So: Is Neil Young’s Pono Any Good?

We’ve been hearing about Neil Young’s high-res audio player for a couple of years now but there’s been precious little in the way of hands-on reviews of the thing. Until now.  This is from The Guardian.

It looks like a Toblerone but it still managed to raise $6.2m on Kickstarter, far exceeding its funding target of $800,000. This is Pono, the digital music player and download store that Neil Young has convinced heavyweight backers and the public to sink millions into. Admirably, he wants to “fix” the state of sound he wearily regards as a direct result of MP3 and music streaming’s prioritisation of convenience over quality. And he did this despite few people actually seeing it or using it. Until now.

The Guardian got to demo one of (apparently) only nine players currently in circulation, in the London offices of Omnifone, the digital music company who will be providing all the “back end” dark arts for Pono – something it already does for Sony Music Unlimited, Guvera, rara, US satellite broadcaster SiriusXM and others.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

3 thoughts on “So: Is Neil Young’s Pono Any Good?

  • October 7, 2014 at 11:06 am

    I’d be shocked if the Pono evolved into anything more than a pricey curiosity. I fail to see who the target audience is for this product. Your average music consumer has already moved beyond iPods and they clearly want quantity over quality.

    Audiophiles and music collectors tend to see digital music as a means-to-an-end for mobile enjoyment, but overwhelmingly prefer physical media for audio fidelity and the plain old aesthetic value of the packaging.

    I think the Pono is a nice idea, but it’s the type of thing that would have perhaps made more of a difference to consumers 10 years ago.

    • October 8, 2014 at 2:36 pm

      Ten years ago we had SACD and DVD-Audio but still not enough people cared.

  • October 7, 2014 at 11:37 am

    I still think high-res audio is nonsense.

    I’m pretty sure when musicians talk about how much better “studio sound” is vs. the final recording, the vast majority of the difference is dynamic range compression. (Not to be confused with lossy data compression.)


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