It’s official! I just received an email announcing that, “Rock icon Neil Young and PonoMusic will hold a special press briefing on High Resolution Audio on Tuesday, January 6 from 3:30-4:30 PM at the Hi-Res Audio Workshop”. That’s the same venue and room that AIX Records/iTrax will be demoing and offering our high-resolution audio products. The High-Resolution Audio Marketplace, which will be located on Level 2, Bellini 2001-2002, will feature, “A showcase of clearer, crisper audio on the most advanced high-resolution audio (HRA) devices that are more convenient, compatible and cost-effective than ever before.” Although there will be fewer companies presenting at this years event (AIX/iTrax, Acoustic Sounds, HDTracks, and Auro Technologies), the number of sessions has increased. There will be two sessions each of the three days of the show AND the just added press event with Neil Young.
Here’s the schedule from the CEA website:
Tuesday, January 06
11-11:45 AM / Hi-Res Audio for Mobile Lifestyles
2:15-3 PM / Meet the Hi-Res Music Creators [Note: this is the one that I will be on]
3:30-4:30 PM / Neil Young and PonoMusic “Special Press Briefing on High-Resolution Audio”
Wednesday, January 07
11-11:45 AM / Hi-Res Audio: Breaking the Barriers
2:15-3 PM / The New Business of Hi-Res Music
Thursday, January 08
11-11:45 AM / Hi-Res Audio: The Retail Perspective
2:15-3 PM / Hi-Res Audio: CES Power Panel
In addition and undoubtedly because Neil is a “rock icon”, he will doing a SuperSession led by Rolling Stone executive editor Nathan Brackett on Wednesday, January 7 from 10:15-11:15 AM at the LVCC, room N257. Neil Young has become the de facto voice and face of high-resolution audio. His appearance at the Venetian Hotel, Bellini Ballroom 2001-2002 will eclipse everything else that happens during the HRA Marketplace…and will deliver to the press and attendees a consistent message about this important and emerging market segment.
There is no doubt that Neil Young will give an upbeat assessment of his company, their Pono high-resolution players, and the still in beta PonoMusic website. What you will not hear is how 99% of the Pono catalog of “so-called” “master quality” albums or “high-resolution albums” will be nothing more than rips of standard resolution compact discs. I doubt that Neil will talk about his belief that using different sampling rates creatively during the recording process or the fact that his own catalog will never be available in high-resolution audio (because it wasn’t recorded in high-resolution!).
I have great apprehension about Neil Young becoming the poster boy for high-resolution audio. I acknowledge that he’s done more than anyone else to bring awareness to the perils of highly compressed MP3 digital files. But what he offered as a solution to the problem…a better portable player and 20 million standard resolution CD rips…is the wrong approach.
I’ve never heard him speak about the provenance of the tracks that are available through PonoMusic. He promises to his supporters to upgrade all of their standard resolution purchases to the “highest resolution available” when they are made available but fails to inform his followers that this doesn’t mean they will ever get real high-resolution audio files. They won’t get what the “artist intended” either. Consumers will be upgraded to a new transfer of an older analog master when they are made available by the labels at 192 kHz/24-bits. And the number of those newly transferred albums is less than 15,000 as of today. They are what the mastering engineer “intended” and are not (according to my sources at the mastering facilities) approved by the artists or labels.
It will be exciting to see Neil evangelize on the merits of high-resolution audio at the 2015 International CES show. He could be the perfect spokesperson if he wasn’t so intimately tied to his Pono company, which depends on perpetuating the myth of high-resolution to sell more hardware and software. Just tell it like it is Neil and things for 2015 might look rosier. As it is, we’re going to get more of the same old spin regarding HRA and the whole initiative will fail.
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