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Neil Young Goes Ahead With Pono Player, Best Quality Music

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 63 comments
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Speculation about Neil Young's super-high-resolution music player has been making the rounds on the Internet for more than a year, but it seems that the musician is serious about the device and that it will be released sometime next year.

According to Young, the Pono player will be playing the best quality of music you can get.

Young recently showed of a rather clumsy prototype design of Pono - whose name stands for righteous in Hawaiian, he said - without demonstrating it. However, new rumors suggest that Young has a functional device and is currently accumulating a music library and licenses for a music store that would hold 192 kHz / 24-bit recordings. Pono will also cover a "digital-to-analogue conversion technology intended to present songs as they first sound during studio recording sessions". There is not much detail, but Pono is not vaporware, according to Young, and will be released sometime in 2013.

There is reasonable doubt whether a dedicated music player like Pono can be successful in a time when we expect our mobile phones not just to be music playback devices, but entire entertainment multi-talents that can also play videos and run games that we download from application stores. Music streaming via cellular networks will be out of the question for Pono, given the fact that Young's preferred music format consumes about 300 MB of space for five minutes of audio, which makes the data squeezed into a Netflix SD movie (700 MB) look rather small. Even if you were to use music streaming over a commercial DSl or cable broadband network, you would be  brand was an excessive bandwidth user if you were to stream more than 30 songs per day on average. Pono will have to rely on massive local storage that would provide room for about 200 songs in 64 GB of space.

 

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  • 20 Hide
    QEFX , December 1, 2012 2:15 AM
    "Neil Young Goes Ahead With Pono Player" ... I so read that wrong the 1st time.

    While I appreciate true high quality music, 300MB per song may just be a little steep at this point in time.

    Can't wait to actually hear the sound quality and see just how much better it is than a high quality CD with a proper sound system.

    Then I will just need the music industry to get rid of auto-tuned no talent musicians who can't read / write music or play an instrument and bring back actual musicians.
  • 17 Hide
    Miharu , December 1, 2012 3:18 AM
    Parsian: Your Android device will downgrade the quality to be played properly. You actually need special hardware supporting 24bit for play it correctly - audio chip and speaker. Most hardware stop at 16bit since vendors tell it's the standard.

    tolham: Human can hear the difference between 16bit and 24bit, musicians at least. 16/44.1 mp3 could be consider high quality and 90% fidelity. New format 24 bit would be consider ultra high quality with 99-100% fidelity. The difference it's not so big, probably most people won't buy theirs libraries a second time for that but it's a standard that industry must adopt someday. That industry still sell you CD (in wav format) and haven't figure out a more secure format.

    If Neil do a great job, it's could be the next big thing. There are tons of IThing too be change.
  • 15 Hide
    tolham , December 1, 2012 2:52 AM
    Neil's heart is in the right place, but his execution is horribly off the mark. 16/44.1 and mp3 are perfectly capable of preserving enough audio fidelity for the human ear. the biggest problem with music production is the *MASTERING* - nearly every album released in the last ~15 years is hellishly compressed&clipped into a solid brick. Neil should put his money and energy into educating the public about this problem and convincing the labels to end the loudness war.
Other Comments
  • 20 Hide
    QEFX , December 1, 2012 2:15 AM
    "Neil Young Goes Ahead With Pono Player" ... I so read that wrong the 1st time.

    While I appreciate true high quality music, 300MB per song may just be a little steep at this point in time.

    Can't wait to actually hear the sound quality and see just how much better it is than a high quality CD with a proper sound system.

    Then I will just need the music industry to get rid of auto-tuned no talent musicians who can't read / write music or play an instrument and bring back actual musicians.
  • 13 Hide
    livebriand , December 1, 2012 2:22 AM
    All we need is video that uses a similarly absurd amount of space, and those gigabit google connections can actually be put to use!
  • -3 Hide
    xpeh , December 1, 2012 2:47 AM
    qefx"Neil Young Goes Ahead With Pono Player" ... I so read that wrong the 1st time.While I appreciate true high quality music, 300MB per song may just be a little steep at this point in time.Can't wait to actually hear the sound quality and see just how much better it is than a high quality CD with a proper sound system. Then I will just need the music industry to get rid of auto-tuned no talent musicians who can't read / write music or play an instrument and bring back actual musicians.


