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Launch of Pono Studio Headphones
Old 18th March 2014
  #1021
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brianellefson's Avatar
Woah. Over 1,000 posts in only 6 days. More drama than a Steven Slate product announcement thread.

I'm with many of the others here - I love the idea, but think it's gonna somewhat flop. This thing isn't gonna affect market share of iPods or anything else, but the people that do buy one will love and rave about it. Minus the Toblerone appearance.
Old 18th March 2014
  #1022
Old 18th March 2014
  #1023
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brianellefson's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by billcarroll View Post
While I kind of agree with the gist of the article, the guy is wrong about a lot of stuff. Primarily, tech people, his summary of Steve jobs, his summary of Hamm, but maybe that's just taking artistic license to create something interesting to read.

I mostly agree, but found him a bit over the top.
Old 18th March 2014
  #1024
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doncaparker View Post
Lots of mixed feelings about the Pono.

Neil Young is a negative for me. Too adamantly against digital for too long. Plus the whole "saving an art form" thing is too heavy handed for me. He is either insincere (unlikely) or deluded (likely) into thinking he is the savior of all that is/was/will be good about the music business. Neither attracts me.

The other musicians, on the other hand, carry some weight with me. If Gillian Welch, David Rawlings, T-Bone Burnett, and Elvis Costello like something this much, I'll pay attention.

Knowing that the format will focus on a sample rate that is way too high is a big negative for me. Good engineering is about balancing competing interests. Overkill on any parameter is usually bad and causes problems elsewhere. We can hear just fine at 24 bit, 44.1k. I could swallow 96k, maybe. More than that is going to waste valuable storage space and/or cause other problems. Bad idea.

The cost of the player, while significant, doesn't concern me as much as the cost of the downloads. Come on, this is the 21st century. Turning back the clock to make lots of money per unit ain't going to happen, not ever, ever again. Look, I would rather buy the CD than pay twice as much for the digital download version; anything above CD quality is not worth the money to me, and I'm freaking 50 years old, and love high quality audio. Paying that much per download will be even less attractive to younger customers.

Ignoring the convenience of other delivery methods seems to me to be another big error being made here. Yeah, people buy music (or steal it) a song at a time or an album at a time. But they also listen to satellite radio and internet radio, both of which now offer customized, taste-tailored channels. I'm a 50 year old geezer, and I find myself turning to those ways of listening to music more than my CD collection or my iTunes downloads (no illegal downloads for me). They are wonderful substitutes for FM radio, and they give me a great mix of favorites and new stuff I have yet to discover. Tap into that, and you have a good idea for selling music in the future. Ignore it, and you do so at your peril.

Yet, for all that negativity, I do want better quality audio. But, I want it the way I want it, not the way Neil Young wants to sell it to me.

Conflicted, but probably not jumping on the bandwagon.
+1 on the entire post.

If iTunes would simply offer CD quality downloads that would be the end of the discussion as far as I'm concerned.

While I certainly respect the goal of providing higher quality audio, and prefer lossless quality digital audio myself, it's hard to overstate how off-putting I found that Pono video. You're putting the soul back into music? Really? Sometimes I wonder if these folks are remembering the same pre-digital era I remember (I'm in my mid 40s). Sure, everyone had vinyl, but at least in my hood 95% of that vinyl was being played on a crappy radio shack hifi if you were lucky. Then we had the glorious cassette era which gave everyone the benefits of mobility and dubbing a custom tape at the expense of any kind of fidelity. Maybe I'm too much a product of the DIY era, but for us fidelity was always a distant second to the music.

I guess my point here is that the idea that higher fidelity somehow enhances the emotional impact of the music is simply not my experience or that of the vast majority of music fans. I'd put it this way, do the Pono folks really think that the goosebumps I got as a 12 year old hearing Dark Side of the Moon for the first time in my friend's basement on a ratty turntable would have been bigger had I heard it at 24/96?
Old 18th March 2014
  #1025
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Kenny Gioia's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jake View Post

If iTunes would simply offer CD quality downloads that would be the end of the discussion as far as I'm concerned.

