Ayre hears ‘buzz’ from PonoMusic player

BOULDER – Ayre Acoustics Inc., an 18-person company that has been quietly doing business in Boulder since 1993, is enjoying its 15 minutes of fame generated this week by the launch of Neil Young’s PonoMusic digital music player.

But Ayre officials are hoping the real payoff in recognition with the general public comes when the Pono players start shipping in boxes that mention that the device is “powered by Ayre Acoustics.”

“I think it’s going to be a really nice thing long-term for us,” Brent Hefley, marketing manager of Ayre, said Wednesday.

Young, the music icon who founded Pono, introduced the player this week at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, causing Hefley’s phone to ring much more than usual with media requests. A Kickstarter.com crowdfunding campaign launched the same day as Pono’s unveiling has already raised more than $1.7 million for PonoMusic.

Ayre Acoustics designed the internal digital and analog circuitry for the device that converts digital music files into a high-quality analog format and amplifies them to the speakers.

Pono will retail for $399 when it is released to the public later this year, not the most expensive digital player on the market but not cheap either.

“But because of the stuff that we do it’s going to be the best-sounding,” Hefley said.

Hefley said the partnership with Pono came together only about 60 days ago. Young had gotten wind of some devices Ayre makes for the professional audio world, and liked what he heard. PonoMusic officials then approached Ayre about designing the guts of their device, while PonoMusic designed the look, navigation and other aspects.

The Pono players will be made in China. But Ayre has grown steadily since owner Charles Hansen founded the company solely by designing and manufacturing all of its own products at its 2300 Central Ave. location. While the company does some work for the professional audio industry, Ayre’s main business is in home audio – compact disc players, amplifiers, DVD players and other products.

Ayre’s high-end devices are distributed in 40 countries and at 50 retail detailers in the United States, mostly specialty stores like Crescendo Fine Audio in Boulder.

The hope, Hefley said, is that some of Ayre’s quick fame can turn into some more awareness of its other products.

“It’s been cool,” Hefley said of all of the attention.