About this project
We thank the community for their love and confidence in making us the 3rd most funded project in Kickstarter history.
For more information and PonoMusic pre-orders (coming soon!), go to www.ponomusic.com.
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Thank You from Neil Young.
Pono means righteous. It is a Hawaiian word, the one, the pureness. On behalf of Pono, we thank you for helping us give music a voice. You have helped to set the stage for a revolution in music listening. Finally, quality enters the listening space so that we can all hear and feel what the artists created, the way they heard and felt it.
This is done when the artist makes the best available, wanting to share it with you. It happens when the artist lets you hear and feel more than what is on your CD or MP3 of any song. CDs and MP3s are derived from the original masters, and now, with the PonoPlayer, you can finally feel the master in all its glory, in its native resolution, CD quality or higher, the way the artist made it, exactly. That’s the beauty of Pono.
It’s been a long time coming. It was not easy getting this far, but you made it happen by supporting Pono’s vision for better listening. We have been working with the labels, with the artists and producers, and we will continue to do that. We go to the source to find the best and bring it to you. Pono wants to preserve the history of music, in all of its beauty and expression, for all time. Forever.
There is a way to do this right, and we are going to do it. We will be sharing how we will do this with you over the next few months, while we build your first ever PonoPlayers. We are going to do some revolutionary things. We will make music available in a way that has never been done, a way that allows for constantly attaining the best listening experience.
Thank you to the artists, the recording companies, big and small, and most of all, thanks to you music lovers for making this happen with your amazing support.
Thanks for listening,
& the PonoMusic Team
A message to Artists:
First, we say “thanks” to all of you artists who have been here with Pono since the beginning. We are deeply grateful for your encouragement and support.
When you and your recording team go into a studio or recording environment to create your latest music, there are many choices for you to make. Besides the studios, songs, players, singers, producers, engineers, microphones, and other equipment, you have the ability to choose from the numerous digital resolutions at your disposal to capture your sound. This is where Pono can make a giant difference.
Now, whatever resolution you choose to employ for your recording process, your masters can be heard by your listeners exactly as you created them. You no longer have to be satisfied with MP3 or CD being what your fans hear. Pono plays back anything you can create, just as you made it, in the digital domain.
Even if you record in analog, when you mix your songs and record them to an analog 2 track, you can copy that to the digital resolution you choose (preferably the highest) and have your listeners hear that exact recording.
If you are an artist who has been recording for years and this has been your life and always will be, your original creations in analog can be transferred to the highest quality digital and heard anew with Pono. No longer do your original recordings have to be the compressed sound of CDs and MP3s. It’s all up to you. It is in your power to rescue your art and bring it into the 21st Century, preserved for generations to hear and enjoy. You can talk to your producer or record company and learn how to make that available to your listeners on Pono.
If you are a new artist, always released on MP3s and CDs, then your horizon has just been radically expanded. You can now record in whatever resolution you choose and your fans will hear the same quality you heard in the studio. You no longer have to lose part of your sound when it goes to the people. You probably know what I mean, having heard your creation when you mixed it, feeling that rush, only to be let down by the end product, the product your audience has had to accept. You probably know it was better when you first heard it than what they got. That is over. You are no longer limited by a format. Now your audience can hear what you hear.
Go back to your digital masters and see what they sounded like compared to what was released. Now, if you want to, they can all be released in their original glory. If you elect to, you can make the higher-resolution sources of your CDs and MP3s available to your listeners on Pono. It doesn’t matter what resolution you originally employed; if it is higher than what was released, and you can hear the difference, your fans can hear it. They deserve the best and Pono delivers it for you. Pono plays anything back just as you made it.
In the studio, with your brand new creations, high resolution is a great option. Resolutions are all different in their depths and textures. These can be used, and mixed together. A hook can be recorded in a higher resolution than the track it sits on, further setting it apart in your creation. So can a vocal. Resolution is a new tool for you to use. As long as you mix in the highest resolution found in your creation, or higher, everything will be captured. Especially, real echo and acoustic instruments, like drums, benefit from higher resolutions. Don’t take anyone’s word for this. Listen for yourself. Make your own decision. It’s an artistic right you have.
