Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

PonoPlayer Available Next Week; PonoMusic Store Live Now

My favourite dead horse is alive and well, so it seems. The PonoPlayer will be available next week for $400 — a steal when you compare it to Sony’s ludicrous $1,200 Walkman. But the PonoMusic Store is live now, so I thought I’d go take a look.

On the homepage, I noticed that they were featuring Foo Fighters’ “Sonic Highways”, which is one of the worst-mastered albums I’ve heard all year. Though it may be a reasonably high-quality 44.1 kHz, 24 bit version, I bet it still sounds just as brickwalled as the iTunes version. So I added “Something From Nothing” to my cart.

And that got me thinking: I wonder if one of the worst-mastered albums in history is on Pono. Surely I couldn’t find something that sounds as bad as the Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ “Californication” on an audiophile music store. But, much to my surprise, it’s there. I added this to my cart, too — the full album, because you can’t, for some reason, buy individual songs for this album.

Then I went to check out, and started filling in my billing information. And it was only at this point that I found out that PonoMusic is only available in the United States right now, which is odd, because Neil Young, one of the guys behind Pono, is Canadian.

I wasn’t able to find out first-hand whether the version of “Californication” on Pono uses the same awful-sounding master as every other version of it, including the vinyl. Happily, by the time I tried to buy the album, some others already did and shared their thoughts. Justin Denman:

Okay, I’m the guinea pig for you all. I purchased Californication. IT’S BRICKWALLED to the max. The 96kHz/24bit is useless, and I feel ripped off. It’s very frustrating, but hopefully I’ll save everyone else some money by sharing.

Gross.