Neil Yong’s Pono Hi-Res Music Player and Download Service

NEIL YOUNG gave a sneak peak of something that might turn out to be really cool last week on DAVID LETERNMAN”S show(see the video below). Neil has railed for years against the poor quality of MP3s, the iTunes Store and streaming music, and has now put his money where his mouth was with the new PONO music service.

We don’t know all that much about PONO, but here’s what we do know:
All the files in the service are at 192kHz/24 bit.
There’s a new player that goes with it, similar to an iPod, but with much higher quality digital to audio convertors (see the graphic on the left). The Pono player has two headphone jacks, presumably for sharing. Dolby and Meridian are involved, presumably to license the Meridian Lossless Packing (MLP) codec to Pono to decrease those big 192k files to about half their size.
The major labels are already on board (with Warner Music licensing their 8,000 album catalog to Pono) and the release is scheduled for sometime in 2013.

It appears that this is a download service, but a major question is how consumers will deal with the long download times of such a huge hi-res audio file. Even if MLP encoding is used, we’re still talking about a file much more than twice as large as a regular CD file at 44.1kHz/16bit. According to one account, when asked the question Young replied, “That’s what overnight is for.” That may be so, but in this new Music 3.0 world of instant gratification, I don’t think that will cut it for most of the potential audience.

That said, you have to love that we may be getting a new hi-res audio format that may actually have a shot at catching on…