High-Res, High Price, and Triangular? What’s Next in Portable Music


Sarah Beaver
Staff Writer

Whether it is on a phone, an MP3 player, or on the computer, people are constantly listening to music. While Apple is probably the most widely known maker of portable music players (remember Microsoft’s Zune? That happened, but like not really), there have been some changes. The iPod Classic was discontinued recently to the dismay of many, and there are a couple of interesting newcomers making their way onto the market in 2015.

In partial response to this, Sony has just introduced the new Walkman ZX2, which will be available in the spring. However, if price is holding you back from getting an iPod, this is not the right MP3 player for you. According to The Verge, the new Walkman will cost $1,199.

But if you are a consummate “music connoisseur,” this pricetag might not seem so bad for what it promises. The biggest difference between the new Walkman and other music players will be its supposedly superior sound quality. According to The A.V. Club, it will be able to play very high quality sound, and it will have the ability to upgrade lower quality tracks to ones with high definition sound.

Whether or not all of this is worth the price is questionable, especially considering its less than stellar Android operation system circa 2012. Because the quality of music is most important, Sony did not focus too much attention on the ability for customers to get apps and do other things with their Walkman.

The ZX2 does, however, have a nice look. It is very sleek and should be more durable than an iPod. However, just because it looks pretty does not mean people will want to drop $1,200 for something that can fit in their pocket.

Also making its way onto the market is a new MP3 player designed by Neil Young called the PonoPlayer. The website says that Pono means “righteous” in the Hawaiian language, and the music quality is supposedly as close to the originally recorded song as it can get.

PonoMusic also boasts higher quality music available for download, though there has been some debate about the accuracy behind this. Young promises larger files, but many have stated that this is a dubious claim, and according to The New York Post, sound technicians, and even PonoPlayer insiders, insist that the size of the file will not make a detectable difference in the sound of the music PonoPlayer emits.

In addition to the debacle about he sound quality, the PonoPlayer has a curious design. The player is shaped like a triangular prism, But, instead of declaring this design a shining light in the MP3 industry, pundits and reviewers have been less than welcoming, calling it “chunky,” and The Guardian compares it to a Toblerone chocolate bar. Also, slightly annoying is its lack of customization and color choices, as it currently only comes in black and yellow.

The design allows for multiple modes of music listening, says PonoMusic. There are two headphone jacks, making sharing music with a friend that much easier, or for “advanced users,” sound can be balanced through the two outputs. It can also act as a speaker for use at home or in the car.

The PonoPlayer has a lot of cool features, though it is not quite as pretty at the ZX2, and even if the sound quality is not quite as amazing as Neil Young hopes, it is less expensive. It is available for preorder for $399, and will be delivered by February 2015.

Unless you are a music connoisseur, it seems that Apple iPods are still the way to go—you can download tons of music and apps for less money, but there is no doubt that these new products seem pretty cool. With Apple changing things up, and taking things away, perhaps these newcomers have a chance in the coming year.