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Why Pono Is the Worst Audio Player I Have EVER Seen…

ponobad

The following guest post comes from Steven Finch, CEO of digital distributor RouteNote.  

Yesterday the world was introduced to Pono Music.  Pono Music was launched by Neil Young, and it’s easy to see that this device was created by old school music bigwigs with very little knowledge about technology or design.

Pono launched with a Kickstarter campaign that has so far raised over $1.1 million $1.75 million and I really feel that people have had the wool pulled over their eyes.

1. Device design is TERRIBLE!

There is a reason why every iPod and iPhone has been a flat device.  So it can fit in your pocket!  So Pono decided to make their new music player a triangle shape.. can that be more awkward?

 

2. The Technology Isn’t Revolutionary!

We have been doing a lot of testing in-house with regards to audio quality.  There is very little difference if you use a studio master and then transform it into FLAC format, compared to starting with an MP3 file and then transforming it into FLAC format.  FLAC is a much better audio standard than WAV or MP3, but it still has limitations (size of files).   High-resolution digital albums at PonoMusic.com are expected to cost between $14.99 and $24.99 (plus the CEO didn’t want to answer the question at SXSW about how much cut they would take on each sale!).

 

3. The Pono Player Can’t Hold Much Music

I find it very funny that the size of the music player itself was only mention in fine print in the footnotes of the Kickstarter campaign.  The Pono Music player has 64 GBs of internal memory and a removable 64GB microSD card included – thus, 128 GBs memory.  The average FLAC audio file will be around 70MB.   Thus, you will only be able to fit 1,872 tracks on the whole Pono Music player.

Limited?  Well, very much so compared to an MP3 audio player!

 

4. The Average person can’t tell the difference between and MP3 Audio File and a FLAC Audio File

We have done extensive tests here in our office to hear if the average person can hear the difference between an average MP3 audio file and a FLAC audio file, and surprisingly they CAN’T tell the difference!

As technology improves, so will the audio quality on standard MP3 players and smartphones . Is Pono needed at present?  NO.  It’s just a PR Play that will simply go away and incremental improvements in audio quality will happen over time!

(p.s. does the main kickstarter video have to be so cheesey?  Simply a load of celebrities saying it has amazing sound, but with no other information that means anything!)

 

This all just screams PR STUNT!

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Comments (228)
  1. john

    huge POS. i agree that we needed higher quality sales of music going “mainstream” but the pricing on the music and player on this service are outrageous in an already niche market. they will be lucky if they sell anything. neil young’s ego and money are the only reason this shit is even being presented.


    Reply
    1. Jeff Robinson

      This could be a boon for the Music Industry if people ‘hear it’ and it’s perceived as ‘cool’. Pono is WAY TOO close to the name Sonos though which may confuse the market seeking audio systems. That Sonos system is a solid device which solves many music networking needs for the home.


      Reply
  2. Anon

    and this is coming from the same guy who has a horrible design of a site, horrible name of a distribution service called routenote, horrible technology that isn’t revolutionary, and horrible service all together. yeah! i’d definitely trust my sources about pono from this guy! anybody else take this guy seriously?! lol


    Reply
    1. dave chappelle

      says the guy regularly using it


      Reply
    2. Hoodgrown

      That doesn’t negate the fact that what he said was true.

      When I first saw a photo of the player my first reaction was “what the hell is this”? In an age where smart phones and mp3 players are touting “thinness” and portability this is exactly the opposite, reminiscent of the old Nomad jukebox MP3 players.

      Maybe audiophiles don’t care about design and portability. I don’t know.


      Reply
      1. Raven Singularity

        As was explained on the KickStarter page, the design was done to allow for larger, higher-quality components and battery, spaced far enough apart to avoid interference.

        Whether or not that is true, it is stated quite clearly on the page.


        Reply
    3. Anon

      it’s not true what he says Steve finch wouldn’t know anything about mp3s if he sat on one. he wish he could raise money on kickstarter. sorry but no one uses his service or take him seriously. this is the same guy who claim he has a revolutionary service when he doesn’t yet bash pono for not be revolutionary? plz steve know that ditto music is better than routenote.


      Reply
    4. Ears

      I’m not sure what testing the guy has done concerning the sound quality of a hi res FLAC file from the master tape compared to and MP3 file even one sampled at 320. There is a huge difference in the sound which a deaf person could hear. That’s like comparing two tin cans connected by a string to a telephone. Dude should look into a different line of work.


      Reply
      1. Kevin Rivers

        Steven Finch always seems to demonstrate his lack of the music industry numerous times. Now he just demonstrated his lack of music/audio production? It seems to me that Steven only cares about bashing his competitors and other people that seems to have better success in this industry than him.

        How can he say these things about Pono when he has a service like RouteNote? While I do applaud Steven for making a response, even though its clearly a “PR stunt” for RouteNote, he needs to do some serious R&D regarding the industry before he make noise and state claims like this. This isn’t how a real CEO should behave. What he has demonstrated is sheer arrogance and ignorance.

        I congratulate Neil Young on a extremely successful Kickstarter campaign and I look forward to see Pono in action.

        Kevin Rivers
        CEO, Venzo Digital
        http://www.venzodigital.com


        Reply
        1. Silver Ears

          I am young, had a lot of ear training and I’m doing a massive research article on CD quality.

          mp3 is shit. Well, most files I have in .wav converted into .mp3 mostly shows a dramatic cut around 16-17kHz and its pretty obvious in the sound… If any of you had basic lossless compression lessons would know that there is quite a big compromise to mp3. If i converted any of my CDs, it goes into .aac which is a lot more advance and doesn’t add a stupid high pass filter.

          Still, go read articles by John Watkinson, one of the kings of digital audio and Chris Montgomery, the creator of the ogg formats. What you see nowadays that make people think they need higher formats is

          1. Shitty playback systems. Use a nice old JVC DAC (rupert neve’s choice) with a nice amp and some nice speakers, they will help A LOT.

          2. Too many amateur mixing engineers. We are looking at a generation where using an LA-3A means opening up a plugin. The quality of engineers are going down because of how easy it is to own and open up Logic or Live and just make shitty mixes.

          So… I mean if you wanna get a nice player like an Astell and Kerns with a nice pair of triple driver IEMs and you are good to go.

          I personally use my Black Lion ADDA into a pair of Adam A7Xs. It sounds great with proper acoustic treatment.

          And Neil Young is just an opportunist and liar. He said vinyls sound better and that higher sample rates and bit depth make it sound more vinyl like. That is bullshit. After the crazy amount of filters and elliptical filters and of course the restrictions of dynamics and stereo image makes Neil Young look like a schmuck.


          Reply
          1. TakeGreatMusicWhereICan

            I mostly agree with your sentiments but to demonize Neil Young for getting caught up in this merchandising/marketing campaign is unfortunate. I totally get his interest in trying to push people (mass market) away from settling for substandard audio THAT THEY ARE PAYING FOR — all the commercial music download services give you highly compressed versions of the music you shell out for — I think it’s a noble sentiment, but unfortunately this particular venture looks like an ill-conceived one and probably will flop. Maybe it will make some general market consumers curious about how good audio *could* sound.


            Reply
    5. Phamus

      Good job I couldn’t agree more,sounds like sour grapes to me too.


      Reply
  3. David Rosen

    I just don’t think anyone wants this. I don’t even listen to my own CDs / MP3s anymore. I’m 100% streaming, all of the time, through either my Google Play Music account or Spotify. That goes for on headphones, in the car, or at home. I was thinking about deleting my entire MP3 collection from my harddrive to make room actually because I absolutely 100% never touch them.


    Reply
    1. Vipul S

      How, exactly, do your personal listening habits (100% streaming? great.) extrapolate to the entire universe of music listeners?


      Reply
    2. Thomas la Cour

      You don’t care much about music og musicians? Nice to know.


      Reply
    3. Raven Singularity

      And yet… despite you not thinking there is a market for it, it has raised over $3 million USD in a couple days. Shucks, I guess you were wrong about people.


      Reply
    4. Mexicola

      wow. You’re deleting your mp3’s so you can stream them instead? What a committed, hardcore music fan you must be David. Idiots like you are what’s wrong with the world. Bet you walk into lamposts with your iPhone welded to your face, thumbs still twitching.


      Reply
    1. ray

      too many unqualified comments on here, how can any one say caviar sucks, if they have never tasted it???

      I have to disagree with those thinking this is a ploy for taking their cash. I have been involved in high quality audio for over 30 years and recently (2 yrs. ago) began utilizing digitized files (FLAC) for much of my ACTIVE listening. There is a huge difference in the “naturalness” of the large files vs mp3′s. That being said, in order for a person to hear the difference it requires several things;

      A. a system capable of high resolution reproduction (not necessarily high cost) most people listen through consumer grade junk systems, and yes, they won’t be able to hear a significant difference.
      B. active listening; that means sitting in the sweet spot and paying attention to the music not just having it on as background noise.
      C. developing ones ears is not unlike developing a wine pallet, you have to train it over time. I liken hi res audio to wine in that you can give a wonderful bottle of wine to a wino, and it is just wine. Same for great sounding audio, one must know what to listen for in order to appreciate it. If you have never heard it before you have no point of reference.
      There is a magical moment that occurs for those with the interest in learning to “listen” and who are willing to learn a little about audio and stop throwing away money on the overly priced junk audio that is sold to the masses. With good gear, well recorded tracks, and full files, the speakers and the room simply disappear. In other words; you have created an auditory hologram just in front of you. The music is not restricted to single points left and right in front of you; it now comes from positions throughout the room, stage front to back, side to side, and up and down. With one’s eyes closed, the effect is simply amazing! Almost spooky because there are sounds coming from places that your mind says “that can’t be” but it is, and unfortunately 99% percent of music listeners never hear this at home.

      You will begin to hear things in songs you know well and discover things on the recording that you had no idea were there in the first place. Finally, this analogy should sum it up for many; take a small digital photo sized for email and blow it up to 24 x 36 print, what you have left is a pixilated photograph that looks much worse than it did on the email, you can now see all the “jaggies” every where. Same for the audio files, you can hear the “pixilation” or “Jaggies” if you will on a high res system. Once you train your ears and mind for hi res audio, you will have little tolerance for the crap everyone listens too! Just like nails on a chalk board!


      Reply
      1. silverdroid

        The only comment post worth reading.


        Reply
      2. Tubes

        Your comparison to a “pixelated” photograph is interesting. You are correct, in that “blowing up” a low-res photo looks terrible (“Jaggies”). But this is not what is happening here. I like to think of myself as an pragmatic audiophile. I don’t believe in “audio grade power cables”, mpingo discs, or the vast majority of BS products that some audiophiles are enraptured with. They are not designed for audio quality…they are designed to extract money from your pocket. Pono is the same. I will give you that most low quality MP3’s sound a bit off. Where I draw the line is at CD quality… 44k/16bit. Anything beyond that, certainly, you are not hearing anything better. Pono and their backers are insisting that you will, and thus the money extraction begins. There are no audible “jaggies” at 44k/16bit, if you think there are I’d like to know how you hear them. Your “hi res system” (and I have a few of those too!) is as good as it’s source content, true. But, your ears and brain have a limit as well and you won’t (and can’t) hear what isn’t there (or miss because it’s “lost”)


        Reply
        1. ray

          I get your point and notice I clarified “not high priced” I delight from finding the gian killers out there, by no means is it needed to have boutique cables etc. to have great sound. If you have not listened to Patricia Barber’s”Smash”
          Sample rate(s): 192kHz/24bit & 96kHz/24bit found on the free HD Tracks sampler you can download, you should, everyone should. It is simply “STUNNING” I listened to it from my MAC into a dedicated outboard DAC and then fed into my 5 watt SET tube amp. I thought my system sounded great until then. I was simply blown away by the quality and detail from this file. Try it, I guarantee you will be amazed. Cheers


          Reply
          1. Tubes

            Nice track, for sure. If you can run blind test, where there are several recordings at different bitrates, and actually pick out the 44K one from the 96 or 192 ones as at all different, you should try it.

            I tried it with some tracks other than this one, and I could not tell. I bet you could not, either. I do think you would be able to find the 64 or 128 (maybe 256?) MP3 versions though. :)


            Reply
        2. ray

          So tubes, yes you can hear what is not their…it is called glare and it is caused because data is missing, again, if you have not experienced it, how would you know?….same thing happened to me, before I started studying and listening on the “next level” I thought “surely a DAC cant make much of a diffrence” boy was I wrong!

          Same as the self awareness deal, “we don’t know that we don’t know” That does not mean that others can’t know.


          Reply
          1. Tubes

            I have no doubt you think you hear something “better”. Or with “less glare”. Your ears don’t really hear…it’s your brain. I’m sure you will agree that it’s easy to fool your brain. How many systems have you had over the years? I’ve had several…and they all sound “different”. But “better”? Hard to say. What is more accurate? What sounds most like real music? Or the room? Or more natural? Very very subjective. You will hear what you want to hear unless you are not biased in the first place. How do you explain how the data has gone missing? The waveform can be properly reconstructed completely as long as the bandwidth is limited (as I’m sure you know). If you think the 44/16 samples are missing stuff (because they got the math wrong somehow) what makes you think the higher rates get it right? It’s the same math!


            Reply
            1. QuintoBlanco

              Regardless of what you think other people can hear or not hear, don’t you want to have the choice?

              You assume people can’t tell the difference, but let people find out for themselves. If in that process some people believe they hear a difference when in fact they cannot, so be it.

              I did a very simple (blind) test with a CD (not HR). I made several copies. One without any form of compression and three with lossy compression.

              I could tell the difference between the uncompressed and compressed music every time. I will certainly try the same thing between CD quality and HR quality. What was interesting was that the people who helped me with this test beforehand told me that it was ‘impossible’ to tell the difference. (I’m a sucker for these tests, I did the same thing with diet-soda’s, I could taste artificial sweeteners every time.)

              I’m a practical person. I will continue to use lossy compression, but I will also buy some albums in HR quality and others in CD quality.


              Reply
      3. Mitch

        Very good explanation. Since the advent of MP3, Most people have been listening to the musical equivalent of cheap port in a Dixie cup and have no idea how good (Like a fine bottle of wine) music can really be. The sad result is that even the master quality has been deliberately degraded, (Why bother with high resolution recording when it’s all going to be reduced for consumption.) The music industry will provide what the consumer wants and unfortunately, the consumer wanted cheap and fast and quality took a huge beating. But, just like every innovation, when quality can be delivered cheap and fast, it will be in demand. Power to PONO for pushing in the right direction!!


        Reply
        1. ray

          Thanks Mitch, it is sad that an entire generation has no idea how good home reproduction can be.


          Reply
      4. Nathan

        The main point is missed completely. If you begin with an MP3 or compressed file it is absolutely impossible to improve the quality of that recoding by converting to any other file. You have to begin with a large file like FLAC. This means if you don’t already have a FLAC file of your music you will need to purchase one. Yes, you will need to repurchase your entire catalogue AGAIN. That’s not going to happen.

