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Remember the Righteous Brothers? The story goes their name came from someone in the audience yelling "righteous brothers, righteous" in response to their performance. They grabbed the name and the rest is musical history. Neil Young has offered a twist on righteous: Pono. Pono means righteousness in Hawaiian and it is the name chosen for the singer's new venture into high-end audio. You've no doubt heard about Pono, a proposed new high-resolution audio format, player and download service. I bring this to your attention because there's been a few new developments in this project: local audio designer Charlie Hanson (of Ayre) has been asked to help make it sound good and they are going to try and launch this on Kickstarter. Two big news items indeed. I first heard about Pono in an article I read that suggested Steve Jobs and Neil Young both wanted something better in sound quality than an iPod. Then, in September 2012, Young appeared on the Letterman show to tell about the device. The original idea seems to have been hatched in response to the low quality of the MP3 format. The system looks to be based on a $399 player that accepts files downloaded from a service for a fee, meaning you'll have to repurchase your library again. Best I can tell they are using PCM, 192kHz/24 bits and have some special lossless encoding scheme to facilitate storage and download services; most likely developed by Meridian. But what's really intriguing is that Young has apparently negotiated deals with the major labels to release high-resolution versions of their libraries. That's awesome, I just hope you aren't required to have a Pono Player to enjoy them. Time will tell. When you combine the renewed interest in high-resolution audio by Sony, plus the excitement over DSD and add to that the Pono download service just mentioned, this is an exciting trend with great music as the goal. Then there's the Kickstarter campaign that's scheduled to launch on the 12th of this month. Kickstarter, for those of you that don't know, is a crowd funding website that usually offers new products at a discount to early adopters in exchange for preorders. Those preorders then generate enough capital to fund the development/production of a new product, thus "kickstarting" it into the world. A rather overlooked benefit of Kickstarter is the worldwide exposure the site brings to a new product; and its not restricted to Audiophiles. This maybring the notion of high-resolution audio to the masses who thought their MP3's were as good as it gets. That someone as famous as neil Young is telling music lovers around the world there's something better than lossless MP3s is great. That you must repurchase your entire library to get those benefits is going to be a tough sell to MP3 owners, less so to our crowd if the download service is available for playback on devices other than this proprietary one. To quote from the Pono website: "there's a wealth of music & soul (or if you must,"data") trapped on millions of recordings made over the last half century, that we're hoping to unleash for the very first time. Can you imagine? Your own personal time machine, to take you back to the place and time of the original musical event, and let you feel music in ways you've only felt seeing it live? We here at Pono are listening to it now and assure you, IT'S AMAZING!!!!" Hmmmm. That sounds familiar. :) Hey, a rising tide floats all boats.
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Paul McGowan

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