Pono representatives were at the California Audio Show a couple of weeks ago. I could see them just outside the ballroom where I had my two tables and on occasion I would stop by and check out what they were saying. I must say that they had a rather slick setup. There were at least 6 Pono players locked into holders atop a gooseneck, clip-on holder. Attendees could stand in front of one of the players and audition some “high-res” music. The workers had no idea who I was and I engaged in a couple of conversations about the player and the PonoMusic service. To say that these Pono trade show workers were completely uninformed about the product and service that they were pitching would be a gross understatement. The first person I talked to was fairly new to the company so perhaps that’s why he didn’t seem to know anything about music formats, resolution, and high-quality DACs. The others should have known more…but if they did, they didn’t respond. They read the company line and passed out post cards to anyone willing to take one.

Here’s a photo of one side of the post card.


Figure 1 – One side of the post card handed out by the Pono representatives at the recent CAS6 event. [Click to enlarge]

Take a look at the information on the card. There’s the Pono logo at the top (BTW I like the logo…simply, elegant and memorable) and a headline statement to the right. It says, “High Resolution Music Store”. As you might expect, I reacted to that claim with a healthy amount of skepticism. The PonoMusic store offers virtually zero high-resolution audio tracks! How long can you keep denying the truth.

The bottom of the card continues the fantasy, “PonoMusic brings you the largest collection of Hi-Res music anywhere with over 2 million tracks”. I’d be curious to know who wrote the copy for the piece of advertising? Did Neil approve this message?

Here are the indisputable facts about the music available on the PonoMusic site.

They sell the same major label content as HDtracks and the other high-resolution licensees. According to the label representatives, they’ve delivered about 5000 “high-resolution transfers” of older analog masters…, which are not actually high-res sources…to the high-res retailers. These guys are all selling the same tracks. HDtracks does have a lot more of these high-resolution transfers because they’ve done deals with a whole bunch of small independent labels. David Chesky told me that the number was about 15,000 last summer. I can only assume that it’s increased to about 20,000…maybe?

So where does PonoMusic get the remaining 2 million tracks for their catalog of “Hi-Res music”? They claim to have the largest collection of “Hi-Res music” in the world. I’ve heard Neil Young interviewed a number of times and even spoken to him personally on a couple of occasions…he hates CD quality sound and always has. However, it turns out that all of the other tracks for sale on his “High Resolution Music Store” are ripped CDs provided by Omnifone, a UK company that specializes in ripping, converting, and tagging music tracks.

I thought that Neil and his minions had figured this out…I guess not.

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About Author


Mark Waldrep, aka Dr. AIX, has been producing and engineering music for over 40 years. He learned electronics as a teenager from his HAM radio father while learning to play the guitar. Mark received the first doctorate in music composition from UCLA in 1986 for a "binaural" electronic music composition. Other advanced degrees include an MS in computer science, an MFA/MA in music, BM in music and a BA in art. As an engineer and producer, Mark has worked on projects for the Rolling Stones, 311, Tool, KISS, Blink 182, Blues Traveler, Britney Spears, the San Francisco Symphony, The Dover Quartet, Willie Nelson, Paul Williams, The Allman Brothers, Bad Company and many more. Dr. Waldrep has been an innovator when it comes to multimedia and music. He created the first enhanced CDs in the 90s, the first DVD-Videos released in the U.S., the first web-connected DVD, the first DVD-Audio title, the first music Blu-ray disc and the first 3D Music Album. Additionally, he launched the first High Definition Music Download site in 2007 called A frequency speaker at audio events, author of numerous articles, Dr. Waldrep is currently writing a book on the production and reproduction of high-end music called, "High-End Audio: A Practical Guide to Production and Playback". The book should be completed in the fall of 2013.

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