Neil Young Launching Triangular PonoPlayer for $399

Evan Minsker at Pitchfork:

On Tuesday, Neil Young is set to unveil his long-gestating high-quality digital music player Pono at SXSW. But before he introduces it to the public, details have been announced. The device, called PonoPlayer, will reportedly cost $399 and come with 128GB of memory. They’ll start taking discounted pre-orders on March 15 via Kickstarter.

Pono Music Player

I saw this rendered image of the PonoPlayer accompany launch articles everywhere across the web. Apart from the unconventional shape of the player (looks like a mini Toblerone to me), there was something weird I noticed that I had to highlight. Check it out:


Oh no. No, no, no.

Visible file names with underscores? The ‘unknown artist’ field? No album artwork? At best, this is sloppy work on their rendered product shots. At worst, this is a clear indicator that the PonoPlayer UI will be a poor experience, and it’s making the same exact mistakes that all the iPod competitors (Creative, Samsung, iRiver, Archos & a thousand more) made back in 2002-2007.

I thought it might be an old shot, but alas, they’re using it on the official Facebook page, too.

Here’s a quote from the PonoMusic press release:

The PonoPlayer is a purpose-built, portable, high-resolution digital-music player designed and engineered in a “no-compromise” fashion to allow consumers to experience studio master-quality digital music at the highest audio fidelity possible, bringing to life the true emotion and detail of the music, the way the artist recorded it.

I know Neil Young’s been waxing lyrical about the sound quality, and I’d be interested to know if the difference is as dramatic as he says. In the end though, I think there will always be a higher priority with devices: ease of use. If a portable music player is annoying to navigate through, it is dead in the water. This looks like it’d be a real slog.

Also: tech-related companies need to stop using the term “no-compromises”. Like the phrase “double-down” before it, those words are an absolute poison chalice.