updated 06:15 am EDT, Fri September 28, 2012
Neil Young continues crusade to improve digital music
Neil Young has made an appearance on the David Letterman show to promote a new music player and digital music service branded Pono. The new Pono players will support the playback of audio master files stored digitally in high-resolution, 192kHz/24-bit sound, reports Rolling Stone. The new Pono service, which will launch next year, has the backing of Warner Music Group with Meridian and Dolby involved as well.
Warner Music Group has already converted its libray to the high-resolution format in readiness for the launch. Young has received backing from Craig Kallman, the chairman and CEO of Atlantic Records, who helped to put together the Pono team. The pair has also been in talks with the other two key industry players in Sony Music and Universal Music Group. Flea, of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers is also a huge fan of the sound quality that Pono has achieved. "It's not like some vague thing that you need dogs' ears to hear. It's a drastic difference."
Young says that he has many times tried to talk to Apple about the quality of the music it delivers on iTunes, before deciding to take matters into his own hands. Apple uses the AAC (mp4) format, which is said to be 'near CD-quality,' although trained ears can tell the difference. Lossless formats like FLAC and ALAC improve the listening experience, providing more definition and clarity to the sound, although Apple does not support FLAC media playback. Its media players do, however, support WAV playback, which is often used as a format in media production and which sounds markedly better than AAC recordings.
However, for reasons likely to do with bandwidth and the efficient serving of music to customers, Apple has continued to serve up AAC in its iTunes Plus format, which is 256kbps AAC encodings. These, while an improvement from the original 128kbps AAC recordings Apple initially served customers, is still not on the same level as lossless encodes, or better still, the digitially uncompressed recordings as the Pono service promises to deliver. Taking things one step further, the Pono players will also include a digital to analog conversion technolgy to make the music sound even more organic.
The Pono music players will also support recordings already purchased from iTunes and other digital storefronts, however, users wanting to upgrade their recordings will have to repurchase their music through Pono when it launches. Young actually hopes that Pono will help to spur Apple "to be better and to improve quality at a faster pace." [via The Verge]