Neil Young's Uphill Battle For Super-High-Quality Audio

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Neil Young writes about his quest for super-high-quality audio in 'Waging Heavy Peace.'

In Neil Young's recently-released autobiography, Waging Heavy Peace, the iconic, and notoriously prickly singer-songwriter reflects on his childhood, his early years in music, and shares some behind-the-scenes stories from his famous tours in the 1970's.

Young also discusses several modern-day passions, including his longtime quest to develop a super-high-quality audio system called Pono. Eliot Van Buskirk recently wrote about Pono for and explains just what it is, and the uphill battle that it’s facing.


Watch Neil Young reveal the prototype of a Pono player on Late Show with David Letterman.

Interview Highlights

Eliot Van Buskirk, on why Neil Young developed the idea for Pono:

Neil Young was walking behind some woman who was listening to, we believe, an iPod — it had those white telltale earbuds. And apparently he had this revelation that despite all of this talk about how people are listening to vinyl these days, most people's listening experience is fairly low-fidelity. As we've gained so much as music fans with the ability to download and stream music and take it around with us, sound quality is the one thing that seems not to have improved.

On the biggest challenge Pono faces:

If you have a well-encoded mp3 or anything from the major music services, it’s going to sound pretty good. And for most people, the best way to get better sound quality is the same way that it’s always been, which is better headphones or better speakers. That’s the biggest upgrade anyone can make.

On indications that Pono could be successful, despite the popularity of high-quality headphones:

[Beats by Dre] have shown what a lot of people said wasn’t true to be true, which is that people will pay for good headphones. And so now the question is: Will people pay for higher quality sound files?

One indication that they might is that a lot of people do seem to appreciate the sound of vinyl these days, and when you go to a higher resolution digital file, the argument is that you’re getting closer to that great analog sound.