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5 reasons Kanye’s STEM Player will fail

Ye’s STEM Player is gaining popularity thanks to his new Donda 2 album - but that doesn’t mean the it's going to live long....
Photo by geralt

Kanye isn’t the first artist to craft his own audio player. If you can remember back to 2014, there was a lot of hype for something called PonoPlayer – a device crafted by artist Neil Young that would be the Hi-Fi replacement for the waning Apple iPod

Long story short, it failed. Big time.

Ye’s STEM Player isn’t exactly a one-to-one facsimile of Neil Young’s player and it comes with a few neat features like STEM remixing that Pono did not. That being said, it’s making all the same mistakes and that’s why – as neat as it sounds – the STEM Player will never take off.

Why are we hating on Ye’s latest pet project? Here are the five reasons why we think the STEM Player is doomed to fail.

Reason #1: You probably haven’t heard of it until right now 

Although almost everyone is hearing about the STEM Player for the first time this week, it’s actually been out for over a year. It originally launched in the middle of 2021 and came with the rapper’s last album, Donda, pre-installed. 

Why it’s making headlines this year is because the rapper says he’s making his latest album, Donda 2, exclusive to the STEM Player – i.e. no streaming on Apple Music, Spotify or anywhere else. It’s on that player and that’s it. 

But before Ye brought it back into the limelight, there was almost no one talking about it – and that’s honestly going to happen again once the hype around the latest album dies out. And that might happen sooner rather than later because…

Reason #2: Kanye is going to cave under the pressure (again) 

Donda was a STEM Player exclusive, sure, but that only lasted all of two months. After that, you could find it on Apple Music – the one place Ye said it would never be.

There’s no telling exactly what Ye’s going to do next (I’m not even sure he knows) but chances are good that, as a rapper and a competent business-person, he’s not going to keep his music locked on a device that no one’s buying.


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Reason #3: It has a neat – but very niche – killer feature 

Every device needs a gimmick, something to justify its price tag. For the STEM Player, it’s the ability to extract and remix stems on the fly. Of course, unless you’re really into mixing music, the word stem might not mean anything to you – and that’s the problem.

For those who don’t mix, a stem is a compilation of like recordings that can be adjusted in the broader mix of a song. For example, you could lump all the vocals of a track into one stem, and then raise or lower the overall volume of those vocals to better match the drums, guitars, piano, or whatever other instruments you have in the mix. 

For large instrumental scores, this can equate to dozens of stems, all of which need to be carefully blended so that no section gets lost in the mix.

The STEM Player doesn’t allow you that granular level of control, but it does allow you to isolate some elements of the track to better hear them. You can independently mix up to four of these stems and save your mix to the player. 

Objectively, that’s pretty unique – but that’s not a feature that’s going to sell a £200 / $200 audio player to a broad audience.

Reason #4: There’s no UI or a real road map for the future 

Comparing any device to the iPod is a lofty comparison – but the STEM Player bills itself as an MP3 player first and foremost and that warrants the comparison.  

Two of the biggest reasons the iPod succeeded? Apple’s MP3 player had a great UI and rock-solid road map of the future. The STEM Player doesn’t have much of either.

The device itself is pebble-shaped and relies on touch controls. That’s absolutely fine for a cheaper player, but at the $200 level, folks really want to see what they’re listening to.

Another problem is that, when you go to STEM Player’s website, there are really no details on how the product will change in the future – there’s no word on updates, nor is there much information about how the device works. Those are bad signs if you want people to feel a connection to the product before they buy it.

Not every device needs to have these in order to thrive, but for relatively unknown devices like the STEM Player, they can really help.

The now-defunct PonoPlayer. (Image credit: PonoPlayer)

Reason #5: The curse of the pop-star tech product 

We’ll just come right out and say it: Most of the products pitched to us by pop stars and rap moguls are vaporware. They’re announced one minute and gone the next.

PonoPlayer is the example we used earlier, but the same could be said about any one of’s projects or Soulja Boy’s Nintendo rip-offs. Sure, Dr. Dre did an amazing job with Beats, but most celebrities aren’t committed to the R&D necessary to make truly cutting-edge products. And yeah, that includes the STEM Player.  

Looking for a better alternative? Check out our guide to the best MP3 players





© 2022 The Daily Encrypt. All Rights Reserved. This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.

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