back to article Apple, Beats and fools with money who trust celeb endorsements

Reports suggest Apple is in talks to buy Beats Electronics, which was founded by hip-hopper André Young, aka Dr Dre, for an astronomical amount of money. At the same time Pono, founded by another Young, namely Neil, promises to transform music delivery. John Watkinson, aka JR Cool Dubbya, wonders what is going on. One aspect of …

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Meh

A fool and his money are easily parted.

You only have to look at some of the rank stupidities sold to the audiophool community - gold-plated 13-amp mains plugs, oxygen-free-copper 'directional' speaker-cables, cryogenically-treated valves - to understand the gullibility of that sector.

Looks like Apple have been taken for the fools in this case, just as they've been taking their customers for fools for a while.

<sarcasm>

I wonder how much Apple would have to pay to buy Bose?

</sarcasm>

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Re: A fool and his money are easily parted.

A case of the Kool-Aid supplier drinking someone else's variant of Kool-Aid?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A fool and his money are easily parted.

The audiophile community (or at least a significant fraction) is so bizarrely blind and gullible for this stuff that I cannot actually tell whether this site:

http://www.machinadynamica.com/machina41.htm

is a spoof or not.

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Re: A fool and his money are easily parted.

>http://www.machinadynamica.com/machina41.htm

Brilliant! Even better than the €500 audiophile USB cables I was told about recently...

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Re: A fool and his money are easily parted.

Even better is the explanation of how it works.

http://www.machinadynamica.com/machina42.htm

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Re: A fool and his money are easily parted.

I can tell - it's a spoof. But I did have to read a good few paragraphs.

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Facepalm

Re: A fool and his money are easily parted.

This reminds me of a competition between myself and another engineer to find the worst spoof audiophile product.

The problem is that we found spoofs then people wanted to buy them!

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Re: A fool and his money are easily parted.

>The problem is that we found spoofs then people wanted to buy them!

Shirley that is not a problem but an opportunity?

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Re: A fool and his money are easily parted.

Not seen this site before...

"Sonic Tonic Anti-static Spray" - WHERE CAN I GET SOME????

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Holmes

Re: A fool and his money are easily parted.

I can tell - it's a spoof. But I did have to read a good few paragraphs.

If you can't tell from the first few lines, just hit their home page. If you still can't, your irony detector is terminally fubar.

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Re: A fool and his money are easily parted.

What I find more amazing than some of the claims for these 'audiophile' snake-oil lures, is the amount of time and money that is spent trying to disprove/discredit them, as this article most effectively demonstrates.

(Note: 'audophile' in quotes because it is only people who would like to be thought of as audiophiles by their superficial mates who fall for the traps, a true audiophile will always listen first and pay up only if they think the improvement is worth the money.)

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Re: A fool and his money are easily parted.

The problem is that we found spoofs then people wanted to buy them!

A wild Business Case appears!

Do you [I]nvest or [R]un away?

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Pint

Re: A fool and his money are easily parted.

Anyone remember the cartoons by Rodrigues in Stereo Review? He would skewer the "audiophiles" with "supersonic" hearing, cables with supernatural qualities, etc. There's one with St. Peter quizzing a recently-departed stereo salesman about claims he made as a salesman (classic, if you can find it).

There was a book called "Total Harmonic Distortion"....

Should be another called "Do You Hear What I Hear", because confimation bias in some audio fans causes them to pay almost infinite sums of money for trivial (sometimes nonexistent) gains....

To each their pwn, I guess...ironic that the "inventors" of the Beats phones were the Monster Cable folks,

also an exercise in overpriced kit, though they appear to have come out on the short end of things here...

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Vic
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Re: A fool and his money are easily parted.

confimation bias in some audio fans causes them to pay almost infinite sums of money for trivial (sometimes nonexistent) gains....

A guy I know spent some £5K (in the '90s) on a "passive preamp", because he'd heard that, having no active components, it wouldn't inject any semiconductor noise.

Oh how we chortled. But not within earshot, as he's quite a bit bigger than I am.

Vic.

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Re: A fool and his money are easily parted.

I had never heard of confimation bias until now. Is a high confimation bias value better or worse, and what are the correct units of measurement ?

I need to know this as I am heading to my local HiFi shop this weekend to upgrade my system, and do not want to look a complete clueless fool when I ask the sales person about it.

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Re: A fool and his money are easily parted.

Is a high confimation bias value better or worse, and what are the correct units of measurement ?

Depends on the media you're using; ideally the equipment should have a confirmation bias selector for vinyl, open-reel and cassette tape, DAT, DCC, (SA)CD, MiniDisc, DVD-audio and Blu-Ray Audio. If you find one that has shellac and 8-track cartridge settings too you can infer it's a well-researched design and worth selling your soul, your firstborn and the better part of your worldly possessions for.

