Neil Young to premiere high-quality, awkward-looking music player and download service

The $399, 128GB PonoPlayer delivers audio quality so good, you can't even hear it.

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Because legendary folk singers with loads of cash and half-cooked ideas need something to do with their time, Neil Young will premier his newest venture, a high-quality digital music service called PonoMusic, during his speech at the South by Southwest Music Conference today.

PonoMusic includes both an audio player, which looks like the lovechild spawned between a Wii remote and a name placard, as well as a desktop "media management" application, which will deliver the "finest quality, highest-resolution digital music from both major labels and prominent independent labels" that users can sync to the player, according to a press release.

Priced at $399, the PonoPlayer will offer 24-bit/192kHz playback capability with 128GB of storage, which equates to "100 to 500 high-resolution digital-music albums, depending on the resolution and length of the original recording." Additional memory cards will also be available, given that these tracks generally take up about 6 times more space than your average audio file.

Developed in conjunction with Ayre Acoustics, the audio technology behind the PonoPlayer reportedly boasts zero-feedback circuitry with no "pre-ringing," which is one reason why digital music sounds so "unnatural" to many who can hear far better than I.

Basically, all this means that the quality must be like, eargasmically amazing, right?

Eh, not necessarily. Most audio engineers will tell you that your ear holes can't even tell the difference between highest-of-the-high-quality 24-bit/192kHz recordings, which PonoMusic will offer, and your standard 24-bit/48kHz recordings. While it looks great from a marketing standpoint — just like that camera with 75 kajillion megapixels — there's really no huge advantage to 192kHz over 48KHz for the average consumer.

The quality of one's listening experience is also largely dependent on their headset. There's no word on whether or not a headset will be included with the player, only that "recommended" ear bud and headphone products will be sold on PonoMusic.com.

It's hard imagining that this thing will ever catch on outside a minuscule market of dedicated audiophiles, but if you want to spring for one of the first PonoPlayers, they'll be available for a discounted pre-order price through Kickstarter.com beginning March 15.

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