Enter Pono

Chris Connaker at ComputerAudiophile has the scoop on the Pono Player coming soon from Neil Young et al. For those of you that missed the teaser blitz last year, Pono is not a digital Toblerone, it’s a portable high-resolution audio player. Think iPod, but with way better-sounding tunes. There’s been quite a bit of movement in this space of late with the introduction of super-high-end players from FiiO, HiFiMan, Calyx, and Astell&Kern, so Pono is going to face some serious competition right out of the gate. 

A couple of things to note here.

First, this will be coming via a Kickstarter campaign. Hoping for an LH Labs repeat, maybe? Launch is coming March 15th.

Second, the device will be pretty trick and designed by Ayre — not Meridian, as originally thought. The new player will, happily, feature Ayre’s custom minimum phase digital filter for greatly improved audio playback. The circuitry is zero-feedback, like all of Ayre’s gear, and will sport 128G of memory and the top-of-the-line ESS ES9018 DAC chip. The output will use fully discrete components and have a “very low” output impedance to drive “any headphone made”. Best news? Retail pricing starts at $399.

Third, there will be a companion music service, PonoMusic, which is supposed to allow customers to manage their device as well as purchase high-resolution audio. Smart move, right? Think “iPod and iTunes” and you’ll probably be in the ballpark of their goals for world domination. Of course, iTunes is still in play and so is HD Tracks (and about a dozen other hi-res download stores), but I applaud the thought.

Details are scarce at this point, but I’m sure we’ll have a lot of information coming by the end of SXSW, now underway. In the meantime, keep checking the thread over at ComputerAudiophile for the latest.


  1. If I can get a huge library of Hires file downloads at an “affordable” price, it definitely has potential. If they are not aggressive in pricing I dont think the “masses” will come. The price of the player I think hit the sweet spot. I think the whole thing has potential with a smart marketing campaign on different media avenues. I cant wait the day Iphones and Itunes get onboard on Hires. I will keep hoping.

    • Apple isn’t stupid! But AFAIK, hi-res support on any current iDevice is a matter of software and therefore only an IOS update away. If Pono is successful, my guess is that Apple will follow. But that’s really not the model for them. For Apple, it’s all about the music — the players are almost loss-leaders, IIRC. Where Pono will succeed or fail has more to do with the service. Can it eclipse HDTracks or Acoustic Sounds or whomever, or will it be just another in what’s become a sea of noise?

    • Not the long-rumored portable high resolution “Porno-Player”?

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