March 12, 2014 Last Updated 7:27 am

Neil Young gets PonoPlayer project funded through Kickstarter within 24 hours

If anyone had any doubts that Neil Young could raise $800,000 through Kickstarter to fund his PonoPlayer project that were disowned of the notion within 24 hours. Already over 3,700 people have backed the project to the tune of over $1.2 million. Consider PonoMusic bankrolled.

Pono-web-lgPono is Hawaiian for righteous,” the Kickstarter campaign proclaims. “What righteous means to our founder Neil Young is honoring the artist’s intention, and the soul of music. That’s why he’s been on a quest, for a few years now, to revive the magic that has been squeezed out of digital music. In the process of making music more convenient – easier to download, and more portable – we have sacrificed the emotional impact that only higher quality music can deliver. However, the world has changed in the last 10 years – technology has solved some of the underlying problems that forced that tradeoff. You no longer have to choose between quality and convenience when listening to music – you can have both. This is the fundamental idea behind PonoMusic.”

While Neil Young is the face of Pono, John Hamm is serving as CEO. Hamm is the business guy, previously having been at Soda Rock Partners and Accept Corporation.

(So you don’t embarrass yourself in conversations… Pono is what they will call the system – short of shorthand for everything involving the company. PonoMusic is the music store and website, while PonoPlayer is the device. Also, that first “O” in Pono is long.)

While the PonoMusic project was not front page news, it did get enormous coverage. The project hit a nerve as music lovers are getting rather tired of the big tech companies dominating the music business – especially since they appear to have so little interest in improving their offerings, or cleaning up their online retail stores. Apple got a bye when Steve Jobs was alive because everyone knew what a music lover he was. But Apple offers its digital music in low bit rate files that might have been fine for first generation iPods, but really are not meant for home listening on better stereo systems. They bumped up the bit rate a few years ago, but not anywhere near what PonoMusic wants to deliver.

“Generally speaking, mp3 files have a bit rate of 192kbps or 256kbps,” the Pono Kickstarter page states. “These are highly compressed files and are much smaller in size than higher resolution music files. The good news is that you can keep a lot of mp3 files in a small amount of storage on a portable player or mobile device. The bad news is that they’ve lost a lot of the musical information that often reveals the most pleasant and satisfying aspects of the music. It is mostly that sense of realism, dynamic range, and detail that higher resolution recordings typically capture in a way that restores the emotion in the song.”

PonoMusic-image-lg“On the low end of higher resolution music (CD lossless, 44.1kHz/16 bit), PonoMusic files have about 6 times more musical information than a typical mp3. With ultra-high resolution recordings (192kHz/24 bit), the difference between a PonoMusic digital file and an mp3 is about 30 times more data from which your player reconstructs the song.”

At the center of the Pono system is the PonoPlayer, the device needed to play the music. For me, it is the weak link – do consumers really want another device when they already have both their phones, which as as a player, and their home stereo systems. The real problem is that the PonoPlayer has a mini jack for sound output, which high-end sound equipment use better connections. Assuming you can play the Pono music files on your computer without the dedicated player, we may see many consumers bypassing the player altogether and simply streaming the music to their home systems.

Pono Music will use FLAC files, which many music lovers are familiar with as the file format is used by HDTracks.com and other music retailers, and is often the file format of choice for music pirates, as well.

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