Jack White Pono

Yesterday we heard about the impending launch of Neil Young’s PonoMusic through Kickstarter. Now the Kickstarter is live with a promo video featuring a dumbfounding parade of musical luminaries singing Pono’s praises. Watch Arcade Fire, Jack White, Beck, Eddie Vedder, Emmylou Harris, Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith, Foo Fighters, Sting, Tom Petty, Elvis Costello, Mike D, Elton John, Kid Rock, and many more chime in below:

Pono, which is Hawaiian for “righteous,” is set to go live sometime this year. Get much more info at Kickstarter.

Comments (86)
  1. Great! But I’m very curious when labels are going to start offering Pono-files to users. Otherwise your Pono-device is pretty useless.

    P.S. For an infomercial that focuses on amazing audio quality, the videocrew could have hired a better sound guy….

  2. must get Pono. seriously, this is exciting stuff

    • I’ve never spent a dime on mp3s/iTunes. I refuse to pay for shit.

      I’m gonna spend at least $10k on Pono albums (including many of the artists in the video.) If there are enough people like me, we can save the music industry.

  3. Well this has totally sold it for me. Only problem, well for the business side of Pono, is that: is the general public going to care, therefore want (this apparently) amazing music quality like this? Yeah, people on Stereogum, all these other music publications and websites and people who care a lot about audio quality will likely be interested (probably still not make the purchase, but still…) but I don’t think your average Top 40 listener will be bothered in switching from there reliable and good quality iPod Touch to this random brand new device in which the albums will likely cost more than through iTunes.

    • sd  |   Posted on Mar 11th 0

      iPod Touch? Even that is a dinosaur. If it’s not on a smartphone people aren’t gonna touch it.

      • The whole point is that APPLE devices and smart phones, etc. dont support the highest quality audio, i.e. iPods and iPhones only support AAC files and .MP3 files for audio.

  4. can’t wait til VLC can play PONO!

  5. Neil Young probably didn’t fully consider the drawbacks of naming his music service “Pono.” Like, for instance, how it’s only one ‘R’ away from a Google search with billions of results…

  6. also – aren’t all these people old musicians and therefore: kinda deaf?

  7. Every time they bring up digital music no one ever mentions .WAV files which can be 192khz, I’m willing to be that they are simply using a version of .WAV. Lossless audio has existed for a long time, .flac anyone? The only thing different is having this portable device to support it, which I don’t really see as being innovative or something that many people will buy into. I myself would love having higher quality portable music but theres no way I’m paying 400$ for this device.

    • *willing to bet

    • Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

      • “The PonoMusic.com Store uses FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) audio format as its standard.”

        straight from the kickstarter page. so what on earth are you talking about? these ARE flac files.

    • I’m pretty sure they aren’t using any new formats, it will be the current lossless formats, it’s more about how good the audio components are in the device and that they’ve prioritised playback over storage.

      • I also suppose they could argue that they get true flac full-quality files when they have direct access to the source. Whatever though, I’m satisfied with MP3 320kbps, MP3 is the format for the people, no time for that white collar conservative PONO

  8. There’s so little information about this. I read on Pitchfork it’s got 128 Gb storage, which seems little when you have high quality Flac files. Then you got artists saying this was “the best experience they had eveeerr” but we don’t know what music they listened to, what headphones they had etc …

    And now there’s a kickstarter. I mean, really ? Neil freaking Young has not enough money and wants us to buy in before launch for a “thank you” or a t-shirt unless you got 200$ to spend on a bet ? Is it just because they’re afraid it’s gonna crash and burn and they want to avoid losing too much money ?

    We’ll see if the “revolution” happens, but this method is really not making anythin to get my trust.

  9. So excited for this…not only for listening for myself but i’m really hoping this catches on so we can finally get money back into the music business. As right now the whole situation has devolved into a sad joke and there’s just no money anywhere except for the top pop stars and the huge touring bands. THIS could total change the game and finally put a real value on music again.

  10. To be honest, this does seem like a pretty good idea … instead of Apple still pushing the truly horrible and outdated mp3 format with their huge market share, and not bothering to support FLACs on the iPod. Most designers and marketers have gotten into the idea that what people really want is more music on their devices, and have therefore gone to great lengths to increase the amount of songs you can have on an iPod, but nobody has really done anything about improving the quality of the music since the iPod first came out, around 13 years ago. So many other factors have improved since then, such as download speeds and storage capacity in general, and it seems stupid to still be clinging on to mp3, which is still the main digital format. But it’s a shit format, it sounds awful.

    I think it’s healthy to be sceptical about this, but still … I’ve done a lot of work in recording studios, and I would say that usually 40-50% of the work you put into a track is gone as soon as you walk out of the door with your master tape, because what sets a great recording apart from an average one is the level of detail and finesse you put into it … which any format with compression as violent as mp3 will destroy immediately. However, mp3, on a laptop, with earbud headphones at best, is how you have to imagine most people will be listening to it.