        I am a serious collector with over 5,000 titles in cd and vinyl. Maybe 10,000 audio files. I haven’t purchased a cd in 3 years. I do still buy vinyl and convert which is the ONLY reason I still use iTunes. Most of my listening is streaming with 20 million songs or through dj software Serato using quality files.

        Pono will probably fail. Only the wealthy can afford to purchase a triangular device separate from a convenient smart phone. As a hardcore listener I don’t use my smartphone for high fidelity. I’m a parent and use a smartphone musically to exercise or travel.

        I love Neil Young. It just feels like this time he wasn’t listening to the consumer….I think the same about Jimmy Iovine and Beats…


        Reply
        1. ray

          Nathan makes a great point, all your mp3 files are junk and you must renew the titles in large files. The first thing I tell friends when they ask me about getting into true HIFI is ” stop downloading MP3’s” The old addage “junk in junk out” totally apples here. No matter how good or expensive your equipment is, a poor quality recording sounds worse on good gear.


          Reply
        2. Mexicola

          ‘Only the wealthy can afford to purchase a triangular device separate from a convenient smart phone.’

          Wait, what?!?! So you happily spunk $£$£ up the wall each month on a ‘smart’phone (ie. another moron surfing Facebook 24/7) but you won’t pay $300 on a dedicated device to play your much-loved music??

          How quickly the marketing men have captured the minds and souls of the populace.

          I despair.


          Reply
      5. Juzzy

        Good post Ray. I believe It’s a resonance thing! You either feel it or you don’t. A kick ass system is key but we’re also talking subtle feelings here.


        Reply
      6. MVP

        Best and most lucid comment on this thread – thanks.


        Reply
      7. WarmApplePie

        I agree this is a great post and the only one worth reading thus far. Yes, the Ponos player is not going to immediately reel in the “better-fitter-happier-ADHD” crowd but what it *may* just do is turn people on to stopping and *listening to the music, reading linear notes and lyrics, *valuing it as they did before.


        Reply
      8. tiniws

        How many people do this? I don’t disagree with you in theory. I love my vinyls and my stereo system, but I find that most younger people are listening to music in their standard car speakers or through their iPhone earbuds.

        The Pono system doesn’t seem like a sustainable model. It’s for audiophiles — so narrow.

        If the current trend in music-tech. continues, people will keep moving toward convenience, access to larger libraries, ability to use a variety of devices, etc. I just don’t see a sustainable market for this product.

        Prove me wrong.


        Reply
      9. Fred

        To Steven
        Music is for the ear. What the pono player looks like is irrelevant.
        Neil Young is right, much is lost in encoding.
        But even an 96.000 hz analog file has to be converted to sound. Much is lost there.
        What happened to the super-cd?

        Nowadays engineers compress and filter bass tones out.
        Compression hurts my ears, 3 minutes is all I can take.


        Reply
        1. rob

          the super CD faded because the actual improvement with regards to a standard cd is negligible or even academic only. If it was such an improvement as stated, it would have survived or even have become the standard for (High end) music lovers.


          Reply
      10. Randy Baker

        Agreed. Tonight on Amazon, I read a 1-5 star reviews of a book that isn’t even published yet. I hear people pontificate about how a movie is going to be sight unseen based entirely on the trailers and hype. And now we have “an effete corps of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals” bashing something they’ve probably not heard unless they were in Marin County or SXSW. Look, it’s not about the technology. Neil and Company have said repeatedly it’s about putting the emotion back into the listening experience. It’s not often I get to experience that and if I can get “sexual chocolate” in a Toblerone-shaped box I’m in. I’ll wait and reserve judgement until I have one in hand with a decent pair of cans and I have some good music queued up. I don’t know, maybe Klaatu? ;)


        Reply
  4. Aderra

    While I agree that most users cannot discern between lossless and lossy forma, this sentence makes me suspect that Mr. Finch may have no clue what he is talking about:

    There is very little difference if you use a studio master and then transform it into flac format, compared to starting with an mp3 file and then transforming it into flac format. Flac is a much better audio standard that WAV or MP3, but it still has limitations (size of files).


    Reply
    1. Aderra

      Sorry, should read “formats”, not “forma”.


      Reply
    2. Om

      True, that was excruciating to read. For the record, converting an MP3 to FLAC will do nothing to improve it – the lost information won’t magically reappear. FLAC is a lossless compression format for PCM audio so a WAV file encoded to FLAC will sound identical when decoded.


      Reply
      1. Qualia

        So he’s been doing ‘a lot of testing’ expecting to hear a difference between identical waveforms. Anyone wanting to do a proper test should create a 16bit / 44.1kHz WAV file (properly dithered) from the studio master to test against CD quality, along with MP3 files at various bitrates, and compare the files using a DAC capable of converting hi-res audio without downsampling and equipment down the chain to the ears capable of reproducing hi-res audio.


        Reply
    3. y31b

      I’m not even that knowledgeable on audio formats but that was an excruciating sentence to read.


      Reply
      1. james s

        The problem I have with Pono’s marketing scheme is that they are touting 196kHz files as being “highest quality”. They aren’t. It’s a marketing tool that will be used to get people to pay extra for something that can actually sound worse in a lot of cases than what are perceived as lower quality files (such as 96kHz audio).

        Read Lavry’s Sampling Theory For Digital Audio: http://lavryengineering.com/pdfs/lavry-sampling-theory.pdf


        Reply
  5. Jaded Industry+Dude

    Complain all you f*cking want but this will generate upwards of 4.5m or more from Kickstarter alone. Maybe even 10m. That literally means a lot of people want this product, whether you think its dumb or not.

    How can a publication like this, which constantly banters about how no one feeds the music industry anymore, be upset that a product is so successful in less than two full days? This is literally creating a new type of market for music that unfortunately HDTracks couldn’t make.


    Reply
    1. Hoodgrown

      Let’s see if it’s successful BEYOND Kickstarter. There’s quite a few Kickstarter projects who retail sales ability have been very questionable to say the least.


      Reply
    2. rmk

      There is a market for this music and player. I have a lot invested in AV equipment so that I can watch movies, concert bluray/dvd’s and listen to music at concert levels. With quality gear, differences in source resolution are audible and measurable. if you want your music on your phone great … I don’t

      PONO ordered and can’t wait to get it.


      Reply
  6. dange

    I’ve seen two articles about Pono on this site.

    This article was obviously hastily written and the author apparently knows very little–or has not thought much–about anything he wrote. The author of the other article feels obligated to marginalize Neil Young by pointing out his advanced age and his “earthy” feel, and calls it “cocky” to try to compete with the almighty Apple. The implication of both articles seems to be “How Dare Pono try to get business away from my beloved Apple!”

    It is interesting to me that, when anyone makes any attempt to compete with Apple’s near monopoly–which I think is largely the result of Apple’s having come crying to congress, afraid that Microsoft was getting a monoply–Apple disciples become indignant.


    Reply
    1. Hoodgrown

      ” The implication of both articles seems to be “How Dare Pono try to get business away from my beloved Apple!”

      Really? That was your whole take on the articles. You didn’t see anything else there, huh?


      Reply
      1. dange

        I saw something else. Is that your best defense, hoodgrown?


        Reply
      2. dange

        I saw something else? Why do you think that’s all I saw? Is that all you’ve got, Hoodgrown?


        Reply
      3. dange

        Well, I wrote more. Why is that all you think I saw?


        Reply
  7. Minneapolis Musician

    It’s like this $11,580 RCA cable from Transparent Cable:


    Reply
  8. Steeve

    You’re a fuckin’ moron.


    Reply
  9. HansH

    Read the FAQ:
    HOW MUCH WILL PONOMUSIC COST?
    The record companies set their own digital music prices, label by label. High-resolution digital albums at Ponomusic.com are expected to cost between $14.99 -$24.99, and there may be exceptions. For this price you get the best quality digital music available anywhere, you own these albums forever – they don’t live only in the cloud, but also on your computer and backup disc, and you can play them anytime you wish on your PonoPlayer or other compatible devices.

    The French Qobuz streaming service offers unlimited FLAC for $20 a month.


    Reply
  10. jw

    Wow. Someone obviously doesn’t “get” It. Surprise, surprise.

    And coming from a guy who runs a digital service whose website serves up text via jpeg. lmao. A dropdown to change the language, but the main marketing message is a static jpeg. Talking trash about a Pentagram designed marking campaign. lol.

    Really don’t see a justification for posting this rant except that it’s just a part of the mid march snark ritual of sxsw.


    Reply
  11. Angry Roadie

    Extensive tests in our office? What, on a pair of computer speakers? Dick head, the difference from lossy to lossless is very much audible. Don’t let your shit speakers and headphones drag the rest of us down.


    Reply
  12. Erik P

    Nothing wrong w/ pointing out it’s flaws, but It’s the first draft of the pono. Give the guy a break.


    Reply
  13. Al

    Is that a Ponoplayer in your pocket or are you just…oh never mind.


    Reply
  14. Pro Audio Designer

    Shows your level of ignorance, Steve. Players like this will SAVE digital format players for those who have an appreciation of real music and not the junk formats most call music. MP3 is the 8-track in guess what, an increasingly HiFi digital world where peoples eyes and ears are opening up to what they have been missing.


    Reply
    1. ray

      true statements….
      I have to disagree with those thinking this is a ploy for taking their cash. I have been involved in high quality audio for over 30 years and recently (2 yrs. ago) began utilizing digitized files (FLAC) for much of my ACTIVE listening. There is a huge difference in the “naturalness” of the large files vs mp3′s. That being said, in order for a person to hear the difference it requires several things;

      A. a system capable of high resolution reproduction (not necessarily high cost) most people listen through consumer grade junk systems, and yes, they won’t be able to hear a significant difference.
      B. active listening; that means sitting in the sweet spot and paying attention to the music not just having it on as background noise.
      C. developing ones ears is not unlike developing a wine pallet, you have to train it over time. I liken hi res audio to wine in that you can give a wonderful bottle of wine to a wino, and it is just wine. Same for great sounding audio, one must know what to listen for in order to appreciate it. If you have never heard it before you have no point of reference.
      There is a magical moment that occurs for those with the interest in learning to “listen” and who are willing to learn a little about audio and stop throwing away money on the overly priced junk audio that is sold to the masses. With good gear, well recorded tracks, and full files, the speakers and the room simply disappear. In other words; you have created an auditory hologram just in front of you. The music is not restricted to single points left and right in front of you; it now comes from positions throughout the room, stage front to back, side to side, and up and down. With one’s eyes closed, the effect is simply amazing! Almost spooky because there are sounds coming from places that your mind says “that can’t be” but it is, and unfortunately 99% percent of music listeners never hear this at home.

      You will begin to hear things in songs you know well and discover things on the recording that you had no idea were there in the first place. Finally, this analogy should sum it up for many; take a small digital photo sized for email and blow it up to 24 x 36 print, what you have left is a pixilated photograph that looks much worse than it did on the email, you can now see all the “jaggies” every where. Same for the audio files, you can hear the “pixilation” or “Jaggies” if you will on a high res system. Once you train your ears and mind for hi res audio, you will have little tolerance for the crap everyone listens too! Just like nails on a chalk board!


      Reply
      1. Pro Audio Designer

        You aced it, fellow audiophile!


        Reply
        1. ray

          Thank you PRO AUDIO DESIGNER, you know how many thousands of hours of active listening it takes to develop our auditory pallet, i find it amazing that people who have only listend to files on earbuds or crappy consumer junk, think they know better…it takes years of listening, reading and comparing at live performances in order to develop one’s auditory pallet.


          Reply
          1. John

            I believe “palate” is the word you’re looking for.


            Reply
          2. Frank

            I’ve been in the audio business for just over 50 years. I still sell high end components. I find that if you play superbly reproduced music on any car speakers, table radios, etc. it sounds far better than an ordinary recording. You absolutely do not need expensive gear to go to a special place in your head; you nned good media. I sold cheap “systems” in college using direct-to-disc LP’s, sometimes on $78.00 folding (!) stereos and made the sale every time. Cheap earbuds or no, we all benefit from low distortion, uncompressed music. As products like the Pono elevate the market’s awareness, better formats will be created; look how far digital has come, from an irritating chore to listen to, to a damn good sound approaching the best analog. Comparing 320 to uncompressed music is an eye (ear?) opener. Even now, I can easily hear the difference between compressed and uncompressed and it has very little to do with the 17kHz cutoff. Those who deny the difference are merely Luddites who never actually had the experience; they simply guess and spout opinions to validate their point of view. Finally, every damn time I offered up an audition of a multi-kilobuck AC chord, the dealer said, “WOW” and bought it. I cannot hear much difference these days (I’m almost 70) but my customers can and so can an informed consumer. It’s subtle but I made more money on AC chords than many people earn in a year. No dealer ever told me he could not appreciate the difference if he actually listened with an open mind. To a great extent, much of this is priorities. Want better sound? Open you mind and your ears. You just might smile.


            Reply
  15. E2 Phd

    Mr. Finch:

    Some of your points are salient (albeit poorly elucidated), particularly about the form factor of the Pono device. I’ve no idea why the manufacturers think a triangle is a good idea. If they needed more room in the product for advanced electronics, why not just make it a deeper rectangular shape? The triangle is indeed awkward, much like your comments across the course of the remainder of your “article”.

    Next, you claim that there is little difference between converting an MP3 file to FLAC and converting a studio tape to FLAC. That might be the weirdest statement I’ve heard yet, unless your definition of ‘little’ is quite different from most people. If the root of a FLAC file is an already lossy file, it cannot provide as much true data as an uncompressed studio tape or file, which is the workflow of Pono music files, I believe. You don’t need much math to understand that much quantification.

    But the fact that the files will likely cost 1.5 to 2.5 what iTunes files cost is a big concern. This puts the software in a price column with HD Tracks, and eliminates a lot of the market. I’m not sure why you couldn’t make that a key part of your thesis.

    The volume of the device is not important to the market at all. The Pono is being sold to motivated music buyers on issues of quality, not amount of storage. If the limit is, say, 100 albums, I think that will be more than fine. Most people with 32GB iPhones never fill that space, and if they do, it’s a rare person that can play all of that music before they re-sync the device, likely swapping playlists at that time. Your apparent obsession with storage limits makes me think you enjoy the sound of a drive spinning up more than you enjoy music.

    “Most people can’t tell the difference between FLAC and MP3.” What research are you basing this on again? Tests “around the office?” How big and diverse is this ‘office’ you speak of? The staff you allude to wouldn’t happen to be just you and an obese house cat, would it?

    Considering your point more seriously, different people have different ears has been a time-worn slogan for audiophiles. I’m not a physiologist, so I don’t know how to back that statement up. But I do know that people very keen on music and hi-fi sound have a different sensitivity to sound quality, and can certainly tell the difference between MP3 files (which have a variable quality, and are therefore an undependable part of the algebra) and 24 bit FLAC. If you can’t, I am sorry to hear it. That could be because your ears are not as sensitive across the spectrum, as happens to most people as they age. But it’s more likely because of a generally closed-mind and a folded-arm, “I was here first”, pouty, tech-before-art attitude generated by the fact that you couldn’t get a girl to look at you cross-eyed in high school.

