Neil Young to launch hi-fi music player via Kickstarter

The PonoPlayer was designed to surpass the sound quality of MP3 files

Neil Young is set to launch a high-fidelity audio player, the PonoPlayer, on Kickstarter March 15. The device is billed as offering "studio master-quality digital music at the highest audio fidelity possible."

Neil Young is set to launch a high-fidelity audio player, the PonoPlayer, on Kickstarter March 15. The device is billed as offering "studio master-quality digital music at the highest audio fidelity possible."

A portable music player that promises better sound fidelity than MP3s is set to launch on Kickstarter with backing from veteran rocker Neil Young.

The PonoPlayer will be available for order on the crowdfunding site starting March 15, according to a leaked release purported to be from Young's PonoMusic.

The company did not immediately respond to inquiries but it posted an article on Facebook that refers to the leaked release.

Backers of the Kickstarter campaign will be able to order the player at a discount from the manufacturer's suggested retail price of US$399. The shipping date has not been announced.

The player is billed as offering "studio master-quality digital music at the highest audio fidelity possible" from major and independent record labels. Observers have said it may prompt Apple to consider improving the sound quality on MP3s offered on its popular iTunes music service.

The device has an unusual triangular form factor and an LCD touch screen. It has 128GB of memory and can store 1,000 to 2,000 high-resolution music albums, according to the leaked release.

Young, a Grammy Award winner who has been recording since the 1960s, will unveil the player on Tuesday at the SXSW 2014 Music Conference. He has been working on the project based on the belief that MP3 and CD are "flawed" digital music formats, as PonoMusic said on its website.

Data that is "trapped" on recordings made over the last 50 years can be used to recreate music as it sounded by the musicians that originally played it, according to the company.

"Hearing Pono for the first time is like that first blast of daylight when you leave a movie theater on a sun-filled day," Young was quoted as saying on PonoMusic's Facebook page.

It remains to be seen whether the PonoPlayer will only appeal to audiophiles or find a wider following. Commentators on the Facebook page questioned its price, triangular form and whether the improved music fidelity will actually be discernible.

However, the growing, if cult, popularity of music releases on vinyl indicates that there is an appetite for music recordings with a fuller sound than is permitted by compressed digital files.

The project also involves an online music store called PonoMusic, and a desktop media management app called Pono. It can sync with the PonoPlayer as well as other high-resolution devices, the company said without giving details.

"Pono has huge potential to get civilians into better sounding music," audiophile Chris Connaker wrote in response to comments about the press release that he leaked. "All ships rise with the tide."

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