iPhone Pwns The Pono For Listening To Music

The Pono music player – the high-resolution digital audio player promoted by Neil Young – has massive buzz.

It was one of Kickstarter’s most successful campaigns. The Pono developers sought $800,000 in funding from the public, but ended up raising a staggering $6.2 million from people that bought into the idea that an audio player that played high-resolution uncompressed audio would deliver music the way it is supposed to sound.

But is the hype behind the Pono just that – hype?

Yahoo Tech reviewer David Pogue was skeptical, because scientific studies have shown that most people can’t detect audio quality improvements beyond what’s on a CD (16 bit/44.1kHz).

So he put the Pono to the test, doing a blind A/B test, comparing the Pono to an iPhone., using both Sony MDR 7506 headphones and standard ear buds.

Surprisingly, in both cases, listeners chose the audio quality from the iPhone over the Pono:

pono-vs-iphone

iphone-vs-pono

Pogue’s test doesn’t mean that there are not qualitative differences between the high-resolution audio files sold through the Pono store and standard digital music store files. It just means that most people, listening to music on earbuds or decent headphones, think the sound of the iPhone beats the Pono.

We’d like to see a similar test done with musicians and audiophiles, using high-end headphones and monitors.

What do you think of the Pono and the benefits of listening to high-res audio files? Is it BS, or is it something that you need trained ears and high-end equipment to appreciate?

85 thoughts on “iPhone Pwns The Pono For Listening To Music

  1. I’d like to see actual measurements of the audio i.e. dynamic range and tests that can prove which one has higher fidelity.

    1. Higher fidelity does not necessarily translate to a better listening experience. I’m sure that the superior hardware components in the Pono are able to produce superior results when you look at the numbers, but it might actually matter a lot less than Pono wants people to believe.

      1. Could you not say exactly the same thing about the iPhone? Isn’t all advertising just refined propaganda?

        It could also be that after listening to flab music from earbuds for years, people think that it’s great and anything noticeably different must be worse. Better has become strange and alien and indecipherable. It’s like drinking really cheap coffee or bad whiskey for years and then trying premium stuff and not liking it just because it’s so strange and you’re not used to it. This test does not factor in people having become accustomed to mediocrity as the standard of excellence.

        1. “This test does not factor in people having become accustomed to mediocrity as the standard of excellence.”
          This was my first thought also.

  2. Doesn’t surprise me. Maybe the DAC’s in the iPhone add some slight colouring that is more pleasing. I’m sure the developers of this product think it’s better and can prove it using spectral analysis but you also hear what you want to hear. On occasion I’ve been making fine tuning to an EQ of a track thinking I’ve just about got it perfect and then found the EQ is bypassed.

    1. http://www.kenrockwell.com/apple/iphone-5/audio-quality.htm

      The iPhone 6 and 6+ are apparently even better.

      I work with lots of high end audio and the Pono seems like a huge exercise in marketing to drive people to buy expensive audio files where they will not hear a difference using the headphones, speakers or rooms that most people use to listen to their music. Even in tuned studios the differences are incredibly slight and the use of high bitrate and sample rates are there for other reasons like headroom in the mixing process.

  3. Clearly it’s not a general public product. The idea is probably good (I’m not even sure of that), but you can’t just start a face to face war with the Apple or Android ecosystem by just selling an ‘iPod’ that sounds better.
    Also, in the real world, people are not aware of sound quality so they do not care. Good luck on selling them this !

  4. I’m not entirely surprised by this. Having listened to the same file on multiple digital devices in the past, I have noticed that Apple does a very, very good job of digitally decompressing a file for playback. Just because the Pono supports higher res files, doesn’t mean that it has a better output stage.

    Like the writer, I too would like to hear audiophiles weigh in on this. But I would be surprised if the results were different. Apple has been at this a long while.

  5. I’d actually like to see an A/B test of the Pono vs. itself, playing high-res vs.CD quality (if it’s capable of that). I bet nobody could tell any difference under any listening circumstances.

  6. Not very scientific imo.

    1. What were the results of the professional sound guy?
    2. Of course it also depends on the quality of the headphone.
    3. He clearly enjoyed people saying: ‘I’m sorry Neil’, etc. Feels almost like a personal vendetta :O
    4. Maybe people are used to mp3 compression?