    Setting your pathetic personal history aside for a moment, it’s the last part of your list that really baffles me: “This a PR stunt.” For WHO, exactly? For Neil Young? I’d wager there’s nothing about any of the Pono project that will generate any extra income for Neil via record sales or concert appearances. His audience has been set in stone for decades, and his outside interests – whether it’s Pono or model trains – have no real bearing on the audience’s perception of him. The vast majority of his listeners don’t give a damn about his spare time, and are wise to have made that choice. And if it’s a PR stunt for Pono, then isn’t that kind of an odd circular logic with no possible reward? Of course, the makers of Pono want to promote the product, but arguing that the product itself is the PR gimmick doesn’t lead to any result at all. And if you are trying (and failing) to say that the Kickstarter program is a way of swindling the consumer for millions, then you really don’t understand Kickstarter. No Kickstarter supporter is charged for their pledge until the reward is sent to them. Having said that, Neil has a history of unfinished and abandoned projects, and I wouldn’t go into business with him if he were one of the two last people alive and held the last drop of water on the planet. But that’s one reason why the Kickstarter model is in good use here, since it forces Neil and his partners to make delivery.

    I’m not sold on Pono either, especially since I have already invested in a couple of DACs for home listening. And as much as I enjoy portable music, it’s really rarely a quiet enough experience to enjoy music in full quality – so why make a major investment in it?

    But I am far more convinced of Neil Young’s intentions than I am of your ability to communicate on your own behalf. Your points are extremely poorly presented, and your observations about the nature of the topic are bizarre, suspicious, and filled with a kind of immature ‘howl’ that identifies you as a crank and likely candidate for intense therapy, if not commitment.

    In fact, I think you lack credibility to such a grand extent, that I think you would be wise (and your readers relieved) if you would simply stop writing, shutter your website, and devote yourself to something that might actually help someone lead a better life. Considering your aptitude, I’d be happy to negotiate an arrangement with you for the cleaning of my gutters or shoveling of my sidewalks.

    Thanks so much!


    Reply
    1. ReelCromulent

      Well said/written as well great chuckle factor! (Seriously… House cat = funny!) Side note – I dove in for the Pearl Jam limited edition. Pono has me jazzed for this service… It will kick open the doors for distributors (i.e record labels) to FINALLY make a mass move to giving a crap about better quality – even if it’s on a smaller level a la respect (read – profit) of the vinyl resurgence. It’s a means to a better end.


      Reply
    2. Leon

      I agree, There has been a huge disconnect with music since the advent of the first digital formats. This is for people that want qaulity. They understand music, the idea was to get it as good as you can in the studio and then render to 16 bit mastering, and then have sent out to the world in MP3. Just easy stuff to carry around. All the artist knew this cutting these records to except less then what they hear in 24 bit audio, which is huge.


      Reply
  16. AARON

    Great unbiased article there from Steven Finch, CEO of digital distributor RouteNote who would of course- as an MP3 salesman, have no conflict of interest to the Pono whatsoever.

    Design is terrible: probably needed to be to do what it does. If it does what it says I don’t care.

    The Technology Isn’t Revolutionary: Saying that a FLAC taken from a studio master has little difference to a FLAC taken from an MP3 is exactly the same as saying that a Blu-ray taken from a studio master is little different from one taken from an AVI file. This comment is both bogus and ridiculous.

    The Pono Player Can’t Hold Much Music: First ipod was only 40gb. It’ll improve. It’s certainly enough to get going.

    The Average person can’t tell the difference between and MP3 Audio File and a FLAC Audio File: AHHHHHH. BUT we are NOT talking about the average person. We are TALKING about dedicated music fans. And they MOST CERTAINLY CAN tell the difference, more than you can seemingly even recognise. And reaching their kickstart balance on DAY 1 shows that there are a lot of audio fans REALLY EXCITED about portable sound quality. And if APPLE and everyone else were too damn stupid to realise that people aren’t idiots well to hell with them. If I didn’t know any better, I would at least go with the musicians opinion of sound quality. Not the business mans. Mr CEO. Pfffft.


    Reply
    1. BitchesLoveMe

      BOOM. take it, Steve. you’re input is a joke. this is really bad PR for Route Note……. not sure why you’re commenting on the PR for Neil’s Pono.

      ps. CD Baby is better.


      Reply
  17. Charles Kaiser

    What difference will it make how true to the original source material Pono is if people still listen to it using crappy earbuds?


    Reply
    1. Blair

      Judging by the numerous comments about headphones on the website, those driving the funding are very much concerned about coupling the device with the best quality-for-price headphones possible, which in itself may drive headphone makers towards competing for the Pono market.


      Reply
  18. Anonymous

    Really it only holds 1800 songs and it won.t fit in your pocket.Oh my god what is the world coming to. Children ,just keep on crying while the rest of us who were weaned on analogue enjoy the music the way it should sound.Mp3 file can never do justice to Pink Floyd and a lot of other classic bands


    Reply
  19. Tim

    E2 PhD pretty much summed it up-great post btw-but let me add that obviously Steve Finch fundamentally misunderstands and quite possibly has never experienced high end audio reproduction. If you are listening to music through your computer speakers while working, or with earbuds while working out or even in your car during your daily commute, sound quality may not be a major issue. If on the other hand, you are listening to music, the difference between Mp3 and lossless is the difference between watching Gladiator on your iphone and watching it on your home theater. It becomes aimmediately apparent how much music you are missing. As someone who appreciates music and sold millions of dollars of hi-fi in the component stereo age, I can easily hear the difference between an MP3 and CD in a car and even on the am radio range frequency response of my laptop speakers. Its that obviously different, and yes I’ve done it double blind (picked which was which) many times with different source material. As an earlier poster noted, its why Sirius/XM sounds so awful (quality)-compression. For that Steve you lose all credibility, but your issue with the storage capacity and the shape further underscores your ignorance of the intended use. People don’t need Flac files to play through their nexus pad or while they’re jogging. They want them to actually sit and listen to through high end headphones or a multi-thousand dollar stereo system. Assuming one never listened to the same track twice the capacity is plenty adequate and (DUH) you can swap out the microSD card. Unless you plan on a more than 90 hour music marathon.

    Finally, again I realize you probably don’t even own a real dedicated audio system of any quality, but if you did, you’d understand that the shape is designed so that it can stand up on a shelf or surface and the digital readout can be viewed. This is pretty obvious, but you didn’t get the SD card thing so…


    Reply
  20. riku martikainen

    Oh heaven forbid, you can only put about 93 hours of music on it. I can only listen for just shy of four days non-stop before I have to listen to the same song again?


    Reply
  21. braddarb

    Young is a GOD! If Young says it’s good, it’s good.


    Reply
    1. ray

      FREEBIRD!!!!!!l lol! lynerd skinird….what a joke! YES Young STILL Shreds!!!!


      Reply
  22. Life Back to Music

    As technology improves, so will the audio quality on standard MP3 players and smartphones . Is Pono needed at present? NO. It’s just a PR Play that will simply go away and incremental improvements in audio quality will happen over time!

    They’ll just happen will they?


    Reply
  23. AJ

    1. You don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re talking about form factor, “There is a reason why every iPod and iPhone has been a flat device”.
    2. Then you go on about the audio quality having a little difference. The difference is huge! Go into a Hi-Fi (a legit one) shop with a decent hi-fi system and listen to a LP, yes vinyl record. It smokes MP3 and CD quality. Neil Young is doing most the demos in his car. Check out this video of these artist and their unfiltered response after listening to the music at this resolution. They compare it to what they hear in the studio from the master recording. Compressed recordings step on the music, period. This video should change everyones mind. It puts a smile on my face to see how happy they are to hear the quality of the music and the emotion that is conveyed in the recordings. https://d2pq0u4uni88oo.cloudfront.net/projects/884493/video-355903-h264_high.mp4
    3. “Can’t hold much music” Again, not getting the point. Sure 100-150 albums or about 1800 song in much less than an iPod but the sound sucks. More to the point…
    4. “Average person can’t hear the difference” BS

    You’re in the wrong business reviewing musical equipment and the rating the quality of the music reproduction. The point to the PONO music player and resolution is quality and have it be delivered to the music lover in a way that allow them to listen to it the way the artist intended. If someone wants more music files stuffed into an iPod for 99cents a track that is great, but don’t hate of a great format that delivers better quality that has the artists behind it.


    Reply
    1. dange

      AJ, good job.


      Reply
    2. Eyedunno

      Not only can average listeners not tell the difference between HD audio and 16/44.1 CD audio, trained professionals in anechoic chambers with the most expensive equipment cannot tell the difference in doubleblind tests.

      44.1 kHz is enough for any DAC produced since the late ’90s to reconstruct smooth curves that are just as good as those produced from a 96 kHz source (with analog reconstruction 96 kHz is better, but this isn’t 1985, and we have software that can do the necessary oversampling). And you can’t hear ultrasonics, which is why they’re called ultrasonics. As for high bit depth audio, maybe if you have a speaker the size of a 747 engine and want to be able to contrast the sound of a pin drop and the sound of an exploding grenade, there might be a point. For the playback of music that has already been properly mastered, it’s completely pointless; 16 bits per sample already give you way more dynamic range than vinyl is capable of. What we need are mastering engineers who care about this and stop brickwalling everything. I’ll take my 16/44.1 Steely Dan over your 24/192 Lady Gaga any day. (No insult to Lady Gaga intended; she’s very talented.)

      Oh, and modern lossy codecs are also very good. You can claim you can hear the difference between a 256kbps iTunes AAC and FLAC audio from the same source master all you want, but until you submit to ABX testing, I don’t believe you. Most people can’t even tell the difference with 128kbps AACs on good equipment. FLACs are still fantastic for archival purposes and to avoid generation loss, but there’s nothing wrong with lossy compression at the regular consumer level.


      Reply
  24. Jordan

    FLAC is not a higher res file than .Wav
    Modern digital recording is created as .wav files, maybe do a bit of fact checking.


    Reply
  25. AJ

    Check out this link about the artist perspective on how they feel about the sound quality. Very compelling video with some of the greats discussing the sound. Steven Finch really has his head up his ass! I kind of agree with his point #1 but this is only the first player to be released. He is missing the point, the point is the access to the music from the source and Neil Young has been evangelizing that.

    https://d2pq0u4uni88oo.cloudfront.net/projects/884493/video-355903-h264_high.mp4


    Reply
  26. BitchesLoveMe

    “There is very little difference if you use a studio master and then transform it into FLAC format, compared to starting with an MP3 file and then transforming it into FLAC format.”

    that has got to be the most uninformed/misinformed bullshit statement i’ve read in awhile. get your facts straight buddy. do you have experience working in a music studio? do you own a pro audio sound system that can handle 192K 32bit audio? have you heard that depth of detail in audio recordings/productions?

    or do you have a consumer grade speaker setup? or consumer grade headphones that are really only designed for listening to music from an ipod that plays super compressed audio files (aka mp3s), where the true quality of sound is sacrificed for the sake of a smaller file size (3mb @ 128kbps. or 10mb @ 320kbps).

    FLAC is lossless. if you’re making a FLAC version of a studio master that was recorded and bounced in 32-bit audio at 192K… the FLAC file will be representative of the depth of detail in 32-bit audio at 192K.

    if you bounce that studio master down to MP3, you’re converting it to 16-bit audio at 44.1K. if you make a FLAC version of that same MP3, the FLAC file will be representative of 16-bit audio at 44.1K.

    there is a VERY big difference in sound quality between a FLAC version of a studio master/vinyl recording and an MP3. don’t be an idiot. your whole attitude in that article is bullshit, because for the most part you don’t actually know what you’re talking about.

    “We have done extensive tests here in our office to hear if the average person can hear the difference between an average MP3 audio file and a FLAC audio file, and surprisingly they CAN’T tell the difference!”

    ^^ yeah, pass those generic Earcandy headphones around the room. the ones that Florance brought in to listen to her iPod on the bus-ride to and from work. hook those bad boys up to your computer’s sound card and compare a “Justin Bieber – Baby” MP3 to a FLAC version of the same song (converted from an MP3). i guess your extensive tests were pretty extensive. you used the right gear, and you knew enough about the technology behind the file formats to come a proper and logical decision, based on your findings. good work.

    the only good points you brought up were about the bulky design and the price of Pono.com songs (but anyone with a brain has already come to those conclusions). other than that, you’re proven to be a tool. not a useful one.. just a useless tool. that’s the worst kind of tool, because it does nothing.


    Reply
    1. ray

      Yo Bitches love me, nice job! I guess this guy thought that the only people reading this would be people that talk ou of their *ss. I hope he learns a little before he goes on his next foray into hi res audio!!!!

      if they only knew????


      Reply
  27. Blob Blefsetz

    Selling files in a streaming world is like asking me to give up my Tesla for a bicycle. A bigger bicycle that doesn’t exist that you want me to pay for on spec.

    Can everybody stop begging? Crowdfunding is so two years ago. Know anybody with a Pebble watch? What a disappointment. Oh, they keep on improving the product, but the early adopters, the ones who pledged on Kickstarter, they got screwed, and Samsung’s product is superior, and also recently upgraded, so if you want me to lay my money down so you can get the support no VC will give you, I’ll pass.

    There are no unsigned bands who got screwed by the major label system. That was the fallacy that was supposed to be eradicated by the Internet. You know, a plethora of badasses who the major labels just couldn’t understand were gonna rise like a phoenix and revolutionize not only the business, but our ears. But it turns out Lorde was signed before adolescence and Jason Flom flew to New Zealand for American rights and if you don’t think the majors are scouring the world for anything good, and signing it up if it has commercial potential, you don’t have an Internet connection and believe everybody deserves a chance.

    So here we’ve got alta-kacher Neil Young wanting us to believe he’s a tech king. I’m not sure WME and CAA can figure out tech investment, but artist Young has got it mainlined. Why does everybody think they can do everything? What next, is Neil Young gonna join the NBA? Are sixty year olds gonna dominate at Wimbledon? Face it, you’re lucky if you can be world-class at one thing.

    And now I’ve got a single device that lets me play music, surf the web, talk, text, stream music and files…and Neil says I’ve got it all wrong, I’ve got to go back ten years and get a single player, that looks chunky in the pics, so I can get higher quality audio. Why don’t you just lobby for a faster Internet connection, so I can get hi-res streams? Isn’t Google Fiber gonna wipe you out? Do you really want me to go back in time fifteen years when MP3s were cool? What next, a return to BlackBerry, because it had a keyboard and it was such a good e-mail device?

    But you can’t even show me a finished product. And even though you’re a rich rock star (aren’t they all?) you can’t pay for it, I have to. And that means very few people will, and I’ll end up with a paperweight.

    No thanks.

    But every media outlet in the world is covering this story, as if it has meaning. But it doesn’t.

    Oh, they’ll review Neil Young’s new record too, but no one will buy that either. Oh, a few might stream it, but then move on, because he hasn’t made memorable music since “Greendale,” and that’s cutting him a break.

    Do I want high quality music on the run?

    Of course!

    But portable turntables never broke through.

    And neither will Pono.


    Reply
  28. Mike

    “There is very little difference if you use a studio master and then transform it into FLAC format, compared to starting with an MP3 file and then transforming it into FLAC format.”

