There is a good chance unless you’re an audiophile that you don’t know what the bitrate of the music you listen to is nor care what the bitrate is. The highest quality MP3 you can get is 320kbps and most likely on average your music collection consists of 256kbps MP3 files.
The highly successful and still going Kickstarter campaign which is almost at $3 million has garnered a lot of attention from musicians, the media and non-musicians alike.
Do people care?
This is the number #1 question. Most of my friends who listen to music listen to low-quality MP3 files on their iPhone’s and laptops usually through iPhone earphones or medium quality headphones. You rarely hear of someone saying they refuse to listen to music on the train/bus, in the car or the workplace because it isn’t a high quality recording.
As someone who listens to FLAC files on a regular basis through decent studio monitors, I can definitely hear the difference between a 320kbps MP3 and a high quality FLAC file. The general consumer however most likely wouldn’t hear the difference nor care about the extra added details.
You can see it happening. People buying the Pono and plugging in their low fidelity iPhone headphones into it.
Modern music is rubbish
The issue with modern music isn’t the fact people are listening to it in lower than studio quality, it’s the fact the original studio recording isn’t all that much better. So while a higher quality version of an album or song and player that can play the higher quality formats is nice, the amount of studio compression and shoddy mastering you hear on a modern record really makes it pointless. Modern music lacks any kind of dynamic range.
Unless of course the target market is the audiophiles who want to listen to remastered Beatles tracks or really anything recorded in the 60’s and 70’s before the loudness war kicked off, Pono is a lost cause unless Neil Young is able to get producers to stop ruining the recordings at the original source.
So while the intentions of Pono are pure and well-intended, Neil Young’s latest endeavour to make people listen to high quality music isn’t going to make Metallica’s Death Magnetic album sound better, that’s for sure.
Lack of choice
Another problem Neil Young and co will need to solve is the range of high quality music for the device. While you can almost guarantee that Neil Young’s entire back catalogue of music will be available in high quality, what about other artists and music?
If the average consumer is going to buy this, they’ll want Katy Perry, Eminem, One Direction, Justin Bieber and pretty much any other modern commercial music artist or group.