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Neil Young is turning Pono into a high-res music streaming service

Neil Young is turning Pono into a high-res music streaming service

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Neil Young’s quixotic quest for glorious mobile audio seems to be shape-shifting into something more practical than the Pono player but only modestly less difficult of a sell.

Young is working to start up a Pono streaming service that will focus on high-resolution music that can be streamed to a phone, he tells Rolling Stone. “We’re gonna re-emerge as a streaming service and a high-res download offer,” he said during an interview. “We provide the best that's available. Full resolution music, great sounding music.”

It’s not clear exactly how far along the Pono team is right now. Young says that Pono is still setting up partnerships to get streaming rights. It’s also working with another company to “maintain” the music’s “quality level” when streaming to something like the iPhone, which doesn’t have the hardware needed to faithfully re-create high-res recordings.

A high-res streaming battle is brewing between Neil Young and Jay Z

It’s a great goal, though it’s worth questioning whether this has the potential to be much more successful than the Pono — that weird yellow music player Young’s company released at the start of 2015, built specifically to play high-res music files.

Pono won’t be the first, or even the most notable name, to launch a streaming service that offers high-res music. That was Tidal’s big hook at launch; and even today, it continues to offer a lossless audio tier for double the price of a standard subscription. But that service doesn’t seem to be particularly popular, and it’s hard to imagine Young reaching more high-res audio fans than Jay Z. (Pono plans to offer music at an even higher quality than Tidal does, which either makes it more appealing or more niche, depending on how you want to view it.)

It’s also worth keeping in mind that everything about Pono has been extremely slow-moving thus far, and there’s no reason to expect this to be any different. By way of example: Pono’s high-res music store — you know, the place where its customers were expected to buy music for the Pono player — went offline in July after its audio provider was acquired; it has yet to return.