Neil Young finally got to introduce PONO to the crowds at SXSW this weekend as previously announced. It is indeed simply a hi-res lossless audio player (and music store). Around the time that he first announced that he was working on a new digital device and format, I talked about how for most folks the MP3 or other lossy formats (at a high enough bitrate with newer encoders) were good enough and practically indistinguishable from CDs or lossless audio. Around the same time xiph.org had this truly excellent post (which was forwarded to me by a colleague on the back of the current announcement) on how 24/192 audio is not only useless, it’s actually worse than useless as it could introduce unintended distortion from trying to reproduce the ultrasonic frequencies. The highly detailed post touches on how human hearing works, sampling theory, and a whole host of details that explains why 24/192 for music is a bad idea. The article is a highly recommended read.
Ironically the recording of the talk in the NPR report has a pretty hot mic and is a gentle reminder that for the best audio quality, garbage in-garbage out is still the number 1 rule. Playback equipment and environment is next on the list and (at least nowadays with higher quality codecs and encoders) format is going to be way down the list.
Bonus: I also discovered this morning a link to the very first TED conference in 1984 where Sony demonstrated the Compact Disc.