    I don’t say the Pono is better at all, I’m just saying this is not a very good experiment.

  7. I wonder how much of it has to do with the “what they are used to” familiarity concept as well….. I know I like to hear certain music on certain sound systems I am familiar with, with certain frequencies being “where I know them to be”…. It’s possible that could be playing a role as well. Just because kobe beef is “better”, some people just may be comfortable with 83% chuck hamburger meat, because that’s what they are used to eating…. just throwing that out there…

    1. Or maybe Neil Young has directed a bunch of money into something unrelated to the outcome of interest. Like, hey, I want my car to go faster, so I’ll make sure the windshield is made of material that is capable of withstanding extremely high temperatures. I’m sure my car is faster now.

  8. Not Surprising. Most People are used to listening to music with crap like boosted bass and shitty trebles. It’s a conditioned response, not a matter of choosing the on with higher audio quality.

    1. Or maybe science is real and you’ve bought into snake oil?

      “192kHz digital music files offer no benefits. They’re not quite neutral either; practical fidelity is slightly worse. The ultrasonics are a liability during playback.

      Neither audio transducers nor power amplifiers are free of distortion, and distortion tends to increase rapidly at the lowest and highest frequencies. If the same transducer reproduces ultrasonics along with audible content, any nonlinearity will shift some of the ultrasonic content down into the audible range as an uncontrolled spray of intermodulation distortion products covering the entire audible spectrum. Nonlinearity in a power amplifier will produce the same effect. The effect is very slight, but listening tests have confirmed that both effects can be audible.”

      via http://people.xiph.org/~xiphmont/demo/neil-young.html

  9. I kinda find this test pointless as in he only states high resolution and standard resolutions
    pono/itunes stores and does not state specific numbers like sample rate and bit depth for high and standard resolutions! Which honestly could have been anything if not the same resolution, and you also noticed they never told the results of the sound engineer?

    1. Yes, I noticed that. I figured he didn’t want his reputation “tarnished” by not being able to tell a difference and probably stipulated that his answers not be revealed as a condition of his participating. Of course that’s speculation, but it’s more plausible than speculating that Pogue is hiding something here.

  10. I tested one last year and was a bit let down that it didn’t blow me away.

    Makes the artist reactions from the first part of the video all the more amusing.

  11. I’m not a fan of the Pono concept, but this test doesn’t make sense.

    I would bet a lot of money on the iPhone output being just a little bit louder than the Pono. Also, for these kinds of things, double-blind testing is a must (the reviewer can’t know which device the other person is listening).

    Also, the 7506’s aren’t “fancy” headphones as the tester says. They are mostly used for vocal and other studio monitoring duties for the artists because they are bright and hyped up. They sound nice for that purpose, not natural.

  12. The masters that you usually get with very little dynamic range is what made me go back to vinyl. I really find it much much better. So ultimately I don’t think it’s the format it’s rather the mastering decisions that matter. Also Neil Young is 69. He simply can’t hear shit any more. So he telling people that it’s absolutely fantastic…well… bogus?

    1. Digital formats when mixed properly actually have greater dynamic range than vinyl. Because of the noise of hardware components and the needle physically touching the vinyl and inducing crackle etc. All those quiet sounds on vinyl get sucked up into the noise floor. The difference between the loudest and quietest parts on digital is greater than on vinyl.

        1. …and yet there are just as many poorly mastered albums on vinyl from back in the day (and still now) as CDs. Its not just loudness that makes for a poor master.
          The loudness wars should NOT be used as justification for a love of vinyl. Dynamic range is the domain of CD’s and digital, not vinyl. Sorry.

  13. ha….like others said that not a good dest because of the headphones. but it is interesting that everyone picked the iPhone. Is there a benefit to the pono audio wise? you can play back full quality waves on a iPhone. is this a quality of music discussion or of the players.

    1. The bottom line is that a company that sells billions of dollars of high-end phones can get high-quality components very inexpensively.

      As the article suggests, it would be nice to see a similar test with audio gurus, because they’d tend to have different listening prejudices, especially towards less compression. So it’s possible that they might make different choices than your average music fan.

  14. Well now,
    I have some relevant experience to bring to this discussion. I own a Pono player. I have compared it with the iPhone. To my ears it sounds far better, especially of you are comparing 128kps mp3 to higher resolution files. One of the places shows up is in the depth of the reverb. This is night and day different. I have never owned an mp3 player of any sort as the very sound of these files is fatiguing to me. They literally hurt my ears.

