Neil Young's new music player focuses on high quality digital files, Pono, and seems on the surface like a dubious idea. In the age of smartphones as the ultimate mobile computing device, building something that looks like a weird cross between a Zune and an iPod seems like an old idea.
But now that we've got that skepticism out of the way, it's worth noting the PonoMusic Kickstarter project started on Tuesday has raised over $2 million dollars--breaking records for speedy funding on the site. Also, the players actually do sound really good. That's the goal for Young, who has said that even if Pono doesn't succeed, merely offering an alternative to our compressed, degraded MP3 world.
Good music, says the Canadian musician, is still something people love. And if young people heard it the way musicians meant for it to be heard, then Young thinks they might go for it.
"It's like an amazing drug, that once you have it, you have to have more," says Young. "That's the way real, good-sounding music is."
The question is, will earbud-toting mellenials will even know the difference. Or if I can tell, for that matter. And the answer remains to be seen. But Young believes in it enough to work on it for several years, and this is the result. If the kickstarter is any indication, Young is not alone. Listening to the player through earbuds and through a stereo at Pono's demo location in South Austin, you can almost imagine vinyl lovers of all ages picking it up.