Here’s Why Neil Young Is a Charlatan

You know, I saw that Pono video too, with all the musicians saying how great it sounded. And I knew it couldn’t be true, because, you know, science. But it turns out that Neil Young was lying all the time.

David Pogue has an excellent article about Pono on the Yahoo website, where he explains how he conducted a blind test with 15 listeners. Since more people found the iPhone’s audio to be better, he wrote to Neil Young, asking why.

So I wrote to Pono — and heard back from Neil Young himself.

“Of approximately 100 top-seed artists who compared Pono to low resolution MP3s,” he wrote, “all of them heard and felt the Pono difference, rewarding to the human senses, and is what Pono thinks you deserve to hear.”

Aha — there’s a key phrase in there: low-resolution MP3s.

My test compared Pono files against Apple’s iTunes files, which come in 16-bit/256Kbps AAC format (more on formats below). That’s much better than the radically compressed MP3 files of 1998.

That’s just fraud, plain and simple. He stacked the deck.

Just another charlatan separating suckers from their money.

8 thoughts on “Here’s Why Neil Young Is a Charlatan

  1. Playing Devil’s Advocate for a moment (and I will mention right now that I believe all of this hype about high-resolution audio to be a bunch of bologna, just as you do), it’s entirely plausible that Young meant to say that the MP3’s were low-resolution in comparison to the Pono-tailored files (which, objectively, would be true no matter how well the MP3 was encoded). He may not have necessarily meant to say that the MP3’s were encoded in a low-resolution (say, 128kbps or something). The way it is written leaves this ambiguous.

  2. Playing Devil’s Advocate for a moment (and I will mention right now that I believe all of this hype about high-resolution audio to be a bunch of bologna, just as you do), it’s entirely plausible that Young meant to say that the MP3’s were low-resolution in comparison to the Pono-tailored files (which, objectively, would be true no matter how well the MP3 was encoded). He may not have necessarily meant to say that the MP3’s were encoded in a low-resolution (say, 128kbps or something). The way it is written leaves this ambiguous.

  3. Please explain how ANY of this is fraud. I think most folks who read about Pono from the beginning knew that Neil was talking primarily about high res FLACs compared to MP3s (certainly it was discussed quite a bit during the Kickstarter campaign). This quote from Pogue is no different. In fact, why don’t you talk about this so-called blind test that Pogue conducted. What a total joke that was and doesn’t lead to any valid conclusions. He would have been better off quoting the existing studies and not trying to do his own. I think we all know now that you have a serious personal vendetta against Neil so will expect more continued attacks in the future. To me, the only reason fault with Neil and his Pono project is that they weren’t more clear about truly needing a decent pair of headphones/speakers.

    • Because companying high-resolution files to 256 kbps AAC files, as Pogue did, is a valid comparison. If Young was comparing them to 128 kbps MP3s, which are not the standard, then it’s fraud. Files at that bit rate haven’t been used for years, and no vendor sells music at that bit rate. If Young had been honest, he would have compared the files to what people currently use and sell.

      I don’t have personal vendetta against Neil Young; it’s just that he’s like homeopathy, and needs to be exposed. I find the way some people defend him, in spite of all his “untruths,” very surprising. If you’ve spent your money, you want to justify it, but you should step back and be objective about what he’s doing.

      • Exactly where does Neil indicate the bitrate for the MP3 files. All he apparently said was low-resolution MP3s. By that, he could just be using the term to describe MP3s in general. Maybe they were ripped from CDs at 256 or 320.

        Regarding the money somebody might spend on a Pono or other DAP, I hope you’re equally critical of all of them. Maybe you don’t like Neil. Maybe you want to twist his words around. But if you’re making the argument that one cannot hear the difference between high-res FLACs and lower AAC files, then you should give equal criticism to the other DAPs.

  4. Please explain how ANY of this is fraud. I think most folks who read about Pono from the beginning knew that Neil was talking primarily about high res FLACs compared to MP3s (certainly it was discussed quite a bit during the Kickstarter campaign). This quote from Pogue is no different. In fact, why don’t you talk about this so-called blind test that Pogue conducted. What a total joke that was and doesn’t lead to any valid conclusions. He would have been better off quoting the existing studies and not trying to do his own. I think we all know now that you have a serious personal vendetta against Neil so will expect more continued attacks in the future. To me, the only reason fault with Neil and his Pono project is that they weren’t more clear about truly needing a decent pair of headphones/speakers.

    • Because companying high-resolution files to 256 kbps AAC files, as Pogue did, is a valid comparison. If Young was comparing them to 128 kbps MP3s, which are not the standard, then it’s fraud. Files at that bit rate haven’t been used for years, and no vendor sells music at that bit rate. If Young had been honest, he would have compared the files to what people currently use and sell.

      I don’t have personal vendetta against Neil Young; it’s just that he’s like homeopathy, and needs to be exposed. I find the way some people defend him, in spite of all his “untruths,” very surprising. If you’ve spent your money, you want to justify it, but you should step back and be objective about what he’s doing.

      • Exactly where does Neil indicate the bitrate for the MP3 files. All he apparently said was low-resolution MP3s. By that, he could just be using the term to describe MP3s in general. Maybe they were ripped from CDs at 256 or 320.

        Regarding the money somebody might spend on a Pono or other DAP, I hope you’re equally critical of all of them. Maybe you don’t like Neil. Maybe you want to twist his words around. But if you’re making the argument that one cannot hear the difference between high-res FLACs and lower AAC files, then you should give equal criticism to the other DAPs.

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