Neil Young's $400 Pono hi-def music player loses to Apple's iPhone in blind audio test

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Comments

  • Reply 41 of 179
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,309member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Lord Amhran View Post



    Seems to boil down to personal prefrence. I still use lp's as the sound better imo but again, this just me



    Sure, LPs sound great on a $2,000.00 turntable, $3000.00 vacuum tube power amplifier, $500.00 preamp, and the $3500.00/each Klipsch La Scala speakers to go with it. Just ask any audiophile. 

  • Reply 42 of 179
    calicali Posts: 3,495member

    That's the reality, getting a better set of headphones will do more for people's listening experience than going from an iPhone to a Pono player. That's something that Beats has done well, it's gotten people to be willing to spend real money on headphones. I have the older brother to the phones they used in this test, and they do make a difference.

    Sure, dude, tell us about how your MONSTER CABLE XT AWESOME EDITION makes everything better. :rolleyes:

    He mentioned using Audioquest which is a legit quality brand. This guy knows better than to use Monster.
  • Reply 43 of 179
    heliahelia Posts: 170member

    God this thing looks ugly!

  • Reply 44 of 179

    That's the reality, getting a better set of headphones will do more for people's listening experience than going from an iPhone to a Pono player. That's something that Beats has done well, it's gotten people to be willing to spend real money on headphones. I have the older brother to the phones they used in this test, and they do make a difference.

    Sure, dude, tell us about how your MONSTER CABLE XT AWESOME EDITION makes everything better. :rolleyes:
    It reminds me of a blind test I saw where Monster speaker cables were tested against common lamp cord and no one could tell the difference. Including the oscilloscope.
  • Reply 45 of 179
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by lkrupp View Post

     



    Sure, LPs sound great on a $2,000.00 turntable, $3000.00 vacuum tube power amplifier, $500.00 preamp, and the $3500.00/each Klipsch La Scala speakers to go with it. Just ask any audiophile. 




    That sounds cheap, I prefer a TAD Reference One system. <img class=" src="http://forums-files.appleinsider.com/images/smilies//lol.gif" />

  • Reply 46 of 179
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,368member
    The irony is, at his age and after a lifetime of standing in front of 'loud'speakers I would bet Neil's maximum top end hearing is around 10K. Not that that should detract from him doing his best to push for higher quality digital audio for others, as had Steve. CDs always sucked big time .. thank you Philips, too bad my hearing has taken a beating now that such good digital audio is available from Apple and others.
  • Reply 47 of 179
    apple ][ wrote: »
    Yeah. They don't use noise cancellation headphones when mixing in studios.

    Most mixes aren't done on headphones, but on studio monitors. Occasionally you might put headphones on the check something, but the majority of people mix through monitors, both near field and larger monitors.
    Exactly. The only mixing I've ever seen done with headphones was by the musicians getting levels for tracking.
  • Reply 48 of 179
    anomeanome Posts: 1,297member
    alanshutko wrote: »
    The article didn't mention: did Pogue level match the two signals?  It's well documented that people will consider louder audio to be "better" and if the iPhone happened to be louder (even a small amount) it could explain the test results.
    Surely the audiophiles who want the Pono would know about this trick? And make the corrections themselves?

    Similarly, if the problem is the headphones, then how does the iPod/Phone sound better? At best, they should sound the same. I'll accept that forcing high quality signal through poor reproduction equipment is wasting your time, but I don't quite buy that a poorer quality signal would sound better under those circumstances.

    Look, I'm not the market for the Pono. My hearing sucks, and as long as there are no obvious compression artifacts, I'm happy. I'm personally more concerned about whether the musicians can hit all the right notes at the right time. However, I do wonder if a lot of the complaints about sound (or video) reproduction these days are just because these people know there's some loss of quality, so convince themselves they can tell the difference. Even if some people can, I'm not sure there's really a significant market. Therefore, the manufacturers of these things must hope to at least sell some of these to people who just want bragging rights.
  • Reply 49 of 179
    coolfactorcoolfactor Posts: 1,531member

    Okay Mr. Kasper... "high quality MP3s" -- ??

     

    The songs were purchased from the iTunes Store, so they were not MP3s.. they were MP4s...

  • Reply 50 of 179
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,612member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Lord Amhran View Post



    Seems to boil down to personal prefrence. I still use lp's as the sound better imo but again, this just me

    That REALLY depends on the state of your LP's and the choice of your equipment. This is a currently available record player.

  • Reply 51 of 179
    cnocbuicnocbui Posts: 3,613member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Boltsfan17 View Post

     

    Probably. I can tell the difference between a AIFF/FLAC file versus a 320 kbps mp3. I was curious to see which headphones they used in the Yahoo test, so I read the Yahoo article. They were using a pair of  Sony MDR 7506, which are good headphones. 


     

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by bdkennedy1 View Post



    I'm a lossless audio guy, and you are not going to notice the difference between an MP3 and lossless audio file unless you have top quality headphones/speakers. If you have those then you will notice a huge difference.

     

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by vfx2k4 View Post

     

    Blind is right, this 'test' is completely ignorant. It's like someone evaluating a high-definition television signal on an old black and white standard definition television and then saying that HD looks the same as old black and white/SD. Cheap headphones going through a cruddy Radio Shack switcher throws away precisely all the extra fidelity that a player like Pono provides in the first place.

     

    I've been using an Audioquest Dragonfly digital to analog converter hooked up to audiophile speakers on my Mac for the past year. It frequently sounds like a live concert is playing right in front of me on high bitrate FLAC tracks. When I listen to MP3 and tracks from iTunes they often sound like a child's pull-string toy by comparison. Pogue literally has no idea what he's talking about and should be embarrassed to claim otherwise.


