The annual SXSW gathering in Austin, Texas always produces some interesting reports on technology and the music industry. Today’s news is the announcement by Neil Young and the Pono team that they are launching a Kickstarter effort to raise $800,000 to begin producing the hardware player, their app and the online store store to support high-resolution music.
The Pono model includes a handheld player with audio designed by Ayre Acoustics and software and hardware contributed by Semiphore Systems. The design is triangular in shape in order to support some of the audio components that can’t be made low profile.
Figure 1 – The Pono hardware player.
Neil Young used a couple of well equipped automobiles (an old Ford and a Cadillac as best I could tell) to demonstrate the system to a veritable who’s who of musicians including Bruce Stringsteen, Sting, Emmlylou Harris, Elton John, T. Bone Burnett and Elvis Costello. The 12-minute promotional video on the ponomusic.com website is a nonstop stream of celebrity testimonials with a short tutorial by Neil on the relative merits of various audio formats.
The comments focused on the vast improvement that the Pono player delivers over traditional heavily compressed format like MP3 and AAC. There were lots of references to the “analog” magic that is only possible with vinyl LPs. The musicians are uniform in their praise for the “non-digital” quality afforded by the 192 kHz / 24-bit PCM audio fidelity.
As this is a news item, I will refrain from making comments about the overall strategy that Neil Young and his Pono partners have put together. I can say that I won’t be purchasing a Pono device for $399 (or $300 at the Kickstarter page). Why not use a smartphone hooked up to a great DAC.
I’ll chime in tomorrow with an editorial post about this seemingly important announcement.