Apple’s Upcoming Music Announcement

Will it have anything to do with sound quality?  I doubt it.

Apple likes to roll out new products with slick presentations touting all of the improvements in the product, or how the new product improves upon an existing solution.

This new rumored streaming audio service (a re-branded Beats Music service) looks like more of the same – random, computer generated playlists or hunt & peck streaming at a compressed rate, trying it’s damnedest to sell you that same compressed copy to own.

No one wants to buy those compressed little MP3’s when you can stream them. If they were smart enough to offer an HD version of the song I bet people would buy more when streaming. I know I would.

A new walkman sounded better than the old one. What happened?

A new walkman usually sounded better than the old one. What happened?

Since iPod shipped 14 years ago, I can recall one single upgrade to the sound quality in Apple’s iTunes ecosystem. This was around 2009 when they introduced the “mastered for iTunes” program, that allowed you to deliver files in 24bit lossless but they would not sell the HD version, they reduce it to 320k AAC (apple’s version of MP3) and sell it for $1.29 a track instead of $.99.

All of this is why I have a PonoPlayer and haven’t looked back. iTunes was always a toy musically, and since they’ve made absolutely no effort to really improve sound quality in 15 years, it’s even more of a toy.

The sad thing is how popular it is, with millions of people listening to tinny, distorted audio devices playing horribly compressed files. None of it is necessary anymore but it lives on as “The modern way”.  A huge decrease in quality in the name of perceived convenience.

Youtube’s Version of HD Audio – My Realtime Review

Oh damn, the internet generation strikes back against pono!

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I just fired up my old iPhone 4, hit youtube, searched for flac, found ihearttflac and flacsgreatesthits, and was forced to admit after a day of reflection and jamming on my beloved PonoPlayer that I needed to be real about Pono’s chance for success.

This youtube FLAC stuff, whatever it is, sounds pretty good. I didn’t know the Apple/Youtube/mainstream ecosystem could deliver good audio over my average home setup, but I hit it with my PS4 over speakers and then iPhone in headphones and they both are showing a marked improvement over mp-anything. It’s real music, alive again, and it got me moving and emotional like no other youtube video or mp3 has. CD’s sometimes can, but not really. Only vinyl and pono, so far.

Hear My Pixels

Early 21st century art

If this Youtube FLAC is actually CD quality or below perhaps my excitement that is was working at all enhanced my experience. [Edit: a few days later and I still am not sure what Youtube was delivering me. I am still researching this]

So then I went looking for my precious, the PonoPlayer that the tech press is fawning over right now (gee, little old me managed to jump a trend for once!). Except she had a dead battery and this battle of “cool thing” -vs- “thing already in everyone’s pocket” was looking grim for the yellow triangle of pleasure.

Which was actually a good pause because it gave me a few minutes to collect my thoughts on what I had just heard:

The cloud is capable of delivering higher-quality audio over the existing mp3 infrastructure, something I was unsure of. All of my speakers are wired and not noise canceling, I don’t mess with junk on my audio. So I’m focusing on the delivery from network to device, if you go wireless on the speakers that’s another set of problems.

 


 

As I listened to several songs, a couple of jams, some numbers, and a prelude I started to hear a buzz and a bit of flatness overall in the dynamic range, especially on the iPhone. I admit I turned it up and the music hit me pretty hard, dulled by years of suffering in this low-def world. But it wasn’t perfect, I felt some restriction and narrowness, some loss of a clear L/R/Center, and more fatigue than expected. I’m going to read up on what I was actually hearing after filing this true review.

Not sure if youtube cuts it to 16/44 or something lossy, not sure what’s going on but I appreciated the music and heard no obvious digital tells. Yet I felt I needed to turn it down by the end of the song. Most importantly I heard the music, felt the music, but was also aware that I was blasting music and fatiguing my ears a bit.

So the PonoPlayer charged and although I don’t have the same material as is streamed from above sources, I can’t wait to hear the PonoPlayer after the youtube challenge….

 


 

 

Bam! Knockout, Tyson style. This PonoPlayer sounds bad-ass, and you deserve to have one. Earn some tips, give up chocolate for a month, whatever, you should own one of these players if you need music to be you.

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The soundstage is HUGE. Crystal clear. Not just the entire drum set, the tuning and pan and wood of each drum. Amazing. Crash cymbals just decay perfectly, trust me I use them often. Bass is low and round and totally natural. To apply extra “boom” on bass is not the job of the player, you have various other ways to enhance the low end. Chances are the mix is perfect.

Tears again, damn this thing is really hitting me.

It really loves full volume, 70-100% really shines. And I’m just running straight through the single minijack output, unbalanced iPod/phone style. Every voice, every instrument just sits perfectly, nothing masks unless the player (or mixer) wanted it to.

Not a hint of digital tells, OK maybe still some hi-hat smashers like Chad Smith can make you think you hear digital, but it’s so rare and hard to track (at least at 24/96). Yeah no doubt, the PonoPlayer is still the best digital I have ever heard, anywhere.  Plus I have yet to hear it in balanced mode, which everyone swears is a major improvement.

 


 

So what to do about it?

  1. First, hear one for yourself and if you don’t hear it by the second song, sorry about your luck.
  2. Second, remember iHeartFLAC and it’s type on youtube and the fact that the “new school” method of streaming from the internet CAN provide a real upgrade from not only MP3, but the few I played surpassed most CD quality I’ve heard in nearly 30 years. So please let’s try to push that standard up, and if they can stream FLAC on spotify while still paying the artists, I guess I’m for it.

It’s not one or the other to me as long as everyone gets an audio upgrade. The MP3 trickery is real and subtle, but it’s robbing you of the full experience no matter how much they hype it. It was built for dial-up modems and we are so past that. This streaming FLAC thing is a bit of a game changer for me.

But does it sound better than a PonoPlayer? Oh hell no. PonoPlayer is the real deal, Holyfield and Tyson playing both the standard 16/44 files you already own (and are still the most common HD format, sadly) and true HD files. When you make that jump to 24/44, then up the sample rates to 96 or 192k, oh yeah, it gets intense.

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To those rare ones that scream(type) “yeah but when will it stop, 32bit, 64bit, 128bit?” I say chill. 24bit word length is plenty to blow you out the water.  There are limits to our natural hearing and emotional abilities. 16 million readings might be all the resolution our bodies have. My science fans should let me know on that.

MP3 built a horrible McMansion on a toxic 16/44 swamp pretending to be true audio and the whole investment is sinking slowly into oblivion. FLAC seems to be the first digital format for real music, and I suggest you get it while you still can.

The modern file formats.

The modern file formats.

 

 

HD Apple Rumors Swirling

HiFi-Music-Review-May-1958-Mag


Rumors are flying that Apple is about to include 24-bit audio in it’s new iOS products, both from the software end of things and hardware – updating the Lightning cable for faster interconnects when HD Audio is being used with external devices, and designing some new earbuds to capitalize on the higher quality source.

This isn’t immediately tied to their rumored acquisition of Beats Music, but it certainly affects the same markets.

Reading through internet opinion it’s heartening to see many applauding a focus on sound quality. But the usual suspects are pushing xiph.org’s “science” saying <= 16/44 is all you need. I sense a shift that those people are being grouped with the claimants of “1080p is useless”.

Arguing against higher digital resolution is arguing against a reality that will always pass you up. We are still learning about sound and hearing and these bad assumptions of the past will fall into disuse as time marches on.

Other interamus’ claimed that “the 10 people that bought a pono must be upset”. Actually, no, this validates Pono’s cause, and if iOS products can play 24-bit files the market for HD audio will open wide.

Pono will always sound better than an iPhone or iTouch, because there’s several more parts of the signal chain that pono goes upmarket on, and Apple goes general purpose.

Will Apple Go HD in Audio?

Rumors are swirling that Apple will soon announce a major upgrade to it’s iTunes Music Store, and one of the features will be 24-bit lossless files for sale!

They might even use Led Zeppelin to push the new higher quality, which is pretty exciting.

I bought a Pono player and it is supposed to play Apple’s ALAC’s (their version of FLAC), so more stores selling HD files is all good for me!

91lossy.promo_

Apple still sells 10% music files! Well they don’t sell much anymore. They missed the hi-res moment.

My Quick iTunes Radio Review

I gave iTunes Radio a spin for the last couple of days and it’s been pretty decent, as far as mp3 shuffle services go. Since it’s Apple we really don’t know the specifics on it, but to me it works a lot like Jango without ads with more bass. Also, each song played is available in the iTunes store, naturally, so you can purchase an mp3 immediately, or just favorite it in the stream you are building.

It’s ad free, that’s good[I heard my first ad, Macy’s national ad, very musical like FM rock radio style.] It allows you to pick the hits or explore more, so that’s good.

I put it on explore funk, based on funkadelic, and it’s doing a pretty good job keeping me entertained. You can pause or skip songs, but you can’t go back on them (unless you buy them of course).

Everything has album artwork but nothing else in the way of art or lyrics or info. No crossfades or segue logic. Performance as far as skipping and crashing has been flawless. Sound quality is the same 10% crap from Apple.

Overall it’s a nice first attempt but this is a crowded scene and it’s nothing special.  iTunes Radio is still just a shuffle service, but it’s a pretty interesting shuffle through the apple music store.