    I read Porno Player and thought "I'll have to consider this sometime"
  • 15 Hide
    tolham , December 1, 2012 2:52 AM
    Neil's heart is in the right place, but his execution is horribly off the mark. 16/44.1 and mp3 are perfectly capable of preserving enough audio fidelity for the human ear. the biggest problem with music production is the *MASTERING* - nearly every album released in the last ~15 years is hellishly compressed&clipped into a solid brick. Neil should put his money and energy into educating the public about this problem and convincing the labels to end the loudness war.
  • -5 Hide
    bavman , December 1, 2012 3:17 AM
    This is great for audiophiles. The thing is though....that if you want to put that format to good use you'll need some hardcore equipment. True audiophile grade headphones run in the range of $1000, and another $1000-2000 DAC/AMP to power it. This is certainly not portable....so why would you make a portable device that is capable of doing this? Very good portable headphones are those that don't need external amplification and run $300-400 tops, but at that level you won't notice a difference between say this and FLAC. So even though its a nice idea, i really doubt anyone will go for it, since it would only be of good use at home.
  • 17 Hide
    Miharu , December 1, 2012 3:18 AM
    Parsian: Your Android device will downgrade the quality to be played properly. You actually need special hardware supporting 24bit for play it correctly - audio chip and speaker. Most hardware stop at 16bit since vendors tell it's the standard.

    tolham: Human can hear the difference between 16bit and 24bit, musicians at least. 16/44.1 mp3 could be consider high quality and 90% fidelity. New format 24 bit would be consider ultra high quality with 99-100% fidelity. The difference it's not so big, probably most people won't buy theirs libraries a second time for that but it's a standard that industry must adopt someday. That industry still sell you CD (in wav format) and haven't figure out a more secure format.

    If Neil do a great job, it's could be the next big thing. There are tons of IThing too be change.
  • 0 Hide
    nukemaster , December 1, 2012 3:21 AM
    tolhamNeil's heart is in the right place, but his execution is horribly off the mark. 16/44.1 and mp3 are perfectly capable of preserving enough audio fidelity for the human ear. the biggest problem with music production is the *MASTERING* - nearly every album released in the last ~15 years is hellishly compressed&clipped into a solid brick. Neil should put his money and energy into educating the public about this problem and convincing the labels to end the loudness war.

    God yes!
  • 11 Hide
    alxianthelast , December 1, 2012 3:22 AM
    throws money at screen.

    Screw the bandwidth considerations.
  • -7 Hide
    SirTrollsALot , December 1, 2012 3:43 AM
    I always thought converting analog or CD's,or raw fileas to .OGG format was the best format for players, if they could play .OGG formats... Correct me if I am wrong.
  • -3 Hide
    tolham , December 1, 2012 3:48 AM
    Quote:
    tolham: Human can hear the difference between 16bit and 24bit, musicians at least. 16/44.1 mp3 could be consider high quality and 90% fidelity. New format 24 bit would be consider ultra high quality with 99-100% fidelity. The difference it's not so big, probably most people won't buy theirs libraries a second time for that but it's a standard that industry must adopt someday. That industry still sell you CD (in wav format) and haven't figure out a more secure format.

    the only way you can tell the difference between 16 and 24 bit music is if you perform a double-blind test on very expensive professional equipment and train yourself to hear minute artifacts. in other words, there is no perceptible difference in the real world. the sad fact is, human hearing is lousy. 16/44.1 is more than enough fidelity, and mp3 v0 is transparent to 99.99% of people. the industry doesn't need to move to a higher resolution, the industry needs to stop compressing and clipping the sh!t out of the mixes.

    Quote:
    If Neil do a great job, it's could be the next big format standard.

    pono is going fail, period. there is very little demand for high resolution music, and portable high resolution music is basically impossible. like i said above, in order to even hear the difference you need very expensive professional equipment. as in, arrays of high-end amps. that faux toblerone in Neil's hand can't possibly house the guts or the juice to fully produce 24/192 music. and even if it did, there are no headphones that can fully amplify it.
  • 10 Hide
    spasmolytic46 , December 1, 2012 3:59 AM
    I am interested. Give me more details Mr. Young. This wallet's contents could be yours...
  • -6 Hide
    tolham , December 1, 2012 4:00 AM
    a fool and his money are soon parted.
  • -6 Hide
    thezooloomaster , December 1, 2012 6:07 AM
    Parsianwhy would i need this when i can play .FLAC on my Android device? I havent tried 24 bit resolution but im certain if it cannot play now, it will be soon as hardwares get faster and libraries grow.


