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:
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?