As for the unit of measurement, El Reg's Standards Soviet is said to be working on one. Rumours say they're as yet undecided between 'Chord' and 'Steward'.

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Re: A fool and his money are easily parted.

A wild Business Case appears!

Perhaps you'd be interested in my seminar in Monetizing Poe's Law. Register now for the special price of $1000 - a 20% savings!

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h3
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Beats are real scum (At least at the moment).

Even though they are not cheap they are designed to fail within 18 months. (Read an article in an engineering magazine about how they go about it).

What ever issues I might have with Apple I don't think they do that.

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Re: Beats are real scum (At least at the moment).

Nah, they follow normal engineering practices (actually cheaper sometimes than going through a separate cycle to ensure a part will, statistically, fail outside of warranty) and rely on perceived obsolescence and an update cycle to drive the market instead :) Which is worse, really? They both amount to people buying mountains of electronics instead of one good product that does what it's supposed to do for decades.

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The headphones will disappear..

...or at least the (ahem) technology will. As someone else said "lot of money to pay for bass boost!"

It's the streaming Apple wanted.

As for Pono...what an ugly device. Surely a small desktop unit would be more popular for that crowd of grey haired baby-boomers with sub par hearing and money to burn...again?

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Pono Player

Who the hell would by a Toblerone shaped music player?

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Joke

Re: Pono Player

People in duty free - 2 for the price of 3?

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Re: Pono Player

Fuck, just reread your title. I thought it said Porno Player. Time to see if I can still cancel the order...

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Re: Pono Player

I like the jokes, but then I also like Toblerone. And bright yellow things.

There might be a whiff of audiophile woo about the Pono - and a silly name. Perhaps he should have gone for the PwnO?

But it looks like you can get a good quality equivalent of the iPod Classic for about the same price (maybe a touch cheaper). With a better UI, although that might just be becuase I hate the crappy clickwheel thingies. And it's got solid state memory. I've not seen a dedicated mp3 player with flash memory with more than 8GB. Dunno why. Many phones can manage that. I think it's 32GB + as many 32GB SD cards as you want. So better than the iPod, as no hard disk.

Another killer feature is that you won't need iTunes. Does happy dance.

There's also stuff about how it's got better quality DACs and is all lovely and engineered for perfect sound. I'm not qualified to comment on that. The sound from my iPod when bunged through decent speakers is pretty good. And that's only using high bitrate mp3. I've mixed live music, I've got pretty good ears, but I'm not sure I'd back myself to tell the difference in a blind test.

Oh and the triangle shape is quite practical. It'll probably be comfortable in the hand (and pocket). As well as standing up nicely when you plug it into a set of speakers - and will sit on the desk at an angle so you can read the screen. I believe there's a black model for those who find that lovely yellow a bit too conspicuous.

So even with all the downsides. If I can get a Pone when my iPod finally snuffs it, I'll look at it. I buy CDs anyway, then rip the music. So I'm not going to be paying double-price for super-bitrate FLAC downloads. And with Amazon I get my CDs at a reasonable price, and when they lost one in the post last week it didn't matter. Because Amazon Cloud Player meant I could have played it within 30 seconds of having hit buy, til it turned up twice today.

Sadly for Neil Young, I can probably get a Moto G or cheap Nokia Lumia for £100 - and put a 128GB SD card in that. Then I've got both a spare phone and a replacement for the iPod. Sadly the current work iPhone is only 8GB.

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Re: Pono Player

Duty free Triangular Items. 11GBP for Three! Bargain. Mines the Fruit & Nut one.

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Re: Pono Player

@IAS

You raise a good point about the shape allowing it to be used easily on a desk. However, this image of the internals suggests it could be made slightly more pocket-friendly:

http://www.digitaltrends.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/pono-player-internal-components.jpg

>I can probably get a Moto G or cheap Nokia Lumia for £100 - and put a 128GB SD card in that.

For large audio files, or for lots of normal audio files? A word to the wise: They can't play back 192Khz FLAC files natively (though the LG G2 can). If you want a 128GB card in order to have tens of thousands of normal audio tracks, you might want to read up on Android file limits and FAT formatting etc before you make any purchases. Just in case there's a niggly issue.

If you want 128GB for losslessly-compressed CD-rips, ignore me!

You might also consider a spefic version of an older Samsung Galaxy model from eBay, since they are said to have Wolfson DACs. Apparently.

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Re: Pono Player

@ I ain't Spartacus: "Sadly for Neil Young, I can probably get a Moto G or cheap Nokia Lumia for £100 - and put a 128GB SD card in that."

You'll have difficulty putting an SD card in a Moto G.

