In 2014, Neil Young launched his own digital music service called PONO, which offered enhanced quality, high-resolution audio instead of compressed MP3s. The company released a line of portable players, a music-download service and a digital-to-analog conversion technology. It was all part of the Canadian rocker’s effort to “save the sound of music,” which he believes has become mediocre in the streaming age.
Even though a Kickstarter campaign raised more than $6.2 million to see the project into fruition, it never took off quite like Young had hoped. Some criticized PONO for being too niche and elitist, and in July 2016, the online storefront shut down. Now, however, Young is hoping to revive his dream of bringing high-quality audio to the masses by implementing some changes after PONO’s shaky start — including a shift to streaming.
According to a report from CBC News, Young posted on PONO’s community page to reveal that he has teamed up with Singapore firm Orastream to create “an adaptive streaming service that changes with available bandwidth” for “complete high-resolution playback.” The revamped service, dubbed Xstream, is adaptive and “plays at the highest quality your network condition allows at that moment and adapts as the network conditions change.”
Young hopes to make this version more accessible and draw in a bigger audience, in part by lowering the cost. When PONO first launched, songs and albums cost almost double what they do on iTunes, on top of needing the $399 PONO player just to listen to them. “All songs should cost the same, regardless of digital resolution,” Young said in his recent post. “Let the people decide what they want to listen to without charging them more for true quality. That way quality is not an elitist thing. If high-resolution costs more, listeners will just choose the cheaper option and never hear the quality.”
Price details for Xstream, however, have not yet been revealed. According to CBC, Young is still seeking investors, but is determined to carry on despite it being “a difficult sell.”