Neil Young's Pono Music Player Is Officially In Production... And He's Already $5.2M Richer

Picture: Getty Images

Neil Young was so dismayed by the cheap sound of digital music players that he went out and built his own.

Today, his PonoMusic player ended its Kickstarter campaign, having raised $6 million from backers in just over one month.

That’s about $5.2 million more than its $800,000 goal and officially Kickstarter’s third-highest funded campaign. (Project founders get to keep the change.)

If you’d ordered one as a backer, you would have received the news in an email saying your player will be delivered in October.

Young announced his intention to bring music as it was recorded in the studio to fans at SXSW last month. The PonoPlayer and an online store, PonoMusic, promise to “move digital music into the 21st century”.

Here’s his message today to those who helped make the player a reality:

“You have helped to set the stage for a revolution in music listening. Finally, quality enters the listening space so that we can all hear and feel what the artists created, the way they heard and felt it.

This is done when the artist makes the best available, wanting to share it with you. It happens when the artist lets you hear and feel more than what is on your CD or MP3 of any song. CDs and MP3s are derived from the original masters, and now, with the PonoPlayer, you can finally feel the master in all its glory, in its native resolution, CD quality or higher, the way the artist made it, exactly.”

And here’s what the player looks like:

Audiopohiles will know that the standard sampling rate for CDs is 44.1 kHz/16 bit. The Pono can hold about 5000 tracks at that rate in its 128GB memory.

But the true magic lies at the top end – at 192 kHz/24 bit, you can hear about 800 tracks exactly as they were laid down in the studio.

Or, as Young told Rolling Stone, with “absolutely no magic sauce, no DRM, no encoding, decoding, none of the things that screw with the sound and make it an intellectual property”.

Part of the fundraising success has been Young’s ability to pull star power to the project.

Heavyweight acts such as Metallica, Pearl Jam, Beastie Boys, Dave Grohl and Mumford & Sons – as well as Young himself – have supported the project with signature series players that come preloaded with their own favourite albums.

Pledges of more than $5000 get you a 30-person VIP dinner and listening party with Young himself. Two of those – valued at $150,000 each – sold out within days.

The device itself started out as an accessory, but soon evolved into a standalone ‘Toblerone-shaped’ player with a touchscreen.

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