While I certainly respect the goal of providing higher quality audio, and prefer lossless quality digital audio myself, it's hard to overstate how off-putting I found that Pono video. You're putting the soul back into music? Really? Sometimes I wonder if these folks are remembering the same pre-digital era I remember (I'm in my mid 40s). Sure, everyone had vinyl, but at least in my hood 95% of that vinyl was being played on a crappy radio shack hifi if you were lucky. Then we had the glorious cassette era which gave everyone the benefits of mobility and dubbing a custom tape at the expense of any kind of fidelity. Maybe I'm too much a product of the DIY era, but for us fidelity was always a distant second to the music.

I guess my point here is that the idea that higher fidelity somehow enhances the emotional impact of the music is simply not my experience or that of the vast majority of music fans. I'd put it this way, do the Pono folks really think that the goosebumps I got as a 12 year old hearing Dark Side of the Moon for the first time in my friend's basement on a ratty turntable would have been bigger had I heard it at 24/96?
+10 on this entire post.

I've always been more interested in making a record sound great anywhere and everywhere than making it sound amazing on a great system.

While I've heard some amazing mixes on amazing systems, it pales to how I feel when I hear a song and production that I love on just about any system.

Thanks
Old 18th March 2014
  #1026
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doncaparker's Avatar
 

Agreed. Give me great music recorded and played on modest equipment, rather than pristine sounding crap.
Old 18th March 2014
  #1027
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BudgetMC's Avatar
It's only Rock n Roll...

Old 18th March 2014
  #1028
Quote:
Originally Posted by camus View Post
More ridiculous than someone who writes songs about Gearslutz taking the piss out of the fella who wrote "After The Goldrush" and "Tonight's The Night"? I don't think so.
.

Yes. Just because NY wrote some songs you and a bunch of others like doesn't mean ****,
and doesn't have jack to do with anything here.

Sorry, but nice try at logic there.

I swear, people are so freeking star struck, they let logic escape them.

90% of the time I hear NY, I think of that old joke, what's worse than the sound of 2 cats stuck in a tree....

Answer, 3 cats stuck in a tree........My answer, Neil Young... heh

Don't get me wrong, I have some respect for him as a songwriter and even enjoy a few of his recordings,
but affiliating him with some new expensive pristine audio format is one of the funnier jokes I can think of...

.
Old 18th March 2014
  #1029
Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisso View Post
While I'm not sure i agree with Kenny's view of Pono completely, I think he's on the money about the stigma Pono is attracting.
I'm watching this debate on another forum and the disdain and vitriol being spewed regarding Young, Petty etc is surprising even me. That's the aspect a lot of younger people are focussing on. they don't want to be told their listening habits are wrong, especially not by 'has been' rock stars (as they see it).
The aim is to persuade young people to start buying music again, and to value that music.
Heading up that effort with a bunch of over 60's is damaging the image. And asking them to pay a premium for audio quality they don't think they need is another huge mistake.
A lot of people feel iTunes is already too expensive.
.

Precisely.

.
Old 18th March 2014
  #1030
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kenny Gioia View Post
While this is all true, you're getting into that geeky area which 99% of consumers have no interest in. This unit (idea) must be embraced by the mainstream to be successful.

People don't want to think that hard when they buy music.
.

Indeed.

.
Old 18th March 2014
  #1031
Gear Head
 

Sorry to go off topic,

I read to page 24, and I've lost the drive to read more of this thread, but I have been motivated to say, I think Silver Sonya has hit the nail on the head with precision every time he clicks 'Submit Reply'.

Many more of you, along with Silver Sonya, have expressed thoughts that are close enough to mine, that I don't feel the need to repeat or elaborate on the points they've made.
Old 18th March 2014
  #1032
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BudgetMC's Avatar
Rock on...

Old 18th March 2014
  #1033
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jose & ol gray View Post
Sorry to go off topic,

I read to page 24, and I've lost the drive to read more of this thread, but I have been motivated to say, I think Silver Sonya has hit the nail on the head with precision every time he clicks 'Submit Reply'.

Many more of you, along with Silver Sonya, have expressed thoughts that are close enough to mine, that I don't feel the need to repeat or elaborate on the points they've made.
If you mean rallying behind a campaign that ignores verifiable scientific testing, markets to the wrong people and has a product and content that cost too much I guess you are in good company!
Old 18th March 2014
  #1034
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BudgetMC's Avatar
One More.

