Neil Young's Pono music player becomes the 3rd most funded product on Kickstarter, but can you even hear the difference?

Digital music player uses lossless format to reproduce sounds outside of human hearing

Neil Young has made headlines today with the third most successful Kickstarter of all time, raising $6.22m for his new high quality Pono music player; the music connoisseurs fine Bordeaux.  

Pono, which means “righteous” or “pure” in Hawaiian, is the culmination of Young’s crusade to eradicate poor quality music and replace it with a high resolution alternative.  

The portable device plays “lossless” tracks, the original master copy of a song before it has been compressed to a manageable size and dampened to fit everyday speakers.   

Young wrote in an open letter to all Kickstarter benefactors:  “CDs and MP3s are derived from the original masters, and now, with the PonoPlayer, you can finally feel the master in all its glory, in its native resolution, CD quality or higher, the way the artist made it, exactly. That’s the beauty of Pono.”

Critics, however, have expressed scepticism at his well-intentioned dream of bringing studio quality sound to the ears of the masses. Even those who bemoan the spread of low-quality MP3s have begun scratching their heads as to the value of raising quality beyond the currently accepted level of 48-kHz/24-bit resolution.

The bespoke Pono is offering 192kHz/24bit, a huge increase on what we have been receiving for the past 30 years. Unfortunately, the majority of tracks from before our millennia do not venture above 48-kHz/24-bit and few do now, making the $400 dollar player, along with the $20 fee to repurchase all your albums in high quality, seem slightly unwarranted.

There is also the argument that hi-res audio will actually be too good for our ears to comprehend. The range of sounds Pono offers, half again as wide as conventional music, is largely beyond our hearing at one end and painful at the other; exactly why the range has been left where it is by music players until now.

The new music player does have some impressive endorsers. A video posted on the Kickstarter page shows reel after reel of top musicians’ and producers’ admiration for the Pono.

David Crossby of The Bryds, “That’s the best sounding music I ever heard in a car in my life, in a matter of fact it might be some of the best sound I ever heard.”

Asylum Records CEO Todd Moscowitz, “Unbelievable to hear the difference side by side, you really forget, listening to your IPod how amazing music can be – really fantastic.”

However, whether people notice the difference between high-res lossless files and MP3s, whether there is an appreciable difference that justifies the mammoth cost and whether a decent pair of headphones would make a better investment have all been hotly contested.

Bernhard Grill, leader of Fraunhofer Institute's audio and multimedia division and one of the creators of the MP3 and AAC audio compression formats. "It's always nice to have higher numbers on the box, and 24 bits sounds better than 16 bits. But practically, I think people should much more worry about speakers and room acoustics."

And that’s the final shadow of doubt, to play music of this quality (presuming we will notice anyway) the listener will need an equally sensational set of headphones; otherwise you’re plugging your expensive new Blu-ray player into your grandma’s old Quasar TV – it’s a waste of potential.

Life and Style
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister
TVSPOILER ALERT: It's all coming together as series returns to form
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

    Guru Careers: Software Developer

    £35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

    Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

    Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Developer - HTML, CSS, Javascript

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Application Developer - ...

    Day In a Page

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine