Thursday, March 13, 2014


Pitchfork reports: [edited]

As promised, Neil Young launched the Kickstarter for his long-awaited high-quality digital music service and player today at SXSW. It's called PonoMusic (the players are called PonoPlayers), and it costs $399 and contains 128GB of memory.

Watch the Kickstarter video, below, featuring testimonials from Arcade Fire, Beck, Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith, Beastie Boys' Mike D., Jack White, My Morning Jacket, Dave Grohl, Elvis Costello, and many more. As of this posting, the campaign had raised $340,000 [$2,250,000 now, Ed.] of its $800,000 goal. (It runs through April 15.)

In the Kickstarter video, Young compares the experience of listening to MP3s to listening to music underwater. He makes the claim that the PonoPlayer allows for 'visceral' listening, like breathing air. The Kickstarter page clarifies that Pono is not just a new audio file format. 'It is a grassroots movement to keep the heart of music beating,' the Kickstarter reads. 'PonoMusic aims to preserve the feeling, spirit, and emotion that the artists put in their original studio recordings.'

The triangular device connects to the PonoMusic App, for Mac or Windows, which offers access to the PonoMusic store, where you can buy and download music, much like iTunes. There are two output jacks, one designed for specifically for headphones and one designed for home audio systems or cars.

In his book Waging Heavy Peace, Young talked about the early days of Pono (when he called it "PureTone"), saying, "An MP3 has about five percent of the data that can be found in a PureTone master file." More recently, he wrote, "Hearing Pono for the first time is like that first blast of daylight when you leave a movie theatre on a sun-filled day."


Conrad Gempf said...

I know that the device is still not available, Brett, but have you ever heard anything in the Pono file format? Is it really that much better than extant file formats? How does it compare to Apple's "lossless"

Brett Jordan said...

hi conrad,

i haven't heard anything in pono format... for a good article on the difference between it and flac/apple lossless this is a good place to start

sound 'quality' is as subjective an issue as wine-tasting and mud-snorkelling... some people get it, some people don't...

as you know, my take on it is that you need a few hours immersed in a sound system to know whether you are someone who enjoys the difference between 'ok' and 'very good' quality sound... on a long journey in my car there are moments when i find myself grinning at just how good some songs sound...