    Just confirming that this is amongst the dumbest things I’ve read in quite awhile. Mr. Finch is either clueless or has agenda of some sort.

    “(plus the CEO didn’t want to answer the question at SXSW about how much cut they would take on each sale!).”

    OMG! :rolleyes:


    Reply
  29. Mike

    After reading that Mr. Finch has his own internet music business I understand his ridiculous post. He’s afraid of Pono. Neil Young has been touting Pono as some revolutionary new machine and that is silly. It’s a Flac player. His store will be like HDtracks. Personally, I’m not paying 20 bucks or more to download one album that I already own as a well mastered cd, but it’s nice to see that someone is trying to lure the latest generation away from crappy sounding mp3’s. That can’t be a bad thing.


    Reply
  30. Mike

    “Do I want high quality music on the run?

    Of course!

    But portable turntables never broke through.”

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!! I don’t know if this is a real Bob article or a joke, I haven’t read him in in years. If this is parody, it’s great. Thanks!!


    Reply
  31. Mike

    “We have done extensive tests here in our office to hear if the average person can hear the difference between an average MP3 audio file and a FLAC audio file, and surprisingly they CAN’T tell the difference!”

    – must have a broken amp/speakers or be listening through one dollar earbuds.


    Reply
    1. ray

      I have to disagree with those thinking this is a ploy for taking their cash. I have been involved in high quality audio for over 30 years and recently (2 yrs. ago) began utilizing digitized files (FLAC) for much of my ACTIVE listening. There is a huge difference in the “naturalness” of the large files vs mp3’s. That being said, in order for a person to hear the difference it requires several things;

      A. a system capable of high resolution reproduction (not necessarily high cost) most people listen through consumer grade junk systems, and yes, they won’t be able to hear a significant difference.
      B. active listening; that means sitting in the sweet spot and paying attention to the music not just having it on as background noise.
      C. developing ones ears is not unlike developing a wine pallet, you have to train it over time. I liken hi res audio to wine in that you can give a wonderful bottle of wine to a wino, and it is just wine. Same for great sounding audio, one must know what to listen for in order to appreciate it. If you have never heard it before you have no point of reference.
      There is a magical moment that occurs for those with the interest in learning to “listen” and who are willing to learn a little about audio and stop throwing away money on the overly priced junk audio that is sold to the masses. With good gear, well recorded tracks, and full files, the speakers and the room simply disappear. In other words; you have created an auditory hologram just in front of you. The music is not restricted to single points left and right in front of you; it now comes from positions throughout the room, stage front to back, side to side, and up and down. With one’s eyes closed, the effect is simply amazing! Almost spooky because there are sounds coming from places that your mind says “that can’t be” but it is, and unfortunately 99% percent of music listeners never hear this at home.

      You will begin to hear things in songs you know well and discover things on the recording that you had no idea were there in the first place. Finally, this analogy should sum it up for many; take a small digital photo sized for email and blow it up to 24 x 36 print, what you have left is a pixilated photograph that looks much worse than it did on the email, you can now see all the “jaggies” every where. Same for the audio files, you can hear the “pixilation” or “Jaggies” if you will on a high res system. Once you train your ears and mind for hi res audio, you will have little tolerance for the crap everyone listens too! Just like nails on a chalk board!


      Reply
  32. Stephen Pate

    Neil thanks everyone for the buzz.


    Reply
  33. JTVDigital

    I think Pono is a great initiative, same as all other projects / services where there is an attempt of delivering higher audio quality to the end consumer.

    That being said it may face the same issues as existing initiatives are facing at the moment:

    1. This is a niche market.
    Only audiophiles really care about audio quality, and as we can see by reading the above post, most people don’t give a f*!+$ about sound quality and do not even know the difference between a highly compressed codec like mp3 and a lossless codec like FLAC…
    And yes most people listen to music with shit earbuds, computer speakers or in their car, surrounded by traffic and engine noise.
    This is sad but true, but they’re probably not the type of consumers targeted by Pono.
    Ok so the niche consumer base here consists in audiophiles, musicians, geeks or purists, or a mix of these.
    Now how do you make these people buy digital music?
    That is the challenge here.
    The targeted consumers (the ones who like high-end audio quality) mostly still buy records, CDs if not vinyl, and are equipped with expensive equipment for listening to music at home (tube amps, high-end A/D converters…etc.).
    So far all online services selling superior quality audio files either failed or more or less survive since they’re backed up by investors (who are starting to be impatient to finally see concrete results).
    As you know I was working in a major record label, and the sales figures of existing services offering “high quality” digital files are depressing, really close to nothing.
    So Pono will need serious marketing efforts if they want to succeed somehow here, so far they seem to be doing well with the success of their Kickstarter campaign and the buzz they created, also when I hear a band I like saying the sound is great, as a consumer it makes me want to try it.

    2. Most master recordings ARE NOT available in “high quality” (24 bits / 96 kHz or 24 bits / 192 kHz)
    Older recordings, on tapes, have not all been digitized, and if they were, it was often converted into standard CD quality (16 bits / 44.1 kHz), simply because the technology allowing higher bit depth and samplerate is “recent”.
    In all labels, big or small, there are initiatives for digitizing or re-digitizing in a higher quality the tape recordings, but this process requires time and investment.
    Also remember major record labels are giant companies, and the case is very frequent where nobody really knows where the master is archived (at least it takes an insane amount of time to locate these).

    Then there is the problem of all recordings made in the 80s / early 90s (before the rise of computer-based DAW), where audio engineers and studios where discovering digital recording equipment (you remember, the digital recorders with integrated small capacity hard-drives?).
    A lot of recordings at that time were made directly in digital format, only with the standard 16/44.1 quality.
    So these masters will never exist in 24/96 or 192.
    Well I can mention some initiatives to work around this issue, where some duplicitous record studios rip off clueless record labels by creating so called 24/96 masters by just upsampling the 16/44 ones.
    Technically these are 24/96 files, but if you run a spectrum analysis on it, you see these are fake 24/96 files.
    This is happening very frequently when submitting files to digital services offering superior samplerates to their consumers, 1/3 of the audio files submitted are rejected since these services test the content before making it available for sale.
    So the Pono guys will have to deal with these issues as well.

    That is to say, good luck to Pono, keeping in mind they’ll have to face serious challenges and succeed where others have failed so far.

    Jeremie Varengo – CEO
    JTV Digital


    Reply
    1. Raven Singularity

      “1. This is a niche market.”

      Then why has it raised $3.1 million USD in just two days? It is set to break crowdfunding records. Reality doesn’t seem to back you up there, buddy.


      Reply
      1. JTVDigital

        Because of the hype and the good marketing campaign they did.
        It’s been years they are on it and Neil Young has been promoting this intensively.
        “Niche market”: if you saw the sales figures of existing “HD audio” online retailers vs. mainstream ones with standard quality like iTunes, Amazon, Spotify…etc., you could see it’s (less than) peanuts.


        Reply
    2. Deki Smokton

      YES


      Reply
  34. james s

    The problem I have with Pono’s marketing scheme is that they are touting 192kHz files as being “highest quality”. They aren’t. It’s a marketing tool that will be used to get people to pay extra for something that can actually sound worse in a lot of cases than what are perceived as lower quality files (such as 96kHz audio).

    Read Lavry’s Sampling Theory For Digital Audio: http://lavryengineering.com/pdfs/lavry-sampling-theory.pdf


    Reply
  35. Artur

    JTVDigital. Great comment. A lot of already said in this discussion. Just a few sentences. I really whish luck for Pono. Great idea. Just to mention Pono is not made to replace apple or any other device. Its made to be a part of digital playes world. And of course made for smaller amount of people that really enjoy music and enjoy when its played gooood. If you walk on the street and notice 10 people listening to music. I gurantee 9 of them are using phone plus shitty headphones. 1 of 10 will use good headphones such as sennheizer, denon etc. I would say Pono is made for those small amount that keep lookin for beauty of sound in music. Looking forward to have it on hands


    Reply
  36. Kyle

    A quick thought about the shape.

    Before we criticize the Pono as a non-pocketable device, consider when and where it will be used. Its shape lets it stand on its own. It lends itself to a desk at work or a bedside table rather than a pocket on a crowded train.

    Sure it’s not a device you can shove in your pocket, but maybe the designers feel the same should be true about the music.


    Reply
  37. Midwestern

    Whoaaaa…obvious bad information being posted here. A studio matter converted to a flac file skins obviously better than an mp3 converted into a flac. Flac is a lossless format. Converting a thin tinny sounding mp3 into a flac Will not help it. You lost me after that.


    Reply
  38. zog

    “Most people can’ t tell the difference in a real blonde or a fake” it applies to a lot of things . If my memorory severes me correctly people/ critics hated the design of the original IPod .
    Young put his money and soul out there to change the nature of the beast ,open up the discussion on why we
    we have sold ourselves out when it comes to the listening devices and what we hear. The argument is mute do I see any other artist putting themselves on the line concerning how there music is conceived to the public in the end ? If this gentlemen doesn’t like Pono come up with something better the people who care will find for now there is no argument , Young has made his statement let’s see how it sounds.


    Reply
  39. knobtwiddler

    The catalogs of the three majors HAVE, for the most part, been archived to 24/192 PCM. 16/44.1 was never considered an archival format.


    Reply
    1. JTVDigital

      If you say so. As far as I’m aware most archives are in DDP 2.0, and basically 16/44.1.
      Recent masters have higher samplerates, but it is globally very diverse, you can find some 16/44.1, other files in 24/44.1, 16/48, 24/48…Etc.
      It’s quite a mess really.


      Reply
  40. Willis

    Welcome to Zune 2.0


    Reply
  41. annbee

    HD Tracks and LiveDownloads.com, to mention just two long-running services, sell 24/96 and 24/192 files, at similar prices. Downloads Now! sells DSD files for this price range and higher. The market shows there are music lovers who want higher-quality digital files and are willing to pay for them.


    Reply
  42. ray

    I have to disagree with those thinking this is a ploy for taking their cash. I have been involved in high quality audio for over 30 years and recently (2 yrs. ago) began utilizing digitized files (FLAC) for much of my ACTIVE listening. There is a huge difference in the “naturalness” of the large files vs mp3′s. That being said, in order for a person to hear the difference it requires several things;

    A. a system capable of high resolution reproduction (not necessarily high cost) most people listen through consumer grade junk systems, and yes, they won’t be able to hear a significant difference.
    B. active listening; that means sitting in the sweet spot and paying attention to the music not just having it on as background noise.
    C. developing ones ears is not unlike developing a wine pallet, you have to train it over time. I liken hi res audio to wine in that you can give a wonderful bottle of wine to a wino, and it is just wine. Same for great sounding audio, one must know what to listen for in order to appreciate it. If you have never heard it before you have no point of reference.
    There is a magical moment that occurs for those with the interest in learning to “listen” and who are willing to learn a little about audio and stop throwing away money on the overly priced junk audio that is sold to the masses. With good gear, well recorded tracks, and full files, the speakers and the room simply disappear. In other words; you have created an auditory hologram just in front of you. The music is not restricted to single points left and right in front of you; it now comes from positions throughout the room, stage front to back, side to side, and up and down. With one’s eyes closed, the effect is simply amazing! Almost spooky because there are sounds coming from places that your mind says “that can’t be” but it is, and unfortunately 99% percent of music listeners never hear this at home.

    You will begin to hear things in songs you know well and discover things on the recording that you had no idea were there in the first place. Finally, this analogy should sum it up for many; take a small digital photo sized for email and blow it up to 24 x 36 print, what you have left is a pixilated photograph that looks much worse than it did on the email, you can now see all the “jaggies” every where. Same for the audio files, you can hear the “pixilation” or “Jaggies” if you will on a high res system. Once you train your ears and mind for hi res audio, you will have little tolerance for the crap everyone listens too! Just like nails on a chalk board!


    Reply
    1. Jonny

      +1. Very well said!


      Reply
      1. ray

        Thanks Johnny, I just don’t understand how people can form an opinion on something they have never experienced? Like a cluless person…”if I don’t know it, it must not be!”


        Reply
        1. jw

          Agree with this wholeheartedly.

          At a bare minimum, you really don’t have to spend that much on a digital-to-analog converter & a decent pair of headphones to experience an astronomical difference.


          Reply
          1. ray

            true JW, the DAC is critical and they keep getting better and cheaper. The .50 cent DACs that most people listen to on their devices, i.e. headphone output of Ipod, Zun or whatever mobile device, is one of the single most limiting factors in extracting the full sonic and spacial cues from the recording. In part, it is these cues that make a tremendous diffrence in the “realness” of the sound. I tell people that it is like listening to your favorite song/band as if you were watching them perform live just a few feet from you 6-15′, and hearing only their acoustic instruments or their personal amps …very diffrent than sitting back 20 rows in a large stadium and hearing them through the house system….that usually sucks! check out commonsenseaudio.com also look for the Trends TA -10 digital amp….excellent stuff on a budget and way better than bells and whistles systems costing 10 times what this gear costs. Audiogon.com is another great spot too.


            Reply
            1. jw

              Agreed. The used/vintage market also goes a long way in making great sounding audio affordable, too. I recently picked up a pair of old DCM TF700 speakers in near perfect condition for $150, & they’ve totally changed how I hear music. And that stuff lasts… I expect them to last another 30 years or so. Which you can’t say about a lot of stuff you buy these days.


              Reply
    2. Jape

      ray: “Same for the audio files, you can hear the “pixilation” or “Jaggies” if you will on a high res system.”

      Total BS. There is absolutely no “jaggies” in digital audio. None! If you think there is, you have no slightest idea on how digital audio works.


      Reply
      1. ray

        Jape I get what you are saying, Jaggies is just a word of many that can be used to describe “digital artifacts” it is not used literally, sorry I forget that many people don’t understand the audiophile vernacular.


        Reply
  43. oz

    all of this is pretty much irrelevant anyway, as nearly all music on iTunes, recently at least, has been uploaded and archived using 24 bit masters. these will, down the track, be converted to a higher quality/close-to-lossless format that will be used in their store, streamed etc…

    the digital world doesn’t shrink sound quality and possibilities, it expands them.


    Reply
    1. ray

      Oz, I have to disagree, many of the built in DACs and outborad DACs upsample and that makes a big diffrence.


      Reply
  44. jcartistmgmt

    Pretty crappy article if you ask me.


    Reply
  45. Nathan

    The main point is missed completely. If you begin with an MP3 or compressed file it is absolutely impossible to improve the quality of that recoding by converting to any other file. You have to begin with a large file like FLAC. This means if you don’t already have a FLAC file of your music you will need to purchase one. Yes, you will need to repurchase your entire catalogue AGAIN. That’s not going to happen.

    I am a serious collector with over 5,000 titles in cd and vinyl. Maybe 10,000 audio files. I haven’t purchased a cd in 3 years. I do still buy vinyl and convert which is the ONLY reason I still use iTunes. Most of my listening is streaming with 20 million songs or through dj software Serato using quality files.

    Pono will probably fail. Only the wealthy can afford to purchase a triangular device separate from a convenient smart phone. As a hardcore listener I don’t use my smartphone for high fidelity. I’m a parent and use a smartphone musically to exercise or travel.

