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Summary:

Neil Young is set to unveil his Pono music player at SXSW this week. The unveiling comes after the startup switched hardware partners in the last few months.

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Pono Music, the digital music startup founded by music legend Neil Young, is getting ready to announce its first product at SXSW in Austin this week: Young will officially unveil the company’s Pono player during his keynote at the conference Tuesday.

Pono will also launch a Kickstarter campaign on Tuesday that will offer music fans a way to get their hands on a Pono player for a discounted price. Later this year, Pono will make the player available for $400 through its website.

The triangular-shaped device will feature 128 GB of flash memory, which will be expandable through memory cards, and an LCD touch screen. However, there won’t be any wireless connectivity, so users will have to plug in the device to sync music.

Music for the Pono player will be available through PonoMusic.com, which will offer high-resolution songs from all major labels. Downloads will be offered in the lossless FLAC format, but there is no word on pricing and other details yet.

Pono’s official launch has been a long time coming; Young first showed off the Pono player during an appearance on David Letterman’s show in 2012. Last year, Pono announced that it had teamed up with high-end audio company Meridian to produce the player. The company never publicly discussed the exact technical details behind that cooperation, but Young said in a previous statement that Meridian would work with master recordings to “unlock the richness of the artist’s music.”

However, in recent months, Pono shifted its focus and actually switched hardware partners, replacing Meridian with Ayre, another high-end audio equipment maker. Now, it looks as if the focus is more on popularizing hardware that plays high-resolution audio files than on polishing each and every song to give it certain audio qualities.

That approach sounds a lot more scalable — but it also puts Pono more directly in competition with other makers of high-resolution audio equipment, including big companies like Sony. Pono likely hopes that the portability, and the celebrity name attached to the product, will help it stand out.

  1. A triangle shaped device doesn’t fit in a pocket very well.

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  2. Diego Schmunis Monday, March 10, 2014

    Did anyone do any ergonomic design testing on this thing?

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  3. It is crazy that articles on “high resolution” audio fail to mention that digital audio resolution beyond twice the range of hearing cannot be detected in a blind test. If you’re doing audio processing there may be an advantage to having higher resolution, but it is not useful for listening.

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    1. There are definitely people who can hear the difference between a CD type file and an mp3

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      1. Yes! and I hope FLAC becomes the next-gen replacement for MP3. With $10 headphones, most may not be able to tell the difference, but with good hardware it’s definitely discernible.

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  4. At very least this will push the evolution towards very high quality streaming options from the big music streaming services.

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  5. A solution to a problem that does not exist.

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  6. what is wrong with buying 128Gb microSD instead and keeping all your music on your phone? 128Gb sd card cost $120 on amazon

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    1. I’m assuming because most phones don’t have high enough quality DAC’s/Amps to take full advantage of FLAC format? And besides, not all phones support FLAC. Carrying an external DAC/Amp on those that do is clumsy. Of course, this design does not really look sleek either… but if it’s the first step to making FLAC the next gen replacement for MP3, then awesome!

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