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PonoMusic PonoPlayer

  1. FFBookman
    Exceptional value and pure sound quality
    Written by FFBookman
    Published Sep 15, 2015
    Pros - Sound quality, Design in hand, overall shape, ruggedness, ease of use, no radios or interference, open standards, side-loading music
    Cons - screen, lack of advanced user preferences, battery life, no playlist generation on device, usb only sync
    It's a DAP. See plenty of other reviews and marketing covering it's various functions and screenshots.
    The true beauty of the PonoPlayer is that it does nothing but play music. It comes without games, browsers, video, texting, radios or social media. It can’t tweet your favorites or alert you of another shooting. Your boss can’t contact you on it. You can’t install apps. There are no alerts and nothing interrupts the music.

    It’s focus is beautiful.

    It will play albums with the songs in their original order, it allows you to pick individual tracks, shuffle all songs on the device, and it can play playlists built with the Ponoworld computer software (a rebranded JRiver, much like iTunes Pro). It has volume controls, shows album artwork, a very flexible output, and not much else.

    There’s not even a built-in EQ because this goes against the ethos of the device. It is meant to play master recordings as they were released with no outside interference or compromises. Move or replace your speakers, treat your room, don't worry about the EQ on the device, it's perfect.

    It’s like a record player and an iPod had a baby – it acts like an MP3 player but sounds like a record player – or better.

    So how does it sound?

    So how does it sound?  It sounds perfect. Load it up with your favorite albums at the highest quality you can buy and you will be a very happy person. The smugness you have about your music will for once be justified and offset by the pure joy that will come through your senses.

    When you factor in the sadness of knowing that everyone won’t hear what you just did, and what we as a society have thrown away, you go there. Tears often follow. That lump in your throat that only the finest artistic moment can give you.

    Your body moves and reacts. The beauty of the music shines through and you recall every time you heard that song and how it should always sound this good. Tales of tears and lots of the pono smileabound from those who have heard it.

    Common responses: “this can’t be digital!”

    “Oh wow, it sounds like vinyl”

    “I feel like they are in the room with me”

    Most people over 35 shout “FINALLY!” and people under 25 start to look around as if they are being tricked. Some literally get confused due to their own ignorance of good sound.

    But everyone smiles and focuses on the song. You can play it on speakers at high volume and still talk and hear yourself think. There is no pain at full volume, no artifacts or digital distortions. The bottom stays big and round and music is wide, full, deep, natural, and exciting again.

    Dynamics are huge, from digital silence all the way up to the most booming section. Riding the volume is sometimes needed since the full dynamic range is back. Instruments compliment each other and don’t compete for space. Vocal harmonies don’t mash together like sharing a seat on a bus. Each part in the mix has it’s space in the EQ and the pan.

    A new part sung or played does not mask the previous part, it just keeps building. Delays sound real and you start to hear breaths and fingers on strings that you’ve never heard before (no matter how many times you have enjoyed that song).

    Synthesizers squawk, snares sizzle and pop, basses snap and warm your heart. Of course hi-hats express themselves (remember hi-hats?), reverbs decay naturally, you can hear the room it was recorded in, and in many songs entire new parts will appear, magically uncovered for the first time. It can be thrilling listening to this little devil.

    If you’ve been in a professional recording studio or enjoyed listening to an expensive vinyl rig, you have heard this sound before. If you’ve enjoyed classical music in a concert hall, you’ve heard this sound before. If you play an instrument yourself then you’ve heard this sound before. Yet it has to be heard to be appreciated, despite my many words.

    Note: this is an excerpt of a long-form review I published here:http://wfnk.com/blog/ponoplayer-review/

    1. Kerouac
      Great review! Recognizing your description (particular of it's sq) because I have one myself for some time...imo it's also very nice that it has 2 outputs, which can be used for listening together at the same time or in balanced mode...
      Kerouac, Sep 16, 2015
    2. CountryBoy
      Great summation of the musical involvement that happens with this persuasive hi-end bargain.
      CountryBoy, Sep 16, 2015
  2. Brooko
    Written by Brooko
    Published Mar 19, 2015
    Pros - SQ, power, UI, form factor, build (for the most part), ease of use, value.
    Cons - Lacking key features (eg EQ), battery performance.


