Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Label Implications Of Neil Young's New Pono Music Service

As you may or may not know, Neil Young gave a brief peak at his new Pono high-resolution music service last week on the Letterman Show (see below). Young, who has railed against the quality of MP3s for years, wants to bring audiophile quality to consumers in what Neil is calling SQS, or Studio Quality Sound.

Pono is basically a cloud music service is combined with a new music player that seems to have the simplicity of an iPod, but with higher audio circuit quality. The recordings reportedly have all been transferred to 192kHz/24 bit, which while not as good as analog, does sound really good (CD resolution is 44.1kHz/16 bit).

Supposedly the Universal Music, Sony Music and Warner Brothers are totally on board for launch next year, and why wouldn't they be? There are so many up sides and not many downsides for them.

First, Neil has a lot of credibility within the industry and press as being a maverick who does things his own way. He's not beholden to anyone, could care less about being commercial, and has a high profile when he chooses to use it. That's a win.

Second, this is finally a way for labels to do something they've been wanting to do for a long time - sell you the music you already own yet one more time. If it really does sound that much better (it should, but there are caveats), there is a group of people that will buy yet another version of the records that they may have purchased several times already. That's a win for them.

And finally, there's been word that Warners even invested in the project with Young (and licensed 8,000 albums to Pono as well), which might not be such a great thing. The tech world is littered with projects that a major label has invested in to protect its interests, only to have it eventually fold because the project was better for the label than for its customers. That said, Young is ferocious in his independence, so maybe Pono might turn out to be something truly groundbreaking.

High-quality audio. Imagine that. For more on the tech side of Pono, see my post at The Big Picture Music Production Blog.

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joseghast said...

I have my doubts that anyone would perceive the difference. Today I've been reading about this topic and I think this article makes some points against pono:

Bobby Owsinski said...

Sorry, but I've done the tests myself and 192k wins by a large margin. We recorded a large variety of acoustic material at 192k, 96k, 48k and 44.1k trying to disprove that it would make a difference, and much to our surprise, it won every time by a large margin to everyone involved.

That article overlooks the basic premise of hi-res recording; the more samples you take, the closer it is to analog.

It has nothing to do with frequency response, which is what most of the post is based on.

Rand Bliss said...

Almost a case of 'if you can't beat them join them'. Hats off to old Neil nonetheless for doing whatever he can and being true to his cause.

Here's what he felt about digital music in Guitar Player 1992.

Welcome to click/download a PDF copy of the page itself titled:

Digital Is A Huge Rip-Off Article in Guitar Player 1992



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