Neil Young’s Pono Music player and service is here. Or coming. Or something. But with album pricing like this, it’s going to struggle to catch on
Like others who make their living scribbling about consumer electronics, I’ve been following with interest the progress of Neil Young’s Pono, from the initial announcements, through the Kickstarter campaign (raising $6.225m against an $800k target), to the ‘will they won’t they?’ with British company Meridian, the announcement that US company Ayre Acoustics would be providing the audio technology and most recently the internal shuffle involving former CEO John Hamm stepping down and Neil Young taking over the role.
The Pono Player was due to launch in October, but things have been a bit quiet on that front of late, and an announcement in July from British cloud music company Omnifone said that the Pono Music service ‘will launch in the US, UK and Canada before the end of the year’, and that ‘High-resolution digital albums are anticipated to cost between $15 to $25.’
So I was somewhat surprised to notice on the Warner Bros online music store what is my first sighting of a Pono album download in the wild.
Yes, it’s in 192kHz/24-bit FLAC. And yes, it includes extra content.
But $32.29??? That would be £20 even at proper exchange rates (probably plus 20% VAT to make it £24), let alone what it may be with the application of the Universal Consumer Electronics Currency Exchange Rate, which as we know has parity between the US dollar and the pound Sterling.
So, $400 (£250) for a Pono Player, and anywhere north of £20 for a Pono album? That kind of pricing makes the numbers on the likes of Linn Records, Qobuz and HDTracks, which are often cited by those who see high-resolution music as a rip-off, seem quite sensible.
Can’t help feeling that far from bringing a breath of fresh air to the digital music and consumer electronics industries, Pono might have just shot itself in the foot, and is now limping off in search of something on which to use the remaining bullets…
Written by Andrew Everard