Would You Buy Neil Young's High-Res Music Player?
Legendary singer-songwriter and musician Neil Young believes his "Pono" digital music player is the next 'must-have' gadget.
Young says that people who use the iPod and most other digital music players aren't hearing music the way it was intended to be heard. That's also why he firmly believes there will be great demand for Pono.
Unlike the iPod and similar devices, Pono is built with audiophiles in mind. The major difference is that Pono is able to play music using a high-resolution "lossless" audio format, called FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec). By default, FLAC will be the audio format standard for the device, though it's suggested other high-resolution music formats will be supported.
FLAC Audio Format Versus MP3
Devices like the iPod use the MP3 audio file format (among others) to play music.
When comparing FLAC to MP3, the difference is substantial in both audio quality as well as file size. FLAC file sizes are considerably larger, and the quality of the audio recording is much cleaner.
That's because MP3 files use a "lossy" algorithm (codec) to shrink the original recordings from a source format (typically CD or DVD audio) into a much smaller size. To achieve a smaller file size, the bitrate of the source audio is reduced. A lowered bitrate essentially strips out data from the original, which then results in degradation in audio quality -- hence Young's vision for a better audio experience with Pono.
Most music devices such as the iPod have limited storage space, so the MP3 format has been widely used across platforms for many years. But that is likely to change in the very near future with substantially faster Internet connection speeds (which is used to acquire audio files), and as storage space in music playing devices also increase.
So, how does FLAC compare to an MP3 in file size?
For comparison purposes, an original (pressed) music CD is stored in a lossless WAV format. As an example: a 3 minute song in WAV format might be around 40MB when it's been ripped and stored on a PC. Converting the WAV into MP3 at 128kb bitrate might yield a file size approximately 1/10 of the original. That's a substantial savings, but the resulting file audio quality would not be anywhere near the same. Converting the WAV into FLAC would yield roughly a 50% compression ratio; however, because FLAC is a lossless format, audio quality would be retained.
Pono: Unique Shape Also Helps to Improve Battery Life
Compared to the iPod, the Pono is also set apart by its look.
The device features a unique triangular design and is quite small: just 5 inches high, 2 inches wide, and 1 inch deep. The company behind Pono, PonoMusic, says the unique shape allows for the use of "a large, cylindrical battery that's much more efficient than a flat battery." (Source: cnet.com)
The Pono's size is also designed to accommodate larger components and give those parts lots of space -- thereby reducing interference. PonoMusic says this helps improve audio quality and will set the Pono apart from devices like the slimmer iPod Touch. (Source: zdnet.com)
Pono features a touchscreen display and 64GB internal storage, with an additional 64GB available through a microSD slot. The Pono will be available in two colors: black or yellow.
Pono is said to have its own PonoMusic Web store, which will be similar to Apple's iTunes.
Pono Raises Millions Through Kickstarter
Young has been discussing an alternative to the iPod and iPod clones for years. But now Young's vision has finally come to fruition, with the Pono unveiled on crowd-sourcing website Kickstarter this month.
Clearly, many others share Young's opinion that there's room for Pono in the digital music market. While the Pono's original Kickstarter goal was $800,000, after just a few weeks supporters have pledged an astounding $3 million. (Source: kickstarter.com)
The Pono is expected to retail for $399 when it goes on sale this fall. That price point is roughly the same price as Apple's 64GB iPod Touch.
What's Your Opinion?
Are you disappointed in the audio quality of most MP3 players on the market right now? Do you agree with Neil Young's vision that the Pono is the next must-have gadget for music lovers? Would you be willing to pay $399 for the Pono, or would you opt for an iPod instead? What do you think of the device's unique shape and size, compared to an iPod?
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