Pono and David Pogue
Have you seen the latest videos and article to cast serious doubt on Neil Young and Pono initiative? I finally got around to viewing the David Pogue iPhone vs. Pono challenge. It’s pretty disappointing…and not because the results fail to show that the Pono or even high-resolution audio files are persuasive. You can check out the video by clicking here.
David Pogue used to be the tech guru at the New York Times. He would write on all thing tech including Apple devices and other compelling technologies. But he’s also an audiophile. I interacted via email with David a couple of times about the virtues of analog tape. He’s a member of a dedicated group of reel-to-reel fans that cling to their aging Technics RS-1500 and Revox machines in the mistaken belief that analog tape is the ultimate recording and reproduction format. I’m not going to punch into that tar baby but I can tell you that he wrote and said that he and his other analog tape devotees wouldn’t be interested in new high-resolution audio recordings that originated in any other format than analog…meaning if I were to transfer some of my 96 kHz/24-bit real high-resolution tracks to first generation analog tape that the sound quality would somehow be compromised. A third generation older analog master transferred to another analog tape does excite David and his Yahoo group but getting better fidelity in every measurement you can imagine was ruled out.
David also became a celebrity hosting the NOVA science show that I used to enjoy so much. I don’t anymore…the style of the program became intolerable to me. It’s just me, I guess. Now Mr. Pogue is the guru for Yahoo in the world of tech and they produced the short video review of the Pono device. The Yahoo tech page also has a lengthy review of the Pono Kickstarter campaign and its progress through to delivery of the devices and site late last year.
You should read the review and draw your own conclusions about the quality of the tests he performed and the accuracy of the review. You all know that I’m not a fan of Neil’s approach to high-resolution audio but David blew it with his “test” and review. For a guy that’s an audiophile (more accurately an “analog tape-o-phile”), he doesn’t seem to understand or even be aware of the “provenance” issue. He fell into the same trap as the Meyer and Moran discredited study.
He described his test:
How does it sound? I found 15 volunteers, ages 17 through 55. Each subject put on nice headphones — Sony MDR 7506 — and listened to three songs of different styles (“Saturday in the Park” by Chicago, “Raised on Robbery” by Joni Mitchell, and “There’s a World” by Mr. Pono himself, Neil Young). I bought these songs twice: once from the Pono store, in high resolution, and once from the iTunes store.
To Be Continued…
10 thoughts on “Pono and David Pogue”
I saw this video Mark, almost sent it to you in fact. Somewhat flawed, of course, but, as we have seen lately, at least Pono is getting press all over the place and, indeed, in some unfamiliar places for hifi. In principle, this is good for high end audio, regardless of the merits or otherwise of Pono. Unfortunately, as we saw in this latest Yahoo fiasco, it is also giving rise to a lot of ignorant comment being presented as expert analysis to the general listening public. The big danger here is that hi-res is going to be labelled as a high class confidence trick of the snake oil variety, which would be a tragedy. Of course it’s not helped by Pono presenting CD rips as being high res. Ultimately, however, I’m still encouraged that things are broadly traveling in the right direction and, it has to be admitted, this probably wouldn’t be happening without Neil Young’s involvement.
My primary concern is that the whole HRA arena will be dismissed (like David Pogue does) because no one is actually doing a real comparison.
It seems that hi-fi can’t get a break when it comes to mainstream press, unless your brand is called Bose. I agree with you that the best high end audio publicity opportunity in a generation is not having an easy time of it.
It’s no problem flogging 4K, even 5k, TV’s with ever bigger screens, but there is still a giant blind spot among the general public when it comes to having any motivation to listen to better sound. When they read about Pono in a snake oil context, well it just fans the flames of ignorance doesn’t it.
I still maintain that the future is rosy, because when Apple finally joins the high res “revolution” the fawning world’s press will suddenly totally “get” what HRA is all about. Until then, it’s probably going to be a litany of false dawns and venture failures.
Actually he said ” … iTunes store at standard resolution.” No mention of compression. This may prove nothing more than that people like what they are used to.
Sounds to me like you were right Mark, Pono is in serious trouble with attacks and negative reviews coming from all sides Neil & Co better step up their marketing if theyplan on being successful.
They don’t have a marketing plan. They have Neil Young spewing falsehoods about the “soul” of music and the magic of 192 kHz while they offer 2.1 million ripped CD tracks.
The waves continue to crash on the hi-res beach.
Yes, this test is bogus, but the Pono sniping is continuously ridiculous.As one has commented, hey, he’s stirring the pot on the subject of sound quality.What’s wrong w/that? A Pono player can be loaded w/ hi-res from any site you wish. The playback electronics are audibly superior ,that”s why it cost 399.00, but as Mr. Young suggests in the enclosed preamble w/ the player, loudspeakers are the best choice for Hi-Res listening. Forgetting MP-3 altogether, it is entirely possible to hear the difference between a CD and a hi-res track at 24/96 on a good system.
I enjoy headphones but would only judge certain audio criteria w/ them; the full impact and musical gestalt experience loudspeakers provide simply does not come through headphones, even as advanced as they are today.
The “emperor’s new clothes” fantasy the Neil has been perpetuating is being questioned by many…this is not sniping Craig. This is pulling back the curtain to reveal the huckster and his minions.
I loved your expression “to punch into that tar baby”. I saw “SONG OF THE SOUTH” on my 5th birthday, and it lives in memory.
If they did not mention the provenance of the audio file, everything else is snake oil. Only tracks recorded on updated digital equipment providing at least 24Bit-192KHz during all the recording process can give origin to a high resolution file of at least 24Bit-96KHz. All these reviewers are talking on things they do not understand. They do not know that it is not the envelope, the container, that characterizes the audio file as a HRA/HDA, it is the provenance and all the recording chain together at high resolution. How is that so difficult to understand when we are talking on easy things?