Shack switcher, but there is an enormous electrical difference between switching DAC sources (easy) and switching guitar pickup sources (much harder). Your bad experience with the latter doesn't mean that the former will also suck.
Old 3rd February 2015
  #5095
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by bogosort View Post
The two are unrelated. Any in-band IMD acquired from high sample rate tracking/mixing/mastering cannot be undone by the playback DAC filter, regardless of type. It's very much like aliasing: once it's part of the signal, you can't get rid of it.
Not that I'm disagreeing, but couldn't IMD still occur in the analog stages of the DA-conversion or in the crossover network of the speakers or headphones, unless some sort of ultra sonic filtering is applied?
Old 3rd February 2015
  #5096
Lives for gear
 

The performance of Pono as a player/DAC is irrelevant to Young's claims about sample rate and lossy encoders.

With regard to "performance of Pono as a player/DAC", it would be interesting to see the results of blind testing comparing Pono to similarly priced players, where the listeners taking the test are typical consumers and files being played are identical.

For most consumers, their phone has become their player. Even an iPod is much more than an audio player. Pono is a fairly expensive player by comparison.
Old 3rd February 2015
  #5097
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doorknocker's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by diggo View Post
With regard to "performance of Pono as a player/DAC", it would be interesting to see the results of blind testing comparing Pono to similarly priced players, where the listeners taking the test are typical consumers and files being played are identical.
That's a whole other issue (and very relevant at that). To stay with GS matters: If you are shopping for a new preamp you certainly will compare say a vintage Neve vs. Neve reissue, copies or spinoffs. You will also find that the axiom of diminishing returns applies.

Of course anybody shopping for a hi-res audio player should and will compare different brands and types and as with anything else - facing the task of hype and prejudice.

The point of Pogue's article though is that there is NO difference between a regular iPhone and the Pono. The only way I could form an opinon about that is hearing for myself which I hadn't had a chance to do yet.

And I suspect that besides the already mentioned shortages of this test (switcher/phones) there is a whole other thing at play: How DO you define 'better'? A lot of people think that more treble and/or loudness is 'better'. And 'bad audio' is often associated with warble, hiss or cardbox-type speakers.

So it is possible (again, I haven't heard for myself) that the lack of obvious 'huge' differences as in one file being muddy and the other transparent will make people think there is no difference. What about depth, dynamics (assuming the source audio has any ) and that elusive, misundestood and mythical thing we call 'warmth')

It's for those reasons that I find a headphones-only test highly questionable. If Pogue had done the test in a good sounding room through at least decent speakers I would have trusted it much more.


Quote:
Originally Posted by diggo View Post
For most consumers, their phone has become their player. Even an iPod is much more than an audio player. Pono is a fairly expensive player by comparison.
And what does that mean? Why bother? I like the fact that Neil Yound and others DO bother, whether they make exaggerated claims ot use science in an inaccurate way is a whole different issue. The general trend with audio playback is still quantity over quality, multi-tasking vs. dedicated high-quality tools. Once that huge data storage and tiny equipment size lose their novelty appeal we may get back to caring about the actual content. Yes I'm an optimist!
Old 3rd February 2015
  #5098
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doorknocker View Post
It's for those reasons that I find a headphones-only test highly questionable. If Pogue had done the test in a good sounding room through at least decent speakers I would have trusted it much more.
Good headphones are very useful for detecting subtle differences. I use Etymotic ER4P for this exact reason. I have a very well tuned mastering room with excellent monitors, amplifiers and converters, but I still refer to the Etymotics (as my 'second opinion') for a few 'fine surgery' tasks.

Binaural listening is not the same as listening in a room, but bear in mind headphones also eliminate a lot of room related issues which could affect any listening test. It's easier (and less expensive) to make an accurate full range headphone than it is to make an accurate full range listening room.
Old 3rd February 2015
  #5099
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bogosort's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Soundslikefog View Post
Not that I'm disagreeing, but couldn't IMD still occur in the analog stages of the DA-conversion or in the crossover network of the speakers or headphones, unless some sort of ultra sonic filtering is applied?
Indeed! IMD is a result of any nonlinear process, and speakers are unfortunately not very linear. Load up a 96k session with two signal generators playing 30 kHz and 33 kHz sines and turn the volume way up. You'll almost certainly hear a 3 kHz IMD tone.

Note that you would still hear the 3 kHz IMD tone listening through Pono if the playback rate was 192 kHz.
Old 3rd February 2015
  #5100
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stratology's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by doorknocker View Post
The point of Pogue's article though is that there is NO difference between a regular iPhone and the Pono.
No, if you read the article, Pogue actually expected the Pono to sound better than the iPhone, but in double blind tests the iPhone won by a large margin.

He also mentions the parts of the product that are not directly audio related:
- internal memory plus memory card (splitting storage into 2 discrete locations is poor design..)
- the crappy hardware (low resolution touch screen, does not respond well to touch)


He also debunks Neil Young's claims about high resolution audio. Young claimed that the difference is so huge that you can hear it in your car stereo. Not true if you actually test it.

Pogue also states the embarrassing fact that the Pono store sells mostly CD resolution files, and only a small subset of hi res files, which suggests that Neil Young does not really believe in his own marketing pitch. If CD resolution is crap, why sell it in the first place, especially as lots of sources for it already exist.


The most popular portable music players are mobile phones and iPods. If you want to market a new product successfully, the product should be significantly better in at least one key area.
If a difference in sound is only perceptible in a highly controlled environment that does not resemble the expected usage model (background noise while listening to music on the go, noise from the car engine, etc.), it indicates poor product design more than anything else.

After years of iPods and iPhones on the market, there is really no excuse for a poorly designed user interface on a music player.
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