To borrow a line from Monty Python, Pono’s not dead yet. In a new interview with Rolling Stone, Neil Young says he’s looking into adapting the service for hi-res streaming.
“We’re setting up right now partnerships for a Pono hi-res streaming service, and when we get our streaming service up, we’re gonna re-emerge as a streaming service and a hi-res download offer,” Young says on the just instituted Rolling Stone Music Now podcast. “That’s what we do, that’s our service: We provide the best that’s available — full-resolution music, great-sounding music — and we’re pushing towards getting our presence in phones and being able to be part of large partnerships that will enable us to be able to share the sound of hi-res and have people experience the sound of hi-res in music, like they have in television.” (I’m cool with that.)
Pono initially launched in January 2015 with a library of 2 million songs, allowing users to purchase and download lossless FLAC files of each track. As for me, I was an early Pono proponent, interviewed Neil about it personally back in 2014, and I still have my Tom Petty Signature Series model (#465 of 495) within arm’s length of where I’m typing this.
Unfortunately, as Billboard reports, Pono had been struggling since its launch, and most recently, it was taken offline this past July after its provider, Omnifone, went into “administration” and was purchased by an unidentified buyer. Five months later, the platform remains out of service, but Young isn’t throwing in the towel just yet — and probably never will, IMO. Say what you will about the arc of the Pono saga, but I’m all-in with anyone who remains this passionate about delivering hi-res audio to the masses.
Over on the RSMN podcast, Young notes Pono will not use lossless compression methods, but is in the process of setting up a partnership with a company based in Singapore that will allow Pono to stream its catalog at varying levels of audio quality.
“We want to maintain our quality level when we go to streaming, and I think we can,” he says. “And if you have the bandwidth, you can get the full frequency, the full everything. If you don’t have the bandwidth, your app will show you what you’re missing…. You’ll be able to move around, and there won’t be any break in the music, but the resolution of the sound will change, and you’ll be able to tell what happened when you look at your screen. And that will educate people as to the difference between hi-resolution music and regular streaming-level music.”
As Billboard also points out, Young has always positioned Pono as a teaching tool for fans who want to hear tracks with the full audio resolution with which they were recorded, which would necessarily limit its user base to audiophiles — like moi, and you — and the like. After recently reversing his overall stance on streaming — Young allowed Tidal the rights to stream his catalog this past April — the veteran rocker believes Pono’s musical ideals can work hand-in-hand with the music industry’s preferred method of consumption.
“If the track is available that way, we will be able to stream it that way,” he believes. “That’s up to the record companies and the artists and what they provide us with. They’re free to make any quality they want. It’s their product.”
Naturally, HRAC will keep you updated on where the service goes next. Go Team Pono go, sayeth I…