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Neil Young touts MP3 player that's no Piece of Crap

Crazy Horse man saddles up 'Pono' for digital audiophiles

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Decades of performing may have left Neil Young somewhat shy of the hearing of a 20-year-old, but the poor quality of MP3 still irritates the crazy horse enough to try and do something about it.

Meet PonoMusic, which Young hopes will “unleash” all the unheard detail that MP3 (or even, if you believe what's on the company's site, CDs) conceal: “Miraculously, 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.”

At $US399 – or at an unspecified discount, once the PonoMusic Kickstarter campaign kicks off on March 15 – the 128 GB PonoPlayer is designed to store between 1,000 and 2,000 “high resolution” albums. That's somewhat less than the many tens of thousands of songs an Apple iPod can carry, but that's the point: Young's contention is essentially that compression is evil.

Ayre Acoustics has partnered with Young to develop a “minimum phase” digital filter to eliminate “pre-ringing” (presumably distinct from the more constant ringing of tinnitus, which Young has admitted to suffering). “Zero feedback” electronics, a high-quality DAC, and low output impedance all contribute to a veritable orgy of audiophile-speak surrounding the player.

There'll also be a media management system and, naturally, a store selling the high-res music “offering the finest quality, highest-resolution digital music from both major labels and prominent independent labels, curated and archived for discriminating PonoMusic customers,” as Computer Audiophile puts it.

If Pono disappoints, Young could finds himself hoist on his own petard as his 1994 tune "Piece of Crap" offers the following lyrics:

Saw it on the tube
Bought it on the phone
Now you're home alone
It's a piece of crap

I tried to plug in it
I tried to turn it on
When I got it home
It was a piece of crap

Got it from a friend
On him you can depend
I found out in the end
It was a piece of crap

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