    I love Neil Young. It just feels like this time he wasn’t listening to the consumer….I think the same about Jimmy Iovine and Beats…


    Reply
  46. Jim

    Agreed – especially about the fidelity issue. Will people hear a difference big enough to sacrifice 20k tunes for 1800 and a device that makes them look like Derek Smalls trying to get through the airport?


    Reply
  47. BigDawgPatriots

    I’ve never seen a published review contain only negative comments. There is a certain vitriol component to this all insinuating or literally accusing Neil Young of fraud.I never heard of Mr. Finch, but the tone of this article almost seems desperate. Apparently Mr. French’s own business enterprises would suffer if this fledgling format is adopted which should require more disclosure and editorial oversight.

    Mick
    Mick and The Big Dawg Patriots


    Reply
    1. Pro Audio Designer

      Actually, not such a fledgling format – FLAC was released July 20, 2001 and is supported by a lot of smartphones, car audio, consumer audio and professional products, even if not listed on the specification sheets. Proprietary codec creators, like Fraunhofer’s licencees have the money and litigation team to bully and intimidate manufacturers out of using any open-source codecs (two LARGE manufacturers have told me this, one even in writing), but some are brave enough to add them anyway and just not list them on the spec sheets.


      Reply
  48. Will

    This guy is an ignorant pleb. I agree that most people can’t tell the difference, but if you ask your average musician, I bet they can. Some people just don’t care about sound quality, and I’d say this author fits into that category. For those of us who do our options are currently pretty limited, anything that increases the availability of good quality audio is definitely a good thing.

    Keep listening to your Miley ahole.


    Reply
    1. Ray

      Good post Will, reminds of a good friend who has been a venerated music reviewer for a very well know major city weekend newspaper column. This guy writes about these artist yet listens to garbage size files on a crappy consumer grade system…he never hears all that is there. It is not about audiophile snobbery, it is about education.
      Discovering high quality audio at bargain/budget prices. It exists on many levels, people just think that “it is too expensive and too much trouble for the slight diffrence” it is not to be sure. That is why 99% of listeners cannot distinguis between a good and a bad recording, they have no point of refference. One canspend as little as $300 to $400 dollars on the right stuff and it will just blow away box store junk costing many times that amount. Educating oneself about this is key, if you just go in and hand the sales man money and say give me a good sysytem, you are buy what they think is good and most of them don’t have “a point of reffrence”


      Reply
  49. PAL52

    Next time, try to make a coherent case, if you can (“FLAC is a much better audio standard than WAV or MP3,” “no one can tell the difference between FLAC and an mp3.”) If you think the difference between an mp3 and a flac file isn’t discernible you need to find a good ear, nose and throat doctor, or better yet a psychologist so you can get some help with your envy-management issues. There’s a testimonial video with about 30 actual musicians who heard the system played inside Neil Young’s car and came away blown away by the difference. Perhaps you should ACTUALLY LISTEN TO THE DEVICE BEFORE YOU REVIEW IT.
    You’re an idiot.


    Reply
  50. analogous anonymous

    (In my David Spade voice) I remember the first time I heard about Pono, when it was called hdtracks


    Reply
  51. Shawn

    Is Steven Finch a complete idiot? Is his entire staff incompetent?

    There are know proven limitations in mp3 formats, even at the highest bitrates, that have been demonstrated to be noticeable by listeners.

    Maybe shit for brains encoded shit audio into FLAC and was surprised that it still sounded like shit?!

    And, Captain Obvious is so helpful in pointing out that a lossess format takes up more space than a format that discards information. Good job.


    Reply
  52. This post screams PR stunt and not a clever one. I have to wonder if this guy will still be a) in business and b) disavowing lossless music a few years from now. Surely the days of lossy audio are almost behind us now.


    Reply
    1. I should say lossy music downloads. Lossy audio will be with us for a while where bandwidth is an issue but why would anyone pay for lossy music given the choice?


      Reply
  53. Sparky

    More China,more landfill,more in debt,more marketing,more pirating,more copycats,more hype,more everything

    and I still play my 30-40 year old vinyl made in USA (Mostly) on tired dies and regrind vinyl AND I GUARANTEE

    my Advents (1994) willblowthis PONO thing away.Include me out.

    MP3? No,not me.Not designed for music-speech,OK.Books,OK.Music NFW.


    Reply
  54. Musicrider

    Hey! Anyone who has done extensive testing in his office sure has my attention.


    Reply
  55. jeff

    Your, unscientific mumbo jumbo reeks of industry jealousy. Pono will do what your ’30 years’ hasn;t done. It will reach and educate the masses about quality high rez music.

    It is aimed at the mainstream and is getting there with coverage from mainstream magazines, tv, sxsw and other sources.


    Reply
  56. Neil's Love Child

    you are an IDIOT !!!!!!! lol … writing to get reactions, eh? loser


    Reply
  57. Anonymous

    allow me to summarize the story of Neil Young’s Pono project ;

    Neil Young and co. will launch a player that can play flac 24/192 and other formats in late 2014

    more than 20 exist on the market today…..

    they will eventually also sell tracks and albums in flac 24/192

    30-40 or more sell such tracks today….

    they have made the most hopeless player which is triangular as a Toblerone , nobody else have done that ;)

    you can not change the battery as you can in, eg. mobile phones and since it is a weak part of this kind of equipment, it is not so smart to say the least

    so the only ” news ” is that they got 2 mio USD from a lot of people who think it’s a novelty, aided by a lot of journalists who quite uncritically brings the same ” news ” and helps to hype it

    thats no news either but just another example of how no-news spread through the media, social media etc

    and almost everybody jump in with both feet , hmm…..

    karsten madsen


    Reply
  58. Reiffel Range

    I agree, Neil Young isn’t listening to the consumer. He doesn’t have to. He’s trying to create a portable music system for audiophiles. Based on how well high quality audio gear sells vs. budget systems, I’d estimate as being perhaps 5% of the market. If Pono succeeds, it will be with this 5% of the market.

    Here’s why I think it may succeed.

    CD replaced vinyl for most of the market a long time ago. But the files are too large for inexpensive miniature storage. The cost of storage and transmission bandwidth are moving lower and lower over time. It won’t be long before it will be inexpensive to store large music files for an entire listening library on a portable device, or to download the large file. The convenience of buying a high quality audio source online could have a very large impact on music buying for audiophiles. Maybe Pono will fail as a product, yet succeed in creating a market for large, high quality music files and equipment to store and play them.

    If he’s not listening to that “5%” (and I have no data to say whether it’s 5%, 10% or 0.5%) of the market, he’ll fail. Pono’s success or failure will depend on whether it connects with the portable music wants of the real target market. The success of large file, high quality audio won’t depend on Pono. It will depend on the cost and availability of storage and transmission bandwidth.


    Reply
  59. ICareAboutAudioQuality

    This is possibly THE WORST REVIEW of anything ever. It’s certainly the worst review I have ever read of an audio player. Steven Finch– Why is this BOTHERING you so much? Along with 2-3 other negative reviews (and of course, a review of a product that does not yet exist is always SO accurate), you just seem to really have your panties in a twist over this. I have a smartphone that I stream “incidental” music to, and listen to crappy sounding MP3s on; it’s suitable for when when I work out, on mass transit, when I want a “background” to barely listen to. At home I listen to vinyl. Because I LOVE music and the aesthetic experience is paramount; convenience means less than nothing to me when I listen to music with full attention. And, No, I am not a bitter baby boomer bemoaning “the good old days”; I am 41 and thought digital was garbage from day ONE. You just don’t UNDERSTAND the Pono; it’s audio performance is the ONLY thing I care about, and for the $200 early-buy-in price I got on Kickstarter I am MORE than happy to give this a shot. If it disappoints, I can sell it for what I paid for it. You seem to think the Pono is trying to COMPETE with the McMusic devices streaming 64-128 Kbps slag; it isn’t. This is a specialty product for a target market. This market has spoken loudly to the tune of FOUR MILLION DOLLARS in mere days; that sunds like a success and the most confident vote possible; voting with ones hard earned dollars for a music device that is likely to be at least very good and possibly Phenomenal. If you are good with yer iPod or streaming to your phone, that’s great! Good for you. I choose Pono. I pay $25 to $40 for new HG vinyl LPs and use a $750 phono cartridge.. in a Vacuum Tube-based (McIntosh) audio system. The Pono may or may not deliver, but you must relax a it and stop pissing all over an alternative to ALL current music players, which I reject entirely as “quality” or even “listenable” TERRIBLE review.


    Reply
  60. FredtheMusicGuy

    Wow, the first amendment is just scary…free speech is terrific, but this takes the cake. First, who is this guy and what the hell does he know about a high resolution digital music player? It is fine to have an opinion, but it isn’t to use a big stage like DMN to display ignorance. I have never replied on a message board like this, but this one just demanded a thoughtful, factual response.
    For the most part, the comments here put this guy in his place – which is as far away from anything music or tech as we can get him. He isn’t dangerous to anyone to knows even a little about how all this works, and what the idea. He is dangerous to those who might want to know, and might believe him, just because he has a pen in his hand and a complete lack of understanding about what PonoMusic is, which, if you read their Kickstarter site or watch the videos with the artists or the CEO, it isn’t hard to understand.
    1) He doesn’t like the design. Pono describes the design as being optimized for audio quality, not to compete with a phone or an iPod. Charlie Hansen, from Ayre, is widely acknowledged to be one of the smartest guys on the face of the earth about digital audio, and his product, the QB-9, is generally regarded as a world class audio DAC. The design allows the Player to sit upright on a desk, or sit horizontal on a surface and allow the screen to be visible. Has this guy every actually seen this in person? Held it? I know he hasn’t heard it. Has he ever seen the A&K 120, or the HiFi Man player or any other high res portable? They don’t look like phones or iPods because they aren’t. They are portable audio components. Just a ridiculous comment.
    2) This comment is so idiotic it is laughable. Garbage in, garbage out. He wants to make a FLAC file from an mp3. That is preposterous. This comment is where he really showed his utter ignorance of audio technology. 3) At least he can do basic math, almost. If I take him at face value, and 1,875 High Res FLAC files fit on a PonoPlayer, that sounds pretty good. He just so doesn’t get it that the PonoPlayer is not competing with mp3 files on the basis of capacity. Of course there can’t be as many FLAC files on a PonoPlayer than there could mp3s. I’m not sure what point he is trying to make here, except that he really doesn’t understand what the PonoPlayer is.
    4) I don’t know what data this guy has to make this assertion, but he is again, just fucking wrong. What is the average guy? Can the “average” guy tell the difference between lousy wine and great wine? Lousy food and great food? a lousy photograph and a stunning one? It is categorically NOT TRUE that most people can’t tell this difference, and it is often dramatic.

    It is actually embarrassing that DNM allowed this clown to write something like this – mostly wrong, completely disrespectful of Neil Young and his commitment to give consumers a choice in the quality of their digital music. Obviously, this guy won’t buy one, and I’m guessing Neil wouldn’t sell him one if he had the chance.

    The bell shaped curve is alive and well, and this guy is in the far left quadrant of the “smarts” curve. It is amazing he can make a living in the music business, or maybe he can’t.

    He is so wrong about Pono, on so many fronts, he should have his pen taken away and never allowed to write for DMN again. He just, as they say, “does not get it”.


    Reply
  61. Matt

    Although I agree that Pono is mind-blowingly preposterous, this article does a poor job at conveying why.

    1) Yes, the shape is awkward. You definitely can’t put that in your pocket.
    2) Point 2 makes zero sense. I’m getting confused just thinking about what you were trying to say.
    3) This is totally true. These files will be huge.
    4) Point 4 is truly the only point that matters. The reason why Pono is insane is:

    YOUR EARS PHYSICALLY CANNOT HEAR THE EXTRA INFORMATION IN A 192/24 RECORDING.

    First, regarding bit-depth, there is no perceptible difference between 16 and 24 bits. Bit depth indicates what potential dynamic range you can digitally encode. While all depths, 8 bit, 16 bit, 24 bit, etc, can encode equally loud loud parts, they differ in how they encode quieter passages. Basically, as bit depth increases, it becomes possible to encode ever more microscopically quiet parts. However, by the time you get to 16 bits you already have the capability to encode such quiet sounds that you’d have to crank the hell out of your stereo to hear them at all. In making those quiet sounds audible, however, the loud parts would get brought up too and be so loud that they’d damage your ears and speakers. Thus, while 24 bits does mean a larger dynamic range, this isn’t usable since the dynamic range at 16 bit is literally more than enough as it is.

    What this means is that the only relevant aspect of a “high resolution” 24/192 audio files is the sampling rate: 192kHz. This cannot be over emphasized. Ignore the 24. The argument for Pono audio literally comes down to the question, does 192 kHz music sound better?

    Well, understand that as a human being, you are 100% deaf above 22Khz. This is a scientific fact. A CD sampling rate of 44.1 kHz means that frequencies above 22kHz are eliminated from the recording. This is perfectly fine because you would not be able to hear them anyway. A 192kHz “Pono” record on the other hand, retains frequencies approaching 100kHz, meaning that 75% of the sound is COMPLETELY INAUDIBLE. Are you a beluga whale? Are you a bottle-nosed dolphin? No, and your human ears absolutely, positively, cannot hear frequencies remotely this high. I don’t see how someone can honestly argue against this. Furthermore, the assertion that tiny, brittle, hyper sonic frequencies pinging around the room make the music “warm and analogue” or gives back it’s “soul” as the Kickstart indicates just baffles me.

    Couple this with the fact that most audio equipment CANT EVEN PRODUCE THESE FREQUENCIES and you’ve got something out of the Twilight Zone brewing. First you buy a Pono, then you replace your records with new expensive versions 75% comprised of inaudible sounds, then you buy a new expensive sound system that will produce these sounds that you can’t hear, all so you can sit back and say “finally I’m HEARING what I’ve been missing!”. Maybe eat a big bowl of delicious invisible popcorn while you listen.

    I find it ironic that Neil Young constantly affirms that Pono is “real music”. I do alot of mixing, and when I find myself AB-ing dozens of mixes to see which minute EQ changes I prefer, or changing the volume of an instrument by .05dB, I often chide myself for losing sight of what really matters. The production of a record is important, but tiny little details like those will never prevent a song from connecting with people. And to me, the mindset that recordings are unacceptable because they don’t contain ultrasonic frequencies that only a bat could hear is definitely NOT true to the spirit of music.

    Superficially, Neil’s heart is in the right place, I understand that he wants music to sound “the best” it can, but this whole thing is ridiculous. The things that the parade of celebrity guests claim to hear are literally impossible. Warmer, like a vinyl, like a forest of sound. One guy says it sounds wider with EXTENSION ON THE BOTTOM. How? How does that make any sense? You are adding inaudible treble and it boosts the bass? Maybe these people just sense the frequencies zinging around their heads, or maybe this is plain and simple, an audio placebo. Neil Young shows up and tells them they’re about to listen to the highest quality audio they’ve ever heard, they’re being filmed, most of them aren’t producers and know nothing about sampling rates and bit depth. They hop into his Cadillac which has an undoubtedly amazing system, and then they listen to God-knows-what (you never find out what they were listening to) then get asked to talk about it.
    In that situation, who’s going to say anything disparaging?

