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From the Wikipedia, "pono is a Hawaiian word commonly rendered as righteousness as for instance in the Hawaii state motto Ua Mau ke Ea o ka ʻĀina i ka Pono or 'The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness'. Mary Kawena Pukui's and Samuel Hoyt Elbert's Hawaiian dictionary gives six meanings and 83 English translation equivalents.

• Goodness, uprightness, morality, moral qualities, correct or proper procedure, excellence, well-being, prosperity, welfare, benefit, behalf, equity, sake, true condition or nature, duty; moral, fitting, proper, righteous, right, upright, just, virtuous, fair, beneficial, successful, in perfect order, accurate, correct, eased, relieved; should, ought, must, necessary.
• Completely, properly, rightly, well, exactly, carefully, satisfactorily, much (an intensifier).
• Property, resources, assets, fortune, belongings, equipment, household goods, furniture, gear of any kind, possessions, accessories, necessities.
• Use, purpose, plan.
• Hope."

Pono’s just concluded Kickstarter campaign
netted above $6'000'000 in pledges against an $800’000 ask to become one of this portal's most successful pledge drives in their history. It means Pono's Toblerone-shaped hi-rez portable software player designed by Ayre—the original Meridian platform was canned—will become Chinese-built reality. Whilst committed audiophiles already were listening to Astell&Kern or HifiMan players with very similar feature sets more than a year ago (yawn!), Pono front man Neil Young moved things into a different arena. Pono was not technical news at all. Pono was simply bringing the audiophile message—of sound better than MP3—to another audience. That was the news. 18’000 some backers committed upfront funds to order Pono’s portable player without having heard it. Presumably most of those were non-audiophiles since 'philes interested in such a product would already own one. If so, waking up these audiophile sleeper agents which our industry and press couldn’t reach can’t be a bad thing. Of course in the big scheme of things that number is a mere drop in the bucket. But it’s certainly a decent start for a new audiophile outreach program. It’s kicked off a discussion outside our own press and in places (Letterman for example) we couldn't dream of.

Whether Pono Act II as the promised online music store will take off in a timely manner is another question. With management rumoured to take 30% of all sales just like Apple does for their iTunes store, predicted Pono pricing for their uncompressed files will be high. Resurrected Apple rumbles—about their iTunes store turning on a 24-bit high-resolution version of itself by June of this year where for just $1 more than now albums can be downloaded in at least CD quality—show just how steep a slope the Pono music store will have to scale. Amassing a software library of sufficient scope plus the attached slick infrastructure to sample,  download and/or store music takes huge resources. Apple is already there. They just need to cut out the current MP3 rev limiter from their engine and let 'er run full throttle. Perhaps Pono's noise signaled that the time was ripe? Or will those Apple rumours remain just that, rumours?

Regardless of how hi-rez online music stores from Apple and Pono turn out if they do, the concept behind them still hinges on the perhaps antiquated notion of ownership. Why pay $25+ for a Ponofied album (or $16 for Apple’s version) when for that amount you can already stream 320kbps via Spotify+ & Co., do so for an entire month and at 24/7 while you’re at it? "Because it’s uncompressed!" you argue? That no longer washes. You can presently stream CD quality via Qobuz and, in the first five European countries, via WiMP. The latter’s catalogue reportedly is 23'000'000 songs strong already.

That concept—of purchasing cheap right of access to huge libraries stored elsewhere, with the added convenience of ‘discover’ software that suggests listening choices based on your prior activities—is here and growing. Is the appeal of ownership passé? Let’s add things up. Pono clearly addresses the mobile audience by first marketing a portable player. This is for walkabouts and their ear buds (hopefully to grow into proper headphones). But isn’t that type of user far more likely to pay a $30/month subscription fee or perhaps even $50 to listen 24/7 to wireless music in uncompressed quality than he or she is to pay the same amount for the dubious privilege of owning 2 or 3 albums at the same resolution?

Regardless of whether Pono the music store takes off in a big way; or whether their player becomes just another branded portable device that’s not limited to 16/44… the Pono Kickstarter campaign has already shown that reaching out via popular music and its performers as spokespeople for "better sound as the artist intended" is a valid approach. It can interface with listeners who aren’t traditional audiophiles. It can educate both the intended audience and the content providers, i.e. musicians who are currently too lax about their own production standards and perhaps in the future will switch to releasing in hi-rez now that one of their own is blowing that horn.

In my mind the real breakout in this story isn’t hi-rez. To properly exploit that requires superior hardware, overcoming providence issues, overcoming pricing issues, overcoming limited Internet bandwidth for customers who aren't hooked into top-speed access. The real breakout will be availability of more and more uncompressed CD-quality music. You and I won’t care about whose logo flies above a website where we can purchase such files of the music we want – should we insist to outright own and store it on our own memory devices. Nor will we care whether our monthly subscription fee to access music from such or similar sites goes to Qobuz, WiMP, BandCamp, Apple, Pono or some other weirdly named URL we haven’t yet heard of.

Streaming Adnan Joubran's new Borders Behind album in FLAC via a Qobuz Hifi abonnement for €199/year.

As active music consumers, our primary thang is access to uncompressed music of the widest possible variety. If current news are anything to go by, it looks like we’re set to get closer to that by a significant margin. That should be cause for celebration no matter how the details shake out. I think of this not as high but full resolution. If we get mass access to CD-quality tunes for a fair price and those tunes are far beyond the narrow niche selection of audiophile labels to appeal to all people... then our hobby would get a huge boost and become that much more relevant. And that would be righteous indeed!