Neil Young might not be the first person you'd think of to reinvent the iPod, but the famous musician has been working on an alternative - promising top-notch sound - for some time now, and it's finally been shown in the wild. Pono, demonstrated by Young himself on The Late Show with David Letterman, Rolling Stone reports, isn't just a single media player but an ecosystem of a download store, the PMPs to play those purchases, and a special digital-to-analog conversion technology which promises studio-quality audio.
Exactly how that technology works, however, is unclear, though it's apparently been sufficient to convince some of the big record labels. Warner Music, Universal Music, and Sony Music have all expressed an interest, apparently, with WMG already having a stockpile of 192kHz/24-bit masters it intends to leverage for Pono.
Hardware details for the Pono player haven't been shared, though there are a few things we can glean from its TV appearance. The wedge-shaped gadget takes a simplistic approach to controls, with only three buttons visible on its front panel beneath the display; it's possible there's a touch-sensitive scroll pad integrated into that panel, however, similar to Apple's older iPods.
On top, there are what look to be two headphone sockets, perhaps to push the idea of sharing musical enjoyment rather than hogging it all to yourself. The musical system itself is expected to be called Studio Quality Sound (SQS) based on a trademark Young filed earlier this year.
Pono will launch sometime in 2013, Young has confirmed, and going by Ret Hod Chili Peppers bassist Flea, it's worth waiting for. The Pono tracks aren't "like some vague thing that you need dogs' ears to hear" he argued, having had a demonstration in Young's car, "it's a drastic difference."