RAIN Poll results: How important is hi-fi in mobile music

survey checkbox poll 01 canvasWhen Pono Music completed its Kickstarter campaign with a whopping $6.2-million in crowdfunding, it motivated us to as readers whether hi-fi mobile music is important. Pono Music is Neil Young’s attempt to sell ultra-hifi music downloads and a specialized mobile player — a high-end listening ecosystem. Bob Lefsetz has recently been evangelizing the WIMP system, which likewise favors high fidelity.

On this site, the opinion stance has been that Pono and others are interesting ventures, but likely to remain niche products appealing to audiophiles, which the mobile listening audience generally prefers the convenience of small files streaming through a smartphone.

But our poll results indicate stronger interest in sound quality than anticipated. Thirty-eight percent of respondents chose “Very Important: I might get Pono Music.” Only five percent dissed the whole thing with the “Not Important” choice. Between those extremes, 47% of responses said that Pono was overkill, or that hi-fi is not very important.

Selected comments:

It’s in the (g)ear: “Good earphones are more important than higher bitrates/bigger bit depth.”

Lost cause: “already been studies on this. Cliff Note on it: younger ears actually PREFER the crappy sound of lo-fi mp3’s over .wav and vinyl…because that’s what their ears are used to. lousy quality is more familiar, so they are quite comfortable with it.”

Back to the source: “High audio quality is important to me, but it has to be done right in how the recordings are engineered and mastered. In particular, give us dynamic range, eliminate clipping, and quit with the loudness wars.”

Location is everything: “I find it very important at home, but not when driving in a car or walking around with it, where there is so much street noise.”

Theory vs. reality: “I like the idea, but it’s not worth the cost.”

Brad Hill