RIP Pono and Pono Music Store

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by SKBubba, Apr 21, 2017.

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  1. SKBubba

    SKBubba Forum Resident Thread Starter

    MikaelaArsenault likes this.
  2. ls35a

    ls35a Forum Resident

    Eagle, Idaho
    This way to the egress.....
  3. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff

    Glad I never got onboard, I guess.
  4. aroney

    aroney Who really gives a...?

    Neil's playing catch-up again. Other sites are, or will be, streaming in higher quality and they already have the infrastructure in place.

    His hyperbole about quality is especially grating, and not once, AFAIK, has he ever mentioned the impact mastering has on sound quality.
    nano nano, Vidiot, JulesRules and 9 others like this.
  5. Jack Flannery

    Jack Flannery Forum Resident

    Houston, TX
    No kidding.
  6. boots

    boots Chokma!

    Oh! goody, let me get my wallet! :goodie:
    Reamonnt, MikaelaArsenault and moops like this.
  7. SamS

    SamS Forum Legend

  8. Stereosound

    Stereosound Forum Resident

    From Pono's forums:

    Neil Young (PonoMusic)
    It’s time to talk about Pono and the initiative we all started. As you know, together we’ve been fighting a battle to bring high quality music back to the world that’s become used to mediocre, hollowed-out files. The cause seemed to be a win-win for everyone. The artists would allow their fans to hear what they hear in the studios, and the music lovers would hear the music the best it could be. This cause has been something I’ve written and talked about for over 20 years. I cared and I assumed that most of the world would care.

    It’s been almost five years since we kicked off the campaign at SXSW to offer a player and download content that could fulfill my dream of bringing to you a music experience unlike any other for the cost. Thanks to our supporters on Kickstarter, the follow-on customers and some very good friends that supported the effort, we delivered on that promise. Our player won best digital portable productof the year from Stereophile Magazine, and we offered some of the best high resolution content to be found anywhere. We sold tens of thousands of players, every unit that we made. Thanks for that!

    But, despite that success, I was not satisfied. I had to put up with lots of criticism for the high cost of music delivered in the way all music should be provided, at full resolution and not hollowed out. I had no control over the pricing, but I was the one that felt the criticism, because I was the face of it. And I pretty much agreed with the criticism. Music should not be priced this way.

    Last year when Omnifone, our download store partner, was bought and shut down with no notice by Apple, we began work with another company to build the same download store. But the more we worked on it, the more we realized how difficult it would be to recreate what we had and how costly it was to run it: to deliver the Pono promise, meaning you’d never have to buy the same album again if was released at a higher quality; the ability to access just high res music, and not the same performances at lower quality, and the ability to do special sales. Each of these features was expensive to implement.

    I also realized that just bringing back the store was not enough. While there was a dedicated audience, I could not in good conscience continue to justify the higher costs. When it comes to high res, the record industry is still broken. The industry was such that even when I wanted to remaster some of the great performances from my artist friends at high res, Pono had to pay thousands of dollars for each recording, with little expectation of getting the money back. Record companies believe they should charge a premium for high res recordings and conversely, I believe all music should cost the same, regardless of the technology used.

    As you might imagine, I found it difficult to raise more money for this model: delivering quality music at a premium price to a limited audience that felt they were being taken advantage of with the high costs.

    So now, sadly with Pono offline, for more than eight months I’ve been working with our small team to look for alternatives. Finding a way to deliver the quality music without the expense and to bring it to a larger audience has been our goal.

    That effort has led to a technology developed by Orastream, a small company in Singapore that we’ve been working with. Together we created Xstream, the next generation of streaming, an adaptive streaming service that changes with available bandwidth. It is absolutely amazing because it is capable of complete high resolution playback. Unlike all other streaming services that are limited to playing at a single low or moderate resolution, Xstream plays at the highest quality your network condition allows at that moment and adapts as the network conditions change. It’s a single high resolution bit-perfect file that essentially compresses as needed to never stop playing. As a result, it always sounds better than the other streaming services and it never stops or buffers like other higher res services. When you play it at home with WiFi it can play all established low and high resolutions, including the highest, and thousands more levels of resolution in between. When you are in your car with poor cellular it might play better than an existing low res service, but at a location where robust wifi is available Xstream supports high resolution listening. Xstream is one file, streamingfor all with 15,000 seamlessly changing levels of playback quality.

    So, this is what we’ve been working on. But one of my conditions is that it should not have a premium price. I’ve insisted that there be no premium price for this service. Pono tried that with downloads and it’s not a good model for customers. And I’ve told the labels it’s not a good model for them to charge a premium for music the way it was meant to be heard. I firmly believe that music is in trouble because you can’t hear it the way it is created unless you pay a premium. No one gets to hear the real deal, so the magic of music is compromised by limited technology.

    Good sounding music is not a premium. All songs should cost the same, regardless of digital resolution. Let the people decide what they want to listen to without charging them more for true quality. That way quality is not an elitist thing. If high resolution costs more, listeners will just choose the cheaper option and never hear the quality. Record companies will ultimately lose more money by not exposing the true beauty of their music to the masses. Remember, all music is created to sound great and the record labels are the one’s deciding to not offer that at the normal price. The magic of music should be presented by the stewards of that music at a normal price. Let listeners decide on the quality they want to purchase without pricing constraints.

    I’ve been meeting with and speaking with the labels, potential partners such as the carriers, and other potential investors. For many it’s a difficult sell. There are already streaming services, some doing well and others not. While there’s nothing as good as Xstream, or as flexible and adaptive, it’s still proven a difficult sell for companies to invest in.

    So, in my experience, today’s broken music industry continues to make major mistakes, but we are still trying. Bringing back the magic of great sound matters to the music of the world.

