LAS VEGAS—Neil Young says he stopped listening to music for a good decade and a half because the quality was so bad. Like if Picasso could only paint in black and white, and you had to look at his masterpieces through a screen door.
"That's what it felt like listening to my songs," Young said here at CES. Ever since the rise of compressed music 15 years ago, with CDs and MP3s, Young has been on a mission to elevate the quality of the music we listen to—back to the days of vinyl.
"We had vinyl then we went to CDs; man that was an amazing drop," Young said. His solution? High-resolution audio, and his PonoPlayer, which will finally hit store shelves on Monday after a successful Kickstarter run last March. The device, which boasts 64GB of memory, will initially be available in just 80 locations across the U.S., including a number of Fry's stores, for $399.
The PonoPlayer looks like an old-school iPod only shaped like a triangle, and plays digital audio files just like your phone, computer, TV, stereo, etc., but at the highest quality possible.
"It's the same as an iPod except it sounds like God," Young said.
Since launching the device on Kickstarter and raising more than $6.2 million for the project, Young says a lot of people have asked whether high-resolution music is really necessary. "I say, 'I don't know, but for me, I can listen to music again,'" he told the crowd at CES.
Sure, you can already hear your music just fine. But Young wants to know—can your soul actually hear it?
"I want the music to make you feel; I want you to have goosebumps," Young said. "I want people to cry, laugh, feel emotions."
Young acknowledged that the PonoPlayer is still a young product, and that his company has a long road ahead. But the legendary rocker and his small team are already finding some success. Young on Tuesday also announced a partnership with audio giant Harman to bring Pono technology to cars. At this point, details of the collaboration are scant, but Young said he's excited for drivers to experience better sound quality.
"I love listening in my car, and a speaker system with this technology will blow your mind," he said.