    One of the things that bothers me about this guys “test” is that he keeps casting it in the light of “would you pay 400 bucks for the player and then spend $2.50 per song to replace all of your music?” As if that would be your only option. I have no plans to replace anything I already own on CD. I have tested standard CD quality files on the Pono and they sound far better than playing them from my MacBook or on my car stereo (and it is a decent unit). At about 25 bucks per high res download I will not be replacing all of my albums. Ever. Note to stupid record labels- lower the price to download these files and you will sell far more of them.

    When I first opened the Pono it came pre-loaded with that Neil Young song, There Is A World. I excitedly got out my best phones and pushed play and was instantly, utterly underwhelmed. Meh. In fact I was so disappointed that my wife was upset that she had bought this thing for my birthday and we waited for 6 months for, Meh. Later on when I plugged in the SD card that came with Damn The Torpedoes by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, I had my “Now I Get It” moment. As soon as Refugee started up I was completely thrilled with the sound. Same phones, same super high resolution files. My conclusion was that Neil may not have done the Pono any favors by choosing that track as it’s poster child.

    I have noticed that younger people in their 20s and 30s are accustomed to the tinny, irritating sound of 128kps music files. It is all most of them have ever known. They walk around with those crappy, cheap earbuds in and “listen” to music on noisy buses, cafeterias, working out, walking down the street, just everywhere. When I listen to music I sit down in a quiet room and listen with intent. This is where the Pono shines, out of the main jack and straight in to my studio monitors. Bliss. My car stereo is fine for blasting rock while I’m barreling down the road. But you should sit down and listen to a really well recorded album like Moondance in a quiet studio.

    That brings me to my music buying plan. There is not a major enough difference between the 192/24 and the 96/24 files to my ear. So I am buying the latter. I am only buying classic albums that I never picked up on CD and building a high resolution library from there. There will be exceptions to this rule. Like when I just picked up London Calling in 96/24 on HD Tracks sale for 14 bucks. But that is a double album. I have now bought it once on vinyl, twice on cassette, once on CD and now as a download.

    I urge everyone to see about trying a Pono or other high resolution player. But try it out in a quiet room with good headphones.

    1. That was a lot of words to say that you can hear the flaws in crappy low-res mp3 files. What golden ears you have.

      Test after test has shown no one can tell the difference between 320cbr mp3 and source, and only rarely can even experienced listeners tell the difference between V0 mp3 (around 192kbps typically) and source.

      1. that seems unlikely to me. what tests are you referring to?

        with a good DAC (iPhones, audio interface, even the zune sounded good, laptop headphone outputs and iriver type things usually do not) and decent speakers the difference between 192 V0 and 320 is very clear, and the difference between 320cbr and FLAC or WAV is substantial, though I think 320 is quite listenable.

        not convinced about the Pono though.

        1. Yeah but the question is about consumers listening on consumer products… Of course, when the entire environment is perfectly tuned for critical listening, yes YOU (and a very small percentage of the population) will hear a “significant” difference.

          Meanwhile 99% of people are left wondering why they can’t just enjoy listening to the song without some schmuck saying “Ooo I have a flac version turn this VBR shit off”

          1. No, people simply can’t hear the difference. People at Hydrogen Audio forums ran blind A/B test for years with audiophile grade DACs, preamps, amps, and speakers of all sorts… …made tables of all the available encoders at various bitrates… back in the 90s, when 128kbps was the standard and 160 was considered high quality. 192 CBR came along and and really good listeners could still hear a difference through top-notch equipment. But after that… 256 CBR and V0 and they simply stopped running tests because no one could hear the difference anymore.

            MP3 developers made great improvements in the psycho-acoustic modeling and encoding algorithms up to that point too. There was a flurry of development in the LAME encoder from 1999 to 2001 which tapered off dramatically in 2002. It had basically been perfected. Every now and they would fix some rare corner case where some unusual “music” would “confuse” the encoder. That’s the main reason people who know all this still prefer FLAC, there is absolute certainty that the (mathematical) output is identical to the input. That’s a valid reason. If that feeling of certainty is important to you and makes you happy then go for it. That doesn’t have anything to do with justifying 96 or 192k sample rates though.

