Monday, February 2, 2015

Neil Young’s PonoPlayer

David Pogue:

The results surprised even me. Whether wearing earbuds or expensive headphones, my test subjects usually thought that the iPhone playback sounded better than the Pono Player.


The company says it has 2 million songs for sale, but 90 percent of it is in 44.1kHz format — no better than what’s on a CD. The remaining 10 percent, the good stuff, the remastered high-resolution songs, is hard to find.

There’s no way to view only albums available in high resolution. In fact, when you search for a band, a list of its albums appears — but you can’t see what resolution they’re available in until you click a button below the album art. Over and over for each album.


But maybe you’re different. Maybe you believe that high-res music has more “soul” or is less “tiring” to listen to, as fans claim, even if you can’t actually hear a difference.

In that case, you should note that Pono is not the only high-res player. It has many rivals, like the Astell & Kern AK100 Mk II, iBasso DX50, and the new Sony NWZ-ZX1 Walkman. In fact, Android phones can play the same FLAC-format files, if you get right down to it.

Sam Machkovech:

We took the Pono Player on the go for an entire day, which proved to be a bit of a logistical nightmare. This isn’t just a bad device to put in a pocket—the triangular shape feels noticeable and obnoxious in your pants pocket—but it’s also lousy in a messenger bag. The creators elected not to include a hardware “hold” button of any sort. As a result, the volume and multi-function buttons got pressed on a regular basis during our testing—meaning this thing reached its maximum, incredibly high volume level so quickly that we had to rip earbuds out. We soon opted for handheld use, which was fine enough in terms of quickly adjusting volume, skipping current songs, or pausing. However, we couldn’t disable the screen turning on every time we tapped the volume dial, and turning the screen off required holding the multi-function button down for way too long (so we reduced the auto-sleep timer accordingly).

The best thing we could say about on-the-go Pono use was that the unit fit neatly into our palm and felt like a media-player version of a drum stick. When this thing was cranked to high volume on a good song, we couldn’t help but flick our wrist along and rock out in public.

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[…] Update: Sam Machkovech reviewed it for Ars Technica (via Michael Tsai): […]

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