Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Tiny Piece That Neil Young's Pono Needs To Succeed

Pono Music players image
Singer/songwriter/guitarist Neil Young’s dream of a higher quality consumer music service appears to be slowly getting closer, as evidenced by the latest announcements at the annual South by Southwest conference and its accompanying Kickstarter campaign. Pono Music, in which Young is heavily invested, is a high-quality audio ecosystem consisting of a download service supplying digital audio files transferred from the original high-resolution audio masters, and a dedicated player with the ability to play back those files. Along with Apple’s best kept secret in their Mastered for iTunes program, Pono is an attempt to raise the bar in audio quality, a bar that has been continually lowered since just before the turn of the century thanks to the public’s acceptance of the quality impaired MP3 format, but can be traced by as far as the introduction of the CD.

Through the years, Young has always been a notorious stickler for audio quality, being one of the first artists to build his own personal studio based around hand-picked vintage audio gear, then later investing in Pacific Microsonics, which developed the HDCD audio technology that was acquired by Microsoft in 2000. He’s also been a big proponent of hi-res audio formats like DVD-Audio and most recently Blu-Ray.

When I first heard of Pono three years ago I was initially skeptical. Large digital files like the ones required for the hi-res audio backbone of Pono weren’t easy to deliver, and the public seemed just fine with the lower quality offered by MP3 and streaming services. Even last year, when Pono’s introduction was teased, success still seemed somewhat far-fetched with the wholesale movement towards the convenience of streaming music, one that continues in earnest today.

Today is a different day, however, and now I look at the Pono player/service in a somewhat different light. First of all let’s look at what Young and his cohorts have done right. Read more on Forbes.

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