    There’s a Candid Camera where a waiter offers patrons garden hose water, telling them it’s something fancy, and he brings it out to their delight in a crystal glass. They all remark how much better than regular water it is. I don’t mean to say Pono is hose water exactly. But to me this is a situation of two indistinguishable formats, one of which is more expensive, gets celebrity endorsement, and takes up more space. Once the idea that something is better has been planted, your brain will start imagining things to suit that notion, and you have the price tag, hype, and size to reassure you that what you hear is real.


    Reply
    1. Pro Audio Designer

      Come to a high-end audio festival with REAL speakers, amplifiers and resolution. Bring your MP3 toy with you as a source and compare it against a FLAC. Let your own ears show you the error of your ways ;-)


      Reply
      1. Matt

        There’s no question that mp3’s and everything you can buy on iTunes are inferior. This is about the assertion that 192/24 recordings sound so much better than a CD that it’s like you’re bursting out from beneath a deep, dark ocean. READ THIS ARTICLE:

        http://www.trustmeimascientist.com/2013/02/04/the-science-of-sample-rates-when-higher-is-better-and-when-it-isnt/

        Every aspect of the science, from the biology of your ears to the math of digital audio REFUTE ANY POSSIBILITY of 192/24 sounding “better”. So why do so many people with great musical sense claim otherwise?

        Consider homeopathic medicine, which revolves around preparations of active ingredients diluted in water. A common preparation for the flu, Oscillococinium, involves diluted duck liver, diluted so much, in fact, that it would be virtually impossible for the final product to contain even a single molecule of duck liver. People buy this remedy, take it, and SWEAR it works. Read these testimonials:

        http://www.oscillo.com/testimonials/consumers/ testimonials

        It is LITERALLY impossible that this remedy does anything, due to the hilarious fact that there’s not even A SINGLE MOLECULE of the active ingredient in the final product. Yet people believe it. Instead of accepting the facts, they offer explanations such as “water has a memory”. And as I’ve said, even when presented with all the facts about digital audio, people will still claim that 192 sounds better; it’s called the placebo effect.

        All I’m saying is do the research before replacing your cd collection with more expensive duplicates.

        Anyway, my problem isn’t with Pono itself. Really it’s just a portable CD-quality player with high quality hardware, and if I had the money I might buy one. My problem is that the marketing campaign focuses on “high res” audio and makes it seem like listening to a track in 192/24 resolution will make you fall to the ground and weep. Wouldn’t it be enough to get people to stop listening to mp3s and back to listening to CD-quality music on good quality systems? How many people do you think are going to buy a Pono and some 192/24 albums, plug their shitty ear buds into and and go omg it’s magnificent!


        Reply
  62. mdti

    wouldn’t it be just enough to add codecs to our smartphones to let them play whatever format, inluding waves 441/24 bits?


    Reply
    1. Chris Johnson

      re: just using smartphones?
      Nope. The PONO is designed the way it is for a reason. I saw pictures of the inside and it’s using real parts like in real hi-fi equipment, notably power supply parts but even in general.
      Two points. One, using microminiaturized parts cuts down on the analog side of playback. Yeah, the FLAC bits can be put into the converter either in a big device or a thing the size of your fingernail, but you still can’t turn that into analog voltage as well, and people making the smartphones aren’t looking to get the final audio performance out, they’re looking for pocket size and battery life. Hell, you might want to put the analog circuitry physically away from the cell phone part, and how are you gonna do that with a phone?
      Second, half of the point here is you sit the thing on a table and shut up and listen. Jog later. Part of the whole smartphone/iPod ‘revolution’ is that you’re supposed to take music with you as you do everything BUT listening to it. Stands to reason mp3s work well for this as there’s nothing to be gained by trying to critically or emotively listen to them. With Pono, you’re not supposed to treat it as background noise. And saying it’s a horrible form factor because it fits in your pocket LESS WELL than an iPod?
      Man, you never tried to lug around turntables, tube amplifiers or record collections. Move ten linear feet of vinyl records just from one room to another and then tell me how inconvenient Pono is.
      I want one.


      Reply
      1. Max

        DACs in smartphones suck, dedicated DAPs sound way better, if u have good headphone with it.


        Reply
  63. mdti

    >>>>
    2) Point 2 makes zero sense. I’m getting confused just thinking about what you were trying to say.
    >>>>>

    I think it means that it would be enough to add decoders to your current device to let them play whatever file in whatever format. nothing new there. At least, that’s what I understand.

    >>>>>>>
    4) YOUR EARS PHYSICALLY CANNOT HEAR THE EXTRA INFORMATION IN A 192/24 RECORDING.
    >>>>>>>

    In fact, high resolution allows to mix better, more subtleties in levels of instruments relative to one each other, eqs are more precise etc. It should be hearable on the end result which should be closer to what the makers wanted to do, than mixing the same track at 44.1/16 bits which is a pain in the bottom.

    >>>>>
    1) Yes, the shape is awkward. You definitely can’t put that in your pocket.
    >>>>>

    no but you can slip it in your bathing suit next to your smarthphone and comb. Contrary to the latter, the former shape factor can simulate an appendice of yours, or attract attention. Isn’t that the real value of this device?


    Reply
    1. Matt

      Well, no DAW that I’ve used is set up to properly deal with 192kHz audio. Native and vst spectrums only ever go up to 22K, same thing with EQ’s, multiband compressors, etc. You couldn’t actually change a thing about the supersonic frequencies, although you wouldn’t be able to hear them even if you could. The only sensible argument I’ve heard is that a higher sampling rate reduces aliasing, but I’ve also heard that higher sample rates introduce intermodulation distortion. Anyway the most compelling cases I’ve heard are for 44.1 and 48. I’ve done informal AxB tests and heard nothing, maybe I’ll look into it again.

      I will say that I looked at the player specs and they seem legit. The video harps so much on 24/192 that I never even considered that the hardware itself could be a real source of noticeable sound improvement. Also, it wouldn’t surprise me if the tests they did in the cadillac involved playing an actual CD from a cd player followed by playing something from the Pono unit. The difference in amps, DAC’s etc could account for an audible difference and given the context, I think any audible difference in the Pono track would lead people to label it superior.


      Reply
  64. Chris

    Why are people so quick to trash something they have not tried?
    I for one would like to try it when it comes out so I can have an informed opinion. At the moment no one on this thread can say if it sounds good or bad because none of us have heard it.

    I find it amazing how people will argue and fight about something, which has not even been released yet.


    Reply
    1. Ray

      Because they are young Millenial hipsters who know better than anybody over 30 lol! it is all the same “bit perfect no matter what” such a shame because what is available is simply stunning. But hey, if they want to beleive in the Easter Bunny and Santa Clause, who are we to argue???? lmao!!!
      p.s. don’t forget the cookies and milk


      Reply
  65. Caleb Denison

    I was going to comment, but then I realized this – er, rant? – had already gotten all of them. All of the comments are right here. Mr. Finch managed to get tons of attention, and most likely pageviews, from a vacuous – albeit polarizing – post. Well done, everyone. We just gave him all the reason he needs to keep doing it. SMH


    Reply
    1. Deki Smokton

      You think the author would be that twisted? Nah, he’s probably a nice guy, an idiot but a nice guy.


      Reply
  66. Fed up with idiocy

    In the past a major annoyance with the DMN site was how your reply section moved to the right with each reply until unreadable but you’ve outdone yourself this time by making them completely illegible with the arrows or quotation marks blotting the out. What is the point of allowing replies if you blot them out? There is absolutely no point in returning to this site again.


    Reply
    1. hippydog

      You might have an older browser..
      I saw the same thing with my work computer which uses IE.. I installed chrome and it looked fine..
      Oddly enough I use IE all the time at home and DMN looks fine,
      so I have to assume its the older IE thats the problem..


      Reply
  67. Fred B

    1/ yes, you can hear the difference between CD and 192/24 (try snare drum etc.) but only with decent gear and recordings so get ready to spend at least the same amount on headphones (assuming the amp in the pono can handle them!)
    2/ Rick -loudness- Rubin praising the sound quality of the Pono is an insult


    Reply
  68. mdti

    what is the reference/brand of the DAC/chips used in this ?
    this can make a difference: it may render all speeches useless, or the contrary.
    If they want to reach audiophiles, they need to release component information.
    If not, then it is not for audiophiles.


    Reply
  69. stephanmathieu

    Part 1 or your 2nd paragraph made me stop reading anything else you have to say on this subject.
    Inform yourself.


    Reply
  70. stephanmathieu

    Now I see, you are running RouteNote:

    “…so that more music can be provided to more people through more outlets.”

    The problem here is the triple ‘MORE’ in your statement. The only thing we need more of is time, time to dedicate to listening to music, unless you prefer to listen to junk anyway, the stuff that slaps you in the face with catchiness, nonstop. NY’s Initiative is certainly not directed towards the huge masses, however, it can help to raise an awareness of what music actually is, or can be. Pono’s motto ‘rescuing an art form’ sums it up so well.


    Reply
  71. FF_Bookman

    Yeah this guy’s head is up his rear. bet he’s sitting in front of an HD display with an HD screen on his phone and a 20 megapixel camera snapping shots of his baby. clueless.

    Anyone invested or associated with the mp3 business, the oggvorbis business, the ipod accesory business, or the streaming audio business… are trying to tell you that you’re ears can’t perceive what you know they can. walk outside — that’s called unlimited resolution. go to a live music show: unlimited resolution.

    being alive is infinity bits and infinity frequency range that is sensed by your whole body (ears, skin, hair, chest, toes, etc).

    there are no “audio experts” working in the computer industry. audio experts run music studios and are in the rock and roll hall of fame. none of them mess with mp3 or 16/44. there’s your experts.

    Digital Music News should know that audio is not digital, digital is just the transport mechanism.

    also – garbage in, garbage out means the fastest way to improve every single person’s playback system is to give them better source material. spending on amps or speakers is still not necessary – everything will sound better playing pono.


    Reply
  72. SGood

    People born after a certain year, lets say, 1990, had access but didn’t get into the habit of acquiring music in analog formats….”we have done extensive tests in our office…” with who? 20 year-old interns? I’d bet they have never even heard a vinyl record before, let a lone a FLAC in a blind test…..so of course they won’t be able to tell the difference…we audiophiles need better products than the “masses” will settle for….whether PONO works or not is irrelevant, I’d say at least this is a single step in the right direction…REMEMBER: not everybody thinks about profits when wishing people could have better listening experiences.


    Reply
  73. Quinto

    Paragraph 2 says it all.


    Reply
  74. Frenchvintagehifi

    If you want to experience what Pono will provide, buy a blu-ray audio disc or a blu-Ray video of a live concert
    Like Alchemy Live from dire Straits and Patricia Barber mentioned before.
    Play these on an OPPO player and a good enough hifi system. You don’t need a 50k$ system. Probably a 5-10k$ system will be good enough. I guarantee you will be blown away!
    24/192 is better than vinyl, and I am a big fan, and will give you decades of listening pleasure without cleaning, surface noise and wear and tear.
    The Pono Player will give you a chance to transport this quality to a friend’s place or on a plane using a good pair of earphones like Focal, Grad or Senheiser to name a few.
    And yes I agree the form factor, the colours are probably not that practical or sexy, but it will trigger other designs, and who knows, May Jonathan I’ve will be forced to upgrade the iPod to iPono…lol
    More on this on my blog: http://www.frenchvintagehifi.com


    Reply
  75. Tom

    This article is a piece of shit! Though it does look like shit.

    2. Shock horror in marketing team blowing the hyperbole button to get people interested. your article, if it can be called such, needs to look at the wealth of real evidence present in this field rather than your frankly ridiculous opinions.

    3. Do we actually need to carry around the entire collection of music the work has produced to date, i think not. Whats wrong with getting into albums and really getting what the artist had to say?

    4. Our “extensive tests” probably short hand for asking the person next to you whether they thought it was better or not. There are alot of things we can’t perceive directly that we should encourage to be better quality you fucknut, food etc.

    Come at me bro @tomofthejungle


    Reply
  76. Dave

    Someone else may have commented on this already but did you notice that the author is a ceo of of a music distribution company. It’s very possible this article is completely BIASED since pono could cut directly into Steve’s pockets if it succeeds.


    Reply
  77. enjoysmath

    If you think the average listener can’t here the compression artifacts in an MP3, then you’re fucking retarded. STFU


    Reply
  78. Anonymous

    LOL As far as the average person not hearing the difference between mp3′ and real audio they must be deaf..


    Reply
  79. Christopher Amati

    ‘Average person’ meaning some clueless twenty-five year old who has no idea what musical quality means? The sheer hostility of this article reveals the author for what he is- an antiquated mossback who longs for the golden age of mp3 players. come on, anciano! afraid of a little progress?


    Reply
  80. Christopher Amati

    ‘only holds’ close to two thousand tracks. reveallng that so much of this mp3 thing is about acquisition, not quality or appreciation. And I love the defensiveness of mp3 quality- oh, it;ll get better.. someday.. not that it MATTERS…someone is heavily invested in current technology and doesnt like the feel of the ground shifting under their feet. And the stuff about ‘now much of a cut they will get’= priceless. From someone who apparently believes musicians dont need to be paid at all. Very revealing.


    Reply
    1. Ray

      great comment, i would much rather have a few good tunes in big files format than a zillion mp3, once the ear is educated, that shit sound like nail on a chalkboard!!! it is painful…puts me in a bad mood. I had to go to Vegas for business recently, I seldome go because I don’t care for it. We stayed at the Mandalay Bay hotel/casino and as I walked through the miles long lobbies/casinos I was constanlty bombarded with mp3 crap being played through junk equipment, i guess they think one needs to be “entertained” as they walk, holy crap! It just gave me headach and put me in a badass mood, I could not wait to get back to the refuge of my room. Seriously…open your mind and educate your ears…you will be glad you did, doing so even enhances live performances because you will become more attentive to the sounds. You know guys, this is kind of fun,
      the “good against the bad” it is funny that we try to share something wondeful in reproduction but hey! if they “don’t know it, it must not be” Well if we just spark an intrest and that gets you to explore quality audio, then it was not a waste of time…:)


      Reply
  81. Anonymous

    The Finch who stole the magic of music.

    You really are a twat who feels they are smart, sassy, on the ball and so on , but really like most you have succumbed to the new world where any shit can be sold to most idiots whether its good and does the job of capturing music as the performers intended it to sound ; no you are more concerned that your so called free stepford wives friends will think its ‘uncool’ because major advertising has told them thus. Finch carry on listening to you socially lemming accepted flat . easy to put in pocket and carrier of tens of thousands of 32kps masterpieces as they clearly suit your shallow brain.

    Job done


    Reply
    1. Max

      There are plenty of flat hi-res audio players already, the fiio x3, fiio x5, hisoundaudio studio v, ibasso dx100, and the astell&kerr ak100 all come to mind. This is nothing new so I dont understand why people act like this is a revolution.


