Author Topic: $400 Pono and the $1,000 Sony Walkman  (Read 1501 times)

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Offline mindme

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$400 Pono and the $1,000 Sony Walkman
« on: January 07, 2015, 09:19:04 AM »
So, Neil Young (my government requires me to crow about the fact he's Canadian) has come out with a $400 mp3 player (remember those?) that will play music that has magical properties that will apparently do things to your soul and make you no longer perceive life as wall paper. Or something.

http://www.techtimes.com/articles/25025/20150106/ces-2015-neil-young-thinks-his-ponoplayer-sounds-like-god.htm

Oh yeah, you also get the privilege of paying huge gobs of money for songs you probably already have in mp3:

http://www.theverge.com/2015/1/6/7504455/pono-music-store-expensive-high-fidelity-audio

And I suppose anyone who has ever followed the $5,000 speaker cable bit of pseudoscience debate Randi tried to take on a few years ago, you won't be surprised there is truly a big market out there.

Sony seems to be betting the farm on a $1,200 walkman:

http://www.theverge.com/2015/1/5/7493145/new-sony-walkman-zx2-ces-2015

But reading the specs of both, I noticed none of them are freon cooled, factory sealed with nitrogen, and use vacuum tubes. So, the music is gonna suck.




« Last Edit: January 07, 2015, 11:38:08 AM by mindme »
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Offline The Latinist

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Re: $400 Pono and the $1,000 Sony Walkman
« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2015, 09:57:00 AM »
I went into this in a lot of detail in a thread now lost to oblivion because of ForumPocalypse 2.0, and I don't feel like rehashing it.  Suffice it to say that 44.1 MHz sampling perfectly reproduces the entire range of human hearing.  Let me say that again: not just approximate, but perfectly reproduce the encoded signal.  All you will get by sampling at higher frequencies is harmonics you can't hear but which have the potential to muddy the frequencies you can hear.  And 16-bit encoding with a suitable floor has enough dynamic range to cover the quietest sound you can possibly hear even in a studio to the loudest sound you can safely listen to.  Pono tracks may sound better because they've been remastered (indeed, some of the mastering of digital downloads seems atrocious), but not because of their sampling frequency or encoding bitrate.
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Offline superdave

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Re: $400 Pono and the $1,000 Sony Walkman
« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2015, 03:11:26 PM »
totally agree except for in theory 16 bits only gets you 96dB and the human ear can hear a little better range than that.  In nearly 100% of cases this difference would be masked by noise and almost no music these days is recorded with such a wide dynamic range in any case, so this a minor nitpick. 
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Offline Sordid

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Re: $400 Pono and the $1,000 Sony Walkman
« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2015, 06:38:40 PM »
These are the most pointless and redundant products I've seen in a very long time. A dedicated portable music player? What decade is this? Make it a module for Google's modular phone and I might possibly be interested in thinking about it at some unspecified time in the future. This? Don't make me laugh.

Not only that, they're dedicated portable music players for audiophiles. Y'know, because the extra quality that I can't hear anyway is really going to matter on a bus or in a car or while walking along a busy street or in any of the many other noisy environments I would actually want to take my portable music player to.

I just don't understand the thought process behind these. At least not from the user's point of view. The company's thought process is crystal clear: "There's lots of audiophile dupes out there, we're going to make a killing."

Offline The Latinist

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Re: $400 Pono and the $1,000 Sony Walkman
« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2015, 08:51:28 PM »
totally agree except for in theory 16 bits only gets you 96dB and the human ear can hear a little better range than that.

But in your recorded music you don't need a dynamic range as wide as the whole human sensitivity; you need one that will cover the space from the ambient noise level in your listening environment to the maximum safe listening level.  For that, 96 dB should be entirely adequate.  A very quiet room might have ambient noise level in the 30-dB range, so that a 96-dB dynamic range will reach up to a deafening and unsafe 126 dB (if not exceeding then at least nearing the threshold of pain).  Even a recording studio is unlikely to have ambient noise below 15 dB, so if you were listening to your PONO files in a studio you could attain peaks of 111 dB, a level that will cause hearing damage after just one minute of continuous exposure.  And your own body's ambient noise level is in the 30-40 dB range, so even if you're listening through sound-isolating headphones you're not going to miss stuff on the bottom if you use a dynamic range wider than 96 dB unless your peaks are dangerously loud.
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