    Anyone who’s followed my recent reviews will know that I’m a big audio fan of both desktop and portable rigs.  As far as my portable rigs go, most of my listening has been with my iPhone 5S, or my Fiio DAPs – the X1, new X3ii, and the quite excellent X5.
    I was intrigued (and also sceptical) when PONO first launched – seeing a lot of hyperbole and marketing speak.  Once the first units started hitting purchasers, I began seeing both positive and negative reviews (and again both viewpoints often ridiculously polarised to one side or the other). Then my Head-Fi friend olddude was given a PONO as a gift from his son.  He’s had similar gear and tastes to me (we both owned the X5, Altone200 and A83), and he’s part of the “mature” sector on Head-Fi (as am I), so we’ve hit it off with PMs over the last year – and it’s been an enjoyable pastime sharing thoughts and experiences. So when he started talking about selling his X5 due to his enjoyment of the PONO, I hoped that eventually I’d get the chance to hear one.
    Out of the blue, I was browsing Head-Fi last week and noticed a very good video review from piksnz of his newly arrived PONO.  Sayan and I have participated in the same tours recently – and he’ll be of the first to try my X3ii when it goes on tour next week – so I cheekily asked if I could demo the PONO for a few days.  Sayan graciously agreed – so for the last few days I’ve been juggling my schedule to finish the X3ii review, spend as much time as I could with his PONO, and compare it to my own X5.
    I was provided the PONO for a limited time trial from another Head-Fier piksnz, and it will be returned once I finish this review/comparison.  There is no financial incentive from anyone in writing this review.  I am in no way affiliated with PONO or Neil Young - and this review is my honest opinion of the PONO player.  I would really like to thank Sayan for making this opportunity available. I owe you one buddy.
    (This is to give any readers a baseline for interpreting the review).
    I'm a 48 year old music lover.  I don't say audiophile – I just love my music.  Over the last few years, I have slowly changed from cheaper listening set-ups to my current set-up.  I vary my listening from portable (Fiio X5, X1, X3ii and iPhone 5S) to my desk-top's set-up (PC > coax > NFB-12 > LD MKIV > HP).  I also use a portable set-up at work – either X5/X1 > HP, or PC > Beyer A200p > HP.  My main full sized headphones at the time of writing are the Beyer T1 and Sennheiser HD600.  Most of my portable listening is done with IEMs - and up till now it has mainly been with the Fidue A83, Dunu Titan and Altone200. A full list of the gear I have owned (past and present is listed in my Head-Fi profile).
    I have very eclectic music tastes listening to a variety from classical/opera and jazz, to grunge and general rock.   I listen to a lot of blues, jazz, folk music, classic rock, indie and alternative rock.  I am particularly fond of female vocals.  I generally tend toward cans that are relatively neutral/balanced, but I do have a fondness for clarity, and suspect I might have slight ‘treble-head’ preferences.  I am not treble sensitive (at all), and in the past have really enjoyed headphones like the K701, SR325i, and of course the T1 and DT880.
    I have extensively tested myself (abx) and I find aac256 or higher completely transparent.  I do use exclusively redbook 16/44.1 if space is not an issue.  All of my music is legally purchased (mostly CD – the rest FLAC purchased on-line).  I tend to be sceptical about audiophile ‘claims’, don’t generally believe in burn-in, have never heard a difference with different cables, and would rather test myself blind on perceived differences.  I am not a ‘golden eared listener’.  I suffer from mild tinnitus, and at 48, my hearing is less than perfect.
    My experience with DAPs in the past had been initially with some very cheap Sony offerings, then step-ups to the Cowon iAudio7, iPhone4, iPod Touch G4, iPhone 5S, HSA Studio V3, Fiio X5, X3ii and X1.
    I thought I’d list (before I start with the review) what I really look for in a new DAP.
    1. Clean, neutral signature – but with body (not thin)
    2. Good build quality
    3. Reasonable battery life
    4. Easy to use interface
    5. Able to drive both low impedance and (within reason) higher impedance cans without additional amping.
    6. Value for money
    7. Enough storage to hold either my favourite albums in redbook, or my whole library in a reasonably high resolution lossy format (for me – aac256)
    Would I get all of this with the PONO?  Actually yes to most of the above I’m pleased to say.  There are a couple of things I’m not overly fussed on, but there are others which are excellent.  I’ll give you my impressions of the PONO in the brief time I’ve had it, and also a short comparison to the X5 and X3ii.
    This is a purely subjective review - my gear, my ears, and my experience.  Please take it all with a grain of salt - especially if it does not match your own experience.


