Pono Engineers: We Offer “No Significant Technical Advantage Over CD-Quality…”


That’s according to the New York Post, which is reporting that multiple Pono ‘product engineers’ are now questioning their own fidelity.


“Product engineers for the shaggy rock icon’s newly released Pono digital music player have privately admitted they aren’t convinced that the high-resolution audio files it plays have any significant technical advantage over CD-quality files, sources told The Post.”

Pono, and its passionate leader Neil Young, have yet to comment on the report.

26 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    if a tree falls in the forest does it make a sound?

    if we cannot see electrons and photons floating around and moving through us, do they exist?

    if we have a narrow band vision and hearing, does anything outside our realm of knowledge have any affect/effect on us?

    they almost shut the patent office down hundreds of years ago because they were just so sure nothing else would ever be invented.

    i think its safe to say the egotistic narcissistic human always thinks its learned everything and done everything and invented everything and is always good enough.

    if good enough was good enough we would still be wearing leaves for clothing and sleeping in stick and sod shelters making fire with our feet.

      • Anonymous

        thanks! 🙂

        if we restrict what the human listens to or watches, i fear it might stunt or hault their evolution.

        if all humans currently listened to the best highest quality music, perhaps they would evolve to the point in a few thousands of years where their hearing would be more advanced.

        its worth thinking about anyways and something i think slightly more important then letting some persons accomplishment or legacy, or organization or corporations who currently profit, own and control and benefit from the cd being the best, maintain prominence.

        just as sleep deprivation is found to increase disease, lower human ability and ultimately stunt growth and evolution, so does many other things we currently push and promote and perpetuate.

        sadly it takes a bit of elevated thinking and removal of the ego and killing the narcissism to come to a higher understanding of ourselves and our lives and our purpose.

  2. Justin schoening

    ho ho. And there are still idiots that claim that
    They cant hear any difference -mp3 versus cd ????????

  3. Anonymous

    Considering the vast majority of the people who buy this player will be putting music on it sourced from a CD….

  4. Anonymous

    Anyone that can’t hear the difference between CD or better quality, and mp3, is deaf.

  5. GGG

    I thought the whole point of this thing was that you’d be fitting CD quality on it, and it’d have the guts inside to actually keep the music’s fidelity? Was it ever supposed to be better?

    • John Dolby

      No the whole marketing has been around “above-CD” quality files. Unfortunately the whole market is saturated with misconceptions. In terms of human senses there is no such thing as an above-CD quality file.

      • steveh

        In terms of human senses there is no such thing as an above-CD quality file.

        I beg to differ:- 24bit sounds much better than 16bit – (CDs are 16bit)

        96k or 192k sample rate sounds definitely better than 44.1k – (CDs are 44.1)

      • Anonymous

        In terms of human senses there is no such thing as an above-CD quality file.

        Are you qualified to make such a claim and if so do you care to extrapolate on your reasoning?

        Just because benefits are perhaps not perceptible to our small under developed brains and compromised ears, can you be certain that there is no benefit from higher quality?

        If we went and got a homo erectus, would they be able to tell a difference between a bunch of random things that perhaps we as humans can clearly see or hear or notice? And if the homo erectus is unable to, would that therefore make them correct if they then said what they believe to be of high enough standard to actually be of high enough standard? Or would humans be able to understand something beyond them?

        Is this any different?

        • Anonymous

          Can you please define quality? I didn’t think so…

          It’s Quality of Experience we’re talking about here and since no two people hear the same due to variations in kinocilia, cochlear sensitivity, ear canal length, pinna shape, hearing condition, personal preferences, environment, playback medium, and so on, it’s imperative to use the psychoacoustic system (human auditory perception) as a model for how to employ digital processing (DSP).

          Audio technology must work adaptively (like our auditory system) in order to deliver the highest possible quality of experience (notice I didn’t say high resolution). Resolution is not proportional to QoE, and has been proven many times using double blind MUSHRA tests. The inventor of mp3 James D Johnston has said several times that you CANNOT USE SOFTWARE TO MEASURE PERCEPTUAL CODECS (i.e mp3, aac, aac+v2, etc).

          Look for technology that employs psychoacoustic predictors for ballistics, image perception, harmonic distortion tolerances, front vs rear imaging perception, as well as content era, listener expectations, hearing condition, biophysical differences, and playback environment.

          THAT is the future of audio.

