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The Pono Player Impressions Thread

Discussion in 'Portable Source Gear' started by depaor, Oct 4, 2014.
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  1. depaor
    PonoQuickstartGuideIMG.jpg
     
    October 2014 has arrived. Ponomusic said on September 4th that "Delivery of the PonoPlayer still stands as originally expected—October 2014 or December 2014 depending on your specific player " and "In addition to shipment of the player this fall, we will launch our music library in October with about 2.5M tracks."
     
    While we anxiously await the arrival and the ability to give our impressions of what will be a fine DAP, these are the specifications (information from Ponomusic is still embarrassingly minimal):
     
    It is available in yellow or black with a soft touch finish. It weighs 4.5 ounces (128 grams) and comes in a box with the following:
     
    • A 120/240VAC adapter/charger
    • A micro USB cable for charging and syncing files from a Mac or Windows PC
    • 64GB of internal memory and a removable 64GB microSD card included (128GB total)
    • Free downloadable desktop software (for Mac and Windows PC) with a built-in music store to browse, purchase, manage and sync Pono certified tracks as well as others
    • A user guide

    The dimensions of the PonoPlayer are 5" (H) x 2" (W) x 1" (D).

    It is powered by a built-in Li-Ion rechargeable battery for all-day listening (about 8 hours).

    It has very easy-to-use controls:
     
    • The O button turns the player on and off.
    • The + and - buttons adjust the volume.
    • The illuminated color touch display lets you scroll through your music by album, song, artist, ..., and play, stop, fast forward, ...
     
    DAC: ESS Sabre 9018K2M
     
     
     
  2. depaor
    Software and sites useful and interesting for DAP users (noting of course that there is a wealth of information on the many forums here on www.head-fi.org):
     
    http://www.dbpoweramp.com/
     
    http://www.exactaudiocopy.de/
     
    http://www.foobar2000.org/
     
    http://www.jriver.com/
     
    http://www.mp3tag.de/en/
     
    https://www.sdcard.org/downloads/formatter_4/
     
    http://www.alexpage.de/usb-image-tool/download/

    http://forums.slimdevices.com/
     
    http://www.hydrogenaud.io/forums/
     
    http://www.npr.org/2009/12/31/122114058/the-loudness-wars-why-music-sounds-worse

    http://www.findhdmusic.com/high-definition/directory/

    http://www.24bit96.com/24bit96khz-download-sites/hd-music-download.html

    http://www.hdtracks.com/

    http://www.linnrecords.com/

    http://www.prestoclassical.co.uk/

    http://www.qobuz.com/
     
    Remiam7 and HungryPanda like this.
  3. Bones13 Contributor
    The Pono Store is down for a couple of days, and supposed to re-open on Oct 11.  I ordered a Pono back on Kickstarter.  According to the emails, they are in construction currently.  There were delays of course.  I think getting them before Christmas will do fine, and hoping I am wrong, and they come in sooner.
     
    I also donated to the Foobar2000 Mobile program.  I love Foobar2000 on my PCs, it continues to be my go to player.
     
  4. depaor
    Well they're on their way. Not too long now for people to find out how good the Pono is:)
     
  5. depaor
    "Pedram Abrari (PonoMusic). 1st Nov 2014
    We haven't sent out email notifications yet because along with that notification you'll get access to the beta store to purchase music. Neil wants to get the message just right. We're doing our best to speed things along and get the email notifications sent out. Some of you may be notified by UPS before we do.
    Yesterday at 8:06 PM · via Salesforce1 for iOS"
     
  6. depaor
    First report of Pono received in Switzerland, from Kickstarter:
     

    Andreas Zuber about 09:45 03/11/2014

    Shipping E-Mail received 02:07 this night. 8 hours later: UPS rings at the door with the parcel. Surprise, the Arcade Fire LE is here!
     
    First thoughts upon unpacking: 
    - Nice box! 
    - Inlays cheap looking, though - so why the box? 
    - Picking up the player: Bigger than I hoped, nice silver finish in stark contrast to the plastic, flimsy feeling end caps 
    - Memory card slot cover even flimsier, keeps flipping open :frowning2: 
    - Attention all non-US guys: The nicely done power plug is US-style only! Not attached to USB though, so switching to a generic should be easy.


    So much for that, but they DID say its the sound that counts. Checking commences :)

     
  7. zorntel
    Here are my initial impressions on another pono thread:
     
    http://www.head-fi.org/t/629454/pono-neil-youngs-portable-hi-res-music-player/1380#post_11015512
     
  8. musicday
    With the amount of money they raised there should have been created a perfect sounding DAP better then AK240 and Tera...
    Ha ha....not possible.
     
  9. ab_ba
    (edit 2015 Jan 10: I made a new post (#223 in this thread) reflecting my evolving impression of the Pono. Summary: syncing works better. I've come to appreciate the sound even more.)
     
    I received my Pono last night. Unboxing was a thrill! I woke up early this morning to load up some tunes and give it a careful listen. Here are my initial impressions - positive, neutral, and negative - and my overall assessment of the Pono mission to bring hi-res to the masses. I backed Pono on Kickstarter as much for the vision as for the player. 
     
    + :
     
    Sound quality. It is quite awesome to have my FLAC files in my pocket. I compared sound quality for the exact same tracks loaded onto my Pono and on my iPhone 6+ running FlacPlayer. I’m listening with JH-13FP custom iem’s. The edge goes to the Pono player, but it’s slight - a consistent but subtle increment in sound quality. Particularly, the instrument separation and sense of space are somewhat better on the Pono. Perhaps, also the fullness of the sound, but I couldn’t detect that as consistently. There were no bumps in the spectrum to make it more bassy or more lively. Overall, nice job, Ayre.
        If sound quality in a portable device is your sole criteria, you should be happy with a Pono, especially at its price point. I haven’t heard the truly top-of-the-line PMPs like the A&K players, but the Pono is definitely going to be a good entry-level portable FLAC player for those who are looking for that.
        Another positive - they more or less met their deadline! I'm happy for that - it's the first substantial Kickstarter project I've backed that arrived on schedule. Perhaps the price to pay for that is some kinks still needing to be worked out.
     
    0 :
     
    Build quality. The device is larger than I expected, and it’s also lighter. It is nice that it is light, but it doesn’t feel substantial, durable. Its got visible seams and ridges, and it doesn’t quite melt into your hand the way some other products manufactured in Shenzhen do. It picks up fingerprints easily too. Perhaps most importantly, I haven’t found a way to turn off the screen to prevent accidentally changing the song while I’m carrying it. 
     
    - :
     
    The software interface is truly horrible. Truly. The menu layout on the device itself is also clumsy. When I first ran the Pono software on my laptop, it grabbed my iTunes library. I don’t want my iTunes music on my Pono; I have an iPhone for that. I want my FLAC on my Pono. I spent nearly an hour noodling around looking for a way to add my FLAC music to the Pono library. All the obvious things (dragging it, creating a new library, etc) didn’t work. I finally got it figured out, but I had to watch one of their tutorials. The device then spent four hours transferring over my music, I ejected, and none of the music appeared on the device! I got really frustrated. I powered it off, and when it came back on, the music was there, thankfully. There have also been intermittent problems, like the device not staying connected to my laptop, and the charging indicator stuck on till I gave it another reboot. I am sure firmware updates will clean up this stuff. Finally, it was time to give it a listen, but so far, my soul had only rediscovered frustration.
     
    So, is Pono going to bring high-quality music to the masses? No, not a chance, not like this. I’m not paying $20 for a Taylor Swift album. I don’t think anybody’s going to. I’m not going to pay $32 for Mr. Young’s new album when iTunes has it for $15. If you want to bring hi-res music to the masses, then match iTunes on price. Match iTunes on ease of use. As it stands, Pono is offering a slightly better-sounding product for substantially more money, and hassle. That's not going to disrupt anybody's way of getting music, it just isn't. Unless big things change, nobody’s going to remember Pono a year from now, and that would be a real shame.
     
     
  10. alpha421
    Great review.  Honest, no holds barred, and tells it like it IS.  I would have literally puked if it was all Pro-Pono and hyped.
     
  11. tmengay
    Thanks for the honest review.  I'm also a Kickstarter Pono backer (Waiting on a black unit).  I too listen to FLAC files on my iPhone 6+ as well as Audiarvana through a DAC off my iMac.  What you've described in the difference between the iPhone 6 and Pono is what I've been most curious about.  If I find that the difference is not that great I will most likely sell mine and going a couple of steps up in quality with another brand of Hi-Res player.
     
    Thanks again.
     
  12. The Auricle
    Thank you ab_ba for the excellent balanced review. It's really hard to sift through all of the fanboi gibberish. Plus, many of the early reviews are by music lovers who only know music through MP3s and earbuds. After years of MP3 poisoning, they would understandably be blown away by any FLAC experience.
     
    I am very concerned by your difficulty in loading your library. I had read that you were supposed to be able to drag and drop files onto the microSD card and just insert it into the player. Are you saying that doesn't work? Does the player and/or SD card need to be initialized by the PC-based front end?
     
    The good news on the software and firmware, I guess, is that it's still in a beta and/or 1.0 state. I'm sure it will go through many revisions and updates and be tremendously improved in short order. Who knows, the Pono may someday benefit from a future Rockbox release or PC-based management (like freemyipod).
     
     

     
  13. zorntel
    There are now several reviews over in the http://www.head-fi.org/t/629454/pono-neil-youngs-portable-hi-res-music-player/1380 thread...starting around page 94.
     
    Just a couple of clarifications.  Given your iphone 6 doesn't play high resolution files I'm guessing all of your comparisons are for 16/44.1 files?  Why not just convert your flac files to lossless ALACs so you can play them natively with your phone's player?  Sorry, I'm not an iphone user but this seems like it would make things easier.  I use Audirvana on my mac for playing music in my main system and I simply use XLD to convert all of my PCM music into ALAC so it plays well with itunes...pretty easy and lossless.  No need to a pono then if you are not playing high resolution files.
     
    The device interface seems pretty straightforward to me...definitely prefer it over my ipod classic (the old model with the better DAC than the newer apple products).
     
    The jriver player that comes with the pono is an extremely powerful tool...much more feature rich that other music players...that said you don't have to use it.  I've had my pono since monday and after initially experimenting with jriver I've been simply moving music back and forth from my mac using drag and drop in the finder (this also works on windoz machines).  Much more convenient than moving files back and forth via itunes or in my opinion the jriver player.  That said Jriver is infinitely configurable when it comes to syncing...but it does have a learning curve...much more powerful in the end than itunes, A year back I experimented with using jriver media center for my main system...incredibly powerful...good sound...however I switched to Audivrana for the ease of use...and the ability to integrate with itunes.  I agree I'm worried that novice users will have difficulties; however.
     
    One slam dunk advantage of the pono over the iphone (aside from the ability to play high resolutions music as high resolution) which you don't mention, is the removable micro SD cards.  With an iphone you have no choice to be moving stuff in and out of the phone.  In contrast with a pono (like A&K player) you can set up separate micro SD cards that can be plugged in a matter of seconds.  I have about 2.5 terabytes of uncompressed music...I listen to much of it...thus the ability to load up a couple of 128gb micro SD cards with different "playlists" is a great perk of the pono over an apple product.  People might have been able to get a fair bit of compressed AAC files into their phone...but when you move to lossless files...particularly 96 or 192hz files this becomes a huge issue.
     
  14. roadrat
    Good bad or neutral reviews, this thread makes me happy
     
  15. goody
    Hi want app do you use to listen to Flac on the iphone 6
     
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