Recently, my close friend (whom I think of more like a brother), Bill Hunt has opened up my closed mind to digital downloads. Specifically, higher resolution digital files. For me, although the sound is great, they still have a noticeable flat sound. However, with Bill’s urging, I have begun to show an interest in the format that I haven’t before.
What started this was the upcoming Neil Young project, his Pono player that promises to revolutionize the way we make our music portable. With the popularity of the iPod having gone south due to the increase of phones acting as “all in one” devices. (Who needs to carry two things around when you only need one!) But, phones have distinct problems in that they do not have appropriate hardware to maximize true listening experiences. The casual listener doesn’t have a thing to worry about. They are amply represented. But the folks that insist on superior sound, or are, at the least, curious, are about to be introduced to a brave new world of music replay.
Neil Young’s Pono system is a new, oddly shaped, player that will replay hi-quality digital files in a fantastic way. It will allow for the storage, organization, and replay of files that are presented in 96k/24-bit, or even 192k/24-bit, with the lower end of sampling bottoming out at 48k/24-bit (standard is set at 44k/16-bit, CD quality). The problem it’s presented with is its initial cost. The Pono player will retail at $399.
At the 2015 CES show, a new player has emerged. Sony, using the familiar Walkman series, will introduce a high-end player that not only looks great, but may even outplay the Pono with additional adopted formats that include DSD format (go HERE for everything that’s beautiful about this player). Of course, there is one slight problem with this set. It will cost upward of $1200. Of course, only first adopters will jump right in. However, in time, this player will become accessible by a reasonable price-frame. The DSD format – Direct Stream Digital – is used on SACDs. On the player, there will be two forms of DSD that include DSD DFF (the same used on SACDs), and DSD DSF (a PC-friendly streaming for burning onto CDs), as well as the standards FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec), WAV (Waveform Audio), AIFF (Audio Interchange File Format), and Apple’s ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec).
What all of this is saying is this: we are in a new phase of music listening that promises to take the music you listen to further. With new albums being produced, we’re seeing Deluxe Editions with a DVD-Audio that includes the high-quality files that you can simply extract, and put on your player. Or you can buy them via sites like HDTracks, the Pono support site, Pono Music, and others that are sure to spring up. Other emerging online stores include Super Hirez (AcousticSounds), Pro Studio Masters, Blue Coast Records, iTrax, and Native DSD Music.
If you use your PC to host your files, then a high-grade DAC machine can heighten your experience further. With a Sonos speaker system to run through your house, you can be in awe of your music in a better way, and soon!
I promise to write more about this in the future as things become more readily available. But it really appears exciting. Bill swears by his player, headphones, and batch of files TODAY!