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Pono's mission is to provide the best possible listening experience of your favorite digital music.
Pono's mission is to provide the best possible listening experience of your favorite digital music.
18,220 backers pledged $6,225,354 to help bring this project to life.

A Message to Artists, from Neil Young


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 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 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 Adelle 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.

Neil Young



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    1. Missing avatar

      Andreas Callendal on April 10, 2014

      @Robert Kyhn I would like to know more about this Pono listening event you attended. You write that "there were CD and MP3 songs for comparison purposes." How were these songs played back, through which equipment?

    2. Stephen on April 9, 2014

      Jonathan Gorman-

      So the very people who ruined the music are backing this project? That's......ironic to say the least.

      I still believe that artists should be standing up for their integrity. If they understood what it means to destroy the dynamic range, how many of them would allow the producers do it.

    3. Missing avatar

      Keith Shauger on April 9, 2014

      @Michael Pedersen - With all due respect, a "placebo" is an unfortunate and misleading choice of words. As a long-time music listener, songwriter, performer and certified Logic DAW trainer who has recorded on everything from reel-to-reel to TEAC "PortaStudio" to GarageBand in 16/44 to Logic in 24/96 I can tell you without prejudice that there IS a difference.

      In my childhood (born in 1957) I listened to vinyl on headphones, continuing to joy in that experience right up until the CD/mp3 age where, for reasons then unknown, my ears fatigued to the point of actually hurting. I blamed it on ANYTHING other than the medium. Too many years playing in front of a 250W amp. Must be my ears are getting old like the rest of me. Maybe it's my headphones. Like many others, I got rid of, or packed away my vinyl. Never thought to A/B between vinyl and CD (admittedly a stupid oversight on my part). I stopped listening on headphones all together, other than for moments at a time. Gone were the days that I could listen to an entire album.

      Over the last few years I have purchased and downloaded several favorites in 24 Bit; some 88, some 96 or 192. With my favorite two sets of headphones at the ready, I decided to give some of them a listen, figuring I had at least 5 or 10 minutes before my ears started to hurt. Van Morrison's "Moondance". The Stones' "Let It Bleed". McCartney's "Band On The Run", and "New". Norah Jones' "Feels Like Home" to name a few. The joy is back. I can listen to these recordings straight through without ear fatigue. This is a real-life experience that I can relay, rather than "signal theory" (which to many equals "not yet proven as law") that tries to explain why it "shouldn't" sound better. No one but me knows what it's like to hear the way I hear, and that goes for everyone. So I don't care what it looks like on paper. I care about what sounds best to me, and that is why I'm in the tank for Pono.

    4. Missing avatar

      Robert Kyhn on April 8, 2014

      As a result of being in the right place at the right time, I was able to hear a PONO player and music. The playback was through a high end 2 channel audio system and there were CD and MP3 songs for comparison purposes.

      The PONO player provided the best sound quality and it was easily distinguishable by those present. In fact, several new PONO's backers were created that day and this was a skeptical and hard to please crowd.

      Simply said, PONO is the real deal ... :-)

    5. Missing avatar

      Jon Bertelsen on April 8, 2014

      Hey Neil,
      I paid to have a Pono-player, but I want to be able to buy the music too!
      I live in Sweden and I'm wondering if there are ongoing negotiations and when the music will be distributed here...!?

    6. Jonathan Gorman
      on April 7, 2014

      Most bands and artists need to listen to their producers because they don't have a clue. And the RHCP, a Pono supporter were instrumental in starting the loudness wars.

      I'm wondering when we are going to learn more about this player. Some more specs on the Amp and DAC. Benchmark against players that already play high res files (not IPod).

    7. Missing avatar

      Michael P Hoye on April 7, 2014

      Neil.Keep on Rockin in the Free World! Thanks!!!!!!!

    8. Stephen on April 7, 2014

      The Pono revolution is great. One thing I've been thinking about is the actual mastering process. For me, when a CD is properly mastered, instead of pushing the dynamic range into the sewer, it can sound damn good. What happens now though, is bands are compromising and listening to their producers, instead of standing behind their integrity, and allowing the producer to ruin the sound by crushing the dynamic range.

      What producers should do is create a CD master. That's what goes on the CD and has a good dynamic range. Then, if they insist on completely ruining the MP3 version and crush it with low DR, they can. This way when I rip a CD it sounds good. When I buy the MP3 version, it's crushed just as record producers want us to hear.

      For me, Pono isn't about fixing music. It's about returning artistic integrity to the process.

    9. Missing avatar

      Andrew on April 7, 2014

      Music has finally found. A saviour in Pono and it's Soul is back how wonderful

    10. John C Brandy on April 7, 2014

      As a former 24-track analog engineer (in a previous life) and a fan of CSNY and of course Neil since about the time in 1970 when my older sister attended Kent State, I can't thank you enough. I hope every artist takes you up on this!

    11. Cyndee Kavula on April 7, 2014

      Mahalo from my ears !

