Neil Young sang, “Rust never sleeps” and true enough, he’s never allowed himself to stop dreaming. Tomorrow he’s unveiling his possible iPod killer, called Pono, at the SouthbySouthwest festival in Austin, Texas. The MP3 player will cost $399, and comes with a website called for buying music a la iTunes.

A press release went out this morning with links to Ponomusic and to Kickstarter for ordering the product. Unfortunately, the links don’t go anywhere– that’s a bad sign. The link to brings you to an editorial by Young about pollution in Shanghai.

Also, the press release came not from Pono but from Young’s label, Warner Music Group. It’s unclear what involvement the company has or if its owner, Len Blavatnik, is an investor. The idea of Pono, with a 128 GB capacity and potential for expansion, is to bring high end audio to portable music players. (Of course, you’re still not really going to get that using earbuds or Beats headphones. But that’s another story.)

Frustrated music fans and audiophiles will wait and see what happens next. The iPod (I’ve got a refurbished one) has a miserable sound. The company that I used to like for its sound, Creative Labs, gave up. So Pono piques our interest. But from the pictures already the shape of the thing– a triangle– looks worrisome.

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Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.
1 reply to this post
  1. The shape is terrible. I agree with the article that the sound can only be just so good with ear buds or headphones. Interesting comment about the iPod having a miserable sound. I’ve had several different music players and found the ipod to have a great sound. Again, depending on what your hearing it through will depend on it’s quality. You can have a million dollar player but if your hearing it through ten dollar speakers it’s going to sound pitiful. I’ll be watching the pono players to see how it fairs but the shape is going to be a huge drawback with this product. I won’t purchase solely on the shape since I like to carry my Ipod in my pocket. I’m wondering if the signatures are a way to draw customers? Since they produce no sound (like the Dr. Dre headphones) I find it rather tacky. To each his own though. I wish Neil Young luck with his product. I think he would have better luck with sales if the price was a lot lower. Make it affordable to the working man. Looks like he’s following the same path as the company giants. Pay forward Mr. Young. The working man buying your music made you millions. Make your player affordable.

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