Why iRight on iPad

ipad-2-007

I said “Wow those things are gonna be everywhere”, and just a year later I think about half of my extended family has one. And these are people who are not necessarily mac people, some not even technology people in general. I’m amazed. Sadly, still not a shareholder.

The Android verse iOS battle is good theater and good for the industry, so I keep tabs on it and occasionally argue with my geek friends. But the debate that gets me annoyed enough to post up here is the one about tablets in general.

You may have noticed that some people on the nets still see tablets as a fad, nothing more than the latest toy. Statistics and their own eyes tell them otherwise, but I’m old enough to remember when GUI’s were for toys, when color was for toys, and when plug-and-play was for toys.

So to these latest skeptics I present my “Why the iPad* is better than your non-tablet computing device” test:

1. Stand up. Stretch.

2. That’s it. If you are still reading this you are uncomfortably leaning over your non-tablet, or comfortably holding your tablet after a nice stretch. Or perhaps you are on your phone, holding it near your face with sore triceps and squinting eyes, wishing you had a bigger screen (and a more concise author).

apple-ipad-2-review-hands-on-10

Still not convinced? Pull up some recipes on your non-tablet and set it on the counter while cooking. On the counter or in most places not your hand, the phone disappears and a laptop is foolish. Don’t get too excited and try to hold a laptop like a tablet, you get cracked frameitus. eBooks aren’t just for fiction — any PDF you own or want on your slate at all times. Print? have on you at all times. Hey! your toddler is screaming for speed, show him speed.. and Mater… and that pimp car one. Good boy, now go play with your Transformers and let daddy play with a real transformer.

[By the way, I do think they hatched the plan for the iPad around 1999 when they were shipping a version 0.01 of the iPad known as the iPod, and then set about building all the infrastructure for it over the years. The patience to wait until everything was ready (including the supply chain) to then turn it all on is impressive.

Once they turn on full iOS capabilities in AppleTV and license Airplay to other manafucturers — If you go all-in with Apple and get your PC’s, mobiles, TVs, and stereos talking the iTunes talk, welcome to the afterfuture, people. ]

*oh that, just saying this test would work with a xoon tablet too, but iPad 2 is the top of the class right now. it’s about the tablet form and the touch interface, not the branding.

Roaming Crazy Available on iTunes – Put it on your walkman now!

KittyPunch_BW2

We are all roaming crazy

Aw yeah, it’s official — Roaming Crazy is alive on iTunes! Only $.99 to put it on your walkman.
Search and destroy, or just click this link: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/stares-2020-single/id424596034
If you like it hard and fast this song will make your Tuesday worth it.

-Ezraz

 

Keep Steady Earthlings, Keep Steady

This. Finally. Digital propagation will probably end up being more complicated than the old way, crazay. Everything I do tonight is gonna be productive, so this is first on the list. New 2MERICA doesn’t happen all that often, so I plan on being amazed by these sales numbers.. ah wait which side of the decimal place is amazing again?

buy me now

This track will speak for itself and you might not like what it’s gonna say but the story must be told.

Progress/Process… ps “I am not a whore” haha

Wow, the 2MERIMIX OPEN MIND NITE @ The Duck last night has left all involved groggy and probably a bit irritable, but time marches on, the beat goes on, the show must go on, etc..?Thankfully two bits of progress in the battle against irrelevance came through today:

— First off the next 2MERICA single just left the mastering engineer and it’s making it’s way to the tubes of the internets. Titled “Keep Steady”, it’s the 2nd of 5 tracks from the Scherzo Elskorpion LP. It’s also the ‘sex scene’ in the soundtrack so check it out! Like most 2MERICA songs, it’s a curveball that turns into a knuckleball right before you swing and miss, so yeah, stay tooned for the latest and greatest. This track is an old school sick jam with Jesus on bass, Swifty on the v-drums, some killer sax from J,?Jaimeson doing his dirty rap, lil’ Z on guitars, and Ezraz supplying the remaining noise. It should be available for purchase at the usual suspects (iTunes, cdbaby, amazon) and for streaming (Napster, Spotify, and Jango) in about a month.

— Secondly, the process of ‘going legit’ (aka getting our chit together) has continued, with a parent company formed to manage the Flux-adel Recording Division and all of it’s various progressions and proclivities. You the faithful internet cruiser won’t notice or care about this, but we are all proud and wanted to make the announcement. Collinwood Sun LLC has risen.

So yeah. My manager Fahqfasse finally got some stuff done. I get to hang out back and pee on his office, the mighty brick fortress known as FF Bookman Promotions. Which is my little way of posting status updates on his wall.

LOVE
Ezrazmus ‘elemento’ jones, founder of the round world society, 73rd generation panfunktual bonobo

ps – here’s something to cheer you up, the unforgettable Cee-Lo Green has had me singing this hook for 3 days now!