Neil Young's Pono music player hits Kickstarter

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If you're a true audiophile you might be interested in Pono, a new digital music player that plays FLAC files at bitrates up to 9216 kbps. That's the good news.

The bad news is that Pono isn't quite real yet. Instead, it's a Kickstarter project with a goal of $800,000. The project still has 33 days to go and it's off to a strong start and looks likely to succeed. [Update: Wow, the goal was $800,000 and as of mid-morning on Day 2 they're at nearly $1.5 million. 29 people have pledged $5,000 or more... safe to assume a good number of them are in the music business!]

Pono isn't coming from some obscure inventor; Neil Young is behind the company. Young was apparently frustrated with the state of digital music and decided to do something about it.

At retail Pono will list for $400, but via the Kickstarter project you can get one for $200 $300 (sorry, the $200 tier is sold out). It's supposed to ship in October of this year, but my experience with Kickstarter hardware projects suggests you be prepared for a delay.

So once you have the player, where are you going to get these high bitrate FLAC files? (Remember, these are better-than-CD quality files so you won't be ripping them.) From PonoMusic.com of course. There's no music to buy there yet, but according to the FAQ albums are expected to cost $14.99 - $24.99.

The strangest thing about the Pono to me is the shape. It's triangular; you probably won't be slipping it into your back pocket. The Pono comes with 128 GB of storage -- 64 GB built in and a 64 GB MicroSD card, and you can easily swap MicroSD cards on the fly if you need more space. At the highest bitrate Pono can support, 128 GB is enough room for about 800 tracks. At a more modest CD lossless quality there's room for about 5,000 tracks. It has no wireless connectivity; you'll have to plug it in to transfer music onto it (and to charge it). Control is via an LCD touch screen and a few basic buttons for volume and power. It has two output jacks; one for headphones and the other to output to your home theater, your car stereo or a Sonos Connect.

Here's a bunch of music folk talking about how awesome Pono is. Be prepared, it's a bit depressing seeing how old some of these people have gotten!!

PONO Kickstarter from pono on Vimeo.

I don't consider myself an audiophile so I'm not the target market for Pono, but if you are one, and you're excited by this project, I'd love to hear from you in the comments below. Have you backed Pono yet?

Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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