Re: Pono

Why does Neil Young get a pass?

I don’t care that no one in the mainstream other than David Pogue has criticized Pono, I’m more worried about the rest of the stories. As Tony Wilson once told me, after screwing up the football scores for a news broadcast, the boss said no one cared about that, but it cast a shadow on the rest of the news, if the broadcast couldn’t get it right about something so simple, would people believe they could get it right about the important stuff?

Did you read that article in the “New York Times” wherein Harvey Weinstein bullied the PR person for his Broadway musical, “Finding Neverland,” into resigning? At first you wonder why this is news, and then you read it and you’re horrified. Weinstein is pissed that his flack can’t get guaranteed covers. He himself lined up “Vogue,” how about the rest of the magazines?

Make me puke.

But that’s the news industry today. Few stand alone. They want to sidle up to the rich and famous who believe they’re so much better than us. Kind of like the rich westsiders who refuse to vaccinate their kids. Of course they’re right, they went to Ivy League schools, they’re rich! And they’re perpetuating their breed, if they don’t get felled by disease, using their money, power and influence to get ahead while the poor line up for shots and take whatever is given to them.

Kind of like Ken Ehrlich getting a star on the Walk of Fame and an attendant glowing article in today’s “Los Angeles Times.” I’m cool with Ken, but is this news? What next, a star for the guy who casts the Oscar statuettes? Where’s Ken’s fame? And where in the article is the blowback about his power, how Neil Portnow kowtows to him and every Grammy-worthy act is afraid of him.

Nowhere to be seen.

So I’m waiting for the big boys to say Pono sucks.

David Pogue just did, and his opinion went viral, if you didn’t get it you need new friends, he declared that “The Emperor Has No Clothes.”

Not only did Pogue say you couldn’t hear the difference, but that hi-def tracks were overpriced, the store was incomprehensible and the hardware was a failure, hell, it doesn’t even have a lock button, never mind fit into your pocket.

Isn’t that what Steve Jobs promoted back in 2001? A thousand songs in your pocket? And now Neil Young is jetting us back to the past?

But Mr. Young is untouchable. He gets endless press for his new, unlistenable records that don’t sell. And he gets a pass for entering a sphere he knows nothing about.

That’s right, Neil Young knows something about sound, but he knows nothing about hardware, nothing about tech. Which is why anybody with a brain knew this project was doomed from the start. I said so.

But I was inundated by e-mail from his fans calling me a hater.

That’s how far we’ve come, you can’t say a negative thing about anybody with a profile because you’re gonna offend their tribe. Which is how Chris Christie comes out against mandatory vaccinations. Pander much Chris?

Why does everybody believe they can do everything?

You might as well put your teenage science project on Kickstarter saying you’re gonna deliver the new smartphone, as if Apple and Android don’t exist and everybody working there is an uneducated, inexperienced idiot. That’s right, Jony Ive knows nothing about design.

And the Center For Disease Control knows nothing about vaccinations. It’s all just a plot to pull the wool over your eyes.

If only the government could do this, if only it could truly prevent leaks. But you’d rather subscribe to the rantings of an inexperienced Luddite than believe the truth. What did Jack Nicholson say in that movie, YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH?

No one can handle the truth anymore.

No one wants to hear that the internet has created a two class system in music, winners and losers. That the middle class has been eviscerated. It’s got nothing to do with Spotify and everything to do with access to the best instantly.

No one even wants to say a negative thing about Taylor Swift, for fear she’ll write a song about them, even more that she won’t invite them to her house and cook them dinner and make small talk, as if Taylor Swift is their friend. Hell, she doesn’t care about them, she just wants to sell.

We used to have a critical society. The only people poking holes in theories were not nobodies online. And the funny thing about the haters is they focus more on the nobodies, the stars are untouchable, because if the stars have feet of clay they’ve got nothing to believe in.

So football is safe, global warming doesn’t exist and Neil Young can’t be wrong.

But he is.

Even a four year old knows twenty plus bucks for an album is too much. Hell, you can buy a Ferrari FXX for two million dollars, it’s great, but do you want to lay down for it?

I don’t think so.

So in one fell swoop, David Pogue killed Pono. It doesn’t even matter whether he’s right, his story dominated the news cycle.

Proving once again that the viral story trumps the media message every day. That’s the power of the people, rarely used, except for inanities, cat videos and specious scientific theories.

Mr. Pogue made a mistake leaving the “New York Times.” Yahoo is so disorganized it’s a hoot that it started out with the mission to make the web comprehensible.

And conventional wisdom is reviewing is dead, no one has any power.

But every other mainstream outlet could have bought a Pono and done an A/B test. But they didn’t because they were too busy sucking up to movie stars and non-celebrities like Ken Ehrlich, desiring to be a member of the club.

Meanwhile, I’m stuck here in the middle with you. Looking for truth in a world that doesn’t want any.

But it does…

Read Pogue’s review from start to finish, it’s devastating:

“‘Finding Neverland’ Publicist Resigns After Dispute”:




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What's been said:

Discussions found on the web:
  1. Jojo commented on Feb 7

    Ha! I posted a few articles here about the Pono in the past. Basically saying the same things Pouge says. I’ve also pointed out that as we get older, your ability to hear higher frequency sound declines. At Young’s age, it is very unlikely that he can hear any sounds greater than 12Khz!

