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I Am Skooter
So here's us, on the raggedy edge.
One left her sweater sitting on the train / and the other lost three fingers at the Cannery
— Neko Case, Margaret vs. Pauline
September 28, 2016
Is Pono Dead?

Pono Under Construction Notice Neil Young launched his Pono service about a year and a half ago to what seemed like a lot of…well, whatever the opposite of fanfare is. At the time reviews were pretty universally poor.

David Pogue (as usual) had one of the best reviews which concluded that “…the emperor had no clothes.” Neil promised us all a musical nirvana but, as it turns out, nobody could hear the difference (and if they could, they often thought the iPhone was better.) Go figure.

The Pono store’s been closed for a while online and the devices are nowhere to be found at retail. Neil Young’s most recent album can’t be bought for the Pono, and debuted on Tidal. Despite this, there doesn’t seem to be nearly as much coverage of the demise of Pono as there was of its rise.

At the end of the day Pono seems to have failed for the same reasons that a lot of things fail: a focus on building technology that people didn’t want or need. Ignoring the science tthat suggests that Pono’s “high resolution audio” claims provided benefits well outside the range of human hearing is one thing; ignoring the reality that most people aren’t focused on an “audiophile quality” portable solution is quite another.

Portable music needs to be good enough. What that means can change from person to person but look around at a world where people are using Apple’s bundled headphones (or Beats, and don’t get me started on those) and it’s hard to see a world where enough people are looking for an audiophile portable experience.

Need more evidence? Compact Cassettes were never fantastic for audio quality but their portability, durability and size led to the development of the Walkmen and the entire concept of highly portable music was born. I had thousands of Maxell XLII’s in the 80s (and, according to my friends, almost as many Walkmen.)

Pono? To even hear the theoretical benefits I’d have to repurchase all of my music at twice the price.

Pono was a product looking for a market. Sometimes, that just doesn’t work

Posted by skooter at 6:39 AM This entry is filed under Music, Technology.
This entry is tagged: iPhone, Neil Young Maxell

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