"Everybody's talking 'bout the new sound, funny, but it's still rock 'n roll to me," sang Billy Joel and it seems that Neil Young is inclined to agree.

Still, he isn't about to listen to rock n' roll with lousy audio. That's why Young announced the new PonoPlayer and PonoMusic for audiophiles and lovers of high-quality audio on Tuesday.

The PonoPlayer will allegedly be a new portable music player with better audio that features higher sound fidelity than MP3 audio files. The new player will start off as a Young-backed Kickstarter project and grow from there. If Young's venture is successful, we could have a real iTunes rival on our hands with PonoMusic, the marketplace where PonoPlayer users will be able to buy the high-fidelity audio tracks.

A leaked press release stated that the PonoPlayer would arrive on Kickstarter March 12, but it came a day early on March 11. Young has reportedly been working on creating better digital audio for years. Young thinks that CDs and MP3s provide listeners with "flawed" digital music that simply doesn't match up to the original sound. The PonoPlayer will provide "studio master-quality digital music at the highest audio fidelity possible" from major and indie record labels, says the leaked release.

"Hearing Pono for the first time is like that first blast of daylight when you leave a movie theater on a sun-filled day," reads Young's testimonial on PonoPlayer's Facebook page.

The press release claims that the PonoPlayer, which comes with 128 GB of storage, can hold "about 100-500 high-resolution digital-music albums, depending on the resolution and length of the original recording." The PonoPlayer will retail for $399.99, but those who pre-order the device on Kickstarter will get a bit of a discount. 

The PonoPlayer is sort of strange-looking, with its long, triangular shape, small, square LCD touchscreen and minimalist buttons for volume on the front, but nobody ever said it had to be beautiful. PonoPlayer just has to sound good. It's sort of like how headphones are defying all tech logic, saying that bigger is better. Perhaps with audio this is true.

"It's about the music, real music. We want to move digital music into the 21st century and PonoMusic does that. We couldn't be more excited - not for ourselves, but for those that are moved by what music means in their lives," Young says in the press release.

It will be interesting to see if PonoPlayer gains widespread appeal or stays in its own niche. If PonoPlayer ends up being an audiophile-only device, it probably won't make a huge impact on the industry. However, if PonoPlayer makes a nice splash, Apple and Google may have to revisit the MP3 files in their respective music marketplaces and amp up the audio quality a bit.

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