Doing this does not mean you cannot still make CDs and MP3s. They can be derived from your original masters.
Your choices matter now more than ever before because your fans will hear the difference. Thousands of documented Pono listens have proven that music lovers can tell the difference between what they had before with CDs and MP3s and what they can have now with Pono. Look at the videos on ponomusic.com and see the reactions. Those are your people. They feel more from the music with Pono.
High quality digital is wonderful to hear and sense. It is the sound of the 21st Century. Almost no one has heard it outside the studio. As artists, with Ponomusic, we have renewed opportunities for expression that have long been lost.
The Ponomusic player can bring new light to all of your creations through Ponomusic.
Record companies, this is an opportunity to rescue the art of recorded sound. Why should a Frank Sinatra recording or an Adele recording or a Nirvana, Rolling Stones, Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Who, or classical recording be limited to the CD format for the future? This music is world cultural history. All of this cultural history should be preserved for enjoyment of the people in its highest possible form forever. In the 21st Century, people, and art, deserve this technology. Bring it on. Now, as never before, it is possible.
Our listeners should hear what we heard.
Thanks for listening,
What is PonoMusic?
"Pono" is Hawaiian for righteous. What righteous means to our founder Neil Young is honoring the artist’s intention, and the soul of music. That’s why he’s been on a quest, for a few years now, to revive the magic that has been squeezed out of digital music. In the process of making music more convenient – easier to download, and more portable – we have sacrificed the emotional impact that only higher quality music can deliver. However, the world has changed in the last 10 years – technology has solved some of the underlying problems that forced that tradeoff. You no longer have to choose between quality and convenience when listening to music – you can have both. This is the fundamental idea behind PonoMusic.
Pono's mission is to provide the best possible listening experience of your favorite music. We want to be very clear that PonoMusic is not a new audio file format or standard. PonoMusic is an end-to-end ecosystem for music lovers to get access to and enjoy their favorite music exactly as the artist created it, at the recording resolution they chose in the studio. We offer PonoMusic customers the highest resolution digital music available. PonoMusic is more than just a high-resolution music store and player; it is a grassroots movement to keep the heart of music beating. PonoMusic aims to preserve the feeling, spirit, and emotion that the artists put in their original studio recordings.
We are pursuing this vision by building a system for the entire music listening experience – from the original master recordings to the PonoMusic.com Store to the portable PonoPlayer. So now you’ll hear the nuances, the soft touches, and the ends on the echo – the texture and the emotion of the music the artist worked so hard to create.
Please see FAQ at the bottom of this page for answers to the most commonly asked questions.
Kind Words from the Press & Our Backers:
The Washington Post: "The Pono Kickstarter was funded because people wanted the Pono Player."
Maureen Jackson, Kickstarter backer: “Preserving the history of music. I like that!”
Forbes: “Pono Music’s Kickstarter campaign is actually brilliant.”
Mark Sterling, Kickstarter backer: “How long was that? 8 hours? People want this.”
Slate: "They met that goal in under a day.”
Dennis Lane, Kickstarter backer: “Pono, where music becomes real again.”
Techcrunch: "Call it a Toblerone bar. Call it a relic of the past. But you also have to call it successful."
Stephen, Kickstarter backer: “For me, Pono isn't about fixing music. It's about returning artistic integrity to the process.”
Scott Martin, Kickstarter backer: “It’s a revolution Neil when people care and come together. It’s special and rare.”
SHOCKPROOF, Kickstarter backer: “The Next Generation in Digital Music! It's a REVOLUTION!”
Mashable: "The team argues that the Kickstarter campaign is validation that there is a market for high-quality music beyond just a handful of audiophiles."
Kyle French, Kickstarter backer: “Here's to continued success in furthering the music experience.”
SPIN: "Neil Young's PonoMusic is all about the quality."
