Influential musician Neil Young says that in the pursuit of the convenience offered by wireless streaming, or storing large catalogs of songs on pocket-sized devices, we have sacrificed the quality of the music, and by extension our overall listening experience. But a belief that the two need not be mutually exclusive has led Young to conceive a system called PonoMusic, which he believes will afford digital music listeners the ease and accessibility of today and the audio quality of yesteryear.
PonoMusic is a system comprising an online music store and a pocket-sized device called the PonoPlayer. Much like you might purchase music through Apple's iTunes store to play on your iPod touch, classic or nano, single songs or entire albums can be bought from PonoMusic to be stored in the cloud, backed up offline and played on the device. The difference however, lies in the type of audio files on offer.
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According to PonoMusic, compressed MP3 files with a bit rate of 192 kbps or 256 kbps obscure a lot of the detail and dynamic range that is captured in the music at the time of recording. As such, the PonoMusic platform uses FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) as its standard audio format, ranging from CD lossless quality recordings at 1,411 kbps (44.1 kHz/16-bit) to ultra-high resolution recordings at 9,216 kbps (192 kHz/24-bit). The company says that this equates to between six and 30 times more information available for the PonoPlayer to use in the reconstruction of a song.
The device itself is a triangular "Toblerone" shape available in either black or yellow, weighing 4.5 oz (128 g) and measuring 5 x 2 x 1 in (12.7 x 5.1 x 2.5 cm). Users operate the player by swiping a touch screen to navigate through the music and via three buttons: volume up, volume down and an on/off switch.
A micro-USB port on one end of the device enables music synching and recharging of the lithium-ion battery, with the company claiming that each charge with the 120/240 V AC charger should be good for eight hours of listening. At the other end of the PonoPlayer are a standard headphone jack and a stereo mini-plug analog output designed to connect to your car system, stereo or home theater.
The device comes with 64 GB of memory built-in, with a removable microSD card included to up the storage to 128 GB. Though this may store less tracks in FLAC format than we are used to in a typical personal music player, it is worth noting that the PonoPlayer also supports common formats such as MP3, ALAC, WAV and AIFF.
PonoMusic launched on Kickstarter today and, perhaps unsurprisingly considering who is behind it, has already passed its US$800,000 funding goal. $300 will put you in line for one of your own, with shipping planned for October 2014 if all goes to plan.
You can hear about PonoMusic from Neil Young and some of his fellow industry heavyweights in the video below.