For many years, Neal Young has spoken out about the need for better digital formats to be utilized commercially. It looks like music fans may agree with him.
Last week, Young launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $800,000 for the launch of Pono Music, a hardware/software music service that will enable users to easily download and listen to music in high-fidelity digital formats. Currently, he’s raised $3.8 million.
Pono Music claims it will allow fans to hear music “as the artist intended.” This is reference to the fact that albums are often recorded and mixed in a better digital quality than CD format. The artist hears the final mix often at a hi-fi bit rate and frequency before it is mastered into Red Book standard. Pono Music will provide users the opportunity to listen, as the artists would have, to the tracks in the original fidelity before it was mastered into Red Book or even compressed down further into MP3. Here’s how:
The hardware platform for Pono Music is the PonoPlayer, a portable audio player with a high-end DAC. It’s a little bigger than an iPod classic but features a triangular shape as opposed to the iPod’s flat design. The extra bulk, they say, is due to having uncompromising audio components. Save for a suped-up iPod, PonoPlayer’s ability to play back high-resolution lossless files like FLAC makes it the marketplace-integrated portable digital hi-fi player in the world. The interface is a simple touchscreen with three physical buttons: on/off, volume up and volume down. The device connects to your computer and is charged through a mini USB port.
While there are already services like HDtracks out there that let you buy hi-fi digital copies of music, the real magic of Pono Music is the store that will integrate with your player. iTunes wasn’t the first service to sell MP3s, but they were the first to make it incredibly simple. It looks like Pono Music aims to do the same with the HD music.
The recent resurgence of vinyl records proves that there is a growing market of audiophiles, who, in rejection of the saturation of MP3s, care about the quality of their music and are willing to put their money where their mouth is. With Pono Music and the PonoPlayer, they will be able to easily buy and listen to albums at CD quality or better in a portable format.
When compared to low quality MP3s, a CD quality track is often noticeably better. However, some claim that such hi-fi digital files at 24bit/96k or better provide and insignificant or even imperceptible difference in quality. The fact that Pono Music’s kickstarter campaign was completely funded in less than one day, however, shows that there is a growing market of fans who are won’t settle for less than “as the artist intended.”