Neil Young Finally Gets To Make Pono, His High-End MP3 Player, Thanks To Kickstarter Funding

Senior Contributor
03.12.14 18 Comments

Most of the music you listen to is terrible, and not in the sense that it’s devoid of artistry. It’s terrible in that technically speaking, it’s compressed in a “lossy” format, although scientifically, you are completely unable to hear the difference. If you’re one of those people who claim to be able to hear the difference, though, Neil Young finally has the MP3 player of your dreams up and running on Kickstarter.

OK, so it doesn’t actually play MP3s. The Pono is actually designed to play back FLAC files at 192 kHz. And yes, you have to buy them from the “Pono Music Store.”

To give you an idea of how excessive that is, the general rule of thumb is with audio sampling is that you should sample at twice the range you actually produce. Human hearing tops out at about 20 kHz, and that’s with people who don’t have hearing problems. The idea is that this reproduces, exactly, how the music is played, even though most of it is stuff you can’t hear and which, in fact, most audio equipment you can buy can’t even reproduce. At those frequencies it generally stops being “audio equipment” and turns into “scientific equipment.”

Did we mention that FLAC files, by their very nature, are fairly large compared to MP3s, meaning less music will fit onto this, something notably? Oh, and it costs $400. Just in case you thought there wasn’t anything about this that wasn’t tilting at windmills.

To be fair, Young knows his market. This comes with a stereo analog output so audiophiles can hook it up to their system and listen to digital music that way. $400 is nothing to the kind of person who spends $5000 on an amplifier.

So, basically, a cranky old Baby Boomer, years too late, gets to make his response to the iPod, just as the iPod is dying out. See, Kickstarter does make dreams come true.

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