            Psycho-acoustic researchers kept testing too, and people at places like Xiph. Same results. You can find other peoples tests or do your own. Hitting play by yourself doesn’t count as a test though.

    2. iTunes audio files are 256 kbps AAC audio, which is indistinguishable from CD quality:

      http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2014/07/how-do-cds-mp3s-and-streaming-music-compare-for-in-car-audio-quality/index.htm

      “there is no significant difference in sound quality between the CD and WAV, 320 Kbps AAC, and 256 Kbps AAC audio files. ”

      In the Pono promo video, the high res files were being compared to crappy lo-fi MP3s. If that’s not BS, what is?

      1. You left off the key introduction to your quotation: “In our test car”. CR was reporting perceived audio quality in a car, parked and traveling. That in no way validates your blanket statement above.

        I can clearly hear the difference between iTunes audio files and CD-resolution FLAC files. The audio quality of iTunes music has improved in the past few years, but it’s just not comparable to CD-resolution FLAC files, let alone higher-resolution files.

        The great advantage to me of Pono is their making FLAC files more widely available than has been the case up to now, and reducing the price as well. Most of the high-res audio stores charge more for their files than I want to pay, and a cursory look through the Pono catalog shows a lot of albums available for under $15. If I can download these directly, without needing to buy their player, i’m all in.

  15. He didn’t seem to test, or even mention, if the sound output was at the same level. It is widely believed that people prefer “louder” (up to a certain point), so if the iPhone was slightly louder it could have skewed the results.

  16. Great blind test…for people who can’t trace two sets of short wires they just watched the tester plug in.

    There’s also the quality of the switcher and earbuds to be considered (earbuds engineered to work specifically with an iPhone).

    I understand why it’s difficult to think about it this way when music is so prevalent and accessible, but even (especially?) with something this subjective, you have to conduct it like a real scientific experiment, otherwise the results are garbage. You can’t just sit there influencing your test subject the entire time, and it seems the results were what Pogue was looking for from the outset (gotta get those clicks, amirite?).

  17. Small sample size and running thru realistic a/b switch doesn’t give confidence in results of this “study”.

    can’t afford pono, but my sansa fuze can play flacs that sound much better than 320 mp3s, especially with cymbals in metal music.

    There’s a lot more to high resolution audio than just the frequency response. The quantization of event timing is also significant.

    So i’m glad people are pushing for higher quality, eventually we will hear better…

  18. But is Pono supposed to be a mass market consumer product? I kindda thought it was meant for audiophiles, hifi guys and whatnot. In that regard I’m pretty sure none of these ‘test subjects’ would hear a difference between a boombox and a highend stereo system, let alone be willing to dish out the enormous price difference.

    Also, it might be possible that something like Pono is pointless if it only gets to play modern super-duper-overcompressed-the-hell-out-of-their-mind masters. I mean who needs 24bits if you only get 3dB of headroom? And who cares about 96kHz or more if everything is soaking wet with distortion? What if people start to produce low compression high def files for Pono, straight from a mix 2-track. I mean we’ve seen sort of the same thing happening when CDs came out. Right? Some back catalogue “remasters for CD” were no more that digitised LPs with extra limiting. Crappy. Only much later did people start remastering properly, from 2track tapes.

    my 2cents

  19. Well, first of all the test conditions neutralize the quality of the Pono by routing everything through that Radio Shack switcher with cheap analog RCA cables. As much as I like Sony MDR-7506’s for studio and voiceover work, they are not as detailed as the kind of headphones a Pono owner would probably be using ie. V-Moda, Sennheiser, Bowers Wilkins, Grado, Focal, etc. What they should do is go straight out of the Pono’s headphone jack.

    I’ve tried out the Fiio X5 and have a couple Olive media players. I haven’t personally bought or heard a Pono, but I think that most people would prefer the bright punchiness that comes with reduced dynamic range, crispy bitrate artifacts and a lot of compression rather than the softer and more dynamic quality of a high quality recording. At no fault of their own, the majority of people listen to 128kbps MP3 on EarPods or cheap headphones.

    As with expensive food and wine, tasting the subtleties requires a little education. Of course, there is quality and pseudo-quality (complete bullshit) that is more hype and marketing than true quality. I’d put Beats, Bose, Monster and Bang Olufssen in that category. Whether Pono also belongs in that group, I can’t say for certain. I just know that the differences between a lossless FLAC file and MP3 are too subtle for many to hear without honing one’s listening ability. You don’t have to be a mastering engineer, but it takes a little education and a lot of listening.