    12. Missing avatar

      Mark Wita on April 7, 2014

      I also wanted to ask a question and make a request. I saw on the request list the desire to support DSD. I'd like to second that. For me this would be the most exciting as Double-rate DSD (5.6448 MHz) is what I archive all my analog tapes and vinyl to. I could down sample to 24-192, but why? I'm also interested in knowing if Pono will be reselling the same files as those currently offer on HDTracks or Acoustic Sounds Super High Rez?

    13. John C Hardy on April 7, 2014

      Mr Young Thank You for rescuing the music

    14. Missing avatar

      Mark Wita on April 7, 2014

      If I am sold the ultimate studio master then I won't be buying an "remasters." The only thing left would be remixes or maybe a new transfer of the multitrack to stereo all in high resolution. Like many I have 5 CDs of some releases like Are You Experienced.

    15. Missing avatar

      Dave Bussen on April 7, 2014

      Amen. and thanks! I've been waiting for this since digital showed up and I was bummed. This will be even better than MFSL half-speed mastered vinyl albums. It would kick ass if you can get all of their catalog onto pono! I'll have to buy everything all over again but boy will it be worth it. My system is from the 70's and still rocks. I though it sounded reasonably good but had no idea just how good the hardware was until I brought home an original master tape from the studio and played it on the system - WoW! Even the half speed masters were loosing tons of information that one could hear without trying to hear it - it was just THERE. My system has never sounded that good before or since - but now it can. Actually, pono will be even better - I can't wait! Please hurry! partlydave

    16. Missing avatar

      Bruce E Smith on April 7, 2014

      Well, science and double blind experiments are all well and good. Ultimately, it is the quality of the listening experience that matters. The proof of Pono players will be in experiencing the music via Pono. Art is experienced differently than science, science may attempt to explain art, or elucidate it, but that's about it. Theoretically, viewing the Mona Lisa in a low resolution newspaper is the same as in person in the museum. But, it is not. At this moment, 16,374 people, including me, have said that they want to give Pono a try.
      The videos of young people after listening seem to me to be some kind of "scientific" proof that there is a difference if you believe that social science research methodologies, like surveys, are valid. Neil, bring it on!

    17. Susan Smeltzer on April 7, 2014

      God Bless you Neil Young! Thank you for rescuing recorded music.

    18. Rafael Villafane on April 7, 2014

      @ Michael Oestergaard Pedersen, i respectfully disagree. We've performed multiple blind tests in the studio with different converters and sampling rates, and the differences were not subtle. Every time i've had a product mastered to 44.1 for CD release it has inevitably been a let down compared to the original mix, and we usually master our stuff at Bernie Grundman's place. Of course your mileage may vary but i'll just say that when i corresponded with Bob Ludwig about this very subject he simply said, "At 192kHz (on a Pacific Microsonics Model II converter) I defy anyone to reliably differentiate the converted sound verses the original (tape master)." my experience is that @ 44.1/16 or 48/16 with even the best conversion, the differences will be noticeable. Whether those differences are worth it or not is an indiviual decision, but AFAIC, they are worth it. I always record my stuff @ 96kHz for that reason. I wish Pono the best of luck and hope that people on both ends of the glass start listening again... :)

    19. Robert Landis on April 7, 2014

      Thank you, Neil.

    20. Jonathan Gorman
      on April 7, 2014


      You are making up a strawman. Most mass market CDs have a different mix than the SACD. Plus most SACD players have a better DAC than CD players. Then you need a set of speakers and an amp that doesn't distort.

      In other words, the whole chain matters, but if you have the equipment to enjoy the high def, you can hear it. But if you want to listen to a SACD on crappy phones with a garbage DAC and amp, you might as well talk about comparing a Morton's and Outback Steak after it's been put in a blender.

    21. Aaron Cohen on April 7, 2014

      Michael, I am a bit confused by your response. I was able to a/b sacds a decade ago that had both cd and sacd layers on them including Pink Floyd's The Wall. I would play the cd then sacd layers to friends and family and have them identify the difference. I did not meet anyone who was unable to identify which version was the higher resolution.

    22. Missing avatar

      Michael Pedersen on April 7, 2014

      I am a backer and really looking forward to the product, but let's be honest. Anything above CD quality is placebo and anyone who knows about signal theory will tell you that. For a scientific explanation read this:

      I have never seen anyone demonstrate the ability to distinguish 44100 Hz 16 bit from 192000 Hz 96 bit audio in a double blind listening test, and anyone who claims that they can, never want to prove the fact in a double blind listening test.

      So why do I care about this project? I do because I want CD quality audio from high end components. Not a lossy compression format played through low end components.

    23. Dan Scott on April 7, 2014

      Thanks Neil, As an artist I want my listeners to hear it the way I intended. As a listener I want to hear it the way the artist intended.

      Thanks to you and the Pono team this is now a reality. Thanks for making this happen. :)

    24. Missing avatar

      John E Shenk on April 7, 2014

      yeah - it's Adele not Adelle - embarrassing "Neil"...

    25. Ed Jennings on April 7, 2014


      Your conviction for PonoMusic is so exhilarating to feel and witness. I love the passion you radiate for 100% high-resolution audio.

      Thank You So Much,

    26. James Domanski on April 7, 2014

      Very exciting! Cannot wait