Old 18th March 2014
  #1035
Here for the gear
 

I can see it now - The U2 special edition Pono. [ The Bono ? ]....Every U2 song ever recorded, re-mastered from painstakingly sourced original vinyl. Extra memory cards containing hundreds of hours of never before heard concerts, lovingly transferred to 24/192 from the original cassette tapes. Twenty eight remixes of ' Where the Streets Have No name '. Interviews with everyone who ever met The Edge. But wait, there's more !.............
You get the point, I'm sure, but joking aside, I have to say that while I'm all for better sound in general, the prices as they stand at the moment look prohibitive. There's no reason that I can think of for tracks to cost that much. Maybe they'll come down if and when more people get on board. If I hear this thing and am truly amazed then maybe, but it had better be astonishing.
Can't afford the BonoPono, you can turn your Pono into a Bono with a Sharpie !
Old 18th March 2014
  #1036
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jake View Post
I guess my point here is that the idea that higher fidelity somehow enhances the emotional impact of the music is simply not my experience or that of the vast majority of music fans. I'd put it this way, do the Pono folks really think that the goosebumps I got as a 12 year old hearing Dark Side of the Moon for the first time in my friend's basement on a ratty turntable would have been bigger had I heard it at 24/96?
I couldn't agree with this more.

OTOH, I think Neil Young is sincere about what he is doing; I get the impression that he really believes in it. I doubt he's doing this just to make money, he's following one of his many somewhat eccentric ideas to the logical conclusion. This isn't too different from pulling out all the stops to put out an album that you really believe in when naysayers abound. I hope that even if Pono doesn't turn out to be widely adopted that Mr. Young ends up happy that he did his best to realize something he felt was really important.
Old 18th March 2014
  #1037
It's not a zero sum game though.
You can have an emotional impact to great music and appreciate the great recording at the same time.
I know we obsessed about Steely Dan and Earth, Wind & Fire when we were at music school. And hearing those albums on a great system far exceeded me listening to them on my cassette walkman.
After all, CD was sold to joe public on better sound.
I think the point is that portability and convenience have now outweighed better quality sound.
That doesn't mean you can't have both. It's just that we aren't being offered both.
Old 18th March 2014
  #1038
Gear Addict
Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisso View Post
I think the point is that portability and convenience have now outweighed better quality sound.
That doesn't mean you can't have both. It's just that we aren't being offered both.
For Chris and others who want both, now:

Some portable players: FiiO X5, HiFiMAN 901, iBasso DX50, Astell & Kern

Here's an example of a home hi-res player: Sony HAP-S1

For downloads, here's a good search site: FindHDMusic

Geek out! heh


Cheers,
Eddie
Old 18th March 2014
  #1039
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James Lehmann's Avatar
 

I was looking at prices on HDTracks...

Take one of my favourite Jazz albums, for example: Eric Dolphy - Out To Lunch on Blue Note (owned by UMG), and obviously originally recorded onto tape. Interestingly it looks like it's just being re-released on Vinyl, so I've included the 'new from Amazon' price in my survey (as opposed to the wildly fluctuating eBay/collector prices.)

Let's table up the costs:
  • 256kbps mp3 = $7.15 (Amazon US)
  • 256kbps AAC = $7.99 (Apple iTunes US)
  • 16/44.1k CD = $10.98 (Amazon US)
  • 24/96k WAV/FLAC = $17.98 (HDTracks)
  • Vinyl = $18.92 (Amazon US)
  • 24/192k WAV/FLAC = $24.98 (HDTracks)
Ultimately, as we all know the record industry is all about the money, so what this means is that the suits think you will pay:
  • $7.15 to hear the album
  • an extra $0.84 on top of that to hear it from Apple
  • an extra $3.83 on top of that to hear it at 16/44.1k*
  • an extra $7.00 on top of that to hear it at 24/96k
  • an extra $0.96 on top of that to hear it on Vinyl*
  • an extra $6.04 on top of that to hear it at 24/192k
(*Obviously there are physical extras with those - sleeve, artwork, booklet etc, but for the moment let's just zero in on what people might be paying purely for a different fidelity.)

