Price and prejudice: Pono’s ongoing uphill battle


I thought I was done writing about Pono (for the time being) but no, now that the post-CES haze has cleared, a few mainstream publications have begun to take potshots at Neil Young’s dreams of a better audio world.

James Covert of The NY Post claimed that (unnamed) product engineers behind Pono are yet to be convinced that hi-res audio offers any “significant technical advantage over CD quality”.

Michael Lavorgna of Audiostream immediately called bullshit on Covert. Who are these product engineers? Do they work for Ayre Acoustics, the company charged with designing the PonoPlayer?

In his piece for Gizmodo, Mario Aguilar claimed that the science behind hi-res audio’s superiority makes no sense and that anyone who hears a difference between a 24bit/192kHz take on Norah Jones and the CD equivalent is suffering from confirmation bias.

Thankfully, Michael Fremer of Analog Planet took him to task as only Michael Fremer can. To summarise the technical angle of Fremer’s riposte: the digital-to-analogue conversion process relies on filtering to remove high frequency noise; those filters can mess with the time domain information to which our ears are extremely sensitive. With CD quality audio encoded at a sample rate 44.1kHz, the filters ‘ring’ and smear information at the very top of the audible band. However, encode music at a higher sample rate, say 96kHz and the filters are moved out of audible range, thus vastly reducing smearing and ringing.

Mr Fremer’s listening experiences mirror my own. That all other things being equal, the differences between CD quality audio and hi-res audio are discernable. If you don’t hear it, you don’t hear it but to claim that others who do are somehow imagining things, as Mr Aquilar did, is quite the leap to make. For what it’s worth, I’m not down with Neil Young’s in-car auditions either but with either the PonoPlayer or my numerous home hi-fi configurations, I enjoy the occasional slice of hi-res material.


I’d contend that a certain standard of playback equipment is required to peel apart the differences between 16bit/44.1kHz and 24bit/96kHz. You’re probably not going to hear it on your iPhone driving stock earbuds. Besides, that outcome is moot: the D/A converter chip inside the iPhone tops out at 16bit/48kHz which means you’ll need Onkyo’s HF Player to hand off ones and zeroes via the Camera Connection Kit to an outboard DAC. Hardly a handy proposition for the curious.

At home you’ll need a hi-res capable DAC – an AudioQuest Dragonfly v1.2 or Meridian Explorer are great places to start – feeding an amplifier and loudspeakers; nothing too fancy but something better than a UE Boom or (Heaven forbid) your laptop’s in-built speakers. I said as much in my previous article on Pono: “Mainstreamers: get better audio gear before going Pono”. And no, I’m not talking thousands of dollars. A few hundred bucks, maybe a thousand, will see you right.

If you want instant joy, the PonoPlayer (US$399) is a good starting point (review here). Marry it to a pair of Sennheiser Momentum for initial headphone use and then drop it into a two-channel system as transport / DAC when funds allow.

This might well be your typical mainstreamers position on all things audio: they’ve heard about Neil Young’s push for better sound through hi-res audio and they’re curious as to what all the fuss is about. However, they want to hear it for themselves (before committing funds to better hardware); I note that listening first hand is something that our friends at Gizmodo or the NY Post have yet to do.

Try this with one of your non-audiophile friends: sit them down in front of your home system and play them a Redbook and hi-res encoded versions of the same album. Beck’s Mutations or Neil Young’s Rust Never Sleeps are good starting points. Let your friend sit there for as long as he/she likes.


Not that hi-res audio is a night and day improvement on Redbook but let’s assume your friend hears the same better image specificity and clarity that you enjoy. Let us now assume that they have sufficient funds to buy a system similar to that which you own and that they don’t think that being an audiophile is somehow an elitist pursuit or a haven for freaks or the socially inept.

In his recent article for Pitchfork Mark Richardson closed with a comment that chimes nicely with my own thoughts on the matter, that better hardware should be your first priority: “Regardless, we’re talking about perceived differences many magnitudes smaller than those that come with, say, an upgrade to a headphone that costs $50 more. Good sound is worth paying for if you can afford it, just make sure you start in the right place.” A shame that Richardson detoured via some very questionable reasoning to get there.

A grand don’t come for free. Let’s not be glib here: it’s a LOT of money for a new headphone rig or home setup. Some people will see the benefits of carrying a second device whose sole purpose is the playback of pre-loaded music, the audible benefits of which outweigh the inconvenience of it a) being something else they have to carry and keep charged and b) not being capable of connecting to streaming services like Spotify or Tidal.

