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Is Pono now a DSD DAC for the home?


fritzg

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Can folks talk about sound in unbalanced mode on a home system?

 

Thanks.

 

I thought it interesting that Michael Lavorgna mostly used his Pono as a DAC in his home system when he reviewed it. It sounds like he only used it in balanced mode.

 

Today, he posted that his unit has had the firmware updated to play DSD content.

Roon ROCK (Roon 1.7; NUC7i3) > Ayre QB-9 Twenty > Ayre AX-5 Twenty > Thiel CS2.4SE (crossovers rebuilt with Clarity CSA and Multicap RTX caps, Mills MRA-12 resistors; ERSE and Jantzen coils; Cardas binding posts and hookup wire); Cardas and OEM power cables, interconnects, and speaker cables

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I thought it interesting that Michael Lavorgna mostly used his Pono as a DAC in his home system when he reviewed it. It sounds like he only used it in balanced mode.

 

Today, he posted that his unit has had the firmware updated to play DSD content.

 

I don't find Michael Lavorgna's reviews helpful. He seems to only review equipment with very high-end components.

 

I'm wondering if folks have compared it in more real world home-based applications.

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I don't find Michael Lavorgna's reviews helpful. He seems to only review equipment with very high-end components.

 

I'm wondering if folks have compared it in more real world home-based applications.

 

Huh? So, you imagine that if it sounds good with "very high end components" that says nothing about how it might sound in "real world" systems?

Roon ROCK (Roon 1.7; NUC7i3) > Ayre QB-9 Twenty > Ayre AX-5 Twenty > Thiel CS2.4SE (crossovers rebuilt with Clarity CSA and Multicap RTX caps, Mills MRA-12 resistors; ERSE and Jantzen coils; Cardas binding posts and hookup wire); Cardas and OEM power cables, interconnects, and speaker cables

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Do you mean a DAC (a converter for external player) or are you talking about using it as a DSD file player?

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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As far as I am aware, there is no "DAC" functionality here, i.e. being able to connect it to a PC via USB and select it as an output device.

Unlike other devices from companies such as Astell&Kern or Fiio, the Pono only seems to play files from its internal storage.

That was my understanding too... He seems the clarification question.

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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Yes, the Pono only plays files from its internal storage through its internal DAC, which is the sort of simplified all in one functionality many folks have said they want.

 

It sounds very good to me, including DSD, with *relatively* inexpensive IEMs (Etymotic ER-4P, now about twice what I paid a few years ago). Haven't hooked it up to the main system yet.

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> iFi NEO iDSD DAC -> Apollon Audio 1ET400A Mini (Purifi based) -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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Do you mean a DAC (a converter for external player) or are you talking about using it as a DSD file player?

 

I'm not sure I mean a DSD player. Seems to me we need a new term. JRiver on a mac mini is a DSD player, right? Same for HQPlayer? Pono uses an internal hardware DAC to convert DSD files stored on a sim card and outputs them to analogue, correct?

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Huh? So, you imagine that if it sounds good with "very high end components" that says nothing about how it might sound in "real world" systems?

 

I didn't say his reviews say nothing. But when he, or anyone else, reviews audio devices designed for the mainstream, they should use more mainstream components when testing. By his own admission, Spotify sounds good over bluetooth on his system. I'm guessing the Pono sounds better, but I'm not sure. I think he is mostly hearing his own finely tuned system and not the particular device.

 

EDIT: In his post today about Pono playing DSD files he says "it sounds like analog." That is the goal, right? From that I assume one should search no further. Pono has done what it claimed. End of story.

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I'm not sure I mean a DSD player. Seems to me we need a new term. JRiver on a mac mini is a DSD player, right? Same for HQPlayer? Pono uses an internal hardware DAC to convert DSD files stored on a sim card and outputs them to analogue, correct?

 

The generic term is Portable Media Player (PMP). I would say Pono is a PMP that supports DSD.

 

Pono will play DSD files from its internal memory or a micro SD card, but it cannot be used as a pass-through USB DAC to play files from a computer or external storage device.