    Indeed. Unless you have $1000 earphones, I doubt you would be able to tell the difference between the common lossless music you can find today and this "super-high-res" stuff.
  • -8 Hide
    wavetrex , December 1, 2012 6:41 AM
    Audiophilia (invented word?) is a mental disease, similar to necrophilia for example...
    It's people that spend exorbitant amounts of money on equipment which provide little to no benefit over a decent common audio-replay device thinking that they have "better" years than everyone else, and show affection and attachment to that equipment, like it's the most precious thing they have in life.

    I can agree that a BAD quality equipment, headphone or speaker can degrade the listening experience, but once you reach common Hi-Fi standards, there's simply no point in going further.

    As for digital recording, there is a large difference between 128kbps mp3 and 192kbps, a smaller but also easily observable difference between 192kbps and 256kbps, and from there to FLAC or WAV 44Khz/16bit also a very tiny difference.
    24 bit ? 96 khz ? Seriously, pointless for playback. They are only useful when transferring or mixing sound, because digital processing introduces distortion, which adds up. Using higher formats reduces that effect. But once the sound reached it's final format and gets mastered, 44khz which is double the upper limit for human ear and 16 bit resolution (65.5k signal levels) are WAY more than enough for the fidelity of our old prehistoric ear )

    Actually, all these "High Def" things server ONE purpose... and one purpose only. To get more money out of the gullible buyer who "think" that if it's more expensive and has bigger numbers written on it, it MUST be better.
    Yeah. Capitalism 101.
  • -5 Hide
    troutmask , December 1, 2012 6:42 AM
    Neil Young's mantra is that with mp3 you only get 5% of the sound. That's like Stephen King complaining that ebooks (which are compressed text) provide only 5% of the reading enjoyment of a paperback.

    And if I listen to Psychedelic Pill (Young's latest album) on headphones, I can easily hear tape hiss on some tracks. Is that the vaunted sound quality that he's talking about? Would his Pono reproduce that hiss with greater clarity?
  • -8 Hide
    wavetrex , December 1, 2012 6:43 AM
    no edit >.<

    "... better ears than everyone else."

    "...things serve ONE purpose..."
  • -9 Hide
    Tomtompiper , December 1, 2012 7:52 AM
    My Samsung plays Ogg Vorbis, and the quality is better than the crap Apple deliver, but this device is for a very small niche market. His time would be better spent trying to get Apple to improve the quality of their offerings.
  • -7 Hide
    in_the_loop , December 1, 2012 9:09 AM
    The audiophiles can go ahead and throw away money at somtehing that nobody, musician or not, will be able to tell the difference from 16 bit, 44 kHz and probably most people noit even from normal 128 bit mp3.

    The only reason for using 24 bits for musician is that you get a lot of headroom when you record and mix. When there are a lot of tracks at different levels being summed up it may make a difference, but blindtests show that nobody can tell the difference between 16 bit and 24 bit from a finalized track.

    The CD-standard is superior in every way of form compared to even the best mastertape (which seldom are used anymore) when it comes to dynamics, frequency response, distorsion and anything you can throw at it.

    That was considered the ultimate before and some still swears to it due to the "Analogue superior character", claiming it has specs (that can't be measured) better than CD in some way.
    It is just that people that like analogue like the distorsion that comes with it.

    By the way, the notion that this player makes the sound analogue is hilarious. Everything that is in the digital domain have to be converted to analoge. It is called a DAC (Digital to Analogue Converter).
    What he is doing is to put just another digital processor (yes digital!) on top of what is already an absurd amount of overprocessing done at the master stage (compression and the likes).

    Hell, there was a blind test (german I think) using trained pros (audio technicians, musicians) where they couldn't tell the difference between 128 kbit and 256 kbit mp3 files.

  • -7 Hide
    chewy1963 , December 1, 2012 9:11 AM
    This is kind of like those out there who are clamoring for 4k video despite the fact they'll need a 100" display viewed at like 5 feet to be able to see the difference. Human hearing is limited to around 20hz to 20,000hz. That is easily reproduced at 16bit 44 KHz resolution. The only question from there is can your equipment (amp/speakers) meet the 20-20,000hz spec.
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