    Thank you all very much for supporting Pono and quality audio. Thanks to everyone who is or was associated with Pono, especially the customers who supported us. Thanks to Charlie Hansen and Ayre Acoustics for the great PonoPlayer. It has been a labor of love. I want you to know that I’m still trying to make the case for bringing you the best music possible, at a reasonable price, the same message we brought to you five years ago. I don’t know whether we will succeed, but it’s still as important to us as it ever was.

    Thankfully, for those of my audience who care and want to hear all the music, every recording I have ever released will soon be available in Xstream high resolution quality at my complete online archive. Check it out. We will be announcing it very soon.

    Neil Young
    jfeldt, 2xUeL, Vidiot and 5 others like this.
  9. The Revealer

    The Revealer Working hard to remain revelant.

    Metro Chicago, IL
    There are far worse things to do than fight this battle - even redundantly. I never viewed Pono any differently than HDTracks or the others. It's too much money for digital files. Neil knows that. Moving in to streaming reeks of not wanting to admit he's only preaching to a choir - and one that feels free to move in and out of his particular congregation. Any bets on how long this lasts? 2020?
  10. MikaelaArsenault

    MikaelaArsenault Forum Resident

    New Hampshire
    Wow. Just... wow. So Pono isn't returning after all?
  11. mwheelerk

    mwheelerk Don't Let The Old Man In

    Gilbert Arizona
    I never expected it to. When a business does a pit stop it rarely comes out for the rest of the race.
  12. mrwolk

    mrwolk One and a half waiting!

    Ottawa, Canada
    I never cared for the Pono from the outset...didn't care for the design..too much like a Toblerone chocolate bar...Is that a Pono in your pocket?. or are you happy to see me!
    Don't have too much hope for XStream music service either...with rumours that Spotify will soon offer a 'lossless' will knock Tidal and others out of the water....Neil should stick to what he does best...creating music.
    Leave the delivery system to the pros.
  13. BradOlson

    BradOlson Country/Christian Music Maven

    I agree that Neil Young is only preaching to a choir and only should do what he does best, create music.
    SixtiesGuy, chilinvilin, Dave and 7 others like this.
  14. acdc7369

    acdc7369 Forum Resident

    United States
    I was going to say that. Who cares if it's high quality streaming if the mastering is trash. I'd rather listen to an MP3 of a great mastering than a lossless version of a mediocre mastering.
  15. Sneaky Pete

    Sneaky Pete Senior Member

    Too bad, it was a good product but came to market too late and it couldn't compete with the cheaper, lower resolution music sources.

    Neil should be praised for these efforts not vilified.
    2xUeL, bhazen, needlestein and 9 others like this.
  16. drh

    drh Talking Machine

    So, is it true Hasbro is buying the franchise to merge into an existing toy line as "My Little Pono"?


    He had best be careful calling for one price for all quality levels. Knowing this industry, it will raise the price of .mp3 to match that of high resolution.
  17. rebellovw

    rebellovw Forum Resident

    Man I read the NY response above up to the Xstream part and thinking what is the big deal here - what does this solve? I have tons of records and CDs and use paid for Pandora and Spotify premium. They sound fantastic.
  18. jon9091

    jon9091 Master Of Reality

    I find it interesting that he tries to vilify Apple in all of this, as he fails to mention that his download partner Omnifone had already filed for bankruptcy. Apple, and other tech companies were interested in their patents and tech talent (giving people jobs).

    Apple hires talent, buys technology from bankrupt streaming music startup Omnifone
  19. Not to mention his catalog is for sale on iTunes. I have a Pono, love it to death, and may buy a spare before they disappear completely, but the enterprise was likely doomed from the start, and not because of anything Apple did.
  20. tootull

    tootull too many too

    ... want to be a richer man
  21. Solitaire1

    Solitaire1 Carpenters Fan

    I wonder if they will come out with a Dr. Hooves edition of My Little Pono - Hi-Rez Is Magic? :)
  22. patient_ot

    patient_ot Senior Member

    Said this before, but the real value of the Pono store, for me anyway, was the massive catalog of HTF and OOP titles available as 16/44 at reasonable prices. I never bought a Pono Player and only bought a couple hi-rez albums from the store.

    Re: the new streaming platform, we'll see. Streaming doesn't interest or excite me that much. I have a Tidal subscription that I use to dabble in streaming and check out albums but it's not my preferred way to listen to music.
  23. ShallowMemory

    ShallowMemory Classical Princess

    To me there were two parts to Pono one being the player and the other being the downloadable content whose usp's were free upgrades on fresh improved mastering, less potential issues about how high res the files really were (genuine hd or just resampled 16/44.1) and less premium pricing cos we can.
    Not everyone liked the player but it had a good reputation for sound quality but the audience for it expects to load on albums they've bought rather than streaming as the main thing and it looks like you'll be visiting HD Tracks, 7Digital, Presto et all like those of us who don't own a Pono. There's only so many Pono's one can buy and a not few people making similar quality daps so I have to say why in the medium to long term where is Pono?
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2017
  24. rnranimal

    rnranimal Senior Member

    I have no interest in streaming music. I've also mostly given up on hi-res because of all the sup bar masterings which are outdone by previous CD releases. It's sad that all this great technology exists, but is still being held back by greed and ignorance. We should be getting re-releases with superior sound rather than crap that can't stand up to CDs mastered with 80s & 90s technology. I've pretty much given up. I'll just enjoy what I have for the most part. I'm tired of handing over my money for music malpractice. They want to just keep raising the price while lowering the quality. And I mean actual quality, not just bragging about bigger numbers which are meaningless when they are used for shoddy mastering.
    Bolero, MichaelCPE, Dave and 14 others like this.
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