The Neil Young-backed PonoPlayer portable media player is now available for pre-order through Kickstarter. While the list price for a PonoPlayer will eventually be $399, backers of the campaign can reserve one for $300… it just won’t ship until October.
Neil Young and the folks at PonoMusic are targeting audiophiles who aren’t happy with the sound quality available from smartphones and cheaper music players including iPods and SanDisk Sansa devices.
The PonoPlayer has a digital filter with minimal phase, zero-feedback circuitry, and a high quality DAC chip, among other things. It supports 24-bit, 192 kHz audio, and the device has two outputs: a headphone jack and a separate line output for use with a car or home stereo system.
While you can listen to MP3, AAC, WAV, AIFF, or ALAC files on the PonoPlayer, one of the key things that sets it apart is support for FLAC audio files. The Free Lossless Audio Codec is designed to offer high quality audio without the data compression involved in creating MP3 files.
That means FLAC files are much larger than MP3 files — but PonoPlayer has a lot of storage space. It comes with 64GB of built-in storage and a 64GB microSD card slot (which you can swap out.
128GB is enough to hold about 400 albums worth of CD-quality audio, or around 60 albums of high-resolution 24-bit, 192 kHz music. Those are just the extremes… if your music collection consists of files encoded in different formats and at different quality levels you may be able to fit much more (or less).
When the PonoPlayer ships in October, customers will be able to purchase DRM-free music from the PonoMusic web store. Albums are expected to sell for around $15 to $25. But since the device supports a range of DRM-free formats, you can also use it to play your existing music.