      Reply
  82. Paco

    Es un timo. Si la mayoría de la gente no puede distinguir en un test ABX entre un MP3 bien hecho y el original Lossless ¿qué nos está vendiendo este señor?. Una basura a precio elevado para audiófilos que quieran tener una actitud snob diciendo que recuperan la pureza del sonido de la grabación original. Para hacer esos trucos y esas basuras tienes cualquier reproductor y utilizas el equalizador o efectos DSP, pero es no es más que proceso digital de sonido. Si la mayoría de la gente no distingue entre MP3 o AAC y el Wave o el Flac original , ¿de qué estamos hablando?. De Marketing y propaganada para sacar dinero.


    Reply
  83. Lk

    Love and respect Neil Young..but correct….who needs it!


    Reply
  84. MrGregOtis

    Lots of interesting comments. As for me, it will be years until I “buy” into any new type of format. I still prefer vinyl over anything, but I play CDs because of convenience. I have a boat-load of cassettes, and was really close to acquiring a DAT player back in the day (because of higher quality), but legal issues in the industry held that up. Then suddenly, CD came on the market. I got my first CD player back in 2000, after how long on the market? I do not own any MP3, or iPAD, or whatever player. Never had a use for them. They might be worthwhile if I were jogging in the woods somewhere, but I quit doing that when I left the Army. Yes, I can hear the difference in the quality of playback. I learned decades ago when I was doing reel-to-reel recording to record at the fastest speed. This is also the same reasons that FLAC is probably the current better format. I only state this of what I read, not from first hand experience. The less compression (or none at all), the better. But as for today’s teenager with ear-buds sticking out of his head, he could care less. He probably never heard the difference in sound quality unless he still has a Grandpa to educate him.


    Reply
    1. MrGregOtis

      In my previous comment, replace “iPAD” with “iPOD”. I do not even know what some of these things are! Does anyone have a transistor radio laying around that they are not using anymore? Ahhh, the good ol’ days…


      Reply
  85. Perspective

    Aside from the back and forth bickering of sound quality and wether or not ponos is a scam, one thing this kickstarter campaign has proven is that there’s lots of people willing to pay for higher quality music. Developers and companies developing music services / products should take note. There’s clearly lots of room to expand on ponos execution (or lack thereof) of bringing HQ music to the market. One thing that can’t be debated is that millions of dollars have been invested into an idea that ATTEMPTS TO PUSH HIGH QUALITY MUSIC.

    There’s something to be said about this.


    Reply
  86. Jeff

    Wow…I did not have time to make it through all these comments but I get excited about any technology that will bring music reproduction closer to “the truth”. I still buy vinyl because it “breathes” and I don’t hear the shrill, digital sound that became tiring to me. I bought the first Sony cd player back in the 80’s and I was blown away by its sound until I realized that what I was really reacting to was the signal to noise ratio, the “quiet floor”. Good records and good record players have that now. So hats off to Neil. I don’t think this is about “extracting money”, he doesn’t need any more. I think he believes in it. Whether or not it is a commercial success, is another story. Ever listened to “HD Tracks” downloads?


    Reply
  87. McDonalds Audio

    A couple of points:
    I believe the Ponos developer’s stated goal is 2-3% of the audio market, simular to the vinyl market.
    They are not looking to replace the Mp3 anymore than Ruth’s Chris is looking to replace McDonalds.
    Different food for different palettes and different wallets.

    My approach to kickstarter campaigns is that I am simply putting my money where my hopes lie. They may not
    succeed, but I will support them with a little money. They aren’t ebay where you are buying a product. I support film projects, music projects and things I am pretty sure will fail, but all the power in the world should not lie with bankers and venture capitalists, It is just a little bit of economic democracy.

    Finally, as a budding audiophile, you learn that you are only as good as your weakest link. Whether that is your amps, your speakers, your set up and configuration or your source material. Improving your components improves your outcome.
    -most of all enjoy


    Reply
  88. McDonalds Audio

    WHY ROUTENOTE is the Worst Music Distribution Network I have NEVER seen……..

    I can’t imagine that too many artists are going to want to be associated with this Steve Finch guy, but hey
    what do I know ?

    I honestly don’t see how this article , in this form, benefits anyone, least of all RouteNote.
    If I were one of his investors we would be having a frank talk.


    Reply
  89. DJ Jaspur

    I heard Monster’s GO-DJ also plays high resolution audio and does WAY more. Call me bias Neil Young but I’m going to side with Swizz Beatz & Monster here. My money goes much further with GO-DJ versus Pono Player.


    Reply
  90. jack walk

    A separate micro card is great. Sure 64+64 isn’t huge, but I can have a lot of cards.
    This thing is worth a look. Streaming music is nearly is not usable for me for more than a few minutes. It just is not smooth sounding, and there is no way I can stream what I really want to hear. I have over 100k audio files. Much of it not available on any stupid streaming service. Much of it I still rebought already to improve the MP3 quality, The 192/24 purchase would undoubtedly be the last. I like that.
    320k is ok for a lot of music, and I cannot tell the difference between it and 192/24 for a lot of things. But over a couple of hours, there is a big difference between gritty MP3s on an Ipod/Iphone and FLACs on a real player. This Pono thing is actually reasonably priced if it is a decent player comparable to an AK100, DX50, or X5.


    Reply
  91. Max

    The problem with this article is defined in its title. I don’t care if the author thinks this is the “worst audio player he has ever seen,” I only care about how it sounds. If he had listened to it and said it was the “worst audio player he had ever heard,” I would be concerned.


    Reply
  92. Anonymous

    Methinks Steve doth protest too much. He is like all the other doubting Thomas’s who haven’t heard the PonoMusic solution yet but are willing to tell us it will fail. It’s your prerogative if you want to pay for inferior sound.

    Yet another uneducated post on all the digital music news that doesn’t matter …


    Reply
  93. Daniel

    Arounds 2 thousand songs is more than enough for a media player and I cannot stand ipods or mp3 players, I am not a music snob (well maybe actually), but a 12 year old can tell the difference between mp3 and flac. Once I switched to flac, I started to enjoy music a lot more and would rather not go back to mp3’s. Plus ipod’s and itunes are the death of music, so anything to not support apple’s overpriced inferior products (including macs) are just a plus.


    Reply
  94. Swell Sound

    The author may not like the player form factor or online delivery service but cannot in good faith call into question the fidelity of the device given it’s price point.

    Devices with pre’s and dacs this good cost minimum 3x-4x more than pono so it’s actually a great deal for a high fidelity all in one player.

    Reviews by audio pro’s will ultimately tell the tale but I’m guessing you can hook this up to a high end analog system and get imaging, separation and stage depth way beyond anything in the mp3 player market and comparable to dedicated DAC’s costing much more.. Plus e-tree and archive.org are a trove of live FLAC goodness for free all sanctioned by the artists..

    “‘The digital-to-analog converter, or DAC, chip that Ayre created for the PonoPlayer is about 1/20th the size of the one featured in its standard unit. While the DAC chip is key to maintaining the integrity of a music signal, Ayre also incorporated technology from its $30,000 pre-amplifier into the player.

    “We spent three straight weeks just hard-core working on this because they had a deadline to get this done,” Hefley said. “This PonoPlayer is by far the best sounding portable player that will ever touch the market.””

    Read more:
    Boulder’s Ayre Acoustics develops chip for Neil Young’s PonoPlayer – The Denver Post

    http://www.denverpost.com/business/ci_25322942/boulders-ayre-acoustics-develops-chip-neil-youngs-ponoplayer#ixzz2yKwGopQ2


    Reply
  95. Alex Strand

    “the worst audio player I have ever seen”

    You obviously haven’t seen Apple’s Gaypods


    Reply
  96. Max

    Companies have been making hi-res daps for a long time, this is nothing new. It definitely makes a difference if you have a good set up, but I would take the fiio x5 over the pono anyday.


    Reply
  97. Nick

    Whoever wrote this article is a major idiot!!!
    I highly doubt that these big record labels would sign with, and that the artists themselves would support this new music experience of it weren’t real…
    And the storage has to do with the quality. Take VHS tapes vs. HD BlueRay Films for example.
    Stick to what you know. Which is obviously not a lot about music quality.


    Reply
  98. Michael

    hahahaha sorry man, your an idiot!!!! whens the last time you saw a list of music legends the size of your arm say they where blown away by the quality, and not just money hungry celebrities, im talking veterans of the industry like Dave Grohl or Rick Rubin and Jack White, these are the people who spend there time with high quality sound, maybe the average joe wont notice the differance, so what!!! for people who are passioate about music and want the warmth and clarity back in there music then im glad this device is finally here,


    Reply
  99. Deki Smokton

    Mr Steven Finch, judging the pono from the perspective of a happy smart phone user looking for practicality rather than sound performance is missing the point of the pono.

    Instead of coming to a quick conclusion of why the pono screams “pr stunt”, you should start by asking the right questions and determine wether or not the pono has delivered its promise.

    “1. Devise design is TERRIBLE”
    The pono’s first goal is to deliver an audibly better sound experience than that of a smart phone can provide.
    It’s your right not to like the pono’s form factor but maybe you could do a little research and find out why it requires more internal volume than the typical smart phone.

    “2. The Technology isn’t revolutionary!”
    If you are talking about “format”, nothing new, sure. But your argument is full of flaws and demonstrate how ignorant you really are on that subject.
    Hi-res (maybe not audible but superior in terms of data) >>> Lossless CD quality = FLAC = WAV > 320 kbps (best MP3) > 256 kbps (average) = Apple itunes M4A/AAC > 128 kbps (poor)

    “3. The pono player can’t hold much music”
    It has 64 GB of internal memory (as much as most smart phones) + the ability to add 64 GB cards. That’s 128 GB plus you can carry another handful of them if you wish to bring your entire library. What’s the big deal? Nitpicking…

    “4. The average person can’t tell the difference between MP3 (compressed) and FLAC (lossless)”
    When the comparison is done on an average smart phone, differences are not audible simply because it is an “average player”. Compare on a more competent player/DAC and most can tell the difference.
    Compare on top tier audio equipment and the difference is OBVIOUS.
    While the hardware technology can still improve a little on MP3 players, it can only go so far as to match the file’s compression and color it at best (it cannot create what is not there). That is the whole point of the pono: better inner electronics + more information within the file. Now, this will not make a classical duet sound like an Orchestra but the duet will sound like it is performing more 3D realistic than on a flat screen (depth, separation, imaging… will be audibly improved) and so in a portable devise.

    Your p.s. “…saying it has an amazing sound, but with no other information that means anything!” is just another clue of your incompetence to do the proper research before reviewing this product. Your opinion is flawed, biased, and incompetent. You should revise it.


    Reply
  100. Steve

    This is the most ridiculous unprofessional review I’ve see in a while.


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  101. Tim West

    Unbelievably ignorant article!

    So presumably people can’t tell the difference between vinyl and mp3?

    What a ridiculous set of nonsense on stilts. People misunderstand what the Nyquist frequency means. Any one with any kind of an ear will embrace this massive leap.

    Silly billy! How on earth dud this clown get to be writing for you!


    Reply
  102. rstar

    OK, this isn’t like pithy or anything, but still… Pono – just one “r” short of a good time! ;-)

    RS


    Reply
  103. Izsak

    This is a terrible article.


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  104. Craig

    The worst design you have ever seen. Since they have not been produced yet for the public those are pretty stupid words. It’s easy to tell mp3 from flac from hi-res-flac. Open your fucking wears.


    Reply
  105. de

    you probably think Dre Beats sound amazing. You come off as such a completely ignorant tool, even to someone who is not an audiophile


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  106. Kjell Sørgaard

    It can ONLY hold 1800 songs is what you expect to hear from a 12 year old kid. Who is this Steven Finch guy ?


    Reply
  107. David

    I agree the Pono is over-stated as a breakthrough since there are several portable music players that do FLAC. Most of the kids just want to listen to their low quality bootlegged Rhianna tunes on their counterfeit BEATS as they check out the opposite/same sex.

    It is true that only a small amount of the population is capable of critical listening for accuracy.


    Reply
  108. Michael Janke

    I’m sick of the ass wipes out there that can’t tell the difference in sound. You are happy listening to music thru earbuds or off your phone or crap computer speakers and think it sounds great. Well one, your hearing sucks, and two, fuck you!


    Reply
  109. Hamish Bills

    Use of the word “seen” in the headline rather than “heard” is a dead giveaway here.


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  110. Ed

    But never heard, so what the hell do you know anyway, sheesh


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  111. atreder

    I’m late to the thread, and much dust has settled, but my view?:
    1- Why is it so hard for so many to accept that since “A” can be better than “B” it is at least possible that higher sampling rates are better than lower, or not?
    2- Is the difference between recording quality / sampling rate versus file format / container SO hard to understand?
    3- Why is it so hard to understand that Ponos (or Astell & Kern, or FiiO or…) are not aimed at people who just use music for noise to drown out reality?
    4- Why do we accept that once a track is recorded it is no harder for the company to encode it as 16 x 48k or 24 x 192k, nor harder to distribute (on the Web) yet the price difference is vast! Linn sell albums at £18! But when some commentators say things like “you don’t need to spend $50k on your hi-fi system, $5-10k is enough…” I guess they’re shooting fish in a barrel…
    5- Why no comparative tests?
    6- Most of all, who let the writer of the original article near a keyboard?


    Reply
  112. Joe Sockit

    AS one of those “Amateur” engineers. I spend a lot of time correcting the mixes to play decent on crappy systems. I’m somewhat old school using a lot of out board processing to get a great mix on good studio monitors.
    In my day we took pride in our stereo and actually sat and listened to music. Today people just use it as background noise and only pay attention to music that is “loud” which means compressed to death. So we engineers have to destroy all the dynamics in the music to get it to stay as loud as possible on cheesy players. Put a modern album on a good stereo, even one of the good stereos from the 70’s and you’ll hear what I mean. All youn hear is a roar and the compressors breathing, no dynamics, and a huge loss in clarity.
    Hear a good live band and then listen to a “Processed recording” and it won’t even sound like the same song, unless it is the techno-rap-pop garbage. I applaud Neils point but if he uses the same sources (CD’s) the problem is as much the production today as the players.


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  113. Carl Hopkinson

    The average person can very well tell the difference between MP3 and even YouTube high-def quality audio.
    That is why I quit subscribing to MP3 streaming services, because the sound quality on YouTube was so much better. This assertion of the author is blatant bald-faced in-your-face bullshit and is a foundational premise
    for the whole article. Without it, this article falls over and disintegrates into the pile of crap it is.


