As I read more interviews with Neil Young and Pono’s CEO John Hamm AND tracked the record breaking number of people willing to shell out $400 for a one trick pony triangular high-end player, I have to close this week’s posts with another look at the world according to Neil Young and Pono.
John Hamm stated in the interview with Spencer Holbert of The Absolute Sound that the Ponomusic store will be up and running in October…it might be earlier but, it seems we’re about six months away from being able to download the first FLAC files from their new site. And they will be FLAC files. According to CEO Hamm, “All of the music on PonoMusic.com will be in FLAC, because FLAC is a universal audio codec that can be used by anyone.”
Users will simply download the FLAC files to their computer and then load them into their Pono players. As we know FLAC files are “losslessly” compressed files that can also have tags or metadata associated with them. There has been some controversy regarding the “sound” of FLAC files vs. uncompressed .WAV or .AIF files among audiophiles. I wrote about some of the concerns a while back (you can click here to read the post). That’s why I offer FLAC and uncompressed files for download.
I personally don’t see any real benefit to restricting customers to only FLAC files. John says that customers won’t even need to know what type of file to download. They will get the FLAC files and Pono will play them. That will require the Pono software to “uncompress” the FLAC files in real time to produce the digital stream converted back to analog by the DAC in the player. I suspect the decision was influenced by the smaller file size of FLAC files and the metadata than the fidelity of FLAC files.
The ability to choose an .AIF or .WAV file would enhance their download site. I know it takes a lot more time to prepare all of the different files types (iTrax.com offers up to 21 different versions of the same track!) but I think audio consumers are smart enough to decide for themselves what they want. I think they are.
John also talked about why music consumers will flock to Ponomusic, “Simplicity and availability. With the other sites, the user has to choose between AIFF, ALAC, WAV, or FLAC files, and needs to know why they are choosing it. Most people don’t know the difference, or simply don’t care. They just want high-quality music, and that’s it.”
The interview did provide a glimpse into the sources for the Ponomusic site. They say they’re going to offer the “studio master” in a high-resolution digital format. But then you read that they will deliver the highest quality files available from the labels.
I don’t believe that Neil and the Pono team will be doing new transfers and masters of the album offered on their site. We’ll simply have to wait another 6 months in order to get the straight story on the content and the player.
All I can say is, it must be nice to have a lot of famous musician friends willing to support your better music initiative. I can’t help but wonder how much money Metallica (and all of the other artists) is getting from of their “signature” Pono players? Aren’t they known for producing ultimate fidelity, dynamic rich records?