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Neil Young's PonoPlayer: The Emperor Has No Clothes

Anything about MUSIC but doesn't fit into the forums above.

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firepile
KVRian
 
725 posts since 19 Aug, 2009

Postby firepile; Wed Feb 25, 2015 5:31 am Neil Young's PonoPlayer: The Emperor Has No Clothes

Who would have thought...

https://www.yahoo.com/tech/it-was-one-o ... MusicREDEF

I’m 51 and a former professional musician. I know how to listen. But when I bought Pono’s expensive remastered songs and compared them with the identical songs on my phone, I couldn’t hear any difference whatsoever.

I got worried. Is the Pono story a modern-day “Emperor’s New Clothes” fable? Were those famous rock stars just imagining things?

There was only one way to find out: conduct a blind trial, using identical songs on identical headphones, comparing the Pono with a standard audio player — an iPhone. So that’s what I did.

How does it sound? I found 15 volunteers, ages 17 through 55. Each subject put on nice headphones — Sony MDR 7506 — and listened to three songs of different styles (“Saturday in the Park” by Chicago, “Raised on Robbery” by Joni Mitchell, and “There’s a World” by Mr. Pono himself, Neil Young). I bought these songs twice: once from the Pono store, in high resolution, and once from the iTunes store.

Each subject then listened to the same songs again, using standard Apple earbuds.

I connected both the Pono Player and an iPhone to an A/B switch; I instructed my test subjects to flip back and forth between the two at will.

The results surprised even me. Whether wearing earbuds or expensive headphones, my test subjects usually thought that the iPhone playback sounded better than the Pono Player.
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werp
KVRian
 
1415 posts since 14 Aug, 2012, from Australia

Postby werp; Wed Feb 25, 2015 5:46 am Re: Neil Young's PonoPlayer: The Emperor Has No Clothes

Sad isn't it.
When I first heard about this, I wondered how the hell Neil Young had ears better than mine.
I'm an ex audio engineer who kept things at reasonable levels and still developed tinnitus.
There's Neil standing in the middle of 10 to 20 thousand watts of foldback getting off scot free and bitching about audio quality....right.
My knowledge of physics ends at knowing how to spell it.
rp314
KVRAF
 
1728 posts since 24 Mar, 2006, from The city by the bay

Postby rp314; Wed Feb 25, 2015 10:16 am Re: Neil Young's PonoPlayer: The Emperor Has No Clothes

The rigorous truth: the overwhelming majority of us at some point enjoyed listening to music on cassette tapes recorded with some form of compression for that high fidelity sound. Oh, yeah...! :P
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zerocrossing
KVRAF
 
7395 posts since 26 Jun, 2006, from San Francisco Bay Area

Postby zerocrossing; Wed Feb 25, 2015 10:44 am Re: Neil Young's PonoPlayer: The Emperor Has No Clothes

You should have stopped reading after:

...Each subject put on nice headphones — Sony MDR 7506


Sony MDR 7506 are considered "nice headphones?" Compared to what? $10 Koss headphones that you picked up at Walgreens? Every Sony audio device I've ever tried was always crap. Their TVs are very good IMO, but audio gear? I've never experienced anything good from them.

So, knowing that every part of your audio system has the ability to help or harm your sound, I'd say this test was overall a very poorly conducted one. I'd be curious to see the results if they used a real audiophile set of headphones like a pair of Beyerdynamic Tesla T1s. All his test proved was that crap Sony headphones will make any audio source sound like crap.
Zerocrossing Media
http://www.zerocrossing.net
4th Law of Robotics: When turning evil, display a red indicator light. ~[ ●_● ]~
robotmonkey
KVRian
 
651 posts since 20 Jun, 2012

Postby robotmonkey; Wed Feb 25, 2015 11:13 am Re: Neil Young's PonoPlayer: The Emperor Has No Clothes

Even though I think in principle Neil Young is right that we should think about music quality and avoid listening music at low bitrates, the premise of Pono player is flawed. Yes, there are noticeable differences between 128kb and 320kb bitrate MP3 for example. Sometimes there is also even a noticeable difference between 320kb bitrate MP3 and FLAC file. But the problem is that when you are on the go, music quality matters very little. If you want to enjoy high quality music then you should listen to it in home, focusing, and with high quality audio gear. So a portable music player that cost premium both in hardware and also in music does make very little sense. Moreover you also need expensive headphones. But in the end it is all cancelled out by listening music as a background for other things. If commuting or doing work or whatever it just does not matter if you are listening to 192kb, 320kb or 24bit FLAC because you will not be noticing the difference anyway.
No signature here!
robotmonkey
KVRian
 
651 posts since 20 Jun, 2012

Postby robotmonkey; Wed Feb 25, 2015 11:15 am Re: Neil Young's PonoPlayer: The Emperor Has No Clothes

zerocrossing wrote:You should have stopped reading after:

...Each subject put on nice headphones — Sony MDR 7506


Sony MDR 7506 are considered "nice headphones?" Compared to what? $10 Koss headphones that you picked up at Walgreens? Every Sony audio device I've ever tried was always crap. Their TVs are very good IMO, but audio gear? I've never experienced anything good from them.
.


Sony MDR 7506's are actually very good headphones. :shrug:
No signature here!
firepile
KVRian
 
725 posts since 19 Aug, 2009

Postby firepile; Wed Feb 25, 2015 11:22 am Re: Neil Young's PonoPlayer: The Emperor Has No Clothes

The 16-bit v/s 8-bit Blind Listening Test

http://www.audiocheck.net/blindtests_16 ... lYoung.php

Neil Young's Pono Music relies on the 24-bit 192 kHz audio format. This uncompromised studio quality has been the source of endless debates lately. Chris 'Monty' Montgomery, the respected creator of the Ogg container format and Vorbis audio codec, is also the author of one of the most comprehensive article on this subject, available here. He writes: "The more that pseudoscience goes unchecked in the world at large, the harder it is for truth to overcome truthiness."

This page offers you a chance to check the effect of bit depth, in a browser-friendly, easier and even more provocative 16-bit v/s 8-bit scenario. Don't get me wrong, differences between 16-bit and 8-bit are clearly audible, and are demonstrated on my Dynamic Range, Dithering and Noise Shaping page. However, because contemporary popular music has such a limited dynamic range, these differences become subtle, if not inaudible, when tested on it. Raising awareness of what has happened lately to the dynamic range of our music was the purpose of my original 16-bit v/s 8-bit Blind Listening Test. Recently, after taking that test, a user commented that I should perform it with Neil Yong's own music—an ironic suggestion that I thought would be fun to implement. Mr. Young, please forgive me.
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hibidy
KVRAF
 
43131 posts since 20 Dec, 2005

Postby hibidy; Wed Feb 25, 2015 3:26 pm Re: Neil Young's PonoPlayer: The Emperor Has No Clothes

Yay, more banta fodder! :hyper:

Actually, there is only one part in "sound city" that is like WTF. It's when our very own NY decides to inform everyone that they got the algorithms wrong when they decided on a digital format. Which is of course why everyone was blown away by CD's when they came out.......they were all WRONG from the placebo that is digital.
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vurt
addled muppet weed
 
34066 posts since 25 Jan, 2003, from through the looking glass

Postby vurt; Wed Feb 25, 2015 4:04 pm Re: Neil Young's PonoPlayer: The Emperor Has No Clothes

surely if the emperor is naked its a porno player :hihi:
hibidy
KVRAF
 
43131 posts since 20 Dec, 2005

Postby hibidy; Wed Feb 25, 2015 4:25 pm Re: Neil Young's PonoPlayer: The Emperor Has No Clothes

Where's the like button?
alexfalcao
KVRian
 
796 posts since 24 May, 2005, from PA, USA

Postby alexfalcao; Wed Feb 25, 2015 5:34 pm Re: Neil Young's PonoPlayer: The Emperor Has No Clothes

The Fiio X1 costs $99.00 and is able to play FLAC, APE, ALAC, WAV, WMA, MP3, AAC and OGG files, with up to 192-kHz/24-bit resolution and you can use a microSD card of up to 128GB. I bought one and I'm impressed with the sound quality.

http://www.cnet.com/news/fiio-x1-finall ... k-account/
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Woody Aki
KVRist
 
201 posts since 3 Dec, 2007, from Cambridge, UK

Postby Woody Aki; Thu Feb 26, 2015 2:53 am Re: Neil Young's PonoPlayer: The Emperor Has No Clothes

This Pono fail says a lot about Neil Young's career really: his heart's always in the right place, but his views are contradictory at best. Previous blurbs about Pono quoted him placing vinyl alongside MP3 as past it and/or crap, yet there seems to be the general consensus that hearing music on a Pono is worse than on another MP3 player, judging from the 200th. review I've read up until now.

I haven't heard music on a Pono yet but, just to cover all bases here, would it be wise to entertain the notions that either our general sense of listening has become degraded thanks to getting used to compressed audio formats, or has Neil Young been taken for a ride by some Slick Rick PR? Dunno, just saying...
garryknight
KVRist
 
121 posts since 6 Jan, 2015

Postby garryknight; Thu Feb 26, 2015 10:00 am Re: Neil Young's PonoPlayer: The Emperor Has No Clothes

So, it's not even a one-trick Pono...
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SyntheticAurality
KVRAF
 
7949 posts since 2 Apr, 2002, from Tulsa, OK, USA

Postby SyntheticAurality; Thu Feb 26, 2015 10:13 am Re: Neil Young's PonoPlayer: The Emperor Has No Clothes

rp314 wrote:The rigorous truth: the overwhelming majority of us at some point enjoyed listening to music on cassette tapes recorded with some form of compression for that high fidelity sound. Oh, yeah...! :P


I miss my Dolby NR! :cry: :cry:
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zerocrossing
KVRAF
 
7395 posts since 26 Jun, 2006, from San Francisco Bay Area

Postby zerocrossing; Thu Feb 26, 2015 10:30 am Re: Neil Young's PonoPlayer: The Emperor Has No Clothes

robotmonkey wrote:
zerocrossing wrote:You should have stopped reading after:

...Each subject put on nice headphones — Sony MDR 7506


Sony MDR 7506 are considered "nice headphones?" Compared to what? $10 Koss headphones that you picked up at Walgreens? Every Sony audio device I've ever tried was always crap. Their TVs are very good IMO, but audio gear? I've never experienced anything good from them.
.


Sony MDR 7506's are actually very good headphones. :shrug:


I listened to them once and thought they had quite a pronounced upper midrange bump that I didn't like. Maybe good for $99, and I'm sure fine for basic iPhone use, but no one considers them "audiophile" quality, and that's what we're talking about, isn't it? The theory put forth is that the Pono format isn't better than a basic MP3. I say to test that theory (and it may be true) you should use a very good set of headphones and perhaps also a nice studio monitor set up before you go spouting off. Now, if the writer said, "If you're using Sony MDR 7506s or similar quality headphones you won't be able to hear the difference" I wouldn't be arguing. He's I'm sure correct. But as it stands, all he is saying is that the equipment used in his experiment isn't able to produce a noticeable difference in his test audience.

I'm just talking about science vs. anecdotal evidence.
Zerocrossing Media
http://www.zerocrossing.net
4th Law of Robotics: When turning evil, display a red indicator light. ~[ ●_● ]~
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