Neil Young’s Pono Hi-Rez Service to Launch in 2014

(Chris Pizzello/Invision/Associated Press)

Disappointed long ago with the music industry’s move towards compressed and usually lower-quality audio in MP3 format, Neil Young has spent the last few years not only trying to build a high resolution alternative, called Pono, but also gather support for Pono from within the music community.

In Young’s memoir, Waging Heavy Peace, he writes about reaching out to Steve Jobs at Apple regarding their typically lossy iTunes service, but with Jobs’ passing in October 2011, Young moved into a new direction.  He formed what Craig Kallman, CEO and Chairman of Atlantic Records, considers to be a true non-competitive partnership “to save the sound of music.”  The Pono team was further strengthened by members of Dolby and Meridian, plus the Warner Music Group (which had already converted 8,000 of their titles to 192kHz/24bit files).

Beyond the boardrooms, Young snagged a 1961 Cadillac Eldorado for $15,000 and put thousands more worth of high end car audio into it, completing the first Pono portable set-up.  In 2011, the Caddy was driven to the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Tennessee, where performing artists could take a break and listen.  Groups like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, My Morning Jacket, Mumford and Sons have all raved about the quality.  Speaking about the difference between the MP3 version of “Respect” by Aretha Franklin and the hi-rez version, Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, says, “It’s not like some vague thing that you need dogs’ ears to hear. It’s a drastic difference.”

pono player

In addition to an online cloud-based storage of hi-rez songs (WMG has committed, Young is in talks with Universal Music and Sony Music), there are plans to release Pono portable players, as well as DACs sometime in 2014.  Says Young, “PONO starts at the source: artist-approved studio masters we’ve been given special access to. Then we work with our brilliant partners at Meridian to unlock the richness of the artist’s music to you. There is nothing like hearing this music – and we are working hard to make that experience available to all music lovers, soon.”

Audiogoners, will you be keeping your eye out for Pono‘s launch? Tell us in the comments!

Article above summarized.  To read the full Rolling Stone stories, click below:
Neil Young Plans Pono Launch for 2014
Neil Young Expands Pono Digital to Analog Music Service


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