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Music The Almighty Buck Technology

Neil Young's "Righteous" Pono Music Startup Raises $1 Million With Kickstarter 413

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Jose Pagliery reports at CNN that the 68-year-old rock star unveiled his startup, Pono, at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas raising $1.4 million in a single day. Young has developed a portable music player that stores high-resolution recordings and promises to deliver all the delicate details that get chopped out of modern-day formats, like MP3s and CDs. 'Pono' is Hawaiian for righteous. 'What righteous means to our founder Neil Young is honoring the artist's intention, and the soul of music. That's why he's been on a quest, for a few years now, to revive the magic that has been squeezed out of digital music.' With 128 GB of space, the PonoPlayer can carry about 3,200 tracks of high-resolution recordings while an MP3 player of the same size can hold maybe 10 times that many songs. Young says the MP3 files we're all listening to actually are pretty poor from an audio-quality standpoint and only contains about five percent of the audio from an original recording. But isn't FLAC already lossless? What makes Pono better?"
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Neil Young's "Righteous" Pono Music Startup Raises $1 Million With Kickstarter

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  • LOL (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @07:58PM (#46469675)

    Sounds like snakeoil. So that means it'll be eaten up by the idiotic audiophile crowd.

  • by Jamu ( 852752 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @08:00PM (#46469691)
    The big problem with music on MP3s and CDs isn't the sample rate, or even the bits used to sample. To sell CDs and MP3s the recording is made as loud as possible and this causes distortion in the sample values. There's no point having 16-bits or 24-bits if the recording doesn't make good use of the full range of values.
  • Re:Five percent? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mythosaz ( 572040 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @08:02PM (#46469707)


    The Loudness Wars [] rendered most of this moot. :(

  • by PhrostyMcByte ( 589271 ) <> on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @08:18PM (#46469813) Homepage

    Caveat: self-identifying audiophile here, happy to admit I've spent way too much money for very little gain.

    What's the output voltage and impedance? Crosstalk? Noise? THD? Dynamic range? If I plug to charge via USB while I'm playing it, will it isolate the noisy power line? You're trying to sell something "audiophile" without mentioning any of this? Really?

    He makes a big deal about 192kHz audio. If you're targeting human ears, this is just a waste of space. I'd say the perfect format would be 48kHz/24bit. 48kHz to have plenty of room for a nice frequency cutoff, and 24-bit for music with a high dynamic range, like film scores and orchestral.

    How about some features anyone can enjoy, like support for ReplayGain and gapless playback? Maybe make your store highlight music with a high dynamic range instead of offering a 24-bit copy of something with 8 bits of range and frequencies we can't hear?

    I would absolutely love to have a compact, objectively transparent player that I can bring with me to the office or anywhere else. I just can't help feeling this won't be it. Too jaded?

  • Re:Reality check (Score:3, Insightful)

    by clockwise_music ( 594832 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @08:55PM (#46470021) Homepage Journal
    I can't believe that $2,000,000 has already been pledged. I assume by "audiophiles".

    Hey guys, 99% of mastering these days has been brickwalled. The recordings that you're buying and downloading before encoding, at the mastering stage has already had all "the nuances, the soft touches, and the ends on the echo" removed. You can't get that back. In fact, all this device will do is make these artifacts more obvious.

    Getting a 30 gazillion kbps FLAC file is utterly pointless when the same data can be represented in a 320kbs mp3 file.

    I can personally guarantee* (*worth nothing, not redeemable for anything) that sound studios will not start producing multiple mixes just for the audiophiles. It's just not going to happen. People do not care about this stuff and are happy with their iphones/androids, so the sound studios are not going to bother.
  • More about storage (Score:4, Insightful)

    by canadiannomad ( 1745008 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @09:07PM (#46470091) Homepage

    My biggest complaint about the mp3 music player industry is: Why are they still over selling 1/2/4GB devices!?!?!?!?!?
    Honestly, I can't even imagine why Apple, Sony, Philips and other large brands that I find in my average tech store even bother to have/sell, but actively promote these minuscule devices. At least 128GB approaches a reasonable size for today's music collections.
    To me it is similar to Linus' rant about laptop monitors.

  • Re:Title (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @09:26PM (#46470171)

    "Old man, take a look at my life..."

    Grew up with Neil Young and his music. Grew old with Neil and his music, wit, and weirdness.