The Hollywood Reporter: “[The team has] been heavily involved with their Kickstarter audience, fielding questions, comments and concerns in order to share the full experience with their supporters.”
Carlos, Kickstarter backer: “We here you and feel you the way you are intending... Make that Picasso...We are in the front row and we are watching.”
Forbes: “[Neil Young’s] raising money for Pono ... at a rate of about $700 per minute via Kickstarter.”
DMN: "$6 Million Says People Care About Sound Quality."
Ute Conzendorf, Kickstarter backer: “As you see many many people believed in your wonderful idea. It turned to reality.”
Mark A Smith, Kickstarter backer: “Music is such a part of the positive legacy of humankind. Never Stop Creating!”
Why should you support our Kickstarter?
PonoMusic is about a lot of things, but first and foremost it’s about the connection between the artists and their fans – the music, and the people who can’t live without it. We see Kickstarter as a way to strengthen those bonds by letting musicians and music fans get behind the thing that matters most to all of us – the music itself.
Our Kickstarter is about bringing creators and consumers together. It is about the formation of a community that values the experience of listening to music the way the artists made it, at the highest quality they can obtain.
We also wanted to allow music fans to connect with their favorite artists in a special way through the campaign - we are offering limited edition Signature Series PonoPlayers from artists such as:
Elton John, ZZ Top, Portugal the Man, Grateful Dead, Kings of Leon, The Eagles, Kenny Rogers, Neil Young With Crazy Horse, Tegan and Sara, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Emmylou Harris, Lyle Lovett, Jackson Browne, Neil Young, Tom Petty, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Crosby Stills & Nash, Foo Fighters, Willie Nelson, Metallica, Patti Smith, Arcade Fire, Beck, Dave Matthews, Herbie Hancock, Buffalo Springfield, Norah Jones, Lenny Kravitz, Pearl Jam, My Morning Jacket, and James Taylor.
The Artist Limited Edition PonoPlayers have a non-metal casing with a chrome finish. They will have laser-engraved artist signatures, including all band members in the case of groups. They ship to you pre-loaded with the artist's two favorite high resolution albums from their own body of work. We will be introducing additional Artist Limited Edition Series PonoPlayers throughout the campaign as more artists step forward - so keep watching our pledge levels & rewards on the right to see new artists as they become available.
More about the PonoPlayer...
The PonoPlayer is a purpose-built device, designed by world-renowned audio engineers, to do one thing and one thing exceedingly well - let you hear high quality PonoMusic as close to its original recorded resolution as possible, and therefore, the original musical experience.
Your PonoPlayer works in much the same way as most other portable music devices. The PonoMusic App (for Mac or Windows PC) provides you access to the PonoMusic.com Store, where you can browse, search, purchase and download high-resolution music to your computer. You then simply connect your PonoPlayer micro USB cable to your computer's USB port in order to sync your favorite music and playlists. Then you can enjoy your music on your PonoPlayer at the same quality level as the original recording. The touchscreen LCD allows for easy “swipe” navigation between songs, albums, artists, genres, and playlists. It also allows you to change the settings in the player to suit your personal taste.
The PonoPlayer has two output jacks. The first is a normal mini-stereo output specially designed for headphones and is meant for personal listening. The second is a stereo mini-plug analog output specifically designed for listening on your home audio system, in your car, or with your Sonos Connect – so you can share the PonoMusic experience with your friends and family.
The PonoPlayer ships with a total of 128GB. 64GB of memory is built into the player and another 64GB of memory on a removable microSD card. The expansion slot can accept microSD cards of up to 64GB or SDXC microSD cards of 128GB or higher. Unlike many other portable music players, the microSD cards are designed to be easily swappable. For example, you can build a library of various playlists or genres on different cards and simply swap them in and out, much like you'd swap game cards on a portable gaming console. So in reality you have infinite capacity on the PonoPlayer.
How many songs can it hold? That depends on the quality of your music files:
- CD lossless quality recordings (44.1 kHz/16 bit): About 5000 tracks.
- High-resolution recordings (48 kHz/24 bit): About 3200 tracks.