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The generic term is Portable Media Player (PMP). I would say Pono is a PMP that supports DSD.

 

Pono will play DSD files from its internal memory or a micro SD card, but it cannot be used as a pass-through USB DAC to play files from a computer or external storage device.

 

That seems a bit too generic. A Walkman is a PMP then, right? Maybe a PDMP? Or a PHRDMP?

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I didn't say his reviews say nothing. But when he, or anyone else, reviews audio devices designed for the mainstream, they should use more mainstream components when testing. By his own admission, Spotify sounds good over bluetooth on his system. I'm guessing the Pono sounds better, but I'm not sure. I think he is mostly hearing his own finely tuned system and not the particular device.

 

Some might argue that the opposite. In other words, if a budget component sounds good in his high-end system, it's probably going to sound good in a budget system as well, subject to the limitations of that system, of course.

Sometimes it's like someone took a knife, baby
Edgy and dull and cut a six inch valley
Through the middle of my skull

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The generic term is Portable Media Player (PMP). I would say Pono is a PMP that supports DSD.

 

Pono will play DSD files from its internal memory or a micro SD card, but it cannot be used as a pass-through USB DAC to play files from a computer or external storage device.

Well put (imo)

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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Some might argue that the opposite. In other words, if a budget component sounds good in his high-end system, it's probably going to sound good in a budget system as well, subject to the limitations of that system, of course.

 

Exactly. Lavorgna put the $400 Pono into his $$$ system (I think he uses $8K Devores, Pass integrated) and it sounded good:

"The Pono Player was also not at all embarrassed by comparisons to much more costly separates."
If it doesn't "break" the sound of a $$$ system, surely it will sound good in a $ system.

Roon ROCK (Roon 1.7; NUC7i3) > Ayre QB-9 Twenty > Ayre AX-5 Twenty > Thiel CS2.4SE (crossovers rebuilt with Clarity CSA and Multicap RTX caps, Mills MRA-12 resistors; ERSE and Jantzen coils; Cardas binding posts and hookup wire); Cardas and OEM power cables, interconnects, and speaker cables

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Exactly. Lavorgna put the $400 Pono into his $$$ system (I think he uses $8K Devores, Pass integrated) and it sounded good: If it doesn't "break" the sound of a $$$ system, surely it will sound good in a $ system.

 

Couldn't it be that his $$$ system and $8K Devores make most any good recording sound good whether it is an MP3 over Bluetooth (he likes that, too!) or Pono or a Directstream DAC?

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Couldn't it be that his $$$ system and $8K Devores make most any good recording sound good whether it is an MP3 over Bluetooth (he likes that, too!) or Pono or a Directstream DAC?

 

If the Pono was a POS, his Devore/Pass system would reveal that. A really good system is only as good as its weakest link. The $60K Vivid Giya is not going to make an iPod sound like a EMM Labs DAC!

Roon ROCK (Roon 1.7; NUC7i3) > Ayre QB-9 Twenty > Ayre AX-5 Twenty > Thiel CS2.4SE (crossovers rebuilt with Clarity CSA and Multicap RTX caps, Mills MRA-12 resistors; ERSE and Jantzen coils; Cardas binding posts and hookup wire); Cardas and OEM power cables, interconnects, and speaker cables

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If the Pono was a POS, his Devore/Pass system would reveal that. A really good system is only as good as its weakest link. The $60K Vivid Giya is not going to make an iPod sound like a EMM Labs DAC!

 

I agree about the weakest link part. That is my point. My contention is that those in the target market for the Pono and other "entry-level" players are going to have at least one point in their system that is a weaker link than the Pono. Reviewers should replicate that rather than reviewing it on a system where it is the weakest link.

 

What he does by testing it in a highly tuned system does a service by revealing possible faults, but the promise of the Pono is to bring back the magic of music. Well, put it in a modest system and lets see if it does that. His review is just as misleading as the ones who say there is no difference because they don't have appropriate equipment that can sow the difference.

