Are you wondering why you should be excited about Neil Young’s Pono music playing device? If you were Neil Young and you wanted to listen to your first recordings from when you were in your 20s in the 1960s, you may find the originals are disintegrating. You might want to create a device that saves the day and your music. In Neil Young’s opinion, PonoMusic is technology that is going to save the quality of his original recordings, and more.
As someone who is a singer and has worked with recording musicians, I have heard the analog versus digital argument far too many times. At least 100 of my friends insist that vinyl records made from analog recordings are superior to digital MP3/MP4 formats. Record player repair specialists at Louisville’s Magnetic Tape Recording Company help support our habit and ideology.
In the end, I side with the vinyl record analog fanatics for a very good reason. Mainly, digital formats cut off the fine edges of recorded sounds and basically shorten recorded sound waves. When these sounds are compacted as they transfer from analog to MP3/MP4 formats that are used on devices like iPods, a careful listener can notice the difference. However, on top of preserving aging analog recordings through computer coding, musician Neil Young promises that he is behind a handheld music device that will marry the analog and digital music worlds.
What is the magic behind PonoMusic?
If you are looking to buy the Pono to try for yourself, you might be waiting. While the excitement over Pono increased in 2013, the Kickstarter for this project was only launched in March 2014. Already, it has been cited as one of the top earning Kickstarters of all times with $5 million donated in less than a month.
In an open email to PonoMusic supporters in early April, Neil Young states that PonoMusic is the start of a longer project to rescue music and promote the world’s music history. To understand this last statement, and perhaps the true value behind PonoMusic technology, a longer explanation of the upcoming magnetic tape apocalypse is required.
The over-photocopied effect interrupted
The Pono is a music device that is supposed to be a little better than your typical MP3/MP4 digital players, but is there more? In fact, Neil Young talks about the Pono being the start of something big. A short explanation is that, in the past 100 years, we figured out how to record music — but no one (except Pono?) figured out the best way to preserve the physical materials (magnetic tape) that this music was recorded on. A longer explanation of what Pono hopes to overcome involves the common office photocopier as an analogy. We all know the drill about copying a copy of a copy. When you do your own photocopying at a grocery store or post office, chances are that if you keep copying a copy of a copy of a copy, you will eventually start printing distortions. Is the same true about professionally recorded music?
Sadly, analog recordings on various types of cassette tapes will eventually disintegrate, and replicating replicas with analog has its drawbacks. Invented in 1923, the problem that is coming up on the horizon for analog cassette recordings is that professional music archivists are not sure the exact expiration date of magnetic tape. This means that treasured music classics recorded on analog magnetic tapes around the world are racing against the clock.
Fortunately, Pono may be the company to significantly reverse this loss. Instead of only having limited digital replicas of analog music classics, Pono would be able to fully transfer all of the analog sounds to an amazing new type of digital format that can be continuously replicated without losing quality. This new digital format would also be important because quality will not be lost due to gradual magnetic tape aging.
Pono’s true value for the average consumer is hi-def audio
For the common consumer, Pono’s history and noble quest to save analog music will not be as important as practicality. To put it simply, the common consumer of music tech will like this device because it is the first to deliver hi-definition audio in a handheld device. Pono will sell the devices with increasing levels of resolution. The ultra-high model will be the most expensive and create the most refined sounds of them all. In technical terms the premium Pono has ultra-high resolution recordings at 9216 kbps (192 kHz/24 bit) FLAC.
More on the horizon for PonoMusic player
On the PonoMusic Facebook page, there are consumers wanting to know more about the device. A top question is whether the device will have an adapter to play in the car. On their website, top musicians like Eddie Vetter are promoting Pono as the wave of the future. Will Pono be a top-selling device that also sells premium recorded music or just a new way for archivists to preserve music? Hopefully, for the supporters of this piece of new music technology, it will be both. In the end, will I throw away my record player and vinyl to exclusively use Pono? Not likely. After all, I would like to Pono pull some magic out of their hat and open a market for re-pressing some of these disintegrating historic recordings.