It’s no secret that Neil Young remains one of the true audiophiles within the world of music, and his tactics to ensure fans get only the highest quality sound on his records is legendary. This is why there was little surprise when he announced his plans to create a high-quality music streaming service a few years ago, and earlier this week, he finally put it on a time frame. The new service, called PONO, will officially launch “in early 2014” according to a post he made on the services’ Facebook page, and for those who love music, that date cannot come fast enough.
Due to restrictions in terms of how smoothly a file can stream, most music services compress songs to low bit-rate mp3 files, often compromising a great deal of the original sound quality and overall impact of the music. While a majority of music listeners have become used to this lesser quality, PONO promises to deliver these same songs, “…as it was in the studio. So it has primal power.” It is the nuances and full frequency range that PONO seeks to keep intact, and to deliver the songs in, “…the way they [the musicians] wanted you to hear the music.”
As of yet, PONO has yet to reveal a number of details about the service, such as whether the music will be available at the audiophile level of 24 bit/96k, or exactly how large the files will be. Many are also wondering whether or not the files in question will be playable on any device, or only on the PONO Portable Player, which will also be updated when the service goes live early next year. Costs for tracks and albums have also been kept under wraps, but much like his love for quality recordings, Neil Young has a long-standing track record for trying to deliver whatever he releases at consumer-friendly prices.
Regardless of the answers to all those questions, the reality is that Neil Young is taking a stand for returning to a concentration on the overall sound quality in music, as the rise of digital downloads has pushed this element to a lesser role over the past few years. Standing behind the idea that PONO will seek to once again capture “the soul of music,” it’s important to remember that the word “pono” is actually a Hawaiian term meaning “righteous,” and for those who truly love their music,, the name could not be more appropriate.
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