Pono Music Download Store Goes Online

Rock legend Neil Young plans to expand distribution of PonoPlayer portable.
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Rock legend Neil Young plans to expand distribution of PonoPlayer portable.

San Francisco -- Rock legend and Pono Music CEO Neil Young brought his high-resolution Pono Music World store out of U.S. beta today, and he plans to expand distribution of his high-resolution PonoPlayer music portable beyond about two dozen high-end audio and record outlets currently selling the product in limited quantities.

The company, which also sells the device through its download site, will begin selling the PonoPlayer through Fry’s during the first week of January, the company said.

Pono Music also said it envisions offering a full slate of products on its web store and through retailers, including more Pono players, speakers, headphones and earbuds, and home players with terabytes of storage.

At International CES, the $399 PonoPlayer will appear in Pono’s own booth at the convention center, the Pono listening room at the Harman exhibit in the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, the Millenial Woman apartment in the Wynn Hotel, SanDisk’s suite at the Venetian, and the booths of Ayre Acoustics, PCH International, Sennheiser, Audeze, and others, the company said.

The company is taking orders from the general public for February delivery of the Pono portable player, having sold almost 20,000 between October and the end of 2014 to Kickstarter backers, Young said in a web post.

During the music store’s invitation-only beta, almost 200,000 tracks were purchased and downloaded as of the end of 2014, he added.

PonoMusic World features more than 2,000,000 songs with resolutions ranging from CD-quality 44.1kHz/16 bits to high-resolution 192/24 from the big three music labels. The company said it already has rights “to the largest 24-bit music catalog available anywhere” and plans to offer free high-resolution upgrades of previously purchased albums when a higher resolution version becomes available in its store. “When there’s a higher quality recording, then CD we only will sell the higher quality file,” said Phil Baker, VP product development and operations. “We currently estimate we have more than 5,000 HR albums on our store, which are mostly 96/24 and 192/24.”

In the high-res download market, Pono joins Acoustic Sounds Super HiRez Service, AIX Records’ iTrax.com, Blue Coast Music’s Downloads NOW!, Channel Classics Records, HDtracks, Native DSD, and ProStudioMasters. All offer high-res files, and some add CD-quality files and MP3 files.

In 2015, now that it has “successfully ingested nearly all of the U.S. content from the big three music labels,” Pono plans to add content from indie labels. After opening its store in Canada and the U.K. in the first quarter, the company said it will expand to additional countries later in the year.

The PonoPlayer itself supports files up to 192/24 and the FLAC, ALAC, WAV, AIFF, AAC and MP3 formats. It features 64GB of embedded memory plus an included 64GB SanDisk microSD card. The player also features 2.5-inch color touchscreen, and two 3.5mm audio output jacks to connect two headphones simultaneously. A balanced mode separates the left and right channel outputs across the two jacks for use with high-impedance headphones, high-end home stereo systems, or professional equipment using balanced XLR input connectors.

The rechargeable 2900mAH Li-Ion battery delivers up to 8 hours of playback time.


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