  20. This test has nothing of a real A/B test. No significance levels or ANOVA or Ttests computed. This may be some random results, no scientific method was used to do this test.

  21. Test with graphs made on 15 respondents on mdr-7506 does not make any sense … still 400 bucks for FLAC player is too much …

  22. I thinks its clear the Pono is likely in ideal circumstances slightly better. This is precisely the point David is making. Is it $400.00 better for the common mobile user? The Pono is not aimed at replacing your home Hifi system it is portable. So this test to me effectively demonstrates a cross section of people using both earbuds and Sony MDR7506 listening to a range of Pono and iTunes downloads.
    His full article does disclose the Pono tracks were mostly the highest res available but Pono have apparently not remastered or re-captured all of the tracks. In time I’m sure they can optimize them as iTunes has (mastered for iTunes). If Pono really wants to blow minds perhaps they should look into DSD 1 bit tech which is vastly superior to 192K.
    The main issue is all formats are lossy even CD’s. While this argument can go on all day at the end of the proverbial day the Pono only success in a slight way, for those who can hear a difference Pono is for you but my take is it is not going to change the world any more than DSD has (as in almost non existant)
    I agree with what Neil young is trying to do but this is no game changer.

    1. I would argue against DSD being “better” than PCM except in studios. If all relevant studies have shown that most people cannot tell the difference between 16/44.1 and 320k MP3 I will guarantee you they cannot tell DSD from PCM.

  23. Anyone know why the Red Book CD standard is 16bit/44.1khz?

    Because any higher quality is lost on human ears.

    Human hearing has not evolved since 1980.

    So compressed audio that sounds virtually identical to uncompressed is not only fine, it’s great. Those 2 standards cover all the ground a consumer could ever want.

    If only video had surpassed the human eye as CD audio surpassed the ear. Stand next to your 1080p TV and you can still see pixelation.

  24. I dont know about 192 or the pono but its easy to hear the difference from a mp3 and an uncompressed file. night and day. maybe regular people cant hear it but people who use their ears can. look how the average person listens to music and what they listen to, lol. they prob just picked what sounds “normal” to them.

  25. neil young’s heart is in the right place. basically this test showed that most people chose apple selling us crappy version s of music we already had on cd which is a higher quality file (still compressed but higher quality)

    i think neil and all those celebrity on his video should have banned together to make itunes store deliver at least cd quality music not shit mp3’s. creating another device while a good try is not the best move and will never work . people are used to there phones as music players , now those phones should play higher quality music if you choose.

  26. This is why statistics should be a required course in high school, much less college. This is a statistically irrelevant sample — the size is too small, the population undefined. The difference that Pogue found cannot be generalized to the larger population. In other words, garbage.

    1. It’s a small sample, but there’s an underlying long-established scientific principle supporting the results (which should be closer to 50/50 in a larger sample, making the Ponos benefits over other players null.)

      Can you hear a 20khz sine wave? No? How about 18? Still no? You must have human hearing. The Redbook CD standard was developed to exceed human hearing. Rates beyond that threshold are useless. Therefore compression that is virtually identical to the source (extremely low artifact) like modern codecs are basically as good as CD, which exceeds human hearing.

  27. I haven’t heard the PONO nor done a side-by-side evaluation, but I think it’s inaccurate and irresponsible to post such an article based on such irrelevant data. Lots of people listen to music, but very few are trained to listen and hear small details, which requires years of study and the sophisticated gear to listen and learn with; consequently, asking a very few people (who may well rely on an I-Pod as their main music delivery system) their opinions has no weight or grounding in reality. McDonald’s sells the most burgers, but very few would say they make the best. An untrained listener would probably choose what sounds most familiar…what they’re currently using and are accustomed to. I suspect there’s a lot more to PONO than can be discovered in such a meaningless casual “test”; this seems like one more heap of “journalistic” drivel, generated to score a few bucks for the clueless writer. I’ve read enough about PONO to know that serious time, talent, money and critical ears have been involved for years to create that system; it is a mistake to allow monkeys to judge the outcome.