This latter point is where I think some of the mainstream press’ Pono/hi-res pushback could be better focused.


Pono’s hi-res downloads’ biggest challenge isn’t technical ignorance, it’s price. Perhaps that’s what James Covert at The NY Post intended to say: that hi-res downloads just aren’t worth the money. Your friend who heard the difference between CD Beck and hi-res Beck? I bet he baulks at the $25 asking price! After all, he probably already owns the CD so he’s looking at $25 per album for what can best be described as a minor improvement. Remember: CD quality isn’t hell to hi-res audio’s heaven and $25 isn’t marginal money.

The background context plays an important role here too. $25 for a hi-res download might have played well in the market ten or fifteen year ago, but (Japan aside) CD sales are in a downward spiral. Streaming is the future of music consumption and it exists in the here and now. Music purchases are trending downwards whilst the number of streaming subscribers are headed in the opposite direction.

[Side note: I think that conversion rates from free Spotify to premium Spotify are still too low to lend long-term viability to streaming services].

Lossy streaming Spotify is US$10/month but it can’t compete sonically with hi-res – Neil Young is right about that much. But with the advent of lossless streaming services at $20/month, hi-res downloads begin to look extremely long in the tooth for even the most curious onlooker. US$25 per hi-res download might be fine for you or I because we are audiophiles and we want the best. We are idealists.

I’m currently chomping at the bit for the all-new, hi-res Pono version of Talking Heads’ Remain in Light. I already have the Redbook version of this new 2015 remaster – it’s clearly superior to the (frankly dreadful) 5.1 mixdown that been for sale over at HDTracks since 2011 – and now I’m keen for a 24bit/96kHz encode of the same. That’ll be another US$18. That’s what it’s like sometimes to be an audiophile: it’s the pursuit of (a subjective) best. We spend our hard earned cash because we aspire to some ideal. That doesn’t make us elitist as long as we maintain a hold on pragmatism.


Flipping it around, CD quality audio isn’t THAT far behind hi-res in terms of audible satisfaction, particularly if you own a more modest system. That’s the pragmatist in me talking. Moreover, US$25 for one hi-res download hardly looks attractive next to US$20/month for Tidal Hifi.

Let’s go back to our hi-res-curious pal, who, by his very nature is a pragmatist. With a budget of $500 per year for music, would you recommend he dump it all into hi-res downloads at the Pono store or HDTracks, netting 25 or so albums, or would you recommend he first set aside $240 for a year’s worth of Tidal Hifi, leaving the rest for hi-res downloads or vinyl. Personally, I’d go with the latter: Tidal first, hi-res downloads second.

Hi-res audio will likely reach a much wider audience once it meets the world of streaming. A world where $40 doesn’t buy a couple of album downloads but a month’s access to a large library of hi-res titles. Meridian have since shown how this is will soon be possible through their MQA technology that (as I understand it) folds hi-res information below the noise floor of Redbook bit-/sample-rate encoding.

Audiophiles are rightfully excited by what the future may hold but in the here and now, Neil Young isn’t ploughing that field of opportunity. (Yes, I’m a fan too).

Purposefully sidestepping discussions about mastering and provenance, CD is good but hi-res audio can sound better. I wish that Neil Young’s message were the same. Instead, the Pono promo campaign attempted to rubbish CD quality. That’s ironic when you consider that much of the music for sale in the PonoMusic store is encoded at 16bit/44.1kHz.


Pono’s success is predicated on 1) a hardware player that offers tremendous audiophile appeal but whose crossover potential is questionable; and 2) a downloads store in a world that’s full steam ahead with the superior value-for-money and convenience of lossless streaming subscriptions. I suspect THAT’s why the likes of Gizmodo, Pitchfork and The NY Post are troubled by what Neil Young is selling. I just wish they’d say so instead of pushing flawed technical arguments or hiding behind the anonymity of industry insiders.

If you’re curious about hi-res audio, and if you haven’t already, get an entry-level amplifier and a pair of loudspeakers. Buy them second hand if you have to. Get a USB DAC and feed it with a lossless streaming service (Qobuz or Tidal) or load a PonoPlayer with CD rips and have it feed a nice pair of headphones. Once you’ve got Redbook sounding good then it’ll be time to investigate hi-res downloads.

Being pragmatic against the backdrop of audiophillia’s inherent idealism is one way to sidestep the negative Normans of the mainstream press and draw newcomers to a world of better sound.