Of course those differences aren't cumulative - if you already 'own' the album on any format you can't just pay the difference to 'upgrade' to the next level.

So if you had hypothetically purchased all the various quality formats as they have been released over the years you have paid: $7.15 + $7.99 + $10.98 + $17.98 + $18.92 + $24.98 = $88.00 (and we haven't even included repackaged 'collector' editions, SACD, DVD-A, Surround, MiniDisc, Cassette, 8-track etc). An extreme case maybe, but even divided in half it is a quite sobering number.

Whichever way you look at it the suits are laughing all the way to the bank, with or without Neil Young and his new Pono player.
Old 18th March 2014
  #1040
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Quote:
Originally Posted by James Lehmann View Post
Can someone check the US iTunes price for me so we know the AAC price?
$7.99
Old 18th March 2014
  #1041
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jake View Post
I'd put it this way, do the Pono folks really think that the goosebumps I got as a 12 year old hearing Dark Side of the Moon for the first time in my friend's basement on a ratty turntable would have been bigger had I heard it at 24/96?
AMEN!
Old 18th March 2014
  #1042
Gear Guru
 
UnderTow's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kenny Gioia View Post
While this is all true, you're getting into that geeky area which 99% of consumers have no interest in. This unit (idea) must be embraced by the mainstream to be successful.

People don't want to think that hard when they buy music.
True but the general public love a little scandal. Even if they don't understand the technicalities, if a prominent publication has an article on how Pono are selling CD sample rate files as "hysterical-resolution" files, they might dismiss everything about the Pono ecosystem regardless.

I wouldn't mind actually because I think the quicker this hysterical-resolution idea is killed, the better. Then we can focus on things that really count like not smashing masters to smithereens.

Alistair
Old 18th March 2014
  #1043
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Karloff70's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by UnderTow View Post
True but the general public love a little scandal. Even if they don't understand the technicalities, if a prominent publication has an article on how Pono are selling CD sample rate files as "hysterical-resolution" files, they might dismiss everything about the Pono ecosystem regardless.

I wouldn't mind actually because I think the quicker this hysterical-resolution idea is killed, the better. Then we can focus on things that really count like not smashing masters to smithereens.

Alistair
Out of interest, what do you think would be easier to persuade the public to be interested in, higher quality files (bearing in mind most are on mp3's, not cd quality files here...) or to compress masters less?

You'd probably struggle explaining the compression thing, nevermind causing any enthusiasm for it.

And demand for either is going to be the only thing that actually causes change. How do you cause a demand for less compression without going at least via touching on sound quality first?
Old 18th March 2014
  #1044
Gear Maniac
 

The one thing that I learnt from this thread is that I could have saved a lot of money by just sticking to vinyl to begin with.
Old 18th March 2014
  #1045
Lives for gear
 

So Pono is the answer to Po( r )no music videos ?

let the customer decide
Old 18th March 2014
  #1046
Gear Guru
 
UnderTow's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Karloff70 View Post
Out of interest, what do you think would be easier to persuade the public to be interested in, higher quality files (bearing in mind most are on mp3's, not cd quality files here...) or to compress masters less?

You'd probably struggle explaining the compression thing, nevermind causing any enthusiasm for it.

And demand for either is going to be the only thing that actually causes change. How do you cause a demand for less compression without going at least via touching on sound quality first?
Good question. I'm not the sure the public can be convinced either way (although less loudness smashing has a real audible benefit while increasing sample rates has either no effect or a marginal one). I think convincing the artists is a better approach. They should at least have a passing interest in the subject so there is a tiny little hope there.

That said, I'm not sure even that can be achieved. When mastering time comes, often insecurity rears its ugly head. The number of times I have been told by a client that they want a dynamic master before I get started and then told by the same artist(s) that the master is great but can I make as loud as <insert their favorite artist's latest release>...

What I am quite sure of is that trying to sell something that has no evidence in science and that the public have already rightfully rejected (DVD-A, SACD etc) isn't going to get us anywhere.

Alistair
Old 18th March 2014
  #1047
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Karloff70's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by UnderTow View Post
Good question. I'm not the sure the public can be convinced either way (although less loudness smashing has a real audible benefit while increasing sample rates has either no effect or a marginal one). I think convincing the artists is a better approach. They should at least have a passing interest in the subject so there is a tiny little hope there.