    1. Dan

      If you think that the people that buy music are untrained ‘monkees’ and if you trust the Pono hype more than the opinions of people that have actually tried the device, you’re probably the target market for this thing.

    2. Aka, ‘I don’t like the facts, so I’ll declare them irrelevant’.

      Decades of research has shown that people can’t reliably hear improvements in sound quality when you go beyond CD quality.

      Pogue doesn’t say that there isn’t any difference – just that you can’t hear it and you’d be better off spending your money on better headphones or speakers.

  28. Im going to assume this is a case of people simply prefering the format they are used to. If all you ever listen to is compressed itunes files than a uncompressed high resolution format might sound odd to the casual listener.

  29. It’d be ironic if the reason for this is that Pono has got a sub par headphone amp. I hope it doesn’t but maybe.

  30. I own a Plenue from Cowon Audio, which is a high res players that support multiple formats at high bitrates. I have some high tunes and the difference is night and day between mp3 and flac at (96k 24bits). Between MP3 at 320 kps and flac 44k 16bit, I cannot tell much difference. But at higher bit rates I can tell, the mixes seem more spacious and you can listen for distortions.

    The Plenue has nice enhancements too, like BBE,10 band EQ, MP3 enhance, Bass boost and surround which are all nice and do different things. I think the extra sound options are added boosted to 192k 24bit output since the battery lasts about 9 hours no matter what I play.

    Yep the Plenue is really good but costly, thought it does have 124 gig of flash which I’ve not filled yet.

    All the listening reviews are positive by reviewers, and i’me curious about Plenue vs Cowon.

    http://www.cowonglobal.com/product_wide/PLENUE1/product_page_1.php

    The Pono is not the only kid on the block.

  31. I always find it interesting when people have such strong negative opinions about gear that they have never laid their hands on.

    I also think it would be nice if we could have a discussion about a topic that avoids condescension and sarcasm. But hey, it’s the internet.

    Hope this wasn’t too many words for whoever that was.

  32. That is a crap video….. !!!!!
    Apple sponsored SHITE…!!!!!!!
    Crap listening conditions using crap earbuds is no sensible test !!!! They didn’t even play it through a decent stereo home system, where the difference is really noticeable !!!!!
    You don’t have to repurchase all your ITunes files over again either… !!!! You can just load them all into PONO Music World on your computer and upload them onto easily swappable MicroSD storage cards…. So the PONO never runs out of storage space, IPhone can’t do that for a start…!!!!!
    APPLE SPONSORED ABSOLUTE SHITE UNREALISTIC TEST……!!!!!!!! ABSOLUTE SHITE APPLE PROPAGANDA IT SEEMS !!!!!!

  33. That is a crap video….. !!!!!
    Apple sponsored SHITE…!!!!!!!
    Crap listening conditions using crap earbuds is no sensible test !!!! They didn’t even play it through a decent stereo home system, where the difference is really noticeable !!!!!
    You don’t have to repurchase all your ITunes files over again either… !!!! You can just load them all into PONO Music Worldon your computer and upload them onto easily swappable MicroSD storage cards…. So the PONO never runs out of storage space, IPhone can’t do that for a start…!!!!!
    APPLE SPONSORED ABSOLUTE SHITE UNRESLISTIC TEST……!!!!!!!! ABSOLUTE SHITE APPLE PROPAGANDA IT SEEMS !!!!!!

  34. I own a Pono and it’s the most beautiful music experience I’ve ever had. I use it with my custom Etymic ES5 in-ear with custom cables, through the Pono’s balanced mode that separates left and right over different wires. However even when using it with a standard TRS stereo plug, it sounds amazing.

    There are several things to take into account though, and this echoes some other comments here:

    * bad recordings, over compressed masters, … will sound horrible, the bad aspects to me become so apparent that it’s difficult to continue listening to, I didn’t have this in such a degree before

    * the Pono needs breaking in, I just got a second one and it seems to require about three days of full time play-back to start sounding wonderful, before that it sounds a bit thin and cramped

    * cables and interconnects makes a huge difference, the set up in the test is laughable, I replaced the cable of my B&W P5 Series2 headphones and it really makes them shine, bringing out all the details and texture that the Pono delivers

    * I don’t consider myself an audiophile, but I do notice that over the years I’ve started developing an attention to sound and beauty of sound that others in my family don’t identify. Like said above, it’s similar to tasting wine, if you have no affinity for it, you will not appreciate the fine beauty

    1. Why would the device need to be broken in? Headphones need to be broken in, but they have relatively delicate components that move and literally need to stretch. But an MP3 device?

