Blog Post

Neil Young’s Pono music service plans to launch in early 2014

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

Pono, the music service spearheaded by Neil Young, will launch in early 2014, according to a Facebook post penned by Young himself. The musician took to Facebook Tuesday to sing the praises of the service, which promises better sound quality than Spotify streams and iTunes downloads, saying that Pono “liberated the music of the artist from the digital file and restored it to its original artistic quality,” something that apparently gives it “primal power.”

Young also revealed a few more details around the service, including the way it sources its music:

“PONO starts at the source: artist-approved studio masters we’ve been given special access to. Then we work with our brilliant partners at Meridian to unlock the richness of the artist’s music to you. There is nothing like hearing this music – and we are working hard to make that experience available to all music lovers, soon. “

Young went on to say that the Pono service will be based on a portable audio player similar to the one he showed off on David Letterman’s show last year. It had been long-rumored that Pono was based on technology developed by hi-end audio systems maker Meridian, but the exact details of the service have been a subject of intense speculation.


8 Responses to “Neil Young’s Pono music service plans to launch in early 2014”

  1. Fonojet Janz

    Actually there is nothing to invest if you have a smart phone, music player (like iPod) and a battery lasting longer. But the difference is definitely noticeable. I am an engineer and do record and mix all way long.. when i get back my master tapes and compare them with the downloadable mpeg-files I am always disappointed. So many details are missing, even when i listen on my iPhone. ( comparing Wav 44,1kHz/16Bit and mpeg (320kbt )

    The problem is that one cant hear it if not used to. You wont recognize if you are not used to listen to higher sample rates/bit-depth. Its like smelling and tasting good wine, you wont taste/smell differences if you are not used to and got a trained tongue. Our ears are like all our senses, they loose sensitivity, when not forced from time to time..
    If these listening test would have been done with engineers, musicians etc everybody would recognize the difference. When CD was released in the 80,s everybody could hear the difference… because everybody was used to Vinyl/ analog tape.

    At the end it is an educational thing. But believe or not: what producers, musicians and engineers are doing you won’t get at the moment in full, when listening to mpeg and all these compressed formats. Peace for NY and his effort! There is no reason anymore like in the 90´s to compress audio. Storage is there and very cheap to get! The record companies could sell USB-sticks (4GB) with albums on in high quality… just one thought.

  2. J. Dean Doherty

    As with any subjective area like the arts, each person’s opinions & observations concerning sound quality may differ wildly. I can truly sense the passion behind Mr. Young’s motivations in his endeavor to bring sonic bliss to the masses, I just don’t think most ears have been trained adequately enough to distinguish the subtle nuances we’re talking about here. Add to that, most just don’t care enough to invest more time & resources into what is really a gourmet experience. That being said, I can’t buy into the notion that scientific studies debunk what some ears experience as being a superior listening medium, i.e. recorded sources that are superior in quality. Experienced musicians and such cognoscenti really do feel a “bump” in the overall experience, at least that has been the case with this passionate listener & practicioner of musical sound… For my part, I can hardly wait to hear for myself what the Pono system has to offer in the way of a more gourmet listening experience. Then, as should anyone else who is passionate about a rich listening experience, I will decide for myself if it is worth my hard earned cash-o-la to invest in it! Much love & respect to all lovers of life & good music… Peace!

  3. Most music lovers won’t care. They’ll prefer good enough quality with the comfort of a phone and the low cost of a service and variety they get today

    But maybe the audiophile niche will make good business.

    • It’s not true. It’s just Neil Young using clever marketing playing with emotional terms like “the soul of music”, “trapped” music, etc. It’s similar to homeopathy in medicine: it works only if you believe in it, thanks to the placebo effect, but in reality, it’s just water. If you want to know the details (and before replying to this claiming I don’t know what I’m talking about), read this:

      • James: Thank you for linking to an excellent article. Am in agreement that the quality gained vs. the processing needed for delivery is not equal, nor within reach of the masses.

        As an intern in Muscle Shoals, AL recording studios I was most impressed with the final phase of “testing” a record: They’d turn off the expensive JBL speakers and run sound through a set of cheap, small off-the-shelf speakers resting on the consule. That’s how the majority listened to music back then, as it still is today. High end quality is for audiophiles – and only a small percentage of sales go to them.

        • But even for audiophiles, this 24 bit / 192kHz is completely useless. Double blinded tests have been performed many times, and nobody can tell the difference, because the ear is not physically able to hear frequencies above a certain threshold (again, see article). That’s not to mention, as you do, the poor equipment most people use to listen to their music. But even if they had the best equipment possible (which could actually make a difference by itself), the higher sampling rates still wouldn’t make a difference – they would just lead to bigger files. So it’s just pure marketing, a way for Neil Young to sell music and music players by using appealing terms that speak to the “true music lover”, while taking advantage of their ignorance of the science behind it.