I’ve just finished reading Neil Young’s “Waging Heavy Peace” book which, despite being a rambling stream of consciousness affair, is an enthralling read and a must for anyone interested in the artist or rock music in general. As well as the expected anecdotes and stories of the “rock and roll lifestyle” it comes across very clearly that Mr Young is a man on a mission to bring hi resolution music to the masses.

You may have seen Neil Young bandying about the Pono – in the most simplistic terms a service that allows conversion, download and playing of high resolution music files on a unit that is stylistically a significant departure from the MP3 players we’re used to. More notably, the people behind Pono are speaking with record labels in an effort to transfer original masters of classic albums onto the format.

There are of course the naysayers out there who are claiming that the project will never see the light of day, or that the introduction of a new format will do nothing but further complicate a marketplace already filled with myriad of formats. I think they’re missing the point a tad. I think what Mr Young is doing is highlighting to the world that what we are coming to expect as the norm is poor quality and low resolution music. Whether the Pono project comes to fruition or not, the music lovers of the world will know that they are being fed crap. Feed a crap file into the most highly tuned hifi system and all you will get out the speakers is a polished turd – surely not something that anyone who cares about quality music reproduction could be in favour of!

There are of course those who argue that there is little chance of most people hearing the difference between a 320kb MP3 and FLAC, never mind the much higher resolution 24-bit/192kHz files. I think that not only are these people wrong, but they are also missing the point somewhat. The point is that if we accept low quality music as the rule then we are only ever going to be able to play low resolution music, despite the arguably ever increasing fidelity (and its availability) of music playback systems. Yes I know the ultra high end is a little esoteric and beyond the pockets, or even thoughts, of the general music lover, but great quality playback is achievable on a relatively modest budget and isn’t it only right that we feed these systems with the very best files we can?

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