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Neil Young: Swimming Against The Mainstream

When it comes to “Music the way the artist intended,” the oft-heard sound byte used by the CE industry to describe sound quality, Neil Young has put his money where his mouth is.

Both the high-res movement and crowdfunding received very public shots in the arms this year thanks to Young’s launch of the Pono music player and accompanying download platform.

Young went to CES in January to mark the formal introduction of both, taking questions from consumer and trade press on the launches and his main motivation behind them: providing a method to hear music the way it should be heard.

Acknowledging that high-res isn’t for everyone (“Some people think they don’t need it, and that’s OK,” he told TWICE), the rock legend still didn’t mince words on his thoughts regarding the MP3 format. And despite skepticism from the press, Young insisted Pono would appeal to more than just a niche audience.

“I consider Pono a mainstream consumer company. Not an audiophile product,” he said. “I don’t view the audiophile market as a target. I view the music-loving market as a target.”

Underscoring this commitment to sound quality, Young announced in July via Facebook that he would be pulling his entire catalog from streaming services.

“Streaming has ended for me,” Young wrote. “It’s not because of the money … It’s about sound quality. I don’t need my music to be devalued by the worst quality in the history of broadcasting or any other form of distribution.”

Still, readily cognizant that technology could one day catch up with expectations, he added: “When the sound quality is back, I’ll give it another look. Never say never.”