    Neil Young Rocks.

  • Re:LOL (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lgw ( 121541 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @09:32PM (#46470189) Journal

    Awesome link, thanks.

    Unfortunately, there is no point to distributing music in 24-bit/192kHz format. Its playback fidelity is slightly inferior to 16/44.1 or 16/48, and it takes up 6 times the space.

    There are a few real problems with the audio quality and 'experience' of digitally distributed music today. 24/192 solves none of them. While everyone fixates on 24/192 as a magic bullet, we're not going to see any actual improvement.

    First, the bad news

    In the past few weeks, I've had conversations with intelligent, scientifically minded individuals who believe in 24/192 downloads and want to know how anyone could possibly disagree. They asked good questions that deserve detailed answers.

    I was also interested in what motivated high-rate digital audio advocacy. Responses indicate that few people understand basic signal theory or the sampling theorem, which is hardly surprising. Misunderstandings of the mathematics, technology, and physiology arose in most of the conversations, often asserted by professionals who otherwise possessed significant audio expertise. Some even argued that the sampling theorem doesn't really explain how digital audio actually works

    If I had a nickel for every time an audiophile tried to explain to me that CDs can't capture "fast transients" or "20 kHz square waves", I could afford some genuine Snake Oil[tm]! Hint: the ear is mechanical, not magical, and the eardrum can only move so fast. Anything steeper than the rise rate of a 20 kHz sine wave just ain't happening.

    I just want a proper DAC without audiophile markup! My home amp has 7 of them (the chip is about $25 per, not breaking the bank), but each one is a 20 watt heater so I can't use it in my bedroom in the summer. I'd love to find a nice 2-channel DAC to use with a headphone amp for <$100, with HDMI and SPDIF in - anyone seen one?

  • Re:LOL (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cheater512 ( 783349 ) <> on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @10:18PM (#46470377) Homepage

    Define proper DAC? Just saying that makes me think you actually *do* want the audiophile markup.
    That Cirrus Logic 60c Audio DAC clearly isn't very good! It's too cheap!

    Reality: The DAC is *not* the limiting factor in audio. In fact there really aren't many limiting factors apart for Chinese crap.

  • by flyingfsck ( 986395 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @11:19PM (#46470607)
    I challenge any 68 year old rocker to a double blind test to hear the difference between MP3 and Pono.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 13, 2014 @01:37AM (#46471039)

    Young has a good point, but so do you.

    I somewhat agree with both of you. imho, mp3 at less than 512kbps is not high fidelity (the bad can be heard in the upper range, like the oscillations of the cymbols that tend to sound like breaking glass rather than what they are),, and, what I gather is your point, that the vast majority of aging adults lose any possibility of ever hearing any frequencies above 14kHz again.

    I see there's no mention of amplifiers/speakers/etc. and the importance of the quality of them which really does make a big difference: spend more money, get better sound, really does work up to a point. Also, if you listen to music excusively through ear buds, you will not really notice what Young is complaining about... which is odd because most portable digital music players don't come with a decent amplifier and decent speakers

  • by Ralph Spoilsport ( 673134 ) on Thursday March 13, 2014 @01:53AM (#46471067) Journal
    1. It's FLAC. nothing special.
    2. If you're listening to it on $100 computer speakers, you might as well listen to 320kbps MP3s because you're not going to hear the difference on those crap speakers
    . 3. Where do you listen to music? At your computer? Are you using the above mentioned speakers? Fail. If its charging via USB how is Pono going to isolate the noise in the USB Bus? If you are listening in your car - fuck off. You are NOT going to hear the difference over he road noise and attention distractions breaking your focus. AND I doubt the speakers or the amps in you car are much better than the junk attached to your computer.
    4. Even if you have good speakers - what amp are you using? Your Preamp? Or is it going through some silver faced 1970s Pioneer reciever you got at Hipster Haven for $50?
    What this is is very simple: It's a cranky old man who misses the old days of Rock and Roll business model, where music was impressed in spiraled disks - first vinyl, then polycarbonate. Those days are gone, so he's trying to open up some scarcity to create profit. He will fail.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 13, 2014 @02:12AM (#46471105)

    MP3 is not inherently bad. A lot of early MP3s are crap. Encoded in CBR at 128 kbps or less. Even using VBR at the same bitrate yields a far superior sound and typically slightly smaller size. Sadly, I didn't discover that in college until I'd nearly ripped all of my CDs (quite a labor intensive process back then). Most music, humans won't notice a difference between 44khz and 48khz sampling, either. To notice the differences, you need "noisy" music. Music that has a large variance of frequency ranges and volumes that changes often. That is where you really see improvements from increased sampling and bitrates. Much how you see far less pixelation and artifacting in an action movie comparing a bluray to a dvd.