That said, I'm not sure even that can be achieved. When mastering time comes, often insecurity rears its ugly head. The number of times I have been told by a client that they want a dynamic master before I get started and then told by the same artist(s) that the master is great but can I make as loud as <insert their favorite artist's latest release>...

What I am quite sure of is that trying to sell something that has no evidence in science and that the public have already rightfully rejected (DVD-A, SACD etc) isn't going to get us anywhere.

Alistair
lol....indeed artists are the most fickle and desperate.

To my mind the perfect utopia would be if Spotify actually paid artists in some useful manner and the standard file format they used was 24/48kHz. If it can't be streamed live, it can be loaded onto devices the same way they do now with mobiles and then run the device offline.

That would be amazing all round. Great (or 'definitely not appreciably messed with by file format') sound, great for artists, great for punters.

The squashing is another issue. But I have a hopeful notion that if people start to produce deliberately dynamic, un squashed, high quality versions specifically for 24bit whatever rate 'posh' playback, THAT might have an influence on the squash war. REGARDLESS of anyone's idea of whether 24bit files are 'necessary' or not. If they create the urge to make records in a different priority headstate at least as versions, with a 'normal' version to go with it, that alone would be amazing. Again, regardless what you think of the validity of 24bit files on grounds of sonics. It would give a reason for people to go dynamic. Sure, they could already do that, but nobody does and it's a lemming scenario. Once a few lemmings go off the cliff in the name of 'high quality audio' and succeed, other will follow.
Old 18th March 2014
  #1048
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skira's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by James Lehmann View Post
I was looking at prices on HDTracks...

Take one of my favourite Jazz albums, for example: Eric Dolphy - Out To Lunch on Blue Note (owned by UMG), and obviously originally recorded onto tape. Interestingly it looks like it's just being re-released on Vinyl, so I've included the 'new from Amazon' price in my survey (as opposed to the wildly fluctuating eBay/collector prices.)

Let's table up the costs:
[LIST][*]256kbps mp3 = $7.15 (Amazon US)[*]256kbps AAC = $7.99 (Apple iTunes US)...

what this means is that the suits think you will pay:
  • $7.15 to hear the album
  • an extra $0.84 on top of that to hear it from Apple
AAC has slightly better sound quality than MP3 at the same bitrate.

Advanced Audio Coding - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Anyway, "the suits" at Amazon have for years purposefully and admittedly lost money on sales of music, ebooks and Kindle Fires to build sales loyalty and drive sales of other, profitable goods. (It lost over $3 million with a 99¢ sale of one Lady Gaga album, for instance.) Currently, wholesale prices for bitrate albums range from $5-$9 and 30% of the sale price goes to the label/artists, so it's unlikely that "suits" at Amazon and Apple are gleefully dragging sacks of money to the bank from selling bitrate music. (Apple fought the labels for years to keep album prices at $9.99 and songs at 99¢, only giving up the labels demand for higher prices in exchange for letting Apple remove DRM, which the labels also opposed.) Apple said for the first several years the mp3 store basically broke even, and (unlike amazon) they never made music a loss-leader.

There's no simplistic, monolithic group of "suits" - different companies have different costs, and an HDtracks is probably charged more for access to higher quality remastered music than other companies, and being small other costs are also probably higher for them as well.
Old 18th March 2014
  #1049
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I'm all for higher quality but when the product is digital and the delivery system is the same why should I pay more than I do for an mp3? I shouldn't. It's a marketing scam. If Neil wants people to embrace higher quality audio invent a way for us to get it at the same price as the lower quality stuff.
Old 18th March 2014
  #1050
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skira's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Karloff70 View Post
To my mind the perfect utopia would be if Spotify actually paid artists in some useful manner and the standard file format they used was 24/48kHz. If it can't be streamed live, it can be loaded onto devices the same way they do now with mobiles and then run the device offline.
Their business model is based on saying that no one wants to buy music any more, and you want them to go into a niche audiophile download business too? They've got enough problems already - Spotify doesn't make make money now from ads and subscriptions and Apple just overtook them in the US for streaming services, and is moving slowly into offering streaming around the world.
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