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IT Angle

Re: Pono Player

My Android tablet (although the instruction manual says "microSDHC cards up to 32Gb") supports microSDXC cards, including the 128Gb ones launched by Sandisk in February — provided only that they are formatted as NTFS, not the default exFAT.

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Re: Pono Player

I use my Lumia 920 to play music, its nice you can load files directly or use iTunes (I am glad that having to use the Zune software with the 900 was not a requirement for the 920). My only gripe is there is a noticeable gap on playback on tracks that segue on the CD and do on my ancient iPod Touch.

Also noticed a vast difference between Apples white earbuds and my Sennheiser earbuds.......

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Windows

Re: Pono Player

I think the Moto 4G will fix that for ≠Spartacus:

http://www.trustedreviews.com/opinions/moto-g-4g-vs-moto-g.

The article is not wrong in the 40 years of Audio Stagnation, my NAD 3020 amp and Rogers LS2a speakers still sound as good now as they did when built... about 40 years ago. The upside of this is good hi-fi is about £100 a lump on ebay and easy to use. Apple make nice looking stuff and their top end kit is found in recording studios often, buying up another music industry playa's business is probably just consolidation of the M$ of music rep it wants.

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Limited bit rate?

"MP3 is a lossy compression scheme and at limited bit rates – such as the 320kbit/sec of Beats Music – does its best to preserve the dominant sounds by neglecting ambience and reverberation.

Limited? Isn't 320 about as good as it gets for mp3?

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Re: Limited bit rate?

Yep. And since the author talks about what real people can actually hear, I find it odd that he seems to imply that 320kbps MP3/AAC is awful when blind tests have established that most people cannot tell the difference between that and CD.

e.g. http://www.music.mcgill.ca/~hockman/documents/Pras_presentation2009.pdf

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Re: Limited bit rate?

You can be reasonably confident that an MP3 player can decode bit rates up to 320kb/s. A few decoders can handle higher bit rates. See the --freeformat option in the man page for LAME. Selling music encoded with a higher bit rate risks complaints from customers when they find they cannot play their purchases. On the other hand, CD quality converted to FLAC is somewhere between 700 to 1000kb/s and storage is cheap these days.

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Re: Limited bit rate?

Play FLAC and 320kbps MP3/AAC side by side on decent speakers or decent headphones and there is a very noticeable difference with many types of music. Compare something like Dark Side Of The Moon on an iPod with the standard Apple headphones with a FLAC playing Android or Blackberry and Sennheiser speakers and you will certainly notice a difference.

Personally when I listen to 320kbps MP3 played back through decent speakers it sounds like the music is underwater and muffled.

I found this out after I had ripped my 300+ CDs to MP3. After that rather long task which was carried out over a year I changed my HiFi to £1000+ kit (Just the AV Amp and 5.1 speakers). First time I played back those MP3s I swore. Loudly. Then pulled out the CDs of DSOTM. The difference stood out a mile.

Since then I have replaced those MP3s with FLACs and not looked back.

This is why I can't see why people get excited by iDevices and iTunes and over compressed music. It also explains to me why Apple supply such rubbish headphones. This Beats deal seems to me to merge two names "known for music" yet they are adding rubbish to rubbish which just sounds like rubbish squared to me.

Heavy compression made sense when storage space was expensive. Now with storage so cheap it seems silly not to make use of it.

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Anonymous Coward

ABX?

Unless you used an ancient encoder you imagined the bit about 320K MP3 sounding muffled.

With the exception of certain killer samples it is extremely difficult to successfully ABX time-synced level-matched high bit rate MP3 against lossless, even on good gear.

Even better, play about with invert summing v0/320 MP3 to lossless original in Cool Edit/Audition. And do some spectrograph analysis.

But having spent a year ripping MP3 then deciding to rerip to lossless I'm not surprised you experienced a dramatic improvement.

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Re: Limited bit rate?

The real problem is with CD's.

Not their audio format, but the complete lack of metadata attached to each track. FLAC would be fine except for the lack of support in portable players. I want one solution which works, not having to transcode all the time.

The other thing the article neglected is that mp3's are mostly used in mobile devices with poor headphones, so again, audio quality is almost irrelevant.

I must be getting old. Mostly I listen to podcasts with only the occasional musical item from Mitch Ben, or to the old stuff of my youth as a nice trip down memory lane while I'm hoovering. Obviously I'm not cool because otherwise its, "pop a CD in the player" for a bit of classical instrumental or medieval-style vocals.

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Re: Limited bit rate?

People get excited about access to lots of music in a convenient, portable format. Quality hi-fi gear is a niche interest, and thus there's not a lot of incentive to cater to that market, other than to mug them for more of their disposable income with nonsense products.

