EXCLUSIVE: Neil Young visits Meridian – Pono hi-res music link-up imminent?

UPDATE: Neil Young's Pono hi-res music service to launch "early 2014"

Meridian Audio had an intriguing visitor yesterday: musician and high-definition music campaigner Neil Young, the founder of Pono, a hi-res music service, dropped in for a meeting with Meridian founder Bob Stuart.

Stuart, seen above greeting Young at the factory, and below in conversation with Young, is a firm advocate of high-resolution music systems, prompting speculation that the two may be planning to work together on the development of the system.

Neil Young launched Pono last year, promising to 'rescue an art form' with hi-res music and a portable music player to go with it. Pono failed to set the music world alight – and was tipped for "ridicule and failure" by Linn Products' MD Gilad Tiefenbrun – but it looks like Young, and now Meridian, are still very much in the game.

Young, who had performed the previous night at the Birmingham LG Arena, arrived at Meridian's Cambridgeshire HQ with his entourage in two tour buses, and as well as the meeting with Stuart, had a variety of demonstrations of Meridian systems, including a session in the Meridian Digital Theatre, a visit to the company's new Experience Centre, and a ride in a Meridian-equipped Range Rover Vogue.

Among the demonstrations was BB King's Chain of Love live at Montreux, followed by Chaka Khan and Patti Austin performing Miss Celie’s Blues with Quincy Jones, from his Live at Montreux 1996 set. The demonstration ended with the Red Bull film Art of Flight.

In the Experience Centre Young saw (and heard) historic models including the company's first active speaker, the M1 from 1977, commenting 'That's a beautiful sound.'

He also visited the Meridian production lines, signed some memorabilia for the Meridian team, and autographed a Meridian 808v5 Signature Reference CD Player, which the company donated to his chosen charity, Bridge School Benefit.


The visit of Neil Young to the Meridian factory may hopefully signify an impending tie-up between to develop his Pono concept, which promises to bring high-resolution audio to the portable and home hi-fi market.

Young has shown a prototype Pono player on several occasions – he's seen with it on The Letterman Show above –, and is working to develop and commercialise the device, which is thought to be nearing completion.

The involvement of a company with Meridian's experience in high-resolution audio, and the manufacture of high-quality audio products, would be a significant technological boost for the system.

Pono has the intention of proving that 'the promise of "Perfect Sound Forever" propagated by the inventors of the Compact Disc was a bust, and that "CD Quality" promoted by the likes of iTunes and the creators of the MP3 was only an inkling of the flawed format they were hoping to emulate'.

The company describes the Pono experience as 'Your own personal time machine, to take you back to the place and time of the original musical event, and let you feel music in ways you've only felt seeing it live.'

Written by Andrew Everard

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Andrew has written about audio and video products for the past 20+ years, and been a consumer journalist for more than 30 years, starting his career on camera magazines. Andrew has contributed to titles including What Hi-Fi?, GramophoneJazzwise and Hi-Fi CriticHi-Fi News & Record Review and Hi-Fi Choice. I’ve also written for a number of non-specialist and overseas magazines.