In case you haven’t heard, Pono (PO-no, apparently Hawaiian for “righteous”) is Neil Young’s digital music format. Those who have heard it say it sounds as good as an original analogue recording. A line of Pono players is planned for release next year.
But here’s the question: what chance does it have against iTunes’ ACC format and the MP3s we’ve all grown used to?
Let’s look on the positive side first.
- Pono sounds great. So great, in fact, that all three major labels–Universal, Warner and Sony–are interested in taking a look. Maybe they’re hoping that Pono will do for their bottom line what the CD did back in the 80s.
- Audiophiles are interested. Vinyl sounds fantastic but is inconvenient. .WAV files are okay in a pinch but have their issues. FLAC is okay, too, but not nearly as good as pure analogue.
- Pono players can apparently handled MP3s, AAC and other formats.
- And, er, that’s it.
On the negative side, we have this:
- Whatever we may think of MP3s and other compression music algorithms, they’ve become the standard for music. Getting people to switch formats just because it sounds better is a tall order. In case you haven’t noticed, fewer people care about true high fidelity sound these days.
- iTunes doesn’t support Pono. Hell, try getting iTunes to play FLAC.
- You can’t convert MP3s or ACC files to Pono. You’d have to re-purchase all your music in a new format, just like when the industry got us to buy CD copies of the vinyl we already owned.
Still, I applaud Neil on his effects. I, for one, treasure high-quality audio. But until I’m assured that I won’t have to completely redo my music library, I’m not interested.