Tuesday, June 18, 2019 06:50

Archive for the ‘Hi-Fi’ Category


Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

oh my god from Sam Van Aken on Vimeo.

“Taking a Chance on LON”

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

LON speaker blackPaul McGowan (CEO of PS Audio) titled his daily post “Best $38 I ever spent.”   It impressed me greatly, even after (or perhaps because of)  his disclosure of a family connection.

Paul introduced the Little Speaker from the LON Little Shop in Boulder, CO.  It’s a Bluetooth speaker, runs for 5 hours on a full charge, charges with a USB cable, and according to Paul it’s musically rewarding.

There are a lot of Bluetooth speakers around.  Most of them are junk.  A couple of years ago I ran into an excellent sounding one at CES.   I even started working up a blog post about it, but somehow I couldn’t quite make it happen.  Part of the issue might have been the product’s use of surface excitation to get the sound out.  That’s a trick that has appeared off and on for decades to nearly universal disacclaim:  “Turn any flat surface into a speaker!!”.  Yeah, right.

Yet I liked what I heard at the demo table.  I believe that doubts about real world efficacy may have come around after getting home from the show.  The little device’s $70 price tag (MSRP…street price is quite a bit less) didn’t help either.

I noted in Paul’s post that he used  the Little Speaker successfully in various venues.  He’s also an attentive listener with a strong commitment to reproduced sound quality as a path to musical enlightenment.  I was nearly convinced.

White Little SpeakerThen I went to the LON Little Shop’s online presentation of the Little Speaker, liked what I saw, and got out my credit card in a hurry. The $38 includes US shipping, by the way. The only thing that slowed me down was making a decision between white (with black grille at the top) and black (with white grille at the top).  Had there been an all-black version, I wouldn’t have had to think about my choice.  But I did think and after doing so I went for the white cube with black top.  I figured that dust and dirt fall down onto horizontal surfaces and cleaning off a black grille would be easier than cleaning off a white one.

My order went in this morning.  A few minutes ago I received an email with shipping info and tracking number.  I’m pretty close to Boulder so I expect to be enjoying the Little Speaker in a few days.

I’ll post a quick in-use commentary after I do.


Pono by the numbers (but not the ones you think)

Monday, March 17th, 2014

Let’s junk these silly ones:

“$4-million in Kickstarter pledges.”  This shows, paraphrasing Barnum, that there are about 12,000 of them born every millennium.  Pono’s choice to fund using Kickstarter in the first place suggests that ALL venture capital sources were too smart even to put up $800,000 which was Pono Music’s initial goal

“6 times more musical information than MP3 files.”  This is essentially meaningless.   CDs have about 10 times more musical information than MP3 files and Neil Young crapped on CD sound at his SXSW talk.

So let’s take a look at some real numbers.  I can assure you that they are real because they’re about me and my perception of Pono.  They have their roots in the responses I entered on a rating form using the Creative Product Semantic Scale (CPSS).  I’ve found that process useful for gear evaluation projects.  (So have some Fortune 500 folks.)

Let me be clear that I have not seen or touched or heard a Pono player.  I have not tried to use the music service; I don’t even know if that’s possible yet.  I based my responses on information gleaned from all sorts of sites and reports, not to mention opinions and commentary (often conflicting) by other online scribblers.

The graph below presents the CPSS results that my responses generated.  Pono didn’t fare real well.  The red bars show the components of the Novelty (a miserly 1.78), Resolution (on the low side at 3.46, , affected by the extremely low Valuable facet), and Style (a fairly respectable 5.20).  The maximum in each case is 7.00 so the N, R, and S averages also top out at 7.00.

Pono via CPSS

Surprising and Original:  Clearly Pono is nothing new.  Media players have abounded for years, even a couple of years before the iPod swept in.  So some 15 years later, a music player is far from original and Pono isn’t surprising either, touting a well-established lossless compression/decompression scheme doesn’t help the red bars go higher.  That lossless compression format is FLAC.  I currently have four FLAC devices around the house and if my phones had Android 3.0 at least, that would add two to the count.  I’m not counting various laptop and desktop computers all of which can handle FLAC files.

Logical, Useful, Valuable, and Understandable:  The third one stinks up the blue average, but that makes sense to me.  I’m not going to see Pono as Valuable if its functions so easily duplicated and in fact are within arm’s reach for me.  So why is Useful so high?  I guess because it appears to do what it purports to do:  play music.  Playing music is a useful thing in my mind.  Logical is in the middle range.  There’s nothing illogical about coming out with a new media player but logically speaking it’s not necessarily called for.  Understandable?  Well the idea of a media player is understandable.  One that doesn’t stream (so far anyway) and hangs in with the 20th century notion of downloading and installing, and paying handsomely for that isn’t so understandable.

Organic, Well-Crafted, and Elegant:  It looks good.  It’s a bit thick and seems not very pocketable.  The assemblers that Pono has tapped to handle production are well known and well respected.  Apparently that was enough to have my responses give Pono a break in the green range.

You can imagine that the conflict between a minimal Valuable rating on my part and the announced $399 retail of the Pono player means that the notion of buying one isn’t going grow in my consciousness.  I’m not even tempted to hit Pono up for the loan of a review sample.

I imagine they’d be pleased to know that.