Neil Young’s high resolution Pono Player sounds no better than an Apple iPhone playing high resolution MP3s, according to a recent audio quality test, conducted by a reviewer.
In his review of the expensive, Kickstarter-backed player Yahoo’s David Pogue enlisted 15 test subjects and asked them to blindly choose which audio format sounded better.
Whether wearing the same pair of earbuds or headphones and listening to the same song, the participants chose the iPhone over the Pono player more often, while many said neither sounded better than the other. When identifying differences, the test subjects only identified a variance of around 10 per cent in audio quality.
Former professional musician Pogue also said: “When I bought Pono’s expensive remastered songs and compared them with the identical songs on my phone, I couldn’t hear any difference whatsoever.”
After informing Pono of its findings, Pogue heard back from Neil Young himself, who said: “Of approximately 100 top-seed artists who compared Pono to low resolution MP3s. All of them heard and felt the Pono difference, rewarding to the human senses, and is what Pono thinks you deserve to hear.”
Pogue identified the key phrase in the statement as ‘low resolution MP3s’ which makes it clear the company does not account for the higher quality 16-bit/256Kbps AAC files available from Apple’s iTunes download store.
So are the limited and very expensive tracks available from the Pono Store really worth the $400 expenditure on a Pono Player?
Of course, this is only one review based on the tests of one reviewer, so it certainly doesn’t write off the Pono Player. During our brief our hands on at CES 2015 we were impressed with the quality and sensed the improvement from smartphone audio.
At the very least, it seems the jury remains very out on the merits of high resolution audio compared with the regular old hi-res MP3, Neil Young wants to dispense of.