PonoMusic store launches with album prices up to $27.49



Neil Young’s PonoMusic raised $6.2m on Kickstarter last year for its high-definition player and downloads store, with plans to launch both by the end of 2014 for those early backers. Now, at the start of 2015, the store has gone live for buying music, while the player is going on sale for a wider audience too.

The store’s launch provides an answer to one of the key questions about PonoMusic: how much it would charge for its high-definition albums. More than regular downloads, yes, but how much more? Judging by the music available at launch, individual tracks are going for between $1.99 and $2.99, while albums can range from $17.99 up to $27.49 – although admittedly the latter is for the deluxe version of Led Zeppelin IV.

The obvious comparison is with vinyl rather than iTunes. However, there may be some concerns over fragmentation on the PonoMusic store, not just in terms of price but in terms of audio quality.

Pono has a “music quality spectrum” infographic showing that music will be available in four separate tiers of quality: from 16-bit 44.1KHz up to 24-bit 192Khz, with an “audio resolution” bar showing which each album falls into. It is difficult to imagine, say, Apple following a similar path rather than standardising a quality level for its suppliers.

Still, we’ll find out now how much of an appetite there is for PonoMusic’s store and player outside those Kickstarter backers. One question: is Neil Young focused on making Pono a sustainable business, or more interested in jogging larger players (like Apple) to upgrade their own audio quality? “In my mind, this is a success already because it lives,” he said at CES yesterday, according to The Verge.

Don’t expect Pono streaming soon either: “If you use Spotify you can recognise the song immediately, but can your soul recognise it? That’s what I’m talking about. Do you feel this, or is it just wallpaper?”

Written by: Stuart Dredge