Neil Young music Player

Rockin’ in the HD world: Explaining Neil Young’s shockingly successful PonoPlayer
January 21, 2016 – 07:36 pm
Neil Young Unveils His
pono player yellowUnfortunately, storage space didn’t come cheap back then like it does now. To make digital music files work, they had to be squished down to a fraction of their original size. The MP3 compression scheme was really efficient at doing this job, and it set a precedent that’s been hard for proponents of HD audio to turn around: quantity over quality. Even though storage space is cheap now, and newer codecs allow smaller file sizes without the loss of quality, folks have gotten used to the status quo. Perhaps that’s why the HD audio players and HD music stores that came before Pono have faced an uphill struggle for recognition the past couple years.

How is Pono different?

We’ve seen a lot confusion and flat-out misinformation being batted about in public discussions attempting to answer this question. References to the player’s ability to play back FLAC (free lossless audio codec) files are frequently hailed as a key differentiating factor, but that’s highly misleading. What makes the Pono Project a potential game-changer in audio is actually a combination of several factors: high-quality file types, improved file resolution, music re-mastering, premium electronics, and an interface people can use. Let’s dig into each of those for a better explanation.

Better music files

The two most critical components to sound reproduction in a portable music player are its DAC (digital to analog converter) and its headphone output stage, which amplifies the signal to drive the tiny speakers inside headphones. The PonoPlayer is meant to have very good-quality versions of both. In fact, the people behind the Pono say its shape is, in part, a result of the need for enough space to put the quality components in, and in the right places. Since the Pono team partnered with premium audio company, Ayre Acoustics, to develop the hardware, we have every reason to believe it will deliver on this front. We’ll know for sure once the PonoPlayer begins to ship.

image-8-bitPono’s amazing Kickstarter success

Nobody – probably not even Neil Young himself – expected the Pono project to do so well, and so quickly, on Kickstarter. How in the world did a geeky, audiophile-aimed portable media player snag $1 million dollars in pledges in less than 24 hours? And how did it sail right on past that to $2.5 million in just a couple more days?

The PonoPlayer could be the right blend of high quality, portability, affordability and accessibility that enthusiastic listeners have been waiting for.

Marketing likely has a lot to do with it. Neil Young probably didn’t do this on his own (though we’re sure he brought a bunch of Canadians to the campaign), but throw in a bunch of heavyweights like Sting, Marc Ford, Eddie Vedder, Rick Rubin, Jack White and Arcade Fire, all enthusiastically singing your product’s praises, and you’re going to get some traction.

But we think some credit should go to the notion that the PonoPlayer could be the right blend of high quality, portability, affordability and accessibility that enthusiastic listeners have been waiting for. What good is a high-definition audio player if you don’t like using it? And who’s going to blow a mortgage payment-worth of cash on electronics that’ll never leave your house? Maybe the PonoPlayer is just the first audiophile-grade product that really spoke to a broad range of people, and those folks decided to vote with their wallets.

One thing is certain: the Pono project is off to a very strong start, and if word spreads that it is as good as it’s hyped up to be, it could be the game changer proponents of HD Audio have been looking for. Imagine if Pono does for HD Audio what Beats did for headphones; we could be looking at the birth of a whole new era.

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