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?