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Audiophile alert: high-end Pono music player goes on sale

"Vinyl quality" digital music player goes on sale

A new digital music player that promises to blow away the audio quality of iPods has finally gone on sale. The Pono player is backed my musician Neil Young, and pairs high-end components with ultra-high bitrate music files to give audiophiles a portable alternative to low-grade MP3s. 

The Pono player was successfully funded through a Kickstarter campaign, which smashed its funding target of $800,000 several times over, eventually raising over $6 million. The funds were collected last April, and now the player and its associated online music store have been made available in the US. 

The Pono player is shaped like a mini Toblerone bar and has been custom designed to deliver music as “close to its original recorded resolution as possible”, according to the company. It has a regular headphone jack and a stereo mini-plug analog output for connecting the device to a hi-fi set-up or in-car audio. 

Its 128GB of internal memory may seem reasonably generous by today’s smartphone standards, but the ultra-high bitrate of the music designed to be loaded onto the player means it can hold only 800 tracks at the very highest quality available, although an SD card slot lets you double that internal storage.

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The highest quality recordings available from the Pono store (192kHz/24-bit FLAC files) have around 30 times the audio data of a typical MP3 file, according to the company. The store offers music in a range of resolutions, the lowest of which – labelled CD lossless (44.1kHz/16-bit) still offers around six times more audio information than an MP3. 

That high quality music doesn’t come cheaply. The Led Zeppelin IV album costs $27.49 (around £18) from the Pono Store, and that’s not even at the highest possible resolution, at 96kHz/24-bit. The Pono player itself costs $399.

The key question is whether those high-resolution files and the Pono player translate into the kind of audio quality that will attract audiophiles. We’ve yet to test one ourselves, but the Pono player has a host of legendary musicians willing to testify for its quality (warning: video contains adult language).  


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