Neil Young’s PonoPlayer: The audiophile’s dream, realized

Neil Young's New Pono Music Player Will Cost $400


An audiophile wouldn’t be caught dead with an MP3 player. They will just whine about how MP3 is compressed music and doesn’t have the same quality as fully uncompressed music.

While that may or many not be true, you or most people in the world don’t appreciate increased sound quality. We all just listen to music for entertaining oneself, for relaxing us. But for audiophiles, music is a whole different ball game. They think of music as a way of life and try to observe and appreciate the subtle curves of music.

But that is not possible with today’s leading format, or so they say, MP3. Audiophiles swear by their vinyls, DACs (Digital-Analog-Converter) and their custom headphones.

Neil Young’s PonoPlayer was announced in 2012 and has been in the works ever since. It is set to it Kickstarter (The crowd funding website) this month at a price of $399.

At that price, you may think “That price for a music player?! No thanks, I will pass. I am happy with my smartphone/iPod”. But that is the thing: It is not for the common man. It is for audiophiles.

Neil said: “It’s about the music, real music. We want to move digital music into the 21st century and PonoMusic does that. We couldn’t be more excited about bringing PonoMusic to the market,”

It has a triangular pyramid kind of shape (Kinda like a Toblerone. Actually a lot.) with a touchscreen LCD screen.

It comes with 128 GB storage and support for fully uncompressed songs, which is the preferred format for sound-obsessed audiophiles. According to Pono, that is enough for “100-150 high resolution music albums”.

The internals. Why does it matter?

Now you ask “What makes it so great?”

According to Pono it offers “studio master-quality digital music at the highest audio fidelity possible”. It allows you to “experience music the way the artists intended.”

Well, almost all MP3 players have a frequency output that leans on either lower frequency or upper. Very rarely are the ones with perfectly neutral output. Audiophiles prefer neutral output because it allows you to actually make full use of your speaker/headphones.

Even if you headphones are neutral, if you music player’s output is  one the lower side, the headphones won’t sound neutral, but would lean on the bassy side.

So, for this, the PonoPlayer offers “perfectly flat” output which allows you to actually realize the full potential of your headphones.

It has ESS’s most advanced DAC.  A DAC allows you to make full use of your headphones by converting the digital signal into an analog signal which is recieved better by the headphones.

It also has got natural sounding audio filtering from the established company, Ayre Acoustics. According to Pono, most of the subtle details that make a song ‘real’, such as echo are cut off by MP3 players such as the iPod. But the PonoPlayer leaves them alone, allowing you to experience music as it was meant to be. You may actually feel yourselves in the body of the artist, reliving the experience of making the song.

Whatever is perfect sounds artificial. What is imperfect, sounds real.

What is a music player without songs?

The PonoPlayer also has it’s very own music store, full of high quality, uncompressed songs, named : ‘PonoMusic’.

“We want to move digital music into the 21st century and PonoMusic does that. We couldn’t be more excited about bringing PonoMusic to the market,”

It supposedly would be a store with music conforming to the highest standards. It also be DRM free. Hurrah!


The PonoPlayer is pioneered by musician Neil Young, who obviously knows more about music than the common Joe.

Most people would just look at the PonoPlayer on store shelves, sigh and then just buy the iPod or a smartphone or any other music player.

But ‘most people’ doesn’t constitute PonoPlayer’s intended audience. It is meant for audiophiles plain and simple. For those who want to carry the highest quality of music along with them everywhere. Audiophile quality. Anytime. Anywhere.

That is the audiophile’s dream and it looks like it is finally being realized.


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