- Higher-resolution recordings (96 kHz/24 bit): About 1600 tracks.
- Ultra-high resolution recordings (192 kHz/24 bit): About 800 tracks.
This is a LOT of high-resolution music, and we say, “the more the better”. You’ll get hooked on how good this music sounds.
What do we consider to be high quality digital music?
- Generally speaking, mp3 files
have a bit rate of 192kbps or 256kbps. These are highly compressed
files and are much smaller in size than higher resolution music files. The
good news is that you can keep a lot of mp3 files in a small amount of storage
on a portable player or mobile device. The bad news is that they’ve lost
a lot of the musical information that often reveals the most pleasant and
satisfying aspects of the music. It is mostly that sense of realism, dynamic
range, and detail that higher resolution recordings typically capture in a way
that restores the emotion in the song.
On the “low end” of higher resolution music (CD lossless, 44.1kHz/16 bit), PonoMusic files have about 6 times more musical information than a typical mp3. With ultra-high resolution recordings (192kHz/24 bit), the difference between a PonoMusic digital file and an mp3 is about 30 times more data from which your player reconstructs the “song”.
- CD lossless quality recordings: 1411 kbps (44.1 kHz/16 bit) FLAC files
- High-resolution recordings: 2304 kbps (48 kHz/24 bit) FLAC files
- Higher-resolution recordings: 4608 kbps (96 kHz/24 bit) FLAC files
- Ultra-high resolution recordings: 9216 kbps (192 kHz/24 bit) FLAC files
The Evolution of the PonoPlayer Design...
- Over the three years of PonoPlayer
development, we considered many different designs and concepts. One of the
early ideas was to make an accessory for a smartphone that contained storage
for the music tracks along with advanced audio electronics. The phone’s
display would be used to navigate and play the songs, but with the songs would
be stored in the accessory’s memory. A Bluetooth connection would communicate
between the phone and the accessory to select and play the desired song. This
design was dismissed, for now, because it was very complicated to use and
required two devices to play music.
- We talked a lot about making
the player thin, to snap onto the back of a phone so it could be carried as one
unit. But that meant you’d need a different player design for each phone model,
and we found that it was not possible to put some of the large audio
components – required for the best performance – into a
thin package. This led us to design the accessory in the shape of a triangular
“Toblerone” shaped chocolate bar. It allowed us to use larger audio
components and to separate them far enough apart to prevent electrical
interference between the various subsystems. It also allowed us to use a large
cylindrical battery that’s much more efficient than a flat battery.
- Neil Young: The vision, force, energy, and voice of PonoMusic
- John Hamm: CEO and team leader – building the team and business
- Elliot Roberts: Our Artist Relations executive.
- Pedram Abrari: The PonoMusic.com consumer experience leader – software and technology
- Phil Baker: The PonoPlayer development leader – hardware and manufacturing
- Attractor Ventures: Gigi Brisson and Harvey Allison
- Buchalter Nemer (Legal support): Rick Cohen
- Semiphore Systems (Hardware, firmware, and electronics): Dave Gallatin, Dave Paulsen
- MX (Player app): Ole Lütjens, Joe Rice, and the MX team
- Ayre Acoustics (PonoPlayer audio technology): Charles Hansen
- Mike Nuttall Design (Industrial design): Mike Nuttall
- AudioQuest (Computer audio technology support): Joe Harley and Steve Silberman
- PCH International (Manufacturing partner): Liam Casey and the team
- Lime Lab (Manufacturing & mechanical engineering): Andre Yousefi, Simon Gatrall, and Phil Stob
- Upstream (Graphic design, audio & video): William Mitchell, Ben Johnson, Toshi Onuki, Kris Kunz, Mark Faulkner, and Hannah Johnson
- Hanft Projects (Marketing content & messaging): Adam Hanft and Lucas Hanft
- Pentagram (Website design & Kickstarter campaign)
- Hollywood Pixels (Photography & graphic design): Franz Krachtus
- Vann Alexandra Daly (Kickstarter producer)
- It then became obvious that if
we added a touch display, we could make the player completely self-contained.
