Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Neil Young wants your ears

The musician’s new Pono music service and player is all about high quality audio, but music fans care about this any more?

And another thing….Neil Young lays down the Pono law at SXSW

Fri, Mar 21, 2014, 09:48


Do you care about the sound quality of the music you listen to? While there are surely many readers who can tell the difference, there are many more who will shrug their shoulders and move on. To them, a MP3 or a stream is the same as what they’d hear on a CD or vinyl. It’s all music, isn’t it?

Neil Young is not one of these and he has decided to do something for the audiophiles in the audience. The musician was at SXSW in Austin, Texas last week to launch the PonoMusic service and the PonoPlayer device last week.

Pono, says Young, is about creating a system which is capable of playing music at the same quality at which it was recorded. He’s passionate about it and, naturally enough, plenty of his peers have given Pono the thumbs up, including Jack White, Beck, Eddie Vedder, Arcade Fire, Gillian Welch, Norah Jones, Sting and others (hear and read his remarks here).

But the real test will be if common-or-garden music fans, those who’ve never set foot in a recording studio, will buy into Pono and it sound quality mantra.

Because of how MP3s and streams give us on-demand access to the music we want, many of us have simply stopped thinking about high-fidelity. Easy access trumps sound quality in this instance. We’re also often listening to music via inferior speakers and headphones anyway so quality is way down the list of priorities.

Young certainly talks a great game about Pono – they’ve worked with Ayre Acoustics to develop the system so you know the attention to detail is huge – but it’s hard to see a vast number of music fans being so enthusiastic. We’ve made our bed and, as long as that bed contains millions of songs in whatever format and shape we want them, we’re happy.

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