     

     

    Some time ago I created an audio file that had sections that were from a 223 kbps AAC rip of the original CD track and sections that were from a lossless WAV rip.  You can grab it here.

     

    I would be very interested to hear if anyone thinks they can discern where the quality transitions.

  • Reply 52 of 179
    blazarblazar Posts: 270member
    Level matching does make a difference. They didn't describe how this was done. Even a half decibel louder sounds "better" to many.
    Speakers make a major difference in the overall sound character.
    Crappy amps make a difference, but there are relatively few of those these days.
    Wires make just about none.
    Lossless is best but 320k is pretty damn goodand hrd to distinguish without the best of system and a trained ear.
    High bit rate vs cd quality audio is marginally if at all different.
    Room acoustics make a massive difference
    Recording quality makes a big difference but we cant control what the artist wants. adele 21 is an example of a very poor recording if you want to compare.
    People who have not heard high end speakers with their own music in a properly setup room seem to belittle audiophiles just so they can make fun of "rich" audio nerds.
  • Reply 53 of 179
    cnocbuicnocbui Posts: 3,613member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by mstone View Post

     

    16 bit vs. 24 bit is not an argument that relates to dog vs. human hearing, because everything that is within human hearing is also improved due to the smaller steps.

     


     

    I think I just heard Claude Shannon scream from his grave.

  • Reply 54 of 179

    Very surprised [and sad] to see so many Apple-savvy AI readers here who don't understand or appreciate the difference between high-resolution audio and compressed audio.

  • Reply 55 of 179
    axualaxual Posts: 244member
    Being backed by Neil Young is completely meaningless. The Pono player is a complete waste of time and talent, and ... lots of money invested.
  • Reply 56 of 179
    So what has REALLY been proved here? An average person, using average music, listening on average headphones, can't tell the difference. So what? If you follow that logic you can easily "prove" that wine buffs can't tell the difference between cheap and expensive wine (because average people can't), that great chefs can't tell the taste of foods any better than anyone else, that great violinists can't tell a cheap $100 violin from a Stradivarius .. and on and on.

    First, most music is so badly recorded these days listening on good audio gear is ghastly as it tends to reveal the horrors of the recording chain (which focuses on high volume, clipped sound and bloated bass). Yes, good audio gear is expensive, but so is a Ferrari, and I don't see many people saying "Ferrari's are no better than a Chevy".

    Second, people are not all the same. Someone who spends hours playing video games no doubt becomes tuned to the subtle differences between games, and flaws stand out in a way that an innocent bystander would not even notice. Of COURSE a great chef has a better taste sense than most people; that's why he is a chef! Of COURSE a violinist can hear the subtle tonal differences between different expensive violins. And yes, there are people out there who CAN tell the difference between a great musical recording played on different audio gear.

    If you can't hear the difference, that's fine; but don't assume because you can't, or because the "average person" can't that NO-ONE can. Otherwise we might as well just draw lots for players in the Super Bowl, because of course no-one can throw better than the average person.

    And last time I looked, the Apple store was selling headphones ranging from $20 to $400 .. now who is buying all those $400 headphones? After all, since they ALL sound the same shouldn't everyone buy the $20 ones?
  • Reply 57 of 179
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by TheWhiteFalcon View Post



    The second reality is that quality 256kbps files are about the highest the human ear can really appreciate. Which happens to be the format of iTunes Plus music.

    You are a fool if you really believe that the human ear can not appreciate a higher bit rate than 256 kbps.

  • Reply 58 of 179
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by cnocbui View Post

     

    Some time ago I created an audio file that had sections that were from a 223 kbps AAC rip of the original CD track and sections that were from a lossless WAV rip.  You can grab it here.

     

    I would be very interested to hear if anyone thinks they can discern where the quality transitions.


     

    I heard an odd blip in the EQ somewhere around the 50-second mark, and only for a few seconds.

     

    Speaking frankly, though, this sample contains a LOT of studio wizardry (including post-processing).  Unless I knew the "original" recording well (and I do not), I could not presume to differentiate the artistic from the deliberate (i.e., bitrate change).

     

    An experiment like this might be more telling with, say, a live classical performance (even solo piano), recorded with as little technical intrusion as possible.

  • Reply 59 of 179
    I am an audio engineer, and do also mastering work in a variety of formats. Material that is mastered for iTunes using Apple's processing software and guidelines, when done competently, is almost impossible to distinguish from the "lossless" formats like AIFF, WAV, and FLAC. It depends a great deal on the material. Classical and jazz recordings show compression artifacts more readily, or anything with Spartan instrumentation. The psychoacoustic principles that these compression algorithms were based on tend to not work as well with that kind of music.

    The truth is, in a mature era of digital audio, the resolution of the recorded material (sample rate/bit-depth/data rate for compressed) has much less impact on the listening experience than the listening environment, the quality of the transducers and their enclosures (speakers or headphones), and especially the amplifier design driving the transducers. Those things are difficult to do cheaply, and $400 is in definitely on the low end of things. In short, all of the analog factors. Without having access to one, it's hard to pas judgment... But David Pogue's review is still very valid because MOST people can't distinguish a significant quality advantage between compressed music coming off the unremarkable DAC and headphone amp on the iPhone and a higher end device. The audiophile business exemplifies the law of diminishing returns better than most. The last 1% is very costly to implement.
  • Reply 60 of 179
    cnocbuicnocbui Posts: 3,613member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by chadmatic View Post

     

    You are a fool if you really believe that the human ear can not appreciate a higher bit rate than 256 kbps.




    Listen to the file I uploaded and identify the splices then.

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