        • Anonymous

          The average human audio spectrum can only hear 20Hz – 20kHz, but just because you can’t technically hear it, doesn’t mean you can’t feel it. There’s a lot of sub-frequencies, for instance in movie theaters, that may not necessary be heard but can be sensed and felt. Same goes for anything above 20kHz. The higher fidelity leaves more headroom for frequencies and energy to resonate & breathe.

          The problem with Pono’s is not the concept or the technology- it’s the fact that very few people have the knowledge and money to own the equipment needed to replicate this audio fidelity. Conversely, most people can’t even tell the difference between WAV and compressed MP3 files, and nor do they care. They do care, it’s a VERY niche market and not profitable.

          Here’s a great example between WAV & MP3 files: http://www.noiseaddicts.com/2010/04/sound-test-difference-between-wav-vs-mp3/

      • steveh

        One thing is for certain, audio production professionals will all agree that 24bit is better than 16bit and that 192khz is better than 44.1khz.

        After that it’s purely a question of d to a converters as to how that superior quality is delivered to the listener’s ear.

        But regarding the pure quality of hi res 24bit 192 khz files there is no doubt or disagreements amongst those who know.

          • steveh

            a. I DO know what I am talking about

            b. You didn’t read the article properly. He says that in his opinion 96khz is the optimum digital audio sample rate and that it is not necessary to go beyond that. But 96khz is already more than TWICE that of a CD.

            c. The article (from 2 1/2 years ago) is out of date with regard to storage space and file transfer rates being a limiting factor. As we all know storage space and transfer rates are improving rapidly – think 10 years into the future and these will be much higher than they are today.

            d. The article does not talk about bit depth – another enormously important factor in higher resolution digital audio. 64 bit is now coming…..

            e. And never forget that one of the benchmarks for high quality digital audio is the highest quality that can be achieved with high end analogue. There are still many audiophiles who prefer analogue.

          • small labe1

            sigh.. you obviously didn’t actually read the paper, or if you did, you didn’t understand what you were reading.

            nothing in your reply indicated that you understood one bit of what he was talking about.

            I’m not going to go point for point as I don’t have time to educate you beyond pointing you to the resource…it’s all there, all you have to do is read it…

          • steveh

            Article says (I quote):-

            That is why 88.2 or 96 KHz are preferred rates for audio quality.

            given the existing standards, 88.2 KHz and 96 KHz are closest to the optimal sample rate.

            What did I get wrong here?

  6. Name2

    It’s the 2nd cheapest hi-res-capable consumer PMP out there.

    No one – even Neil – claimed that this magic device would turn a pumpkin into a carriage without re-sourced masters.

    Listening to CDs is tiring. Listening to hi-res files on my kickstarted, signature series Pono is not.


    Maybe you should also retire the front-page link to the DMN story saying that pono is the worst music player EVER – months before anyone got their hands on one.

  7. Insider

    An anonymous source claims that unnamed Pono employees trash-talked their own product. No actual quote – just what the journalist says is the gist of what the anonymous source claims the employees were saying. Give me a break.

  8. Bandit

    What difference does it make?

    The device could have the best audio in the world but it doesn’t make any difference if people aren’t listening with quality amplifiers, headphones or speakers.

    The vast majority of consumers don’t have the technology to tell the difference between a compressed mp3 and a lossless file

  9. Greg

    Different people hear differently. Some ears can hear the difference between mp3 cd and
    hi res 24bit 192 khz quality some can not.

    • steveh

      Different people hear differently. Some ears can hear the difference between mp3 cd and
      hi res 24bit 192 khz quality some can not.

      Yes of course different people hear differently, and some hear these differences and some do not.

      But that does not alter the fact that music production professionals (engineers, producers etc) all around the world would all agree that 24bit 192khz is better.

      Who are all these internet pundits and journos who claim to know better than the people who actually work with the stuff, day in day out?

      Obviously different types of playback processors and convertors will have an effect on this, but the theoretical superiority of higher bit rates and higher sample rates is undisputed.

  10. johnc

    It depends on the quality of the recording. If you record with 24 bit 48khz and then release in 16 bit 44,1 (or 48khz, then CD Quality is definitely good enough for all applications. It is the original content quality which matters most, not the resolution delivered by PONO. The engineers have got it: CD Quality for the PONO is good enough, especially when listening with small ear-buds as most do.

    By the way: does anyone evaluate the number of people with aural hearing damages as a consequence of permanently listening to Music via headphones/ear-buds??? It must be huge !!!!!!!!!


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