Why Does the Sound Quality of My iTunes Parallel a 1970’s Lou Reed Album?

“Yeah I’m an analog man in a digital world” – Joe Walsh. It’s alright Joe, when it comes to music, analog is a good thing. At least, the superiority of the analog format is what Neil Young is out to prove with his music quality focused startup company, Pono. Specifically, this summer, Neil Young’s company, Pono, hopes to roll out a cloud based music library as well as a digital to analog converting application. The goal of Pono is to give the music lovers of the world the opportunity to listen to their favorite songs and albums in analog format as oppose to the prevailing digital format most closely associated with Apple’s iTunes and Spotify. Pono is truly a breakthrough improvement, completely changing the quality of the music we listen too as analog format means the same sound quality as what is heard in the recording studio. Ever wanted to be a fly on the wall in the control room at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio or Sunset Sound, Neil Young is giving you that opportunity.

Neil Young is not alone in his mission to make Apple’s iTunes and Spotify re-think what the consumers desire for quality. In fact, Atlantic Records and Warner Music Group have publicly partnered with the Pono project. Further strengthening Young’s quality crusade is the host of music industry legends, Young has brought on to help win public support for Pono. Specifically, Young has received valuable feedback from members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Mumford and Sons, My Morning Jacket, Tom Petty, and producer, Rick Rubin. Red Hot Chili Peppers’ bassist, Flea is perhaps the most vocal supporter of Pono; going on the record to say, “It’s (Pono) not like some vague thing that you need dogs’ ears to hear. It’s a drastic difference,” and “MP3s suck. It’s just a shadow of the music.”

I truly marvel at Neil Young’s passion in the pursuit of high quality music sound through breakthrough improvement. Neil Young could have just invented a better version of iTunes with a more calculated “shuffle” function; however, he chose to solve the main problem with iTunes, namely the quality was not very pleasing. Hopefully, consumers will reward Young for undertaking a David versus Goliath endeavor aimed at making Goliath sound a lot less brutish. I will purchase Pono products as soon as they are lunched as I feel safe investing in a Neil Young product. If you have ever listened to any of Neil Young’s music, especially his 1980’s catalogue, you know that Neil Young is not in the money making business, but the touching people’s lives business. As Flea recently said, “His (Neil Young) reasons are so not based in commerce, and based in just the desire for people to really feel the uplifting spirit of music.” Thus, breakthrough quality improvement teamed with a strong, trustworthy leader should spell success for the Pono project.



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11 thoughts on “Why Does the Sound Quality of My iTunes Parallel a 1970’s Lou Reed Album?

  1. Thank you for posting this article. I am a fan of “studio quality”; it simply sounds better. I think Neil Young will have to make sure he has enough backers if he wants to completely change Apple’s and Spotify’s music formats because it truly is like a David and Goliath scenario. However, since high quality is always important, I have firm faith in his abilities to make Pono a success.

  2. This is a very interesting article. I find it rather refreshing that it is artists themselves who are pushing for the quality studio sound. I am a novice when it comes to music (my iPod playlist can prove it) but I am sure many music lovers and musicians alike will appreciate the option to listen to their beloved tunes in analog format. Another thing that I find refreshing is that technology is being used for the arts, at times I feel that the internet detracts from the arts as it is filled with sites that do nothing but waste one’s time. It’s nice to read that is utilized for something creative and soothing to the ears.

  3. As someone whose life revolves around music and the industry, I think this article is really interesting. Young’s idea is a good representation of differentiation in the market place, because there really are no other outputs with this type of quality music. It’s also promising to see legitimate artists supporting this idea. I’m excited for this to launch and for all the possibilities that can come from Pono.

  4. This post had me thinking about vinyl records. I dont think many people know that the sound quality of records back in the day is so much better than what we listen to today, so I can see why Neil Young is trying to bring that type of quality back. You’d think that since the sound quality back then was good, it would only get better? Or that someone would have come up with an improved method or new technology or audio format that exceeds it? I’ve never thought about it but unlike other technolgoes, I’m actually surprised that it has since then been the opposite. What Young is doing may change how we listen to music…also, it seems the title “Pono” seems be derived from the name of the device used for playing the vinyl records: the phonograph. I thought that was pretty cool. Good post.

  5. This idea is interesting and has a lot of heart behind it. However, I do not see the company existing in the long run. If this format takes off and becomes popular, there is no doubt in my mind that Apple, the “Goliath”, will buy out Pono and integrate it into iTunes. That would still be a success story for Neil Young as good quality music goes mainstream once again. On the other hand it is good to know that someone is pursuing quality music in an industry plagued with pirating and horrible quality tracks.

  6. I have always thought about this being implemented into the market. I think it’s a great idea to give the customer exactly what they want and something they might not even know they want. Apple is amazing at creating products that you didn’t even know you wanted and now need. Not only is this a simple concept but it’s something that is very obtainable. I am excited for this new music source to come out. Pono will more than likely be bought out by apple or a large company like Pandora or Spotify.

  7. I really had a difficult time grasping this idea of higher quality music. I think that apple has a majority market share of the digital music market because they offer it at such a reasonable price. I think that the idea of converting these files to analog is crazy because someone will have to pay more just to get a little better quality. Yes there will be the select few people who will think that the idea of better quality music is great, but I still believe that a majority of people will still be buying the digital form and only that out of the shear convenience and because it is less expensive.

  8. I am unsure that this Pono Project will indeed stay afloat. With a competition so fierce as the digital music industry, new entries are becoming less and less visible. Although he does have some fairly sound back up, I am unsure that Neil Young will be able to sell this new product solely off the fact that he says it is the way to go. Quality is always something to worry about, but as an avid Spotify and Itunes user, I don’t think I would make this switch.

  9. I think it is great that Neil Young was able to find a niche in the extremely robust music market, what with Spotify and (most especially) iTunes grabbing at the public’s ears. Though I myself am somewhat indifferent on the audio quality of music (as long as it’s not full of static, it’s fine by me), I know there is a significant group of music lovers out there who crave true studio quality in their music. My only concern is if there is enough of a demand in the market for sound quality, and its value proposition; would a regular consumer care rather have a song with crisp sound, or the same song for a cheaper price? But as a commenter mentioned earlier, it almost seems likely that a music giant like Apple’s iTunes will soon buy out (or even compete with) Pono if it gains popularity.

  10. I think this is a great article and a very interesting concept. I am a huge fan of music and I would love to hear the analog sound come back. I think it’s very appealing that Neil young is a supporter because he is a true artist that cares about he music and not the money. In regards to the net above I think the demand could be a niche market so I’m interested to see how these major labels and iTunes take on this knew idea.

  11. As a musician, I 100% support what Young is trying to do. Over the past decade the music industry has transformed into a money-dominated market, and has lacked the ability to market true art. Unfortunately, I think Young has a tough road ahead of him even with the backing of some of the industries greatest musicians. Of course musicians are behind him, but will the market support him as well? Maybe it is just me, but I cannot see today’s youth, who are listening to Lady Gaga and Kanye West caring about analog or digital. They are more concerned with Kim Kardashian than Tom Petty, Neil Young, and The Beatles sounding authentic.

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