Pono, meet iPod: The latest details about Neil Young’s ultra-Hifi audio service


Credit: Pablodiego15

Neil Young’s Pono audio service, which promises to bring us better-sounding digital music, will apparently be compatible with your old iPod, (s AAPL) according to a report by Evolver.fm.

Sorta, anyway: Pono is apparently making its music backward-compatible to existing equipment, meaning that you will be able to play that HD audio file on your iPod or computer. But you won’t be able to really enjoy it unless you buy a special Pono player, which Young briefly showed off on Letterman last year.

Play Pono files on your regular equipment, and they’ll sound just like your average iTunes download. Play them on the Pono player, and you’ll get 192 kHz, 24 bit audio, which presumably sounds a lot better – even though some actually dispute that notion.

There’s no word yet when exactly Pono is going to launch, or how much the player will cost. However, it looks like high-def audio equipment maker Meridian may somehow be involved in the launch.

Also still unclear: How much music will actually be available through the service? Master recordings for most of the albums out there exist, but getting access to these will be challenging even for someone with as much clout as Young has.

That’s why the company may instead chose to take the same files used by Apple and everyone else, and upconvert them for an HD audio experience. With the right set of acoustic trickery, that may actually sound better – but will it be enough to satisfy audio purists?

Image courtesy of (CC-BY-SA) Flickr user  Pablodiego15.


Geoff Boyd

It is argued in some circles that the telescope of time will show that if the trends of the last 10 to 15 years continue then the late twentieth century Information Technology Innovators may very well go down in history as a bunch of philistines who, in effect, mortally wounded the recorded music industry and deprived the musicians of their day, as well as musicians past and future, of their ability to collect just rewards for their artistic works. I should add that it is my belief that the Technology Innovators today and the Audio Engineering community in particular, has an obligation to find ways to halt and reverse this trend.

If deployed naively it is highly probable that HD audio (24/192KHz) could complete the destruction of the recorded music industry facilitated by the digital revolution in audio reproduction! It is absolutely essential that any high value digital music content distribution is accompanied by a new paradigm in loudspeaker transducer design where decryption is buried deep in the transducers used for loudspeakers and headphones. Not unlike HDCP in HDMI connectors. This is because the current audio distribution schema allows eavesdropping to master copy resolution anywhere in the analog or digital electronics signal chain using commonly available PC soundcards with trivial signal conditioning such that the analogue signal (or digital if available) can be recorded and recoded to lossless say and redistributed by pirates. Unless Neil Young’s proposed Pono platform securely plugs this ‘analog hole’ it will surely do more harm than good.

Geoff Boyd

Thenton Burke

With all due respect, I need to ask if this was a sarcastic reply? These files will be digital, and therefore will be easily copied and distributed. Speakers and sound cards have nothing to do with modern piracy.

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