  • Re:It IS FLAC (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 13, 2014 @03:46AM (#46471349)
    One possible reason for a studio to record at greater resolution than is necessary for playback is so as to avoid unwanted audible artifacts generated by the editing process.
  • Re:LOL (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Megol ( 3135005 ) on Thursday March 13, 2014 @07:34AM (#46471859)

    > If I had a nickel for every time an audiophile tried to explain...

    I used to share this view but eventually I concluded that "CD Quality" is not as good as it gets.

    This is the classic ludic fallacy that nerds are prone to - confusing theory with reality. []

    Nyquist's theorem has some assumptions that do[not] hold in the real world and which actually impact real world sound quality.

    1. It assumes there is no signal above the cutoff (1/2 the sampling rate). If this assumption is not met ie in the real world, then annoying 'aliases' appear in the sampled signal. To fix this, you have to have a low-pass filter. The low-pass filter, by its nature (physics) has to start cutting out signal well below the theoretical cut0off. So there is inevitable loss of signal well under the cutoff.

    Well not really if using digital filters but even with analog filters (which are worse BTW unlike some "audiophiles" think) this isn't a problem in practice if implemented competently. And recording studios are.

    Nyquist's always holds, thinking otherwise is just deluding oneself with magical thinking.

    2. It assumes perfect, 100% accurate samples and reconstruction. Instead we have imperfect 16 bit resolution samples and heuristic sampling and playback. Reconstructing a good playback signal is a bit of an art. The main impact is the loss of dynamic range. Engineers are forced to limit the dynamic range of the music to avoid excessive loss of accuracy and/or clipping.

    This is just more of the same delusion. Even a simple, inexpensive DAC in a reference design is capable of reproducing the signal with much higher precision than required given the destination - the very imperfect human ear.

    16 bit isn't imperfect given that it scales from the lowest detectable audio level to a level that would cause hearing loss.

    I am not a golden-ears person myself but I have friends who are, and gradually they have convinced me that there is a real loss from 16 bit 44kHz samples versys vinyl. I find mp3s unlistenable. Flac and also implicit higher sample rates on DVDs I find OK. I like the lack of noise on digital recordings (no tape hiss or surface noise). But I would happily replace my CDs / flac with higher resolution sound.

    Why? Do you like to waste bytes? Neither you nor your "golden eared" friends could ever detect any difference anyway.

    The problem is a generation brought up on mp3s expects more of the same.

    More of the same? Do you mean high quality sound?

  • Re:Reality check (Score:4, Insightful)

    by KozmoStevnNaut ( 630146 ) on Thursday March 13, 2014 @07:40AM (#46471881)

    Linn and Naim (... very good hifi producers)

    More like "purveyors of bullshit". One of their shared key design parameters is "Pace, Rhythm and Timing" (abbreviated "PRaT") and they apply this to amplifiers, DACs, digital music storage etc. etc.

    If you think your amplifier influences the "Pace, Rhythm and Timing" of your music, you need a straightjacket.

  • Re:Reality check (Score:5, Insightful)

    by KozmoStevnNaut ( 630146 ) on Thursday March 13, 2014 @07:47AM (#46471899)

    Then we had CD's quality is better then tape, but not quite up to the record.

    That is bullshit on a huge scale.

    The CD can do everything that even a pristine record can do, and more. You can perfectly replicate the sound of a record using a CD, but you cannot perfectly replicate the sound of CD using a record. That makes CD the clearly superior format. CDs are cheaper to produce, more portable, do not degrade with repeated playback, can replicate any frequency from 0-22kHz with instant impulse response and more than enough dynamic range to reach from 0dB to the threshold of pain on the same track.

    Records have only one advantage, and that is more space for artwork on the cover. On every single parameter apart from that, the record is an inferior and useless format. Just let it die, already.

God helps them that themselves. -- Benjamin Franklin, "Poor Richard's Almanac"