    Here’s another zinger of a review:
    Gear & Gadgets / Product News & Reviews
    Pono Player review: A tall, refreshing drink of snake oil
    We give Neil Young’s high-res music player a spin and do a few cochlea kegels

    by Sam Machkovech – Feb 1 2015

    • rd commented on Feb 8

      The ability to hear the difference is inversely proportional to the financial ability to purchase the product since higher incomes typically correlate to age.

  2. patski commented on Feb 7

    David Pogue? Didn’t he move to Alabama or something???


    ADMIN: NYT -> Yahoo.

  3. klhoughton commented on Feb 7

    Hey! _Americana_ was really interesting. That most of Mr. Young’s best recent releases are recordings from the 1970s is moot.

    But Pogue did explain why many people still prefer albums.

  4. holzter commented on Feb 7

    It’s nice to hear that you’ve woken up, Mr. Lefsetz, but I can’t resist reminding you that, back in October 2013, you posted that not only could you hear the difference between a CD and a 320Kbps mp3, but ZOMG, the mp3 “sounds like it’s being transmitted via two Dixie Cups on a string.”

    At that time, as I told you then, A/B tests had already established that, at a constant bitrate of 256kbps, nobody could reliably distinguish between mp3s and CDs — i.e., the mp3 was chosen as best as often as the CD.

    So… the sneery tone of today’s post seems a little out of place, coming from you.

  5. Iamthe50percent commented on Feb 8

    “And they’re perpetuating their breed, if they don’t get felled by disease, using their money, power and influence to get ahead while the poor line up for shots and take whatever is given to them.”

    We (poor people) get our revenge when their adult sons become sterile from a disease that they could have avoided (and for free! Thanks to the ACA).

  6. dark1p commented on Feb 8

    The Pono may indeed be a crappy piece of hardware and might not even work as it should. I’ve heard high-res music on another player and it sounded infinitely better than anything from a phone.

    One thing about Pogue’s test: what were the ages of the people involved? I grew up on vinyl (still my favorite for the intangible ‘air’), think some CDs sound amazing and have heard some FLAC files that made my jaw drop with the expanded soundstage I could hear. People who have grown up on or used MP3s alone (or even CDs and MP3s, perhaps) for many years will have a natural tendency to find their sound ‘better.’ It would take repeated listening, for months or even years, to recalibrate their ears to the best lossless files. A person’s hearing is not exactly scientific; it is, like sight and smell, heavily effected by past experience and what the brain has come to expect. In other words, it’s incredibly subjective. Our brains are also pretty good at faking missing information to make up deficiencies in the source. This, and the fact that most people just can’t hear music very well, was why MP3s were able to ride their convenience benefits into the dominant music delivery position.

    Pogue’s most interesting comment is about the lack of newer acts on Pono’s web site. For anyone with ears worth trusting, it’s very obvious that a lot of today’s music is horribly produced, incredibly overcompressed in terms of dynamics, and sounds just plain bad regardless of content. If that’s the stuff Pogue and his acquaintances have been listening to much of the time and they think it sounds good, his argument is completely undercut to begin with.

    All that said, the Pono might well be a total failure and a big rip-off. But FLAC and other lossless formats aren’t, and if you think the iTunes files on your phone sound better, your ears have been dumbed down or may never have been properly educated from the get-go. Still, that’s my very subjective opinion, and Pogue and his contingent have theirs. I’ll stick to my heavy vinyl and Pioneer Elite CD player from the early 90s (full turntable with a down-pointing laser…try to find one, it’s worth it). (If you always listen to music on earbuds or headphones, you might want to try a proper stereo and hear what music sounds like in the open air through something better than the little boxes in restaurants and retail shops. You may find it interesting.)

    • rd commented on Feb 8

      A lot of pop music in the 60s and 70s was recorded and mixed with a focus on sounding good on car radios (let’s just say they weren’t by Bose then). A lot of the final mixes were mono with lots of dynamic compression. That is a primary reason why many of the remasterings improve the sound so much.

      It has also been clear over the couple of decades that some companies put a lot of effort into their software that takes the sound from the data files and “tunes” it to give it some warmth etc. as it decompressed the files. Some of the early MP3 playback software made everything sound like a cheap car radio. That difference has been declining as improving microprocessor speed and DRAM has allowed the software to perform better without lots of coding effort.

      Good headphones and speakers always make stuff sound much better. The type of room you listen to things in also makes a big difference.

  7. flocktard commented on Feb 8

    I wouldn’t pay $400 for this unwieldy thing, but I DO have a Chinese made Fiio X3 player, which is far cheaper and does sound quite good. Most of my tracks are ripped to the FLAC lossless standard, and with a good set of headphones, the sound quality is excellent. I don’t know how the Apple hardware sounds, but my HTC phone is a horrid music reproduction device, and I’ve simply compared the two by switching my headphone from one to the other to make that determination. I have no doubt the phone’s SQ will improve over time, as they’ve done with everything else.

    I think you DO get more detail out of the FLAC codec. And it’s not “forced listening.” Songs I’ve heard a million times have more clarity. But I wouldn’t pay $400 for such a thing, and I surely wouldn’t pay $24 for an album. Just rip the CDs to FLAC.

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