    This is only the case because device manufacturers have made it this way… and what is needed is a new leap in technology, or at least a viable alternative, to start turning the tide, and make music sound good again.

    • I’m not necessarily a huge proponent of the mp3 format, but I would defy anyone to be able to tell the difference between lossless and 320kbps mp3 in an a/b test.

      • how much we talking?

        • If you make music your self you can definitely tell, its in the hihats and reverb tails, I usually export my stuff in 92khz but when i occasionally use 192, it is a massive difference for me, but soundcloud compresses it to fuck anyway.

  11. I’d love to leave mp3′s/mp4′s behind forever, but that triangular shape looks awkward to have in your pocket are even just to hold

  12. This is just a 24 bit 192k format. These files have been around for years. Super Audio still trumps this format, definitely not worth 400 dollars for basically a HD with a screen and a 1/4 inch output on it.

  13. The new revolution in music is here, but will it save the starving children in Africa? Maybe they will re-release “We Are The World” in PONO format…

  14. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  15. Ill give you the condensed version. It plays FLAC files.

  16. I just can’t get with this… like really? When I hear this it’s going to be like “whoa, I just realised I’ve never really heard music before!”

    I have a lot of flac files that I’ll occasionally listen to and yer often they’re much better than the mp3 versions. But it still depends how they’re encoded, mastered, normalised. The other year, just the other year I realised my mp3s of Otis Redding’s album “Live At The Whiskey A Go-Go” (SWEET live album btw) was only at 128 kbps. So I actually BOUGHT (I know) it at the itunes store at 320 kbps and I had to delete the 320s because it sounded like it was recorded underwater.

    Then I decided I needed a higher quality version of Jigsaw Falling Into Place (sweet song btw) for my DJing (even though there was nothing wrong with my 320 version) and so I downloaded the flac and this version sounded flat and not dynamic at all (I do have the vinyl, I do buy music.)

    THEN I was listening to reflektor after it came out on mp3 and my vinyl arrived, so I plugged it into my amp and got the songs synchronised and flicked between the mp3 and the phono input and guess what!? The mp3 sounded better to me so I continued on with the mp3. Maybe I just LIKE my music compressed to high heaven.

    The point of these pointless stories is that it’s not so simple as ‘higher quality source = more enjoyable sound’ – too many factors, it’s so subjective.

  17. live music is better!

    bumper stickers should be issued.

  18. I trust anything that Dave and Gil have to say.

  19. The big thing is not the player, which is just a high ended dedicated portable audio device. The big thing is the store, which will sell the music in the HD format and apparently already has backing of all major labels.

    Two problems though:
    - A lot of new music has this ‘loudness war’ overcompressed mastering, optimized for mp3 listening on noisy subway trains. You can put that in huge FLAC files all you want, it will still sound like crap on a hi-fi system, unless it’s mastered for it.
    - From what I saw in the video, old albums like Nirvana’s will be priced $17,99. Which will make sure this stays a niche product for audiophiles. The music should not be significantly more expensive than it is on cd, preferably the same price.

    In fact, I think that if they really want to make it a success, they should throw in a killer deal that convinces you to get rid of your mp3′s or cd’s, like 50 or even 100 album downloads for free if you buy the player or any album of which you can prove you already own it on cd or vinyl for $1 (this might be problematic logistically.)

  20. Maybe it’s just a device that support WAV.(that can be 24 bit 192k format) files, that have a lot more resolution that a MP3 file and for that reason is a lot “heavier” to carry around in a portable device. Also, the mixing technique and the quality of the headphones is very important. I tried a set like this when I worked for BOSE and it was exactly that…amazing experience to hear out of a portable music device! Basically you have the 5.1 listening experience that you can just get at a good recording studio or if you have a good set of headphones and listen to a “uncompressed” or “less compressed” music file that has been mixed aurally in 5.1 with a well spread stereo image

  21. This is gonna tank worse than Greenville.

  22. “Watch Arcade Fire, Jack White, Beck, Eddie Vedder, Emmylou Harris, Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith and many more talk about Pono, while tripping balls”

  23. Rarely do I get to watch a Pono movie at work

  24. Not buying these artist testimonials at ALL. Are we to believe Crosby still has the hearing ability to tell the difference between a CD and some overblown computer file? Get yourself a vinyl player and a membership to a private torrent tracker. Set for life.

  25. Ok, so I want this thing to be successful (my instinct says it won’t be),mainly so they start mastering music correctly again. But people keep saying this is just a portable music player that plays FLAC files. My question, for those of you who know more than me about FLAC (all of you?), is what is the alternative to Pono if you really want high audio quality on the go? Not a sarcastic question; I really want to know if there is another option.

  26. Do I “need” “high-quality audio” for on-the-go listening enough to throw $400 at a Wii controller? I would love to win one in a contest. Otherwise, I have to buy stuff to make spaghetti tonight.

