Neil Young’s PonoMusic smashes through its Kickstarter target

March 12, 2014 1:44 PM

A new age of musical quality is soon going to be upon us. The legendary and talented Mr Neil Young (That’s a personal opinion, but I’m going to state it as a fact) has accomplished his Kickstarter target within a day. What he is pushing is something called PonoMusic, a new level of musical quality that surpasses the likes of MP3s and CDs, and brings music at the level of vinyl to the portable domain.

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“Pono is about the music,” Neil explains in the trailer for his device, “It’s about the people who make the music, and the way it sounds to us when we’re in the studio making it. It’s about you hearing what we hear, and that hasn’t happened in a long time.” It’s a prism shaped device, which specialises in premium-quality FLAC music files. Apparently the standard player with 128GB Memory costs £180 on Kickstarter, which isn’t half bad considering the price of iPods and iPhones.

The trailer for Young’s new, high quality music device wheels out countless famous musical faces, from Bruce Springsteen and Elton John, to Jack White, Foo Fighters, My Morning Jacket, and Arcade Fire. All of whom praise the quality of what they have heard like it is some sort of mystical epiphany. The fact that Young’s Kickstarter smashed through its target suggests there is indeed a market for a new, high quality music device…but will it flood the market? I’m not so sure it will. The simple fact is that not that many people care that much about sound quality, not enough to abandon their iPods for a new player. I imagine most people will remain happy with the sound they get already. That’s a shame, I think, because music should be heard the way it was intended to be heard by the artist, the way they heard it when they recorded it.

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I can’t help but think people who use Pono will be scorned in the same way people who use vinyl are, as elitist music snobs. I don’t personally use vinyl, because I do value portability and I don’t have the kind of money to replace my collection with vinyl records, but I’ve heard many of my favourite albums played on vinyl and there is a clear improvement. Why wanting to hear your favourite music at its optimum quality is snobbish is beyond me, but I’ve heard it said.

Another problem I foresee, is what happens to all your current music if you buy a Pono player? Does it play MP3 files or only its own? If it doesn’t accept MP3 files, people are going to have to either keep both kinds of players or slowly rebuild and replace their music collection in the high quality format. I doubt that’ll be a cheap experience.

All the same, the Pono player has potential, and I for one am all for higher quality music in the portable realm. In addition to the device, Young and his business partners plan to sell digital music files through the PonoMusic.com store. The best of these will contain about 30 times more sound data than the average MP3, though that depends on the available master recordings. But certain music will have an “ultra-high resolution” of 9216 kbps. Do you know what that means? No, me neither. But I understand “ultra-high resolution” well enough.

iPodsWhat’s more, Pono claim to be supported by all the major labels and are said to be working with independent labels across all genres. They have yet to announce a launch date for their online store, but the device is supposed to begin production in late summer 2014.

But what about you, dear reader? Would you consider a Pono Player? Does the thought of recording studio quality music in the palm of your hand make your bones tingle with excitement? Or are you just going to select your favourite song on your iPod and carry on blithely about your business? 

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