I’ve been following the Pono story on this website. For those not familiar with it, Pono is a Toblerone-shaped digital music player backed by Neil Young, which is designed to play high-resolution music. It’s started shipping recently, and, curiously, I haven’t spotted any reviews or even comments of any depth on forums. Also, the Pono music store is not yet open.
But audio equipment review Andrew Everard spotted the pricing for one upcoming Neil Young album in Pono format. Storytone, listed on the Warner Bros Records Store site, is selling for $32.99. To be fair, this is a double album, but you can get it from the iTunes Store for only $15. Even better: get it on CD from Amazon.com for just $12. (Though on vinyl – which many audiophiles think is as good as high-resolution digital files – you’ll pay $70.)
Neil Young would say that the high-res version is better; many people disagree. High-res music is priced higher than other digital files, but a difference of that magnitude is quite surprising. The Pono premium is $20 for this two-album set. To be fair, we don’t know what a standard single album will cost yet, but it won’t be cheap.
For Pono to have any chance at success, it not only has to bring high-resolution music files to the masses, but at an affordable price. It most likely will not do so, at least based on this first example.