  27. Can’t wait fro the one Robert Polllard is designing. Makes everything sound like it’s coming from your neighbor’s basement window.

  28. I’m on the fence on this one. Young has really great intentions but I don’t know if it’s gonna make everyone ditch lower quality audio for Pono.

    Also, Jack White looks kinda creepy in this video.

  29. Excited to hear this!

  30. From the video it looks like they are marketing to the over 40 white male demographic. They’re going to have to expand that if they want this thing to be a success. Most males of that age have families and might not have the $$$ to spend on OHNO in this economy. They need to woo the younger crowd-that means testimonials from hip hop and electronic musicians. The ad campaign is fuddy-duddy and elitist.

    Also, it looks like a lot of the musicians are in the same place (either airport or stadium). Watch it again and see. The only place I could think of where this would happen is a benefit concert like Hurricane Sandy. I hope that’s not the case.

    Also, Jack White looks like H R Puffenstuffs.

    • Someone in the video mentions Bonaroo, so I figure a lot of it was recorded backstage there. “Hey, want to drive around in Neil’s car and check-out Pono?”. Had to be some hot-boxing going on there too, which might explain some of the, ahem, “stunned” reactions.

      As for the demographic, I think the people in the video are more reflective of Neil’s social circle of musician friends rather than who Pono’s targeting. But your right, this won’t go far if it’s limited to old white dudes. Just the same, a lot have people are growing up listening to music exclusively in highly compressed formats, and creators are mixing their music to suit that, even take advantage of it. So the younger generation is not only used to that sound, in many ways they may prefer it because that’s what they know (try getting a kid to like home-made mac ‘n’ cheese when they’ve only ever had the Kraft version). The wamth and rounded-ness mentioned in these testimonials just isn’t as important in a lot of hip-hop, dance and electronic music – the brightness, hard-edges and artificiality are often a big part of the aesthetic.

      But the sound quality of mp3′s is a real problem, and eventually enough people will pay for something better, especially once they know what they’re missing. Who knows if Pono will really take hold, but at the very least it will push things faster in that direction.

    • To the contrary, I think they’re exactly the demographic with the *most* money to spare. The kind of people who shell out $100-200 on a regular basis to see a football game and pay $30 for parking and then spend $8 per beer and have no problem with this.

      The kind of people who don’t really know anything about digital audio formats and will just see and respond to all these huge-name classic rock artists’ testimony that this is “the greatest sound they’ve ever heard!” are a prime target audience.

  31. I really do like this idea, but I’m wondering how effective it’ll be. If they’re going back to the masters to re-master at 196khz, doesn’t that do shit all unless the album itself was recorded at 196khz? And unless you did an all analog recording, most digital recordings are recorded at 44.1/48 khz, so it doesn’t have to be truncated later and loose even more quality. Just exporting it at 196khz doesn’t mean anything unless it was recorded at 196khz. No?

    Not saying I know what I”m talking about what-so-ever, just wondering if someone can explain that to me.

    • Sounds like you do know more than most. Yes, it will be most effective on things recorded analog. A lot of digital stuff is recorded at 96. If it was recorded at 44 to 96, it can still be mixed at 192 which will offer some improvement (particularly if it’s being mixed to tape).

  32. Right, prolly Bonaroo and his cronies. This is just a promo vid, not the actual marketing. As some peeps stated PONO FLAC files are only going to enhance what’s on the tape-Springsteen produced by O’Brien is still Springsteen produced by O’Brien (too much compression, too much Bruce, not enough band, etc.). Which makes me think that there might be new PORNO remasterings, much like what iTunes is doing now. But, yeah, for analog this is gonna be great!

  33. Can you please take down this article? I can’t look at that picture of Jack White anymore. Thx.

  34. In the video they’re saying it sounds way better than a CD, but I thought a CD already has lossless, uncompressed sound. I get that you’d probably be able to hear the difference between a pono player and a 192 MP3 but I thought lossless sound is pretty much the best there is? Are they just totally full of shit or is this supposed to be better than a CD?

  35. They’re totally full of shit. This is snake oil. CD quality captures the full audible spectrum of any stereo recording. Humans cannot take advantage of the extra frequency response that PONO brings because of the biological limits of our hearing. PONO is equivalent to a TV that reaches into the infrared and ultraviolet spectrum. This is just another way to get people to buy “OK Computer” on yet another format.

  36. It’s still unclear to me. Can I rip a cd, put it in FLAC and download it on to PONO to get the daylight sound? If that’s the case I’m more inclined to get this, but if I have to rebuy my entire collection at $20 a pop, then maybe I won’t.

  37. I guess it really depends how good the dac is and your headphones, because already apple and android devices can play lossless files also

    • Exactly. But these old hippies are making it sound like you’ve never heard it like this-not on lp or cd or FLAC or coming out of the mouth of God himself! Also, are there slots for added memory cards?

  38. Are Jack White’s glasses one of the kickstarter perks?

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