We welcome with this post, Phil (http://peejayblog.com/about-me/), our newest writer on the team. While I encourage you to click on the link to his personal website, he is not just a gadgets enthusiasts, but has a fair amount of experience in the world of music. He starts off by writing about Pono, a new venture by Neil Young, who you’d be surprised to know, isn’t that young. Before I embarrass him any further, read on his insight about Pono, and feel free to comment and provide feedback here or via his Twitter id (http://twitter.com/peejaybe).
As you know, we love a good gadget here at OxGadgets but we also love music so when news of a potential new audio-format, player and music download service came our way we felt it worth some further investigation.
I am sure that the audiophiles among you will be well aware of the shortcomings of digital sound files such as MP3, WMA or M4A but I expect many people won’t be familiar so let me explain…
Imagine your favourite artist goes into the studio to record their masterpiece using the very latest in recording techniques. The desk in the studio will more than likely be recording at 24bit, 192Khz sample rate, capturing every little nuance of the songs. This will then be lovingly mixed and mastered so that it sounds the very best it can, the pinnacle of what the artist can achieve.
This will then be made into a CD for you to buy, the format being 16-bit 44.1Khz, estimated to lose 15% of the quality from the original recording, but still pretty good.
However, if you choose to download the album from iTunes instead then the format will likely be a compressed 256kbps audio file, with considerable loss in quality. The files are compressed to keep the file size down and mean that you can download them as quickly as possible.
Image courtesy of LondonJazzCollector – http://londonjazzcollector.wordpress.com/for-audiophiles/cd-or-vinyl/
The musician Neil Young has had enough of this and is attempting to do something about it by introducing a new audio-format, player and music download service with the snappy name of‘Pono’. Young feels strongly that we shouldn’t have to suffer the poor quality of our digital downloads and that it doesn’t do the original recordings justice. He is championing the cause and has appeared on TV with an example Pono device for playing the new format that will provide recordings in their original 24bit 192Khz format.
The thing about audio quality is that it is subjective and relies on a number of factors. The first consideration is that a lot of people don’t care, they don’t notice that the hi-hat on the Muse album sounds awful and in fact have become so used to it they prefer it! A study at a University in America has shown that when new students are given the same song in varying formats they tend to prefer the lower quality, it is what they are used to and comfortable with.
The other thing is that it is all very well having a 192Khz/24 bit recording but if you are listening through a pair of £10.99 headphones you won’t appreciate the quality, you would need top notch kit from start to finish in order to reap any benefit.
The final point, and this is one made by many studio engineers is that the human ear can’t even HEAR the range of sounds on the high fidelity recordings. So though you could have all the gear, you can’t hear it anyway.
So while I admire what Neil Young is doing and wish him all the best I think he is pitching too high, instead of pushing for studio quality push for BETTER quality than we get as standard through the likes of Amazon and iTunes.
Personally I think you would be better off buying yourself a decent set of speakers, a CD-Player, an Amplifier and maybe a Record Player then enjoying music that way if you want the quality. For listening on the move make sure you rip CDs at the highest you can, with a 320kbps MP3 file you would be pushed to tell the difference when compared with a CD.
In the meantime we shall watch with interest to see if Neil Young can get Pono off the ground and if so, how much take up there is.