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posted by girlwhowaspluggedout on Thursday March 13 2014, @03:30PM   Printer-friendly
from the digital-revolution-blues dept.

Marneus68 writes:

"Pono, the Neil Young-endorsed Kickstarter project, is drawing more and more pledges. Now past the $2 million mark (with an expected goal of $800K), this project aims to create a audiophile friendly FLAC player along with its ecosystem (and by that they mean their own music store and syncing application).

The device itself features 2 audio outputs, one 'specially designed for headphones' and the other 'specifically designed for listening on your home audio system'. The player is controlled by an LCD touchscreen, and its triangular 'Toblerone' shape makes it easy to hold it upright with one hand or to lay it flat on surfaces. The player, which has 64GB of internal memory, comes together with a 64GB microSD card.

The board and its components, as well as a 'pre-prototype' model, are pictured in the project's Kickstarter page.

 
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  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by gishzida on Thursday March 13 2014, @05:09PM

    by gishzida (2870) on Thursday March 13 2014, @05:09PM (#15988) Journal

    In some ways the promotion of this player sounds like the "Hype" of the speaker cables sold as Monster Cables [wikipedia.org] which claimed that they were better because they were bigger and used a "special wire alloy". As far as I could tell there was no difference.

    Some facts: It is true that the more you compress an MP3 or AAC the worse they sound. It is also true that MP3 and AAC are "non-free" file formats.

    One might ask is there a real advantage to FLAC? FLAC is the "lossless" sibling of OGG and is released under an open source license [xiph.org].

    So what is the real advantage to FLAC other than it is open source? Yes lossless file comprression. think of it as "gz" compression for audio.

    As an example:

    The desktop audio application I use to "master / edit" my recordings [Sony Sound Forge 10] has FLAC as one of the options for file open/save. I usually use MS WAV files to save the master files. WAV is something like the MS BMP format. [Using Wav is simply laziness on my part more than anything else and does not signify anything]. The Wav format saves everything "as is" with zero compression. The last track I released on my audio blog recently has a WAV master that is 106.7 Mb in size. When saved in FLAC format it takes only 35.8 Mb. So you get about 67% size compression with zero loss. Impressive but....

    In the days of limited resources a file compression ratio like that was a good thing but in reading the hype I can't see a clear reason to purchase one of these. If it was a field recorder [i.e. if could be used for lossless stereo recording] I might have bought one but it is not a recorder. Apparently this is just a "snob" factor device which is most of Apple's marketplace appeal.

    So should you buy one? It depends on your answers to some of these questions: Do you still have good ears? How much is media pricing? Is it a walled garden they are building? Do they have an app that will convert you existing CD collection [all of those your files in MP3 /AAC are "worthless" -- To get lossless sound you have to convert it from a lossless source such as a CD]?

    If you do buy a Pono well good for you. I'll be happy to sell you copies of my recordings for [clickity-clickity-clickity] a really $pecial $oylent price...

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  • (Score: 1) by The Grim Reefer on Thursday March 13 2014, @06:42PM

    by The Grim Reefer (1451) on Thursday March 13 2014, @06:42PM (#16034)

    WAV master that is 106.7 Mb in size. When saved in FLAC format it takes only 35.8 Mb. So you get about 67% size compression with zero loss. Impressive but....In the days of limited resources a file compression ratio like that was a good thing

    I think that is the point. This is a portable device. The resources are limited, to 128 GB I believe. I can't speak for others, but I have much more music than that. Particularly if I save it in .wav format. If I can get three times more music on a portable player, with no loss in quality, then it would be pretty damn stupid not to.

    Do you never leave your home? Or are you carrying a music server with a UPS when you go anywhere?

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by evilviper on Thursday March 13 2014, @07:13PM

    by evilviper (1760) on Thursday March 13 2014, @07:13PM (#16047) Homepage Journal

    In some ways the promotion of this player sounds like the "Hype"

    Well, it's a combination of a couple real issues, combined with misunderstanding of technology, combined with people that buy all the "monster cable" marketing BS.

