Oh how times have changed. I remember growing up with the cassette tape as the medium of choice for any discerning music lover. I had my Superwoofer tape deck with four speakers along the front and I used to generously share my collection of heavy metal with my parents and neighbours.
In my early teens, my friends and I used to share our music with each other and we used to “tape” each others’ albums. After a 2nd or 3rd generation copy gets copied onto your 3 year old cassette you can just about hear the music above the hiss. Then of course you had the added joy of the tape stretching or getting chewed up and having to use a biro to wind it carefully back onto the spool.
These days poor sound quality is due to digital compression of MP3s. Many artists are being vocal about the level of clarity listeners are accepting, especially after the amount of effort put in to sculpting their aural masterpiece in the studio.
One such artist is Neil Young who recently appeared on Letterman with a prototype of the latest portable music device the Pono (Hawaiian for Righteous apparently). Young claims that it can produce “the best sound anyone can get” and converts digital files to anologue sounding recordings.
Pono uses its own file format which can be downloaded as per other music download sites. Warner, Sony, and Universal are reportedly all on board, and while you’ll have to re-buy songs if you want to hear them in their high-definition glory, the Pono devices will also play back tracks bought from other digital stores.
The Guardian believe that this is just musicians being elitist and this will only appeal to high-end audio enthusiasts, citing Super Audio CD and DVD Audio as previous attempts to improve audio quality that never really caught on. The Pono however has the convenience of an MP3 player so it may be more successful. I think the defining factor will be the price of the player and the price of the tunes. It is playing at 24bit after all!
So let us know your thoughts on the Pono. Will it catch on and have mass appeal or is it just one for the enthusiasts?