Rocker Neil Young turns tech boss with Pono music player

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Wednesday, 3 October 2012 - Matt Packer

Renowned musician leading venture to strum up new standard for digital music, writes Matt Packer

Neil Young

On Monday, we reported in our Media Eye news roundup that and Simon Cowell are teaming up to launch a new talent show for finding the next technology mogul. But coming as they do from the music world, the pair seem to have missed one right under their noses: folk ‘n’ roll maestro Neil Young.

Media interest has swirled around the singer-songwriter this week thanks to details in his new memoir Waging Heavy Peace indicating that he is poised to launch his Pono music player – a labour of love designed in partnership with boffins from sonic science labs Dolby and Meridian. The experienced tech heads have helped Young to realise his dream of a digital-audio device that delivers sound quality as good as anything you’ll hear in a recording studio. When it goes on sale early next year, the player could end up setting new standards and consumer expectations for digital music, as it functions on a groundbreaking quality threshold.

“What this does is play back master files,” explained Young on an edition of the Late Show With David Letterman. “This plays back the best sound that anybody can get – this is what [musicians] do in the studio, at the highest resolution.”

Young said that he and his team had already begun work on transferring classic Bob Dylan albums to the Pono format, which will enable fans to hear them not as they have been compressed to fit the thin data constraints of CDs or MP3s, but as they were originally produced and mastered. “Now we can preserve all the original work of all the great artists through the years,” the singer added, “from Louis Armstrong and Cab Calloway all the way up to Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Jay-Z. You get as close as digital can get to analogue.”

While standard CD and MP3 resolution is around 44.1khz, Pono works at 192khz, with 24-bit sound. The Pono team is already making overtures to Big Three record labels Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group and Sony to make swathes of their catalogues Pono compatible. In his memoir, Young recounts how he was compelled to start the project after raising the issue of poor audio quality in iTunes with late Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

Could Young keep high-quality digital music Rockin’ In The Free World?

Image of Neil Young courtesy of bukley /

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