Neil Young reveals ‘Pono’ music player, music download store; promises ‘the best sound anyone can get’

“Neil Young has appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman to promote Pono, a high-quality digital music service that will launch next year,” Sam Byford reports for The Verge.

Rolling Stone reports that Pono will be comprised of a music downloads store, a tool that converts digital audio files into analog-sounding recordings, and a series of audio players,” Byford reports. “Young showed off a prototype Pono player to Letterman, and the design is nothing if not unique — it’s a bright yellow triangular prism with a small screen and simple controls.”

Byford reports, “The player will, according to Young, play back Pono master files with ‘the best sound anyone can get.'”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: SACD redux.


      1. mp3 and AAC were compromises made because of the music industry, hard drive size, and internet connection speeds. If you believe that somehow they were better ideas for other reasons and that higher audio quality audio is a “2001” idea, then you should really go back to floppy disks.

        1. The key is that for most of us on the move, ear buds and a noisy auto background (in or passing by) and its of no matter.

          Now, in your home on your big speakers home stereo, ok that might get different.

          Just saying.

    1. Yes, embarrassing to have a Warner Bros. contract and to be negotiating with Sony to deliver classic music, of whatever kind, to listeners ears the way it should sound. Then, to raise money for hungry people…
      You are a dolt.

      1. Totally.

        There are several music download stores that sell wav files, but few places sell higher quality music. Generally, wav is good enough for me, but if you are interested in something closer to analog, you probably need 24 bit (a few artists have released such tracks for download, but they are not compatible with all music players).

        Sure, not everyone wants or needs this. I am not an audiophile, but I like having a high quality version for home and lossy files for streaming from the home and to carry around.

        As long as the Pono player is not required for the higher quality tracks, it is a great idea.

    2. Is it also embarrassing that Jobs (and now Ive) wanted a higher-quality chassis with better materials in their computers? Is it embarrassing that they thought the mobile phones on the market were crap and decided to make something better?

      There is nothing embarrassing about a quest for something better than the status quo. The digital files that are delivered via iTunes are just barely acceptable – call them the status quo.

      There is plenty of room in the market for something better.

        1. Exactly. If I could get 24-bit/96khz AAC Apple Lossless files (yes, I understand they will be large), I would be willing stop buying CDs, and I’d be willing pay a little more to do so. With that file, I could re-encode and/or deploy how I see fit, depending on how they will be used.

            1. Wow…Really?

              I can tell the difference even when listening on the sub-par speakers built in th my Air. Play a 24-bit file on a set of nice speakers pushed by a decent amp, and the difference is night and day, especially for sounds at the far ranges of the spectrum. Anyone could. If you don’t think the difference is audible, you’re simply not paying attention.

    1. Neil Young is almost as famous for his hatred of how we went backwards in sound quality when we went to digital, as he is for his music. He complained when CDs came out, co planned about mp3s, etc,… I think it’s interesting that this is something he endorses. I bet it sounds great. That crotchety old fool wouldn’t sell out for anything less.

  1. There was no problem with either SACD or DVD-A, other than a lack of interest by labels to support them with good product. iTunes needs to have an option for purchasing Lossless music files, to give those who want the best audio quality the option when they go onto the store. You can reduce the quality for playing in a car, or on a small player like a Shuffle or Nano, and keep the originals, but you can’t upgrade from a 256Kb to Lossless.

  2. Its about time. I gave up emailing Steve Jobs years ago about getting SACD type encoding on the iPod. Just maybe there is hope in the high resolution music world now.

      1. You are part of the minority, who care more about quality than quantity. Unfortunately, few in the world – particularly here on MDN – give a damn, UNLESS, of course, SJ had something to say about it.

  3. Even the person with the best hearing in the US can’t tell the difference between 128 Kb/s and this stupid ‘new’ encoding. We don’t have the high frequency range capacity to hear the difference at over 20kHz audio. This is just spec. salesmanship and I know that Neal Young doesn’t have the hearing left to tell the difference either.

    Now we come to the ability of the speakers to reproduce these incredible high frequencies and there are none that can even produce these frequencies faithfully. This whole thing is just a bunch of bunk.

    1. BS. There is a big difference is sound quality between a hi-res file and the crap offered on itunes. Granted, you need quality hardware (DtoA converter, amp and speakers) to realize the difference.

      1. Yep you are correct sir. But at my age I find it harder to hear the difference. Years ago I ran tests and couldn’t hear the difference above 160kbps and above (my hearing was damaged just enough at a heavy metal concert in the 90’s and now I pay the price) but now I re-encoded my entire 1000+ CD system with Apple Lossless just to be sure. Why not? Storage isn’t as big a deal now. Even saving as AIFF or WAV uncompressed is not a big deal. I THINK I hear the difference but I’m sure many of you can.

    2. Why are you mixing digital data rate and frequency response; the two are related, but different.

      Even an “older” person like myself can easily hear the difference between CD and 128kbps MP3 or even AAC. Between those and a high-resolution lossless file? Easily. Have a decent playback system, and a half-way educated ear, and you’ll have no problem telling the difference.

      It’s not a bunch of bunk; you just have no understanding of the subject.

    3. Most adults can’t hear past 12 to 14 kHz (good job on capitalizing the H and not the k by the way- most people do not know any better).

      As mentioned above, the frequency range is not the relevant subject here. The encoding quality is.

      Typically what we see in digital recordings is compression (after we get past the sampling rate which boils down to needing a rate of twice the highest frequency, hence 40k and 44.1k sampling rates- search for Nyquist Theorum for more info on that subject).

      How the compression and decompression (codec) is performed is going to effect the size of the file and the quality. Anytime the sound is compressed, data is removed from it- no way around that.

      Most people can tell the difference between compressed formats, CD audio, and high quality analog audio if you can find a source for it (8 tracks sounded better than cassettes- 2″ analog tape sounds far superior to any of it in my opinion).

      When you get into the differences between compressed formats, many people will be able to tell a difference- especially if you tell them what to listen for.

      No way to know what kind of audio this thing will have until we get to either hear it, or compare the codecs to see what they are cutting out of it.

      1. Heinrich Hertz would be thankful, for capitalizing the H in the unit symbol named after him.

        Seeing there is no Mr. Kilo, there is no need to capitalize the unit symbol (therefore small k).

        The only other time you capitalize the unit symbol is when there are symbols with similar letters ie. m (mili) M (mega)

        There… now “most people” know better 😉

    4. I have bose wave cd player. It came with a cd that has uncompressed recordings on it, and it sounds as if the musicians are in the room playing live in front of you. Unfortunately the cds available for purchase are all compressed and don’t have that same “feel.” If this product does, i’ll be first in line for downloads.

  4. Saw the MDN notification on my lock screen… I thought it said “porno” player lol.

    Had to re read it.

    MDN… Your failed app and typing on the iPhone 5 don’t mix well. Bitch to type with the app up higher on screen. (Same goes for all other non updated apps though)
    Just wish you would have had that stupid poll where people using the app could actually see it… Cause we couldn’t vote.

  5. This Pono product may be great for real audiophiles and possibly for storing old original recordings, but I don’t see it becoming widespread. It’s awfully big to be just a music player.

  6. I’m no audiophile, but 256k AAC is pretty damn good quality, and superior to all the 320k MP3 services out there. For most it’s indistinguishable from CD.

  7. How are they going to get ALL the recording studios on board, agree on pricing & allow extremely high quality recordings to not be copied without paying for them or stolen?
    THAT’S why digital downloads & CDs are encoded or at a lower quality that studio master versions…

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