Positive Feedback Logo

My Challenge to David Pogue, Technology Reporter at Yahoo

04-20-2015 | By Cookie Marenco | Issue 77

Cookie Marenco of Blue Coast Records and Dominique Brulhart of Merging Technologies at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, 2014 (Photograph and processing by David W. Robinson)

[By way of introduction, Cookie Marenco just recently took David Pogue, a long-time mainstream audio/technology writer, and now at Yahoo, to task for his evident cluelessness about high-resolution audio. His comments about the launch of Neil Young's Pono player have evidenced a contrarian attitude on the whole subject of the need for higher-resolution PCM…much less real high-resolution, like DSD, Double DSD, and Quad DSD!

Hard as it might be to believe, there are still those who defend .MP3 as a sufficient format, and consider CDs (Red Book PCM, 44.1kHz/16 bit) to be genuine "high resolution." The back of my hand to such impermeable ignorance, but there it is.

Cookie, a Senior Technical Editor here at Positive Feedback, responded to Mr. Pogue's recent comments, which were published at the link below. Her approach is to challenge David Pogue to come to San Francisco and high real high-resolution audio, in the form of her DSD recordings/transfers from analog there at her studio at Blue Coast Records (http://www.bluecoastrecords.com). The content of her challenge follows.

We publish this for the benefit of our readers here at Positive Feedback.

Dr. David W. Robinson, Editor-in-Chief]

To: David Pogue, author/technology reporter at Yahoo re: post


David, it's okay if you don't want to convert your music collection to high resolution audio.

Relax, no one is trying get you to switch from mp3 if you're happy.

My company sells high resolution audio downloads in a format you may not be aware of...DSD (Direct Stream Digital). I routinely give lectures on "provenance" – the history/legacy of a recording. There are at least 6 stages to consider when spending $6/song (yes, that's what people will pay us and want more).

Either you hear the difference or you don't. Our customers do.

I'm sure you would hear the difference when given a true comparison test. The question is "Do you care?"...and not "Can you hear the difference?" We have enough customers who care, so I'm not worried about mainstream adoption.

But, I would like to talk about your comparison test. Your method was somewhat akin to a guy on the street doing a lie detector test to determine someone's fate going to prison. It takes a professional to do a lie detector test or an audio comparison test.

Audio comparison variables are too great and it's very hard to do.

I've been doing A/B blindfold tests for than 30 years working as a consultant to pro audio and consumer divisions selling audio gear. It's not easy to create a fair test. Unfortunately, you didn't.

Here's the first place you went wrong...Apples and Oranges.

Apples... output of devices are not the same sonically (meaning frequency response for instance and other colorations determined by taste of manufacturer). If you're testing the Pono for quality as a device, then you test with the same file and format (exact, not purchase from different sources) knowing with confidence it is not a digital generation different. Getting those files is not easy. That's why you need controlled files.

Oranges...the formats…if you're goal is to compare formats, then you need to get various formats on one device and compare from that device. You'll want reliable source material (same situation as apples) that was well recorded so that the frequencies of high and low (where high resolution audio matters) can be heard. Sorry, most pop music is run through so many filters, plugins and low fi alterations it's not usable to compare formats. The audiophile community has a lot of discussions going on about this already, and I would agree that buyer be aware.

There are a minimum of 6 stages where audio quality can be diminished before it hits the consumer. Three of those stages occur after the artist/producer hands it over to the label. The labels don't care…they don't know where their original masters are. Sad.

I can help you set up a test... or better yet... I invite you to our studio to have us give you a listening test... not to convert you to high resolution audio, but as the technology reporter, a musician, and journalist, you sincerely want to report accurately to your audience.

Our studios are in the San Francisco area.

Cookie Marenco

Blue Coast Records

My bio for reference: http://bluecoastmusic.com/about-the-founder

I'm easy to find.

Have a great day.

(By the way, for those reading this who fear their mp3 collection is being threatened…take a chill pill. You can listen to all our music at no charge in streaming mp3 on YouTube... 🙂 )