    The PONO arrived in a cardboard box (evidently you can’t ship the normal bamboo display cases to NZ – so not PONO’s fault). I didn’t have all the original packaging – so the photos show what I did receive.  Included was a moulded cardboard insert, the Limited Edition (Neil Young) PONO player, a nicely shaped leather case, a charging USB plug and wall-wart.  Missing – but normally included – was the quick start guide, and 64Gb micro SD card (which presumably holds the gratis high-res Neil Young albums).
    PONO packaged
    The cardboard preformed box 

    It’s kind of hard to make a comment on the PONO packaging/accessories as I’ve seen videos of the bamboo case and it looks pretty nice.  This cardboard case unfortunately just looks and feels cheap.  I like the idea that they include a 64Gb card – so combined with the onboard memory, you have 128 Gb available out of the box – nice touch.
    The leather case is really nicely constructed, there are pockets to store your micro SD cards, and it looks as though it will do an excellent job of protecting your PONO. It’s snug fitting too – so won’t bulk things up too much.
    PONOs Leather Pouch
    Slots inside for spare micro SDXC cards
    PONO nestled in it's pouch

    The cable and wall-wart are pretty standard fair.
    Comparatively with the X5 – you don’t get the onboard memory or SD card, and the case is functional (but just silicone), but you do get screen protectors, a digital olut cable, and a micro SD card reader. At first glance – the PONO accessory package gives more practical bang for your buck.
    Round one – PONO.
    Unfortunately PONO is very light on what it has published – virtually nothing about power output or THD – which is kind of disappointing. So it’s really had to make direct comparisons – but I’ll list what I can compare and then try to subjectively compare what is missing later.
    Fiio X5
    13 x 5 x 2.5 cm
    11.4 x 6.46 x 1.56 cm
    130 grams
    122 grams
    Storage Internal
    64Gb flash memory
    Storage – Expansion
    Micro SD up to 128Gb
    2 x Micro SD up to 256 Gb
    Storage Total (current)
    Up to 192 Gb
    Up to 256 Gb
    ESS ES9018M
    2950mAH rechargeable
    3700mAH rechargeable
    Battery Life
    Up to 8 hours
    Up to 12 hours
    2.5 inch colour touchscreen
    2.4 inch IPS
    Headphone Out
    Yes – can use 2 3.5mm
    Single 3.5 mm
    Line Out
    Yes – 3.5mm
    Yes – 3.5 mm
    Balanced Out
    Digital Out
    Lossless Format Support
    Maximum Resolution
    24 bit / 192 kHz
    24 bit / 192 kHz
    Lossy Format Support
    AAC, MP3
    AAC, MP3, OGG
    DSD Support
    Yes (fw 1.0.5) native (I think)
    Yes conv to PCM
    Output Impedance
    Approx 5 ohms
    < 0.26 ohms
    Gain Switching
    Yes +6 dB
    Touchscreen + buttons
    Mechanical wheel + buttons

    You can’t really compare anything because unfortunately PONO doesn’t include the really relevant technical specs – so I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.
    The limited Edition PONO I have here is really nicely built with rounded edges, nice fit and finish. The screen is very clear and easy to read. The buttons are spaced nicely, and are very simple to use. They give a nice tactile response.  The top and the bottom of the PONO are both plastic (instead of the brushed aluminium alloy of the rest of the unit) which is a bit disappointing. The jacks fit cleanly and snugly with no erroneous play. In the bottom of the unit is a lift up flap (again plastic) to get to the microSD slot.  Again – this just feels a little flimsy, and I’d be concerned regarding overall longevity. The bottom of the PONO also houses a standard mini USB slot for data transfer and charging.
    PONO front face
    PONO Limited Ed signatures
    Top - ports


    On one face on the limited edition is the actual LE # and signatures from Neil and Crazy Horse. The bushed aluminium looks really nice – but with the light grey / silver colouring, I would be genuinely worried about marking or scratching he unit if it was mine.
    The PONO feels very light in hand, and the shape is quite comfortable to hold, and very practical for sitting on a desk. It acutally sits nicely in my cargo pants pocket (no toblerone jokes please), but is less comfortable with jeans.
    Bottom - USB port and cover for SDXC slot
    SDXC slot - cover is pretty flimsy
    PONO next to Fiio X5


    Comparatively the X5 looks much more utilitarian, but somehow feels more solid and dependable.  It also actually feels heavier in the hand even though it is in fact lighter (weird huh!).  My X5 still looks virtually brand new – even after over a year of use, and the mechanical wheel has remained both functional and smooth. The buttons are brilliantly placed, easy to use and still have a nice tactile response.
    For my own personal preferences, I’d give the win to the X5 on build – it just feels comparatively sturdier.  Design would be a draw.  The triangular shape of the PONO is actually pretty good for most uses, but I see it as no better than the X5’s more traditional shape.
    I’ll start with the easy one – the PONO buttons.  The + and – are easy.  They control the volume.  The central button turns the PONO on (press and hold for 5 seconds), accesses the power menu (when on press and hold for 3 seconds) – so you can shut down, or put the screen to sleep.  It also pauses, plays, and either advances to the next track (2 taps) or goes to the previous track (3 taps).
    The rest of the functionality centers around the touch screen.  For a full video presentation of the various menus – you can access this video created by PONO - https://vimeo.com/117612341.  I’ll also try and cover the main choices here.
    First boot screen
    Scanning the library
    Ready to go - note green battery indicator - line + battery


    When first switched on, the PONO displays an intro / boot screen, then after another couple of screen flickers (including 2-3 library scan screens), and then the main menu screen (with a quick battery status summary). The battery status can be seen at any stage by how long the green line is at the top of the screen.  Pretty neat. Boot is relatively quick at 33 seconds.  The X5 in comparison was 12 seconds.
    The menu options consist of Settings, Artists, Albums, Song and Playlists. Navigation is by tapping or sliding.  Most of the time, the PONO has been relatively responsive.  On the odd occasion though it has lagged badly and it does get a little frustrating.  Because of the small size of the screen, navigation can be a little touchy for the larger fingered user – but after a couple of days I found navigating pretty easy (although I often “mis-hit” the wrong album / artist / track – and then had to back-track.
    Settings options
    Settings options
    Settings options


    The Settings menu includes options for Playback (volume levelling, and switching to balanced mode and line-out volume setting), Brightness, Sleep & Lock settings, Library Info, Rotation, Theme, and the FW Info.
    Settings options
    Settings options
    Settings options

    Artists brings a list of artists, then albums, then tracks.  Double tapping a selection brings up a contextual mini menu with different options depending on what you’re browsing. Albums and Songs menus are likewise pretty self-explanatory.  There is a fast search option – once you start scrolling a little slider appears at the far right of screen.  Dragging allows fast scrolling and also brings up a letter in the middle of the screen so you know exactly where you are.  Everything is done by tags – there is no folder play / browse. There are hidden things as well – tapping the screen during playing brings up meta-data.  I do recommend (if interested) that you take a look at the vimeo video link I left above – it’ll give you a feel for how easy the navigation is.
    Album screen
    Album context menu
    Tracks in the album - now playing bar at the bottom


    After the first half hour, I found myself navigating around pretty quickly – and besides occasionally selecting the wrong menu (big fingers) – with very little mishap. The PONO was designed with the general public in mind and the overall interface is well thought out, pretty slick, and very simple to use.
    Track playing - controls at bottom
    Or just album art displayed
    Double tap shows meta data


    Scanning the library is automatic, and was pretty snappy. When you plug the USB, you get asked if you want to a access the library (add songs) – which then accesses the internal drive and memory card on your PC. Saying no means the drives aren’t accessed, and the USB simply powers the device.
    Songs category
    Songs context menu
    Artists category


    The screen (as I said earlier) is clear and easy to read.  Comparing to the X5 IPS screen though, I do find the X5 screen is slightly better texture and tone.
    Volume control
    Scrolling (fast with the slider)
     Slider use - letters show where you are


    As far as navigation goes – the PONO’s touch screen is easier to navigate quickly but also more “twitchy” / liable to wrong pushes/selections.  I find the X5 more accurate in its GUI – but speed (especially with a large collection) definitely goes to PONO.
    Here is where the X5 leaps ahead of the PONO – at least in my view.  The PONO does have some killer feature advantages that the X5 doesn’t have:
    1. Balanced mode
    2. Ability to use two headphones at one (share with a friend)
    3. Quick navigation
    4. Internal memory
    But the X5 has the following that the PONO doesn’t.  Depending on your needs – some of these may be deal-breakers:
    1. Key lock setting options
    2. Ability to format cards inside the device
    3. Ability to use the device as a stand-alone DAC
    4. Ability to use the device as a digital transport
    5. Ability to set different resume modes, start-up volumes, volume caps
    6. A high gain mode
    7. Balance control
    8. A folder play mode
    9. Ability to select genre as a category
    10. A graphic equaliser !
    Based on pure features available – the X5 leads the PONO by a considerable margin.
    Both the X5 and PONO have really good amplification circuits, although the overall details regarding the PONO power outputs is pretty non-existent. What I will say is that the PONO had no problems driving my HD600s (single ended – at between 40-50% on the digital volume).  The X5 needed a little more than half the pot on low gain, but this dropped to just under half on high gain. Both also drove the T1 with no real issues, and it sounded pretty good to me.
    The only way I could compare was to use my trusty 1 kHz test tone, SPL meter, and set the X5 to 60/120 on high gain and measure the output on the T1 = 73.1 dB.  Doing the same with the PONO on exactly half the volume on the volume meter netted 78.4 dB with the T1.  So crudely, I’d say that the amp on the PONO is slightly more powerful. But in reality, it would be more useful saying that both the X5 and PONO are capable of powering most headphones without need for additional amplification.  Great stuff.
    The PONO documentations says that the battery life should be around 8 hours – but in reality (in the week I’ve had it, real world testing would indicate anywhere between 6-8 hours (depending on how much you use the touchscreen). The X5 on the other hand says up to 12 hours – and I’ve regularly had 11-12 hours of fairly solid play between charges.  The good news is that both PONO and X5 can be used while charging.  But in this test the X5 is definitely superior, and not by a small margin either.
    OK – this is where the rubber hits the road. I’ve read a lot of articles about the PONOs sound, and also read threads here on the forums – some saying it is superior, some saying not.
    For my testing during the week I’ve tried the PONO with most of my IEMs (inlduing the A83, Altone200 , Titan and Havi B3 Pro1.  For full sized headphones, I’ve used the Fidelia L2, Brainwavz HM5, Sennheiser HD600 and Beyerdynamic T1.
    Test gear full sized
    Test gear - more portable


    The PONO sounded spectacular on everything I tried it on. The sound is detailed, very clear, and crisp.  It has an almost holographic quality to it at times, and this is quite captivating and I can see why those who have the PONO are regularly singing its praises.
    But the real test for me was going to be in comparing it to the X5 – so I set about testing this as objectively as I could. I used both my A83 IEMs and also the L2 – and made sure I calibrated the volume to match exactly with my SPL meter.  When testing tracks I used a combination of playing whole tracks, and also fast A/B switching.
    Calibrating the X5 for volume matching
    Calibrating the PONO for volume matching


    Here is my subjective bit. Tonally the X5 and PONO sound similar except that the PONO is very slightly brighter and thinner, and the X5 is a little warmer fuller and richer. The other noticeable difference is that the X5 sounds very much like the normal stereo presentation I’m used to.  But the PONO sounds slightly wider and more holographic.
    Now I can understand why people were saying that they heard a difference with PONO and that it was more of a “live” feeling/presentation – but it’s also the bit that ignites the cynic in me. PONO relied heavily on suggesting that you would hear all the detail in the music, and what the artist really wanted to portray.  But what “I think” the really clever people at Ayre have introduced is a little DSP or crossfeed into the presentation.  My reason for saying this is that I’ve heard my tracks on a lot of different sources including some decent full sized gear. In every case (before PONO) the tracks have sounded consistent in their overall presentation. With PONO there is a spatial widening.  I know it’s not in the recording – I would have heard it before on other gear.
    Now I’m not going to slag this off though – PONO sounds really good, amazing really – but so does the X5, and overall enjoyment is going to come down to where your preferences lie.


    So I’ve concluded my 6 days with the PONO and tomorrow I need to send it back to Sayan with my thanks, and a real appreciation for having the chance to hear it.  The PONO is a wonderful piece of kit – and deserves much of the accolades it receives – and a little less of the scorn from some quarters too I might add.  It sounds clean, clear, with a detailed and spatial presentation which is a little leaner than what I’m used to – but ultimately sounds fantastic.  The form factor is pretty good – and it is ideal for desktop use. It has a very good UI, and enough power to handle most full sized headphones, and harder to drive IEMs. It has great storage options and for the combo that it offers as a package is pretty good
    But it is also a little weak as far as battery life goes, and ultimately to me its SQ is not superior to my Fiio X5 (different, yes – but not superior).
    EDIT 15/4/2015
    As has been pointed out to me (thanks Mink70) - I did not test the PONO in balanced mode.  This is simply because I have no balanced gear to test with, and as the review period was very short, it was not worth while me rushing out to buy something for the sole purpose of testing a feature I am unlikely to be using again. Some may feel the review is incomplete because of this - I don't.  I did state above that the review was "with my gear, my ears my experience". Also I note that from everything I've read about the improvement with balanced mode, I am yet to find a single person who has made a volume matched vs single-ended comparison (you'd probably need two PONOs to do it) after first volume matching with a calibrated SPL meter, and preferably blind switching.  So my apologies - balanced mode not tested because I couldn't.
    Despite being unable to test balanced - I still think the PONO is a wonderful piece of kit, and I am very comfortable with the rating I've given it.
    Where the Fiio pulls ahead for me personally is mainly in its battery life and feature set.  And for me personally the PONOs omission of a graphical equaliser is a deal-breaker.
    Ultimately people will make their own choices based on their own preferences and needs / wants. All I can say is that we should all celebrate that there are so many fantastic DAPs available nowadays at very reasonable prices.  Great quality audio has never been so affordable. 
      oneway23, Jill, djvkool and 5 others like this.
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    2. Brooko
      Oh I can understand why mate - there is definitely some "magic" in the PONO. If you get the chance at some stage, try the X5ii if you get the opportunity. Definite improvement on the original X5.
      Brooko, Jun 30, 2015
    3. FFBookman
      I think the zero feedback, or 'negative feedback' concept is what you are hearing in the ponoplayer circuitry. 
      Most amp designs purposely add small amounts of "good distortion" into the circuit at various points. The pono player is designed with the concept of "there is no such thing as good distortion in the playback device".  
      Distortion is best left to the artist and the producer and from what I've read the magic in the pono is between the DAC and the output amp.
      If PonoPlayer is doing everything it can to remove distortions in the amplification process it stands to reason that the rendered sound is going to be cleaner and perhaps even wider. The discreet power running down the analog board also will keep that soundstage nice and wide.
      No DSP, I believe it.  There is def some filter-tuning by Ayre/Meridian on that DAC but I really doubt there's hidden DSP in the device claiming to be the purist choice.
      FFBookman, Sep 3, 2015
    4. FFBookman
      IMO PonoPlayer was smart to use the recording studio monitoring systems as their target when designing the signal chain.  
      That keeps them out of audiophile debates (well tries to) and goes back to the pure source.
      No studios put DSP or heavy EQ on their monitoring section. You have to have clarity and balance to mix music, to produce music properly.
      Most of the garbage added to, or degradation of, sound playback is done by the consumer and the consumer formats, not the studio.
      Going for the "recording studio sound" is code-word for flat EQ, no DSP, and master-purity. It avoids all known gimmicks past present and future.
      Also I think it's important to note that AYRE engineers rely on their ears, hairs, and emotions when designing circuits, using long-term listening tests over any data or reading, or accepted practice.  Whatever sounds better is right.
      This is very different than many sound companies who use their ears only after most of the main decisions are made re: the circuit. Most use their ears to fine tune if at all, they don't use their ears to override known methods and parts.
      I think the we do what we think sounds best, period attitude really drew Neil Young to Ayre.
      FFBookman, Jan 14, 2016
  3. piksnz
    Good sound quality DAP for that price point
    Written by piksnz
    Published Mar 2, 2015
    Pros - Good SQ, Battery, Balanced Mode
    Cons - Laggy UI, Cylindrical design, Missing hardware button features
    AK120II and Pono player combined review
      oneway23 and Brooko like this.
    1. acap13
      Thank you for the review...waiting for so long to have somebody from headfi to have an actual review like this...i dont have Ak120 II(so cannot say much about it), but i do have a Pono Player about 2 months..im not quite sure if u know about the latest firmware update for Pono player but for now,Pono could play native DSD(both dsd 64/128) just like the bigger brother of Ak120II which is Ak240 due to the Ess Sabre chipsets implemented inside the Pono..and one more thing,you could try the balanced cable provided by Sony Z7 headphone to your Pono.i tried it in Sony Centre once before and really great combination IMO.anyway,great review and keep it up..much appreciated..enjoy your Pono player and AK120II...CHEERS!!
      acap13, Mar 2, 2015
    2. Audiophilliac
      I Lost my Pono (don't ask) so if anyone wants to sell me theirs I'm absolutely in the market. I loved the Pono after using a Fiio X5 & X1 and a Shozy Alien and my beloved Colorfly C3  (The iPod sound is somewhere around a hobos crotch rot to me) the Pono initially sounded a bit muddy but after many hours of play it really opened up; and when paired with my fantastic sounding cheapy ie800 knockoffs it was fantastic
      PM me I'm in Hong Kong and will cover all freight charges
      Audiophilliac, Mar 6, 2015
    3. oneway23
      Thank you for your efforts, Sayantan!
      oneway23, Apr 9, 2015