 

Back to a rephrasing of my original question, does the Pono sound like analog on your (plural, not just you beetlemania) home systems as we now know Michael Lavorgna claims it does on his? Can it replace a dedicated DSD DAC?

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My system is very modest compared to others on this board. I have a Peachtree Decco 65 with Zu Omen speakers. My usual source is a Mac Mini. Maybe it's the flash drive memory or the fact that it has its own power source but the Pono player sounds cleaner and the instruments have a bigger separation and sound stage than my Mac Mini. I have a dedicated area in my house where I tie flies. I have an old Harmen Karden amp/tuner connected to 25 year old Klipsch book shelf speakers in a near field arrangement. I connected the Pono and it sounds awesome. I would not hesitate in recommending this player as a source.

 

Does it it sound like analog? I don't know. I don't have a turn table.

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My system is very modest compared to others on this board. I have a Peachtree Decco 65 with Zu Omen speakers. My usual source is a Mac Mini. Maybe it's the flash drive memory or the fact that it has its own power source but the Pono player sounds cleaner and the instruments have a bigger separation and sound stage than my Mac Mini. I have a dedicated area in my house where I tie flies. I have an old Harmen Karden amp/tuner connected to 25 year old Klipsch book shelf speakers in a near field arrangement. I connected the Pono and it sounds awesome. I would not hesitate in recommending this player as a source.

 

Does it it sound like analog? I don't know. I don't have a turn table.

 

Thanks. That's a helpful report.

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Thanks. That's a helpful report.

 

Ive had the Pono since December (Eagles Limited Edition version) having been one of its early Kickstarter backers, and I have to honestly say as an audiophile for many years (having owned top quality gear like Luxman turntables/amp, Nakamichi cassette decks etc), the Pono is amazing for what it can do. On whatever kind of source material you play it with, whether its from a 16bit CD rip, 24bit FLAC or DSD file, it just sounds so 'musical' ie. rounded, well-balanced, silent, lack of distortion etc. It was already very accomplished before, but with the new v1.0.5 update it has further opened up the performance of the unit.

 

On source material that I've tried such as Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, comparing it to the original 16bit version on CD and the 40th Anniversary Bluray Audio version which I converted to 24/96 FLAC, it sounds absolutely amazing. The bass is tight on tracks like I've Seen That Movie Too, and the on vocals/instruments on Harmony and Jamaica Jerk-Off are nothing that I've heard from the old discs. Air is literally being thumped/pushed out on the bass/phones I have and one of my systems listening I actually need to reduce the subwoofers bass level. And on the opening sequence of Funeral For A Friend the track is so well presented in 24/96 I call it the 'Áudiophiles Bucket List Track'- you must at least have listened to it at least once on the Pono on a proper system because it just sounds so incredible (on both large and small systems and yes headphones). I have yet to try it on my Klipsch La Scala which is in storage (thats my next goal) but I am confident on that too it will sound great.

 

As for other discs that I have such as Dire Straits Brothers In Arms and Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon both on CD and SACD and converted to DSF and 24/96 FLACs, the resolution is clearer than ever before. I get more detail than from the previous CDs but what I also get when listening on speakers is a wider, more involving soundstage and a lot of presence especially with solo vocal tracks. On Eagles Long Road To Eden and Greatest Hits in 24/192 I get to hear and FEEL not just a more focused presence of the group singing or strumming a guitar than from previous releases, but also a lot of detail is revealed on many of the tracks. And comparing the DSD output quality to my Teac AI-301DA it sounds awfully close to its performance with the source material, despite being 1/20th the size. All in all it is an excellent unit for the price ($399).

 

My only comment is….if you want to hear the best from Pono (or other HiRes equipment) you do need two other things. First is invest into 24bit or DSD files because they are totally worth it and second is whatever you do, upgrade your headphone/gear to HiRes compatibility. If your gear doesn't have at least a frequency response of between 4-100,000Khz (ie. spec of Sonys best HiRes headphones) you may not get the best out of it. That said, the Pono will make good systems sound great and great systems sound greater...

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