Further information: Pono Music

Written by John H. Darko

John lives in the NOW + HERE = NOWHERE. He derives an income from the ad revenues of DAR. John is also an occasional staff writer for Stereophile, 6moons and TONEAudio.

Twitter: DarkoAudio
Instagram: DarkoAudio
Facebook: DAR


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  1. “that anyone who hears a difference between a 24bit/192kHz take on Norah Jones and the CD equivalent is suffering from confirmation bias.”

    They fail to mention that NOT hearing a difference might be another instance of confirmation bias as well. Given the articles seemed to have an axe to grind and all ……….

  2. I think this gets to the great paradox of the Hi-fi industry; it promotes products based on technical specifications but ultimately it’s judged (or should be anyway) on something completely subjective, how they sound. The Pono and the hi-res audio world rely on there being a discernible difference between hi-res files and the red book equivalent, but it’s done a poor job selling this to the public. For an industry heavy on quantifiable data they have failed to ‘prove’ the worth of hi-res. Yet mention the one test designed to put some objectivity into a subjective pursuit, the ABX double blind test, and some people get very testy. Even if the Boston society test has been debunked it only brings us back to the starting point, the null hypothesis. i.e. There is no difference. Is there any robust and reliable evidence to the contrary? The hi-res world needs it.

  3. Agree with your points John. I for one will purchase HI Res files for my cherished albums only as the CD ripped quality is so very good. I just wished some commentators would listen on decent kit as you say ‘required to peel apart the differences between 16bit/44.1kHz and 24bit/96kHz. ‘ very well put.

    Is the high cost worth it?, for me yes and once we have a wider acceptance this surely would come down.

  4. Great article John, by far the best I read on this “Pono” topic – your pragmatism is why your site is worth reading. I don’t understand fundamentalism related with HiRes audio…Some folks take any criticism against Pono and better than cd resolution like you were invading their living rooms and crashing those thousand dollars dacs, amps (and also their very expensive CD players which were just few years ago called unbelievable, mind boggling experience :D). If Neil claim cd quality is “200 feet below water” and than he sell in his store mostly (a lot of) 44,1/16 files …well…He is asking for it…(with all due respect to him as great musician and quality music evangelist)

    • PRAGMATISM is one word I keep coming back to again and again on these pages. Riffing on the ‘P’ word again overnight, I thought of two more Young/Pono ironies:

      1) As you point out, Young claims that CD quality is for the birds. And that’s ironic because the PonoPlayer sounds bloody marverlous with 16/44.1.
      2) That hi-res audio will likely see broader uptake through streaming is doubly ironic as it’s most likely to come via Meridian’s MQA. And it’s Meridian who were the initial caretakers of the PonoPlayer before Hansen and co. at Ayre Acoustics stepped in.

      • John, I’ve always wondered if Pono backed away from MQA because of its licensing ramifications, which *could* be construed as a form of DRM (or pseudo-DRM, i.e. you can play it back but you can’t play it back fully without a licensed decoder.

        • Yes, I suspect DRM is the reason Young’s team backed away from Meridian. It’ll be interesting to see how MQA is licensed to third parties.

  5. This might be the most lucid article re: Pono I’ve read yet (and that’s saying something given the quality of writing Michael LaVorgna has done). Thanks!

  6. I’m having a terrible experience with many “remasters” who are more often than not entail more aggressive dynamic range limiting and compression. From what I can tell the same digital remasters are used as the sole source for compressed, CD, and hi-res sources. So, despite the more capable format it’s utility is largely shot in the foot if they are derived from a master designed to be played in my car, on the radio, or over earbud headphones.

    • Yup – agree 100%. The mastering quality has a far greater bearing on the end user listening experience than the delivery container.

  7. When identically sourced 16/44 and 24/96 sound so close it’s hard to tell them apart, let alone decide one is better than the other.

    So called ‘Hi-Rez’ is the biggest scam/hype I’ve ever seen from the High Fi business, and the competition for that title is pretty steep.

    It’s hard to say ‘yup, we’ve really done a piss poor job on audio quality for the past 30 years’. It’s easy to say ‘buy all your albums again, this time they’ll sound really good!’.

  8. Good article.

    As others have said, the Ponoplayer on good headphones (not even that expensive… my Grado 80s, modded for differential (balanced) playback sound amazing) does plenty of justice to CD quality. The Pono folks do give a bit too much emphasis to high sampling rates. Musically, you’re talking a extra octave or two. And you don’t even want to hear a full 24-bit signal (144dB), the threshold of pain is at 130dB. And your average home system may not even manage CD’s theoretical 96dB SNR. The Ponoplayer gives you everything you need to hear better sound except the speakers.

