Neil Young Live: Pono Gets a Partner

Part rock legend, part entrepreneur, part evangelist, part curmudgeon, Neil Young held a press briefing on Tuesday. Mr. Young and his PonoMusic venture have enjoyed considerable media exposure lately and the CES is perhaps the juiciest venue of them all. At a Hi-Res Audio event, Mr. Young reiterated his passion for Pono. And, the press was informed of an interesting partnership.

Perhaps the best way to convey the atmosphere at a Neil Young event is to let the man's words speak for themselves (because of my limited note-taking skills, please allow me to paraphrase somewhat). “I didn't listen to music for 15 years....MP3 is like looking through a screen door. With Pono, music rises to the level it once was at...I can listen again. Pono is important for civilization, to preserve the art. The U.S. is the center of culture in the world, and the U.S. is responsible to do the best it can to rescue an art form. Pono is like an iPod, but it sounds like God.”

“I don't like the term, 'audiophile,' I prefer to work with music lovers. I'm not interested in sales, I'm just a guy who loves music. Blu-ray sounds great, but it is super clunky, a disaster. With PonoMusic, we work to find the best files we can get. We pressure artists and record companies to give us good files...we will pay for remastering....all of our tracks are hi-res [compared to MP3] with CD quality as base-level files. We are working on 192k for Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, Thriller and others. We ask for remasters of analog masters, even if they are second generation, because they will sound better.

The announcement was a partnership with Harman. Specifically, Harman will work to bring Pono to its OEM audio systems for cars. This will raise the bar on mobile sound quality, with the inherent limitation of ambient noise that works against mobile sound quality. Still, the fact is that many people listen to music primarily while driving, and hi-res in cars is probably the best way to introduce Pono to the consumer music industry. As an aside, PonoMusic has about 2.1 million tracks in its database, with titles from both major and independent record labels.

I have mixed feelings about Pono, and hope to elaborate on that at another time. Still, I have great respect for Mr. Young and his passion for music; his efforts to put sound quality back on people's radar screens is nothing but commendable.

See Mark Fleishcmann's post for more on Young's witticisms.