Beats is successfull because their products are fashionable, not better than their competitors - a good fit for Apple, I should think.

I can't remember when I last listened to a CD - everything is streamed from Deezer, via my phone, hooked up to the car stereo. The quality may be terrible but 1) I can't tell (I don't own any premium hi-fi kit, and never have), and 2) I don't care.

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Re: Limited bit rate?

Most people simply want to listen to music, a huge percentage would be happy with something as low as 128kbps if it meant they could listen to it on the train, in the car or at home doing the housework played off their mobile phone. Grab 50 random off the street and play them something at 128 and something at FLAC and most of us wouldn't be able to tell the difference and more to the point, probably wouldn't care either.

I have audio comedy from the 1950's that's as low as 32kbps, it's good enough to listen to because it was never intended to be scrutinized, and probably the performers wouldn't have cared if it could have been recorded so long as it was broadcast at the time on the radio.

It's only a small percentage who actually cack themselves when they can't get the latest offering in FLAC format!

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Re: Limited bit rate?

"Compare something like Dark Side Of The Moon on an iPod with the standard Apple headphones with a FLAC playing Android or Blackberry and Sennheiser speakers and you will certainly notice a difference."

Apples and oranges, you can't compare the two because there are vast differences - such as - Apple uses oxygen free copper for their headphones, don't they?

Therefore, the iPod wins. I know a few DJ's, who clearly know everything, who plug their iPods into their systems and claim it's better than CD...

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Re: Limited bit rate?

I can't imagine how DJs couldn't know everything about sound. If there's one good way to improve your understanding of it, then spending 20 hours a week with 300dB of bass playing in a sweaty shed will be it.

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Re: Limited bit rate?

Indeed. The baby boomers grew up listening to music on transistor radios and crummy AM car radios. (And in oppressively loud concert halls, so that we are probably going deaf faster than any of our parents who didn't serve in the artillery.)

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Re: Limited bit rate?

I have access to all my music (2405 albums with 27183 songs by 1032 artists) wherever I have an internet connection (and from virtually any device- iOS, Android, Winders, Linux, OSX,...) The vast majority of this music came from CD's and is lossless (M4A.) I can listen at any bitrate I can squeeze out of my 4Mb/sec outbound cable connection. This is done with a free program (Logitech Media Server) and two port forwarding rules in my router.

Picking what you want to take with you has always seemed absurd.

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Re: Limited bit rate?

Did you use actual MP3 encoding, or did you perchance use Nero's MP3Pro (or "MP3Poo" as I prefer to call it)? The latter (which is limited to 22Khz sample rate) is supposed to deliver equivalent quality to standard MP3, with only half the file size — but the catch is, you have to be using an MP3Poo-compatible player (which no player I've tried is; certainly not Winamp or the iPod), otherwise the dreadful loss of quality from that half (arsed/witted) sample rate is all too painfully evident, even if playing over "old tin boxes" as Mike Oldfield put it (to wit, the tinny little speakers of my old netbook).

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Joke

Re: Limited bit rate?

"Apple uses oxygen free copper for their headphones, don't they?"

Remind me never to use them to listen to Jean-Michel Jarre.

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Re: Limited bit rate?

The quality may be terrible but 1) I can't tell (I don't own any premium hi-fi kit, and never have), and 2) I don't care.

Amen to that. Sure, MP3s played on my cheap player through bargain-basement ear buds may be terrible in principle; but in practice I don't care, since I pretty much only listen to music when I'm working around the house, and the ambient noise levels are pretty high.

I realize some people are very interested in acoustic fidelity, but many of the proponents of FLAC, high-quality gear, and the like seem to think everyone should be. Sorry, folks, but we don't all share your enthusiasms.

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Re: Limited bit rate?

Sadly MP3 is limited to 320Kbit/s less than a quarter of CD's 1,411.2 kbit/s which is one reason that MP3s sound awful.

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Re: Limited bit rate?

Well, I haven't been ripping CDs, more like vinyl. And when I rip those records, I first create FLAC files, then make CDs and MP3s from those.

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"Now I gather Neil Young proposes to re-release his archive recordings on Pono. Again, one has to ask, where is he going to get the missing bandwidth from? Will a Pono download of an early Neil Young track at an astronomical data rate carry any more information or sound any better than the CD did?"

An early Neil Young track will presumably have been recorded on high quality tape. As will presumably a late Neil Young track. Do you seriously think that he was sitting there with his band huddled round some equipment that feeds into a CD recorder?

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This puzzled me too. If a track is being re-released, in this case does that not mean they are referring back to the original source (tape masters), and if this is the case would there not be a sonic advantage to having done so?

Perhaps this assumption is incorrect and they refer back to digital masters of CD-like quality? Would be interested in any insight here.

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