Pono’s mission is to provide the best possible listening experience of your favorite music. We want to be very clear that PonoMusic is not a new audio file format or standard. PonoMusic is an end-to-end ecosystem for music lovers to get access to and enjoy their favorite music exactly as the artist created it, at the recording resolution they chose in the studio. We offer PonoMusic customers the highest resolution digital music available.
To me, the Pono (pronounced Poe-No) Player looks funky and old-school, as if someone built it from spare parts taken from older devices. But it’s all about the music, right? Given what the critics are saying, I don’t see the win here against existing standards. But I would wager that all that criticism is paper analysis and does not come from hearing the Pono Player itself.
There is a reason why every iPod and iPhone has been a flat device. So it can fit in your pocket! So Pono decided to make their new music player a triangle shape.
They’re making their calculations based on compressed MP3 files (using 256 kbps) and uncompressed high-resolution files. All of the 24/96 files I have in my iTunes library come in at about 2,000 – 3,000 kbps, because they are compressed, as are the FLAC files that are mentioned above. That’s about half the actual bit rate, because FLAC compresses about 50%. But if the Pono people quote uncompressed bit rates, yet still say these are FLAC files, they’re simply lying. (For example, 1411 kbps is the bit rate of uncompressed CD quality files, in either WAV or AIFF format, not in FLAC format as the Pono FAQ says.)
I agree with the Pono folks that we now have the technology to provide a much better listening experience. However, in my view the bulk of the problem is not the quality of 256 kbps AAC. It’s the loudness war that causes those files to be mastered poorly. Remaster the compressed files with more dynamic range, and they would sound much better. Create high-resolution FLAC files with the same bad process, and they would still sound bad.
Update (2014-03-13): Kirk McElhearn:
However, if someone really wants to provide “music as it was intended to be heard,” they’d do a lot better to look at the mastering process that’s been destroying music in recent decades. Colloquially known as “the loudness wars,” music producers, prodded by record labels, use dynamic compression to increase the overall volume of music, making it sound horrendous. Since, in general, louder sounds better, or brighter, when you compare two songs, producers have been cranking up the volume to make their songs stand out. But string together an albums worth of overly loud tracks, and it’s fatiguing. But it’s a war of attrition, and our ears are the losers. No high-resolution files will make this music sound better, ever.
Update (2014-08-24): Kirk McElhearn:
This Guardian article reads like an advertorial. Lazy journalists didn’t want to take the time to examine the questions around high-resolution music files objectively, so they got a company who sells the product they’re reporting on, and pimped that company’s products[…]
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