Pono is here. The people who supported Neil Young's music player through Kickstarter — and there were a lot of them — have already received their special edition units, and now the high-res audio device is available to music lovers everywhere for $399. That's a huge asking price, calling back to the days when we spent several hundred dollars on a new iPod. But with Pono, Neil Young is trying to graduate the iPod generation (and everyone else for that matter) to a higher level of music listening. And he's trying to accomplish that with a funky-looking music player that takes the shape of a triangle. (It feels better in hand than you might expect.)
The Pono comes in black or orange for and includes 64GB of built-in storage. But you can go far beyond that with microSD cards up to 128GB in size. In fact, it comes with a 64GB card, which may help you swallow that $399 cost. Pono should be able to carry as much music as any human could want to carry around at any one time. The screen's not great by any stretch; pixels are everywhere and viewing angles are bad. And the Android-based software won't win any awards for intuitive design. But again, Pono is meant to be about the music, with little focus on anything else. The software's just meant to get you there.
Yes, albums are expensive. And it's true that many people probably won't appreciate the difference between the atmospheric, rich Pono pumps out and what they're used to hearing from Spotify or YouTube. But some will. It's not as if Neil Young's fans suddenly started funneling their concert ticket money into Pono's development. There's a very real market of people who want to hear music in the pristine quality it was recorded in. That's the very pitch that Neil Young has made central to Pono's purpose, and there's a reason Young's Pono isn't alone in pursuing those listeners. We haven't had nearly enough listening time with Pono to make a definitive call, but you can be sure we'll be testing it out more in the weeks to come.