Neil Young says he’s not an audiophile but his Pono music device is surely destined to get most of the early adoration from discerning hi-fi enthusiasts.
Young’s pledge is that with he is saving a dying art form but lossy music and streaming sites are what most consumers have grown up with and persuading the masses that they need another format and dedicated player is a hard sell.
On top of that, the failure of the Super Audio CD (SACD) does suggest that there is at best only a relatively small market straining at the leash for high-resolution digital audio. Having said that, the huge success of the Kickstarter campaign means that Shakey’s brainchild should not be dismissed out of hand.
If all you want to listen to are ‘classic’ albums by established artists then Pono might be more appealing. But even though I love stuff like Highway 61 Revisited or Dark Side Of The Moon, these are not records I go back to that often. I’d much rather hear something new than go on some nostalgia trip. It remains to be seen how much of Pono’s music store will cater for marginal tastes.
Nevertheless, the video promo for the device does make me curious to hear what all the fuss is about. A series of star names are full of superlatives after having taken a ride in one of Young’s vintage automobiles which is presumably fitted with a state of the art sound system. Though you ought to take what Mumford & Sons say with a pinch of salt, you begin to think there may be something in the Pono to when the likes of Beck, Rick Rubin and Gillian Welch sing its praises.
I don’t for a minute doubt Neil Young’s sincerity but my gut failing tells me that it is a product that has arrived too late in the day. I regard myself as more than a casual listener but even so my musical addiction is already well catered for by web services such as Spotify, Bandcamp or Soundcloud. When on the move I’m happy with my iPod or smart phone and am prepared to accept a poorer sound for the convenience.
The proof of the Pono pudding will be in the hearing but I seriously doubt it will the game changer some are claiming.