It’s been a while since there has been as much hype around a portable audio product as there is around the Pono PonoPlayer. Pono is the company backed by Neil Young, which aims to deliver an ecosystem for “the best possible listening experience of your favourite digital music”.
The PonoMusic Store promises to have the biggest library of high-res music for download, while the PonoPlayer aims to be the best portable machine to play it. Together, they comprise the PonoMusic ecosystem that Young hopes will “preserve the history of music, in all of its beauty and expression, for all time. Forever.”
Beneath the hyperbole, the project has become the focus of the mainstream media when it comes to high-resolution audio. The Kickstarter campaign, which brought the project to fruition and should deliver the first PonoPlayers to customers later this month, raised a whopping $6,225,354, one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns of all time – and generated almost as many news stories in the process. So all eyes are on Pono. And for now, the PonoPlayer.
The design of the PonoPlayer isn’t for everyone. That said, our hands-on time did allay our fears around the weight and bulk – it’s lighter and generally more manageable than we thought it might be from the press images.
Similarly, if you’re looking for a device that packs in every spec imaginable and feels like the latest and greatest portable device to use, we fear you’ll be disappointed.
Allowing for potential tweaks ahead of the official release later this month, we’d still expect the interface and user experience to be less impressive than the latest smartphones. A touch disappointing maybe, but it also perhaps confirms that Pono really is all about the music.
And on that front, we’re much more impressed – and eager to get our hands on the finished product for a longer period of time.
With PonoMusic promising to have the biggest library of high-res tracks available to download – taking on HDtracks and Qobuz – the Pono plan is about more than just the PonoPlayer.
Instead it’s about bringing about a change in the listening habits of, if not the masses, then at least a far greater share of the music listening public than is currently aware of the world outside MP3s. Can the PonoPlayer kick-start that change? We shall see…