    Some facts: It is true that the more you compress an MP3 or AAC the worse they sound. It is also true that MP3 and AAC are "non-free" file formats.

    One might ask is there a real advantage to FLAC?

    Actually, there is a REAL problem with the popular lossy audio codecs... No matter how high you crank the bit-rate, they still won't provide audio that is indistinguishable from the original, in side-by-side tests by experts with good equipment.

    MP3 and AAC are frequency-domain audio codecs. In short, that means they're good at representing (long) tones, and terrible at representing sudden and varying non-tonal changes. Most often that means percussion, applause, and similar.

    The earlier and simpler audio codecs actually did better. MPEG-1 Layer II is a temporal-domain codec, as are Musepack, DTS, and a few other fringe ones. These codecs (at bit rates of around 160kbps and up) are able to reproduce CD quality audio in a way that is utterly indistinguishable from the ~1.5mbps original.

    MP3 caught on in the early days, when people were using bit-rates of 96 or 128k to save bandwidth, where something like Layer-II didn't provide good results. So MP3 got popular. Then as bandwidth got cheaper, and music stores appeared, they started provided MP3s (or AAC) at bit-rates of 192 and 256kbps... Bit-rates so high that MP3 or AAC no longer gets any benefit out of it, and where other codecs like Layer-II or Musepack would provide PERFECT sound quality. Also, Musepack is free format, reportedly free of patents, and any patents on layer-II have long since expired.

    And any new audio codecs developed are invariable frequency-domain based, because just there's (even theoretically, per JD Johnston's "Perceptual Entropy") just no room to improve at all on the high-end over a good temporal-domain codec like Musepack. So new codecs always target producing non-annoying sound at ever-lower bit-rates (eg. around 32kbps). People buy the hype for the new codecs, and assume they'll sound better than older codecs at 256kbps, when they actually sound worse... For an example, read up on HE-AAC. They tell you which bit-rates SBR (spectral-band replication) and PS (parametric stereo) provide no benefits over the old, low-complexity AAC by itself, and you can prove this to yourself with some listening tests easily enough.

    Jumping-off point:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MPEG-1#Part_3:_Audio [wikipedia.org]

    FLAC is the "lossless" sibling of OGG and is released under an open source license.

    FLAC didn't have anything to do with Xiph, Vorbis, or Ogg for most of it's life. The two groups simply decided to join forces at some point.

    So should you buy one? It depends on your answers to some of these questions: Do you still have good ears? How much is media pricing? Is it a walled garden they are building? Do they have an app that will convert you existing CD collection [all of those your files in MP3 /AAC are "worthless" -- To get lossless sound you have to convert it from a lossless source such as a CD]?

    I can't see ANY reason to buy one. The majority of adults in the western world keep a smart phone with them at all times... Those smart phones have ample storage, and there are plenty of apps out there that will play FLAC. I've never heard any complaints about the sound quality of the amplification circuits in smart phones, since they've got big budgets to work with, and playing music is one of their key features... And anyone who doesn't have a smart phone, can find slightly older models available dirt-cheap with only cosmetic blemishes and slightly reduced battery life.

    Maybe there's some tiny market... People who are going to be far away from a power outlet for weeks at a time, can't carry a solar panel, and for some reason aren't happy with the numerous other digital audio players that already support FLAC (or other lossless formats). I'd expect that to be an extremely tiny market, though.

    • (Score: 1) by f2 on Friday March 14 2014, @07:14AM

      by f2 (2261) on Friday March 14 2014, @07:14AM (#16190)

      I've never heard any complaints about the sound quality of the amplification circuits in smart phones, since they've got big budgets to work with, and playing music is one of their key features...

      You've clearly never had to use a Lumia phone. Especially the 800 series has/had a headphone amp that's pretty much useless for music (it cuts the low end completely).

      But I do agree with your point that there are plenty of inexpensive portable players out there. I use a Sansa Clip myself.