Pono Music: how much???

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.

Pono album

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




  1. Storytone is a double album, so maybe the price isn’t that ridiculous.

    1. Well, a single album with all the tracks again in acoustic form as a bonus. But yes, the price is ridiculous – there’s no hope of attracting new consumers to hi-res music (which after all seems to be the whole intention of Pono) when you adopt premium pricing. After all, it’s only $14.99 on iTunes.

      1. I agree that it won’t attract a lot of people. I’d like to see the standard single-album price though; if it is something like $25, Pono will most likely fail, though there may be enough hi-res fans to make it viable, even at that price. I just picked an album at random on HD Tracks (Blood on the Tracks), and it’s £17; I don’t know what the price is in USD, but it’s close to $25, I guess.

      2. The US price of Blood on the Tracks on HDTracks is $17.98. (They have periodic storewide sales that would bring that down by 10% or 15%.) The UK price is significantly higher even after you factor in the 20% VAT. Google’s current conversion rate is $1 = £0.64. At that conversion rate the price in the UK should be £13.75, not £17.

  2. I am one of those few people who actually buy hi-res downloads (from many on-line stores in many countries). If the price of this album is indicative of things-to-come for Pono, I will not make a single purchase, though.

    And I hope that the Pono music store will really offer an attractive catalog of music in all genres, because Neil Young’s own music won’t cut it, either.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: