Continueation of my PonoPlayer review

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

2 June 2015

PonoPlayer review Part II

A while back, I wrote a blog about the Neil Young brainchild, PonoPlayer. At the time, the music playing device, which is being sold for $400, was raking in the dough on Kickstarter. In fact, the campaign raised over $6 million dollars. Well over the initial goal of $800,000.

As it turns out, they are a waste of money.

As it turns out, they are a waste of money.

The marketing for the device was poignant. Somewhere between Young’s mantra of damning present-day MP3s and touting the sonic effectiveness of the PonoPlayer (hi-definition music you can hear and feel), I was sold. Not sold enough to buy a device, but sold to the point that I bought Neil’s pitch. Plus, Stephen Stills endorsed the product and I am prone to believe anything he has to say.

Shows you what little I know.

A few months ago, just prior to seeing Crosby, Stills and Nash in concert, I heard Stills in an interview state how he is basically stone deaf. All I could think of at the time was the PonoPlayer Kickstarter video where Stills was sitting beside Neil in a car and going in a tizzy over the great sound PonoPlayer was delivering on the car’s stereo system. Music he couldn’t even hear.

Man, was I ever duped.

Your phone might sound better than PonoPlayer.

That’s exactly what the research has shown. Yahoo! Tech wrote a PonoPlayer review that blasted the PonoPlayer at the start of the year. In it, the writer gave a test where he connected a PonoPlayer and iPhone to an A/B switch. Remarkably, and unknowingly, the participants generally felt that the iPhone (whether with headphones or earbuds) sounded better than the PonoPlayer did.

What’s more, the author of the selection wrote Neil, who responded that “Of approximately 100 top-seed artists who compared Pono to low resolution MP3s, all of them heard and felt the Pono difference, rewarding to the human senses, and is what Pono thinks you deserve to hear.”

Such clever wording. Of course a hi-definition PonoPlayer FLAC file would sound better than a “low resolution MP3.”

PonoPlayer isn’t necessary.

I’m not suggesting that Young’s heart isn’t in the right place, but what I am suggesting is that nobody needs the PonoPlayer. It’s a statement piece, which complicates your music library (you need to repurchase everything you may have already bought from the Pono Music store). Plus, If Yahoo!’s sampling is a correct snapshot, the files we have on our phones are just enough and may even sound better.

With the PonoPlayer, Neil Young masterfully sold us on a perceptive fantasy, a potentiality (music would sound and feel different) that I wanted to believe. Thing is, fantasies run thin after a while, as did my belief in the magic of PonoPlayer. The PonoPlayer review is in.

See more posts in the following related categories: MP3 players Neil Young PonoPlayer Stephen Stills

1 Comment

  1. Missy

    Tom-I think you are being too harsh on Stephen Stills. He suffers from deafness but he wears hearing aids so he most certainly would be able to hear the music playing in that car. A car owned by Neil Young most likely equipped with the most fantastic speakers money can buy. Therefore it undoubtedly sounded spectacular in that particular place and time. I beg to differ with your assumption that Stephen Stills duped you about the music sounding “great”.


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