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  114. George

    No defense of the PONO player here, but you are making one terribly misguided statement here. First, to qualify myself, I’ve been an professional audio engineer for 40 years, the past 21 years as a mastering engineer. The statement that I take exception to is that “The Average person can’t tell the difference between and MP3 Audio File and a FLAC Audio File”. Two problems here. First of all, if you convert an mp3 to a FLAC file, there will be absolutely no difference is sound between the original mp3 and the FLAC. That’s the whole idea, FLAC is lossless, meaning it will not change the sound at all. No one who has any knowledge of audio has claimed that FLAC will somehow improve sound quality over the audio file it was created from. But the main issue I have is your premise that the “average listener” cannot hear the difference between an mp3 and say a 96k/24 bit FALC (or WAV or AIF, whatever). I will tell you from my own experience that the human ear is like a muscle – the more you use it, the better it gets. The more the human ear is exposed to high quality sound in a good listening environment, the more discerning it gets. Yes, take the average Joe off the street, sit him in front of an audiophile-grade system and play the same song switching been an mp3 and a high-resoluto8n audio file, and he more than likely will not be able to hear a difference. Take the same guy and have him listen to high-resolution audio on a good system for several months, and what do you know? He suddenly can hear the difference! Because he has been exposed to the subtleties that high-resolution reveals in music, his ear has gotten used to that, and the absence of it will obvious to him. In other words, his ear has become “trained”.
    The problem with PONO, other than the horrible design, is that it is a portable player. Which rather implies that you will be using it in less-than-ideal listening environments and all of the noise that comes with them. Even though I’m a snobby mastering engineer, I have no problem listening to iTunes+ AAC’s on my earbudes while riding the train into work, or in the car, or as background music while reading or working around the house, for parties etc. In my opinion the mp3/AAC is ideal for that type of casual listening. Where then difference will be heard is when you sit down in front of your audio system, turn off the phone, ignore the doorbell, and listen deep into your music. That is where the difference between data-compressed formats and HD-Audio will be noticeable, if your ear has learned what to listen for.
    An just a note on the ‘soul’ being taken out of music. What is taking the soul out of music is not the mp3 or the mp3 player, the damage is being done by the idiotic insistence on the music being mastered with extreme hyper-compression and limiting to make it loud, louder and loudest. THAT is where the revolution needs to take place – we need to allow music to breath again and have dynamics. The dynamics (difference between loud and soft) in music terminology is called “expression”, and the dynamics do exactly that – they express emotion. Music compressed to the point of having little or no dynamics, has little or no emotion.


    Reply
  115. MusicComposer

    This is the worst review I’ve ever read… you don’t know what are you talking about…


    Reply
  116. me

    MusicComposer,

    I 2nd that!


    Reply
    1. rob

      What i don’t understand is that this subject is treated as revolutionair. High res players are available (and have been for a while) in abundance. At home i use a Cambridge stream magic 6 (but there are many more comparable) that streams flacs in a resolution upto 192 kHz/24 bit. The only difference with a pono player is that isn’t mobile, but then the shape of the pono doesn’t really invite it to be carried with me either.
      For mobile music (holidays, and outside use) I use a very old Creative Zen Xtra. This plays flacs, even at its old age.
      High res music is “better” in a theoretical manner only. Yours ears quit noting the extra quality achieved in the extended frequency range (20.000 is the theoretical limit, my ears “quit” above 15 kHz), so imo it is a waste of money and (storage) space to use these 192 kHz formats.


      Reply
  117. Idiots

    The average flac file is 70mb my ass! I have 3000 flacs and its bearly over 60gb. People like you spreading false information like this about lossless music is the reason why the horribly outdated mp3 format is still alive and music fidelity is dead, shame.


    Reply
  118. King of Punk

    I am a big music fan and I enjoy both Cd & Vinyl. I have spent a lot of time,investment & as much as I could afford on reply equipment to make sure I can hear music as clear as possible. I had an MP3 player , it was handy for commuting on trains etc but the sound quality was compressed & treble was not as good as a cassette Walkman with a chrome tape taped from my home system using good headphones. I stopped using it . Hi Res portable format like Pono has appeal.

    I have nothing against streaming/downloading/digital only that has killed a lot of record shops but what is more important is to obtain music physical or digital period with proper dynamics non brick walled .

    I have a few Neil Young recordings on cd & vinyl & he records very well . It is with that reputation that Neil Young has got my interest. The main thing is despite the statistics stated by Mr Finch we can only judge the Pono by listening to it. Nothing else matters until then. Incidentally I am old enough to remember when Cd first came out. It’s lack of clicks,pops,scratches was superb but it sounded brittle compared to a turntable. Fortunately both formats have improved since then (let’s be honest how good was your turntable back in 1983?) Let’s keep an open mind & if it is sonically poor or excellent Neil Young will get a slating/praise he
    deserves.


    Reply
  119. rickster

    The only “PR Stunt” here is the Author of this article.
    Sites like these scream only for “Internet Streaming of Musak”, and since they’re NOT ready to stream 24/192k then of course it can not possibly be any good?
    Just cause the authors ears are stunted to listening to radio-a-Gaga, doesn’t mean the rest of the Music-listening world is.
    Due you’re just another failed DJ.


    Reply
  120. Jon Payne

    Terrible article.

    Good points on the shape – not ideal.

    Good points on the disk space – it will only hold around 150 albums in lossless.

    Well, the kind of people who will buy this, are the kind of people who realise how stupid it is to convert MP3 to FLAC and then offer a double blind test through your apple earbuds to Jimbob the receptionist.

    Would you get your mum to review a Bugatti Veyron? No? Because she would have no idea if it was any good or not, in its class. That’s how pointless your office tests were.

    People who care about lossless don’t mind having “only” 150 albums available……


    Reply
  121. Reko

    1. Device design is TERRIBLE!

    No its not. It fits most pocets just fine. the angle is handy for use on the table unlike a flat slippery iPhone or other flat devices.

    2. The Technology Isn’t Revolutionary!

    No it´s not. Its only BETTER.

    3.The Pono Player Can’t Hold Much Music

    If 2000 songs isn´t enough, your just to lazy to rotate your music from the computer.

    4 The Average person can’t tell the difference between and MP3 Audio File and a FLAC Audio File

    PONO is not for the “average person” such as you.

    This all just screams PR STUNT!

    Well you dear sir, scream ignorance.


    Reply
  122. Nick H

    Perhaps the average person listening in their car (horrid acoustics) or while jogging won’t notice a difference between 128kbit mp3s and CDs, let alone 96kHz/24Bit FLACs, however the 10% of us who can may want a portable option. Even if your phone can play tracks from HDTracks, many phones have bottom basement audio DACs/drivers which leave something to be desired. If Pono truly uses higher end chips and allows more listeners enjoy higher quality files while on the go, free of clipping and reduced dynamic range, then we should applaud the effort. Heck, maybe it’s products like this and the rebirth of the LP that will end the loudness wars and even casual listeners will be able to enjoy better music on their cheap mp3 players.


    Reply
  123. Brick

    I look forward to this player. I have a small collection of SACDs and DVD-As and the improvement of the sound over red book CDs is apparent on my $1500 audio system. I am clumsy so vinyl is out but I remember the days of turntables and silver faced Pioneer Receivers. Fans cared about the quality back then.

    The problem with the two Hi Def digital formats I mentioned is that the selection of classic rock recordings was/is quite nil. Perhaps Neil can light a fire under his contemporaries (at least the ones that are still alive) to put their catalogs on the FLAC format.


    Reply
  124. Waidaminut

    “There is very little difference if you use a studio master and then transform it into FLAC format, compared to starting with an MP3 file and then transforming it into FLAC format.”

    Ahhhh no. Sorry. Had to stop reading after that, the stupidity was just too overwhelming.


    Reply
  125. Waidaminut

    Sadly I did keep reading, and the authors utter idiocy was confirmed.

    “As technology improves, so will the audio quality on standard MP3 players and smartphones .” (sic)

    Seriously, do you have *the slightest* idea what you are talking about? I agree PONO seems like a gimmick, but you are just spouting incoherent, ignorant gibberish. Dear author, sir, you have proven to anyone that knows anything about audio codecs that you are a complete and utter ignoramus. Well done.


    Reply
  126. lesoufs

    Steven Finch “There is very little difference if you use a studio master and then transform it into FLAC format, compared to starting with an MP3 file and then transforming it into FLAC format”

    My god and you are a “CEO” ok I help you a bit, FLAC is just a lossless compression format
    meaning from a CD 44.1Khz 16bit to a Flac file NOTHING changes FLAC is like a zip file.
    From CD to mp3 you compress = you lose even at 320kb/sec mp3 is like a JPEG
    Any Sound engineer will tell you that recording/listening at higher rates 88.2/96/192 gets you closer to analog
    sound. Why don’t we still work on old Digital Audio Tape at 44.1 16bit for mixing? do you think
    Why Sony and Philips did work on the 1bit DSD 2 822 400Hz , just for bucks?
    No it sounds better.
    One point is that any album that has a master at 44.1kHz 16bit might not sound better if you blow it to 192/24
    but for all old analog master tape on 1/2inch at 30ips or 1/4inch at 15ips 192/24 will sound a lot closer.
    What you are doing is levelling all of this on the bottom for file size reason…
    Poor you
    An average sound engineer


    Reply
    1. Mike

      Blah blah blah, no one cares.

      Pono will fail because no KID in his or her right mind would be caught dead with such a stupid looking player. And believe it or not, rock and pop music is for KIDS and depends on them “liking” things.

      Neil drives everywhere, as do his well heeled buddies. They do not walk around with iPods. Neil doesn’t even understand how iPods work or how you don’t have to use the stock earbuds….that you can….uh….buy other ones that sounds better.


      Reply
  127. joshua

    i disagree with all the points.
    1. i don’t mind the shape
    2. the tech isn’t revolutionary? whats your point? for my purposes, i don’t agree with that being a relevant reason.
    3. not much songs? 1800 (90-180 albums) sounds good to me. (if you have an organized library and ui, switching music when u get bored isnt hard), also i like little interchangable solid state hard drives, tho i dont mind it being bigger to accommodate a larger SD, say 128gb or 256gb, that way you wont switch them as often and thus wont wear out as fast, as well as more space.
    4. cant tell the difference between mp3 and flac? i believe we train our selves to do anything.

    what i really want in a portable music device, is:
    1. STURDY headphone connections that DONT wear out
    2. a connection that can handle lossless, i.e. 1/4″ or those RCA or coaxial cable things (or what ever there called), if 1/8″ can than i guess im mistaken.
    3. an amp, and dac, and replaceable, rechargeable battery
    4. fast light weight touchscreen UI, and fast cpu or what ever is need for 3rd party software (apps), like a simple dj program.
    5. some minimal native software to play with the music, i.e the ability to slow or speed up your songs, to play 2 at once or reverse, and recording(with option of on-board and or mic at the same time). also: note pad, calculator, online or offline gps and google map,
    6. internet capabilities, download music, watch videos, social
    7. phone(high quality mic), and high quality video camera / camera
    8. open source, no required programs like iTunes.
    9. the ability to edit song names, delete or move songs, make playlists.


    Reply
  128. Steff

    The whole basis of this article is nonsense. You haven’t seen it. You haven’t held it. You haven’t listened to it. Its just a load of baseless conjecture.


    Reply
  129. partly

    you people don’t have a phucking clue and i feel sorry for you even if you don’t deserve it.


    Reply
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    Reply
  131. rick

    Neil Young doesn’t do anything PR, ever. Mp3s are crap. Whether or not the people in your office can tell is irrelevant and most people don’t care that they get robbed of liner notes and pay for downloading crud without middlemen when downloading a movie or song therefore should be pennies as they rob us. However FLAC or WAV I store on a netbook and use that in my car. Id prefer a cube brain in some kind of new player as big as it needs to be that can sit under my car seat and play away WAVs or FLACs and BROADCAST to a new mp3 player AND OR one could upload sections of the that block/brain that houses all the music and take their 100 or so lossless song on the go, delete and upload a different section or like I said keep it all under their car seat. The new gen doesn’t care about fidelity, they don’t even care if they get tunes by Jerry Lee labeled Elvis. The new gen likes it cheap and crappy, they are wrong. You can be cheap and find a better way, PONO isn’t it though


    Reply
  132. Rescue Guy

    Okay, I’m way late to this party. But what the heck … I’ll wade right in. All of the comments in favor of high end audio, whatever the source, assume:
    1. People really sit, in the perfect position in their room, and listen to their audio. I absolutely agree that doing so will provide a superior audio experience … but really? What percent of the audio listening public does this? I love great music but I generally listen to it while reading a good book (what’s a book?!).
    2. People have ears that can discern excellent audio from merely adequate. I have many friends that have no ability to do so, and quite frankly, if you ask them, really don’t care.
    3. People listen to music that has the instrumentation that one would want to hear. I know that I’ll get beaten up severely for this next comment, but seriously, have you listened to much of what passes for music these days? Does it really bear listening to with a really upscale music system vice a run-of-the-mill system? I’m not really totally dissing today’s music, but what would you gain from something that Pono claims to provide? Jazz, classical, and music that has a wide range of instrumentation (thinking something like Paul Simon, some of Queen, etc.).
    4. In your vehicle – now there is a place that I can sit and listen for hours while taking a road trip. I would most definitely pay for a really good audio system in this venue.


    Reply
  133. goatherder

    Just buy vinyl (next step down in quality from master tapes) and then digitize them @ 24bits and load em up on any modern player that can play lossless files. Eazy and cheap. I think Neil is just a bored guy (with lots of dough) with good intentions misinformed.


    Reply
  134. Anonymous

    spelling matters


    Reply
  135. Ignacious Ritz

    All people that don’t get Pono are lowbred fuckwits


    Reply
  136. sander

    There is very little in the Steven Finch review that I agree with, especially his take on MP3 vs. FLAC. However, there is no arguing with his statement on the physical design itself. In terms of practical use, and aesthetics, it’s a non-starter. Without a radical re-design, the Pono player is doomed to commercial failure.


    Reply
  137. my2cents

    Well, nice that Pono is getting started now, but way too pricy. I own a Fiio X3 (200€), very nice stereo separation, before that I used my soft/hard-modded Iriver H120 Flac player for years (before this and other PR took place).

    I can understand that many people won’t hear big differences in 320kbit mp3 compared to FLAC, for me its not a big thing to divide it. It clearly depends on Headphones/Speakers AND what your Ears/Brains/guts whatsoever are trained. A very good example is all drum related material, especially cymbals. Another exaample is listening too rather Jazzy material with double bass, it looses in dynamics in mp3. But the worst thing in mp3 is the stereo separation which is really lousy
    .


    Reply
    1. Me

      I’m afraid that this venture may not succeed, and I am a fan of Neil Young. The merchandising of music is going to have to go through a structural change, not just a change in format and delivery, and certainly the hardware isn’t selling itself to me.

      On the bright side Pono is getting it right in challenging the highly compressed audio we are getting served up by most online services (iTunes, Amazon) — why the hell don’t I get a gig of uncompressed music for my 10-15 bucks? Is data so friggin precious nowadays? Obviously some people have limited space on their mobile players, but just offer me options when I download, but what you get is substandard, not nearly what I would choose ripping my own music. I’m a music lover and musician with some mixing experience and plenty of listening experience, and I hear a real difference between compressed and uncompressed files, and between levels of compression. I think our general consumers need to directly experience this — THEY WOULD HEAR THE DIFFERENCE — and probably get addicted to high Q audio.

      Furthermore, the author of this article is a cynic who undervalues people’s ability to appreciate music, and is appealing to his own LCD demographic. Good luck with that. ;p


      Reply

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