Music Tech

Neil Young’s Pono Music Teases “Your Own Personal Time Machine”

Pono-music-smaller-591x383By Eliot Van Buskirk of

Neil Young’s Pono Music trifecta — an audio format, hardware music player, and presumably some sort of online music distribution system, all with an emphasis on sound quality — edged a little closer to reality today with an announcement posted on its website, whose domain is registered to Seattle- and San Francisco-based investor, hedge fund manager, and ocean conservationist (along with Neil Young) Gigi Brisson [updated].

Pono Music, from 21st Century Digital (not this one or this one), announced that “your personal time machine” to “take you back to the place and time of the original musical event and let you feel music in ways you’ve only felt seeing it live,” is “very real,” according to the team behind it.

Now, it’s just a matter of bringing more artists, labels, songwriters, and publishers on board.

The last time I deeply researched the consumer viability of high-resolution music, I found that indeed, many releases are stored in a high-resolution 24-bit format, because even people who doubt that high-resolution music is worth all the trouble for consumers concede that it works better for mixing (more on that here). If that’s what Pono Music intends to use, as we think it does, given common sense and the way the company refers to “a wealth” of additional audio data being available, then launching the player, store, and format should indeed mostly be a matter of business formalities at this point.

So what are we talking about here, really? High-resolution music (defined here as sound files with a 24-bit bit depth and a 192hHz sampling rate as opposed to 16-bit, 44.1 kHz compact discs):

A) Arguably sounds a lot better than MP3, AAC, and even CD,

B) Hasn’t proliferated and been pirated for decades the way MP3s have, meaning that there might be more of a market for it, and

C) Is harder to stream to mobile devices, which are the fastest growing category on the internet, and which tend to run on limited data plans.

However, it must be noted that Pono will not work with any smartphone/headphone combination you have right now, unless we’re missing something here.

It’s possible that Pono could use some sort of dongle like this one to grab high-resolution audio from smartphones, convert it to an analog signal, and send that to normal headphones. Other than that, the solution involves purchasing new hardware, which we’ve been calling the Pono Player.

Anyway, enough speculation: Here’s what Neil Young’s 21st Century Digital Pono Music announced today on

Hi Friend,

There’s an awfully good chance you heard about a revolution we’re working on. Something that will significantly improve the way you get to hear and feel your favorite music.

Shocking you say? That perhaps the promise of “Perfect Sound Forever” propagated by the inventors of the Compact Disc was a bust? And that “CD Quality” promoted by the likes of iTunes and the creators of the MP3 was only an inkling of the flawed format they were hoping to emulate?

We’re here to say it’s incredibly true! Miraculously, there’s a wealth of music & soul (or if you must, “data”) trapped on millions of recordings made over the last half century, that we’re hoping to unleash for the very first time.

Can you imagine? Your own personal time machine, to take you back to the place and time of the original musical event, and let you feel music in ways you’ve only felt seeing it live? We here at Pono are listening to it now and ensure you, IT’S AMAZING!!!!

We ask dear music lover that you root for Pono bringing this very real technology to the world. We’re still toiling away on making this happen (yes, there are record labels, artists, publishers and more to finalize with), but we wanted to share our excitement with you.

In the meantime, please follow us on Facebook or Twitter for updates.

Your Musical Saviors,

The Pono Team

We’ve been all over this Pono thing for a while now — here’s what we and some others think we know so far:

(Side note: The screenshot we took of the Pono Music website for the image at the top of this post was originally too high-resolution for our blogging tool, which we thought was sort of funny.)

(via former MOG CEO David Hyman)

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  1. Arguably sounds a lot better? That’s hilarious: if it really did sound a lot better, there’d be no need to argue!

  2. What can Pono that 24 bit FLAC or ALAC cant?
    The truth is most people dont care at all. And most people cant tell any difference either.
    Its just marketing b******* because Neil Young is involved in it. However I hope I’m not right

  3. It’s not really arguable… Pono resolutions will be at 192kHz (an already existing and typical format) and 384 kHz – which is nothing new as far as studio recording goes but which has never been a format available to the public. 384 kHz marks a significant jump above 24 bit FLAC currently set as the listening bar. Meaning it would be a significant move forwards (and back to a better time in music), regardless of whether Neil Young was involved or not. Neil Young’s presence just makes it more accessible for the public.
    – A 20 year-old music fan

  4. Pono is a Hawaiian term that Young has clearly lifted and now friggin’ copyrighted, damn his haole eyes, for use in a profiteering scheme. No Hawaiian should or will be surprised by this kind of behavior from a haole. Shame! I would have expected better from the normally overweeningly politically correct Mr. Young.
    Besides which, as a musician for 35 years and music fanatic for 40, I don’t believe a word of this asinine trendy hyperbole.

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