For the last several years, Neil Young been working on a digital music service called PONO, which he says will enhance the quality and compression of MP3s. Now, as The Guardian reports, it’s finally ready to make its debut at South by Southwest next Tuesday.
In anticipation, the company has detailed its portable listening device, the PonoPlayer, a 128GB triangular, touchscreen gadget priced at $399. (For comparison, a 64GB iPod touch retails at the same price). Though no official on-sale date has been revealed, a Kickstarter campaign will launch on March 15th with the PonoPlayer available for pre-order at a discounted price.

Developed with Ayer Acoustics, the PonoPlayer reportedly makes use of zero-feedback circuitry and a minimum phase digital filter aimed at eliminating the “unnatural pre-ringing” that can often be heard on digital tracks. As Young stated late last year, the goal of all this technology is to liberate “the music of the artist from the digital file and [restore] it to its original artistic quality – as it was in the studio.”
With 128GB onboard storage and space for memory card expansions, the PonoPlayer is said to store ”1,000 to 2,000 high-resolution digital-music albums.” These numbers, however, have already come into question on sites like Computer Audiophile. User goldsdad, for example, points out that a 128GB device “typically stores fewer than 500 albums in 16/44.1 FLAC [a prominent high-lossless format].” Details regarding how PonoMusic goes about compressing its files have yet to be fully discussed.
In addition to the player, PonoMusic will offer a desktop “media management application” where users can download, organize, and sync tracks to the PonoPlayer as well as “other high-resolution digital music devices.” The site will also offer downloads of songs formatted from “artist-approved” master recordings taken from from “both major labels and prominent independent labels.” PonoMusic recommendations for earbuds and headphones will also be sold through the site.
Below, watch Young discuss PONO on the Late Show with David Letterman.

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