click to enlarge For the music aficionado, the Pono is music to your ears.

For the music aficionado, the Pono is music to your ears.

Pono, an mp3 music player, is the brainchild of music icon Neil Young, whose name and fame likely helped the PonoMusic team raise $6.2 million via Kickstarter, making it the third most-funded project in Kickstarter's history.

The PonoPlayer has a three-button control panel and small-screen interface in a rubberized, goldenrod-yellow housing that is the isosceles-triangle shape of a Toblerone candy box. It fits nicely in the palm of your hand but is impossible to shove in a pocket. The tiny screen is also difficult to navigate.

Looks aren't everything, though. The Pono concept—and fruition—is a device dedicated to playing high-quality mp3s, instead of the compressed music files most of us are used to listening to. Mp3s are often sampled at 16 bit/44.1kHz while Pono songs play at 24 bit/192kHz. It's a simple equation: more data equals higher quality. It also equals a higher price tag. The Pono retails for $399-$499 and the remastered songs available at the PonoMusic store (ponomusic.force.com) cost $18-$24 per album.

In a non-scientific test, Boise Weekly put the same songs (and headphones) on a PonoPlayer up against an HTC One phone that uses Beats audio technology. As with many PonoPlayer reviews, we found the difference in quality wasn't dramatic enough to justify the purchase. But there is a difference. The songs on the Pono (many of which are Neil Young tunes, natch) were richer and felt, somehow, more present.

You can test drive and buy a PonoPlayer at Record Exchange (1105 W. Idaho St.).

Just don't try to make any calls with it.

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