Sunday, September 30, 2012


Neil Young revealed his Pono prototype a few days ago on David Letterman [link]. He's soon gonna re-revolutionize the way we listen to our music, no doubt about that; just like Steve Jobs and Apple did with the iPod and iTunes years ago. So presumably, this Pono player is gonna incorporate digital-to-analog conversion technology that will allow consumers to hear what musicians actually hear during the recording process in the studio. How all this magic is contained into one tiny device, I don't know. According to Neil, and this may or may not be entirely true, mp3 gives us only 1% of the actual sound, CDs about 15%, while analog gives us the complete picture. We're not getting full analog here, unlike vinyl, but digital wise, it's apparently the best sound that this new player can provide. While this venture is very promising, it also raises many questions....firstly, how much will Pono cost? If Neil is really serious about delivering this to the masses (which I assume is his main purpose in the first place), it should be affordable. When it comes to portable music players, Apple has pretty much a stronghold on the market. And I'm not certain, but nowadays, I think people would rather listen to their music on the go using their smart phones. The source is always No.1, and even with expensive headphones playing lossless WAV files, you're still not gonna get the best sound on an iPhone, as compared to say, a CD player and hi-fi speakers. So Pono may just be the solution, long time coming, but will people still want a standalone portable player (most importantly, will there also be a home playback system for the more serious listeners)? Which leads to another question......high resolution, 192kHz/24-bit music ain't cheap, and do people (especially the younger demographic) really wanna re-buy something they already own, only this time in a much better audio quality? And considering how big high-res files are, how much space is this new player going to hold? The majority of the music-listening public are already so used to the convenience of mp3s and lossy file formats that it's gonna be a challenge changing their mindset and convincing them to spend more money on improved quality. I'm definitely not trying to second-guess Neil's intentions. If anything, this bold undertaking is ultimately a labor of love, coming from someone like him. I'm sure all this information about Pono will be out in due time. But it's good to get the conversation going now among audiophiles and music fans. At the end of the day, it all comes down to choice. Mp3s and music portability has become a way of life. Facebook and online social media has become a way of life. Personally, I would love to have 'hearing music in pristine, uncompressed quality' become a way of life in the world too.