By Trevor Mogg
Neil Young’s high-fidelity digital audio player will launch March 15 on Kickstarter. (PONO)
Neil Young had audiophiles’ ears twitching with unbridled excitement a couple of years ago when he first spoke of plans for a high-fidelity music player, a machine which he claimed would be capable of reproducing audio close to the originally recorded sound. While news about project Pono has been a bit thin on the ground since then, it appears Neil and his team have actually been rather busy.
On Sunday it was revealed that the musician and his beloved PonoPlayer are set to appear at a special SXSW event this week, with the singer-songwriter offering details of an accompanying music service as well as a Kickstarter campaign to help get project Pono off the ground.
When the PonoPlayer eventually launches (no, we still don’t know when that might be), we’re told it’ll come with a hefty $399 price tag. However, pre-order through Kickstarter from this weekend and you’ll reportedly save yourself a few bucks.
We don’t know a great deal about the machine’s specs at this stage, though the Pono team has revealed it’ll launch with 128GB of storage, expandable via the device’s memory-card slot.
Content can be downloaded from the PonoMusic online store, though there’s no word yet on track pricing. According to Young, the major record labels have committed to digitizing their music catalogs for the Pono device, so the range of content should be pretty decent from the get-go.
‘Music the way artists recorded it’
The Toblerone-shaped PonoPlayer, which is being built in collaboration with US hardware company Ayre Acoustics, has been designed to allow music fans to experience “studio master-quality digital music….the way the artist recorded it,” PonoMusic CEO John Hamm said in a release that surfaced over the weekend.
Neil Young first talked of Pono back in early 2012, claiming at the time that MP3s only offer listeners a measly 5 per cent of the original sound produced during the studio recording, with CDs hardly any better, offering just 15 per cent of the true sound.
“The convenience of the digital age has forced people to choose between quality and convenience, but they shouldn’t have to make that choice,” the Canadian musician said.
Late last year, Young, famous for tracks such as Heart of Gold and Helpless, wrote on Facebook: “Hearing Pono for the first time is like that first blast of daylight when you leave a movie theater on a sun-filled day.”
That may be so, but we assume you’ll need a pretty decent set of headphones – as well as a finely tuned pair of ears – to let Pono’s music really shine.