    2. I honestly can’t tell if this is genuine or satire, but it checks so many boxes. Emphasizing the importance of expensive cables, comparing listening to music to tasting wine, and especially the need to “break in” a digital audio playback device.

      1. The Pono has a leather D/A converter. Break it in and rub it with linseed oil, and it will sound as good as dad’s old baseball mitt. Otherwise the Pono will give your music blisters.

        I’d suggest playing a loud 80hz sine wave file for 400 hours as loud as you can. (Tell the police you’re an audiophile and they’ll understand.)

        Also important is using expensive cables. As you know, when a signal goes through inexpensive cables, they cause the electrons to become cheap sounding.

        By no means should you believe the studies where cheap wine put into an expensive bottle is rated as tasting better. That’s just propaganda by the boxed wine industry. Wine that’s priced higher DOES taste better, because the retail price sends Flavor Chronotons backwards through time into the grapes.

        Lastly, the thought of using standard high quality consumer electronics is repulsive. Filthy commoners are stupid, and people who spend lots of money on a file player have golden ears and elevated taste.

        Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to listen to this classic rock album that was recorded and mixed on bandwidth-limited noisy analog tape and say that the stereo image is spacious.

        Pono: The Audio Player for Suckers who are basically endorsing the audio version of homepathic therapy because admitting otherwise would bruise their egos.

  35. Everyone in this conversation is missing the point that for consumers the “quality bar” was passed a long, long time ago. It’s all about convenience and value now. If you as an audio professional don’t understand that this is the audience you serve, then you have a road of frustration ahead of you, which leads directly to obsolescence and unemployment.

  36. That sample size is small. Would love to see someone do this with a higher sample of people, it as a double blind test, the introduction of headphones that have pretty good range for frequencies, and some people who are audio engineers or musicians etc. Also, there are some people talking about their own personal experience with having a pono and it sounding so much better, or not sounding as good as, compressed mp3 and other digital files. A lot of the time, psychologically speaking, if you are doing something(taking a sugar pill, listening to a pono, using Rorschach tests, etc) you will notice that what you expect(the pill ailing your headache, the music sounding better, psychologists having patients who seem to have their ailments fitting with how they answer Rorschach test) is also what the outcome seems to be, because of expected effects causing reliable data to become somewhat skewed. I guess this doesn’t surprise me though, xiph has a great article a couple of people have posted about how it doesn’t usually matter with such high rates, and how it can actually be detrimental to sound, which I would heavily recommend reading.

    1. That’s genuinely hilarious.

      They’re literally claiming the insulation around the wires has to “break in” and only then will the music sound “relaxed” as well as a bunch of other subjective unmeasureable attributes. Even funnier: all the adjectives are in square quotes.

      Even something like a speaker’s scientifically established break in barely changes the response. This is voodoo cork sniffing of the most lunatic caliber.

      “Maybe if we talk about this file player like it was a violin crafted from the finest tone wood people will experience a placebo effect and talk about it on social media.”

    2. No, no.. NO! Seriously like WTF. If you believe that stuff then YOU are a consumer. Desperate to be lead-on in order to justify your expenditure. It’s just complete BS for suckers.

  37. methodological problem with this study: he’s using a crappy radioshack splitter to a|b the test. that’s where the sound quality is being lost.

    1. Fanboy fail!

      If that were an issue, it would impact each of them equally – not make the iPhone sound better!

      Maybe the Pono needs some of those gold Monster cables to make it sound good?

  38. Switching box is the weakest link. ALSO there should have been a volume comparison and test to make sure they are outputting the same (even if both at %100). Even a .5db difference could be perceived as better. Also whether or not Apple has algorithms boosting certain frequencies.

  39. I own a Pono, and I have had wonderful listening experiences… The lyrics are crystal clear, I have heard words that I could never understood before, the recorded reverbs and effects come through as they were intended… You are missing out if you don’t try it out… There is a difference… All the statistics and audio “science” that has been quoted above falls short when you listen to the higher level files that you can purchase… I was skeptical as well, but I hear instruments that I never have heard… The experience has been really, really cool… Try it for yourself.

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