    The big win isn’t any of that spec sheet stuff. What they’re really after is getting the final mix from the artist and delivering that to your ears, whatever the bitrate. No downsampling, no dithering, and particularly, no mastering by record company people. No more loudness wars stuff, unless that’s what the artist intended.

    Today’s CD is superior in every practical way to LP (aka “vinyl”, though of course that’s not what they’re made of). But it’s tricky enough to get good sound mastered onto vinyl, it’s impossible to overcompress and get a playable disc, and they only sell to audiophiles and hipsters. So in truth, some LPs actually do sound better, but for all the wrong reasons. And that’s all in the mastering, what goes on the disc. If Pono can change the masters we get to hear, that’s the real revolution here.

    • “If Pono can change the masters we get to hear, that’s the real revolution here.” <--- isn't that something NY hinted at early on in the Kickstarter campaign? Seems to have since dissolved.

  9. Well stated.
    Your article places the elements of the Pono/Hi-rez conversation into a more realistic perspective than I’ve read elsewhere.

    I do feel, sadly, that high fidelity in general will remain a niche market. There are simply too few of us for whom the “ideal” presentation is a financial priority.

  10. “Try this with one of your non-audiophile friends: sit them down in front of your home system and play them a Redbook and hi-res encoded versions of the same album. Beck’s Mutations or Neil Young’s Rust Never Sleeps are good starting points. Let your friend sit there for as long as he/she likes.”

    You have to be REALLY careful about this sort of advice, John. The original, commercially released Mutations CD was heavily compressed down to DR7. (Not Bob Ludwig’s finest hour by any stretch). The recently released, 24/192 version released by Acoustic Sounds (I imagine the Pono version is the same as theirs) has very similar, but NOT identical crappy Loudness War mastering. The 24/192 tracks are roughly 0.5 of a dB louder. If you simply compare these two versions as they are, without any sort of precise level matching, you could be easily fooled into thinking the 24/192 sounds better simply because its louder. There is a boat load of science to back this up. We know for a fact that our brains equate slightly louder music as “better sounding” based on the way our ears perceive frequencies at different volume levels.

    That’s not the end of the story though. An early promo version of Mutations was released on CD in the Canadian market – without the final commercial mastering. It’s DR11, far more dynamic than the original CD, the 24/192 version, the Acoustic Sounds DSD release, or even the vinyl press, which as far as I’m aware was cut using the same mastering as commercial CD.

    Guess what? The Canadian promo CD version sounds FAR better than the regular CD release, the 24/192 release, and the DSD release. What? How can this possibly be? 16/44 sounds better than 24/192? Abso-fricken-lutely. How an album was recorded, mixed, and mastered matters infinitely more than whether it is released in 16/44, 24/96, or 24/192.

    We’re all arguing about where to place the deck chairs on the Titanic. I think the deck chairs look better over here. No you’re wrong! Science proves that the best place for the deck chairs is here! There’s a bigger problem folks! The worst part is that Neil Young knows its a problem, but he doesn’t like to talk about it because he knows there’s nothing he can do about it. Pono has no control over what type of masters they get. Any time he’s been directly asked about the Loudness War, he’s danced around the issue and tried to ignore it as best as possible. This is NOT how we can get back to good sounding music again.

    The same artists and musicians that talk about how terrible MP3 and streaming audio sound and how great high-res is will also tell you that they master for Apple Earbuds, laptop speakers, and clock radios. These same artists are also often pressured by their record labels to have “competitive” loudness. Unless the Pono or HDTracks or Acoustic Sounds version of an album has a dedicated, dynamic master, which is very often NOT the case, you’re paying $25+ for an album that was mastered for laptop speakers and clock radios. Who’s the fool here?

    • My advice being specific to Mutations might have been a mis-step in the light of the fascinating backstory that you’ve kindly detailed but it still holds for the vast majority of releases: the difference between 16/44.1 and 24/96 isn’t akin to ‘heaven vs. hell’ but more like ‘really good vs. really, really good’. Your comment also underscores an earlier point made by Dave Haynie that the masters matter more than the encoding method/chain.

      • Aye, but there’s the rub. If high-res was being sold as “really good vs. really really good” you would have a much harder time trying to justify charging double the price for the typical HD release compared to the CD.