It wouldn’t need to be tied to your phone and there would be no
interruptions from an incoming call while you were enjoying your music. It would
be the best playback device ever for listening to high quality digital
music. We realized that music this good deserved a truly purpose built,
dedicated device to enjoy it. There was no “Swiss Army knife” good enough for
the music we wanted you to hear.
- This triangular shape also has
additional benefits: it can be held upright for one-hand operation or it can
sit flat on your desktop or home stereo system. The display automatically
rotates depending on the orientation of the device. But the best thing about
this shape is that we were able to include the best sounding audio components
with absolutely no compromises. The PonoPlayer will certainly be recognizable
on your desk as the unique product it is – the world’s best sounding portable
digital music player.
Check out more rewards...
Meet the team:PonoMusic was founded by Neil Young in 2011 to create a movement to revive the soul of music, and to recreate the vinyl experience in the digital realm. Neil has assembled a fantastic team who are extremely passionate about music:
The core PonoMusic team:
Our extended team (with our thanks and gratitude):
Risks and challenges
The PonoPlayer will be built by PCH International (Cork, Ireland and San Francisco), with its production facilities in Shenzhen, China. PCH International understands every step from design to direct fulfillment, and supplies products to many of the world's leading consumer electronic companies.
The PonoMusic and PCH teams began collaborating at the design stage almost two years ago at a meeting with Neil Young and Liam Casey, the CEO and founder of PCH International. As the design progressed, we worked closely with the PCH team to ensure the product was designed for high quality, high volume production. The PCH team includes engineers, toolmakers, a project manager, procurement specialist, packaging designer, and production specialists.
To date we have completed our tooling for first samples of the final enclosure, which have been used in building 50 units for testing, including listening tests by artists and audio experts. For these units we designed and built the circuit boards and did final assembly in Silicon Valley.
Our next step is to do one more revision of our electronics board, implementing some specific additional audio technology from Ayre Acoustics. We plan to build 50 additional units for more testing. Once we are fully satisfied with our final design we will be moving from our current engineering build environment in California to a pre-production facility at PCH International in Shenzhen. We will then work with PCH to build out the final assembly line, install the test equipment, and do two more builds before beginning production.
After several generations of prototypes and successive improvements, the latest generation players have undergone extensive testing for over six months. We now need to complete the final iteration of the design, conduct extensive testing of the player, develop and test our online PonoMusic.com Store, and move into production.
We are currently engaged with one of the world's best Content Delivery Networks to build out the backend of our PonoMusic.com Store. Furthermore, we are working with a fantastic desktop media center vendor to build out the PonoMusic App for Mac and Windows PC. This media management application will act as the hub of your Pono ecosystem. It will allow you to:
• Browse, sample, purchase, and download music from the PonoMusic.com Store
• Manage and organize your entire music library including building playlists
• Load your favorite music on to your PonoPlayer for enjoyment at home or on the go
We are also working diligently on our main website, PonoMusic.com, where music lovers will be able to explore the PonoMusic universe, provide us feedback, collaborate with each other, and be part of PonoMusic as a movement for the highest quality digital recordings. We are very excited about the community of music lovers that will form and grow on our site.
We will begin to populate our music library with a great collection of high-resolution music. This is an on-going, never-ending process that we are eager to begin and will be delighted to continue every day at PonoMusic.com.
We believe that the risks described above are manageable, assuming a successful Kickstarter campaign.
Rewards & Fulfillment
We plan to fulfill the product rewards directly from PCH International to our donors using 3-day delivery. We plan to start production in late Summer and deliver the rewards to our supporters in October, 2014. We will be keeping our supporters informed on our progress through the various phases of our development and production process. Delays, should they occur, typically will likely be due to supply chain lead times of some special audio components or any unexpected challenges in the ramping up of production. However, we have great confidence in the substantial experience of PCH. They are real pros. As they say, “This ain’t our first rodeo”.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter