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
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: Web Hosting Support Agent

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the North West's leading web hosting pr...

    Recruitment Genius: Data Centre & Systems Support Engineers

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This accelerated growth ISP company is current...

    Ashdown Group: Senior Systems Administrator - London - £50,000

    £40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Systems Administra...

    Recruitment Genius: .NET Web Developer

    £35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity for a t...

    Day In a Page

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003