        Just to give one example, Taylor Swift’s 1989 on CD costs about $12, and the MP3 download is about the same price. The vinyl version costs about $16. Or, you can pay HDTracks $24 for the 24/44 “HD” release. This to me is simply insane, and this is I think at least in part why there’s been such a backlash to Pono on mainstream sites like Gizmodo. If the price was the same as the CD, the HD version would be hard to argue against. At worst it would just take up a bit more storage space than the CD version. When you’re asked to pay double the money though for what is likely a very minute difference, especially given the mastering of that album, AND the fact that the vinyl which is obviously far more expensive to produce and sell than the HDTracks files costs far LESS to buy – it’s impossible to see HD as anything but a cynical cash grab, with breathless marketing about the amazing sound quality used to support it.

        I’ve got nothing against high-res, the way I see it is I want the album the way it was done in the studio. If it was recorded and engineered at 24/96, than give me that. The 16/44 standard was necessary due to the limitations of 1970s technology, and there’s simply no reason we should continue to use it forever, in much the same way that there’s no reason why we should use CRT TVs forever or VHS tapes forever. Technology has moved on. That being said, I don’t like to feel that I’m being fleeced, and at this point I see HD music pricing pretty much across the board as completely unjustifiable.

  11. I just performed the test at and I was shocked that it took me about 8 times to distinguish for 4 out of 5 samples the 320 kbps AAC fragment from the 1411 kbps FLAC equivalent. There even were occasions that I only had guest 1 out of 5 correctly! And I do own a good pair of headphones and am streaming my music through an external DAC to my stereo amplifier.

    • Thank you, Martin; you’ve saved me thinking about this supposedly superior format any further.
      Well at least until Darko dangles some other desirable ‘hi-res’ gizmo before our eyes…
      (Hugo, I’m looking at you…)

      • Like the PonoPlayer, I dig the Chord Hugo more for the way it makes Redbook sound good than its hi-res audio capabilities.

        • Exactly! You’ve hit the proverbial nail on the head, Darko!
          ALL these devices could sell well and could be marketed better if it was emphasized that they significantly improve 16/44.1.
          Given that many people have 16/44.1 files, they will hesitate to pony up for supposedly better versions of what they already own BUT if they were to discover that their Redbook collection sounds markedly superior on a ‘hi-res’ device that might encourage them to augment their current library with the odd hi-res album down the track.
          And who knows, having bought one, they could well fork out for another…

  12. One thing I can say with certainty: what Neil says about the night and day superiority of high res over CD is complete bullshit. If there is a difference, it’s subtle at best, and will only be heard on good equipment. You sure as hell won’t hear it in any situation where a portable like the Pono would normally be used, so the whole Pono thing is a con IMHO.

    One of the problems in doing these comparisons is getting identical masters in both formats. As such, when I compared CD vs. high res, I used my SACD hybrid of Audio Fidelity’s mastering of Warren Zevon’s “Excitable Boy”. Steve Hoffman claims to send a split feed from the same master to the the DSD and PCM masters, so this is as close to the same master for both formats as you can get. It’s the only album in my collection which is both well mastered and which I am confident is identical in both formats.

    Unfortunately my Audiolab M-DAC maxes out at 24/96, so I had to downsample the DSD to 24/88.2. Hence the native DSD could very well sound better, but if high res does sound inherently better than CD, then 24/88.2 should still allow me to hear it. When I compared the 24/88.2 files to the CD layer rips, I could clearly hear a difference: one had a deeper, tighter yet more potent bass, greater dynamics, greater image specificity and space, and most noticeably, a more detailed and transparent midrange. So high res really is better right? Actually, no: the better sounding file was the CD layer rip!

    Next I tried downsampling the DSD to 16/44.1, and comparing that to 24/88.2. This time I couldn’t reliably hear any difference at all.

    So what do I make of this? Although it is a split feed from the same master, obviously the DSD layer will go through a DSD mastering chain, while the CD layer will go through a PCM mastering chain, Presumably whatever PCM A/D converter they’re using sounds better than whatever DSD A/D converter they’re using, so the CD layer sounds better than the DSD layer. But when using the exact same source (DSD), I can’t hear any difference between a high res (24/88.2) downsample and a CD quality downsample.

    So the quality of the master makes far more difference than the resolution (even when, as in this case, the anlogue master is the same), and I’m not sure high res actually makes any difference at all, when comparing the exact same master source.

  13. On the Meridian/Pono breakup, I heard a different story last year at Munich where a gentleman rode a cab from the MOC back into town with me and introduced himself as having been involved in the early Pono/Meridian stages. According to him, the breakup had to do with crowd-sourcing. Bob Stuart was very much against it. “My” guy said that he left the venture because without crowd sourcing, he beleived it’d take far too long for Meridian to get the project off the ground if ever (which, obviously, goes beyond the hardware and to the Pono Music store infra structure)…

  14. I’m late to this conversation, but was just made aware of it through the Pono community thread, Pono in the Press — Eduard Nuijen (Moderator), of which I’m a member. Great article by Mr. Darko that really makes some excellent points as already noted here in the comments area. My personal take on the player is complicated. I’ve been a fan and always been aware of Mr. Young’s dislike for the end result of his music on CD and mp3. In fact, I literally bought into his DVD-Audio and later blu-ray releases, happily playing them through my modest hi-fi system. For what it’s worth, I own an original pair of floor-standing Advent loudspeakers from the 70s in fine condition, a Philips 212 turntable from that era, (dating myself!) a quality Yamaha amp, and an Oppo DVD player that can play HDCD, SACD, and DVD-A, and a decent Blu-ray player that, of course, does blu-ray hi-res audio. The release of Neil Young’s Archives, Vol.1 prompted my purchase of the latter. All that to say I love listening to music that is a cut above mp3s, but I don’t dislike the sound of mp3s, unlike Mr. Young. For what it’s worth, I also bought into the Apple eco-system, and have happily streamed my music using iTunes Match through the above system with Apple TV or on my iPod Touch player.
    (The Yamaha amp also hypes its “Compressed Music Enhancer”,a type of digital signal processing using “exclusive” algorithms to improve the performance of compressed music formats such as MP3 and WMA. With it, it says “highs and especially lows are richer and smoother, bringing music back to life to be as close to the original as possible.” )
    I’ll just say the streaming stuff has sounded fine to me.
    Of course, I really love how my system plays all my hi-res discs seamlessly. I do hear a difference. I tend to do the streaming stuff when I’m not really LISTENING and save the hi-res for times when I really sit down, close my eyes, and let the music envelope me.
    All that said, when I heard about the KS campaign, I got on board and bought the NY&CH player even though I already own 192hz versions of ‘Psychedelic Pill’ and ‘EKTIN’, the two discs pre-loaded with the player. They sound great. Discernibly better than mp3s, but identical to my blu-ray versions. No big surprise there. What it’s done, though, is it has set free my hi-res discs. Using MKV and DVD Audio Extractor, I’ve loaded up the Pono with some amazing sounding files from my DVD-As and Blu-rays. And CD rips also sound really really good. Hell, even some files I bought off Amazon and iTunes aren’t bad at all. They’re fine to my ears, but the hi-res is like sipping fine wine instead of two-buck Chuck. Amazingly, one rip from a VHS tape, Neil Young’s Weld, I did ages ago encoded at a lowly 128kps just rocks on the Pono player. I know a lot of this comes down to a very subjective experience, and with rock music sometimes louder is automatically perceived as better. I just know that it’s made my experience better and more easy to share. When I play the Pono for my friends, most of whom are only familiar with iPod music, they are impressed for the most part. I used a “mediocre” set of Sennheiser cans, HD 202s, and I’m sure that was a big part of it for them. But I trust the Pono is an essential part of the experience, too. I know that was Pogue’s final take on his less than flattering review of the Pono player. Just buy a nice set of headphones. True, perhaps, but for me it was so much more than that. I guess I’m part of niche market, but I appreciate what Mr. Young has tried to do. I agree that he and his musical buddies probably overstated the differences between CD and hi-res, and maybe some folks just are so used to listening to mp3s, well-encoded or not, that it is a moot point. They’re the last ones who would pony up nearly $20 for a hi-res version of Norah Jones when they probably got their “decent” sounding file ‘shared’ online. In summary, it’s made my life and music-listening experience better. The “music as wallpaper” folks, as Neil called them on his recent appearance of the Jimmy Fallon show (hilarious duet of Old Man on there btw), won’t buy into it and shouldn’t. For those who have always cared about quality-sounding music, the Pono player and its hi-res competitors have their place. Long live Neil. Long live Pono. 😉

    • “I agree that he and his musical buddies probably overstated the differences between CD and hi-res.” Indeed they did! It’s something I’ll be addressing in a future post.