Neil Young and Pono Music

UPDATE: After reading a bit more about the science behind what Pono proposes – see Why Neil Young’s New Pono Music Player Doesn’t Make Any Sense – I’ve cancelled my pledge to the Kickstarter project. This raises lots of questions about what all those stars in the video were hearing, why they testified, and their motivations for doing so. I’ll be eager to follow the Pono player reviews when it comes out, but I’m backing away from being a first-gen guinea pig.

Neil Young’s mission may still very well be a good one, even if it simply returns us to listening to CD quality songs on our digital devices instead of MP3s. We’ll see.


Neil Young is on a mission to save us from the mp3 and I’m betting he’ll get us kickstarted. His Kickstarter video for Pono (Hawaiian for righteous) Music is the most persuasive I’ve ever seen. Artist after legendary artist gets out of his boat of a car and testifies to their conversion on one listening. It’s like he got them all high on music! They’re all searching for the words to describe the vividness with which they experienced songs they knew but never really heard like this before.

I watched the video and had to hear what they were hearing. I pledged $300 for one of the 1st Pono players and can’t wait to get it in October (projected). I’m investing in this reversal of the lofi trade for convenience, back to hifi richness and sound quality. Like every one of the artists who hears the difference in the video, this makes me hopeful.

This whole project stuck me as a profound idea in many ways:

  • I/we don’t realize what we’re missing or the sound quality we’ve given up
  • I/we have spent the last 17 years listening to mp3s
  • hardly anyone hears  the quality of music that musicians intended, spent to make in the studio
  • everyone born into this age has hardly heard hifi sound
  • everyone who is old enough to remember isn’t just nostalgic, their music actually sounded richer
  • there is a huge opportunity for artists to bypass all the institutions that normalize sound quality compromises for business reasons
  • there is a huge business opportunity to satisfy a market that is being ignored: people who want great sound
  • it recognizes that young people are uniquely qualified to learn from and enjoy this reversal particularly because they have undiminished faculties, undamaged hearing, senses
  • we’re now at a point technologically that we can return to hifi sound and have the convenience of digital
  • hopefully this will usher in a new era of sound quality and new level of appreciation for music

This a great idea. Like a strong wind behind great a new wave of connections to music and musicians. This leap in sound quality, combined with the great leap in artist autonomy that this crowd-funded model represents is… righteous.

When I pledge this afternoon at 6 PM, there were 5K+ backers for $1.2 million (the goal was $800K). It’s now 6 hours later and it’s up to 7K backers and $2.2 million. This is going to be big.

2 Comments

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  1. I would like to suggest that most people who are interested in high quality audio would be wanting to listen to it on their high quality home stereo systems. I am happy to download and pay for PONO format content so long as manufactures like NAD and OPPO provide associated firmware updates for their media players in a timely fashion.

    Somehow I don’t think that plugging the PONO player into my pre-amp using the mini stereo jack is going to result in high quality sound. But I might be wrong. Anyone care to comment please?

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