The musician Neil Young launched a Kickstarter campaign yesterday. He's looking for support for a long-planned high fidelity music player and online store called Pono. Young told an audience at the South by Southwest music festival that he wants to make digital music sound better.

Here's NPR's Laura Sydell.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: Young was plain-spoken as he explained what motivated him to develop a new digital music player. He says he's watched the world turn digital, and a lot of stuff has gotten better.

NEIL YOUNG: Everything, you know, cameras, you know, got easier to use. Everything went up. Everything went up, and music went down.

SYDELL: Young says mp3 files and the similar ones you get on iTunes actually hurt his ears. MP3 is a format that compresses audio to make it move faster over the Internet and take up less room on your computer.

But the compression process takes away a lot of subtle highs and lows in the music. Young says his player and the music to be sold on the Pono store will let fans hear the music the way the artist intended.

YOUNG: What we decided to do was to come out with a new system that was not a format, had no rules, respected the art, respected what the artist was trying to do and did everything that it could to give you what the artist gave.

SYDELL: Young says Pono will let you listen to music in whatever format the artist picks. He says the quality will be anywhere from five to 25 times better than mp3s. The Pono player will play those files and just about any other format. It's shaped like a bar of Toblerone chocolate and Young says you can hook it up to a stereo system. It will cost about $400. Nevertheless, within hours of launching the Kickstarter campaign, it exceeded its $800,000 goal.

There were fellow musicians in the audience who were excited by what Young was saying. Todd Fink is with The Giving Tree Band.

TODD FINK: We record at a very high resolution so I think it would be really neat for the people who listen to our music, you know, to be able to hear the things that we're actually doing in the studios.

SYDELL: All over South by Southwest, there was respect for Young from musicians. But, some analysts, like Gartner's Mike McGuire, think Young might be coming a little late to the music player game.

MIKE MCGUIRE: A lot of consumers are opting for the convenience of streaming. So people there are kind of showing their preference for being able to carry it around and access it from any device.

SYDELL: But even proponents of streaming music would like to see better audio quality. D.A. Wallach is the musician-in-residence for the streaming music service Spotify. Wallach wants his little sister to be able to hear, oh, for example, Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" in something other than mp3.


D.A. WALLACH: She doesn't even know what the experience is like of imagining the music in sort of three dimensions in between the speakers and that's always part of what I've found so magical about music is actually how visual it can be when the conditions are right for listening.


SYDELL: As more people get faster Internet connections, Wallach is hopeful that streaming music services will deliver higher fidelity audio. But, he says he's rooting for Young because he hopes the effort will raise awareness and build demand for better audio.

In fact, Neil Young made it clear that it would be fine with him if that's all he achieved.

YOUNG: If we fail, we've made enough noise so people know something's wrong and they can hear it. If some big, huge company comes along and kicks our ass with millions and millions of dollars, that's great for music, that's what matters. If they'll do what we do, it's a no lose situation, we win. Everybody wins.


SYDELL: But Young still wants you to buy his player.

Laura Sydell, NPR News, Austin.

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