Omnifone have been selected by Neil Young's PonoMusic service to provide the high res. studio quality music downloads. Omnifone (based in the UK) claim to have the "largest licensed high-resolution audio catalogue in the world". The PhonoMusic player and download service is due to launch in the UK, US and Canada before the end of 2014.
PonoMusic aims to provide "a complete music ecosystem", which includes the PonoPlayer, a PonoMusic Media Centre desktop app, and the PonoMusic.com music store. Pono should begin selling its US$399 high-res players in October.
Omnifone’s cloud music platform, MusicStation, has some 35 million tracks and claims to have the industry’s largest catalogue of high resolution audio tracks. Omnifone began taking master recordings from labels in 2006, and takes care of the audio encoding in-house. Files are stored in the "highest possible quality pulse-code modulation (PCM)" format and are delivered to users as FLAC and WAV files. The company has also said it is adding new formats such as Direct-Stream Digital (DSD). Omnifone expects high-resolution digital albums to cost between $15 and $25.
Pedram Abrari, PonoMusic SVP of Technology stated: “We’re working tirelessly to give digital music listeners the intensity, nuance and emotion originally captured in the studio. We selected Omnifone as our content delivery partner because of its unique experience in end-to-end digital audio quality and its ability to scale globally."
Jeff Hughes, Omnifone CEO, said: “We are innovators in the digital music landscape and the PonoMusic service will showcase that. Now that digital music services are becoming more mainstream, users are turning their attention to audio quality and it is fast becoming one of the deciding factors when choosing a music service. Omnifone has the platform, the passion and the knowledge to deliver it.”
The PonoPlayer promises to be "a high-resolution music player designed and engineered in a 'no-compromise' fashion". It will have a 128GB memory and a memory card slot. The player features two output jacks – a normal mini-stereo output for headphones and a stereo mini-plug analogue output. The former is intended for personal listening, while the latter has been specifically designed for a home or in-car audio system.
We think the hardware is coming onto the rather market late, the Astell and Kern (and other brand) players already providing superb hardware for mobile and in-home studio quality music in WAV, FLAC and DSD. The Pono tie up with Omniphone will however give Pono a critical advantage if it is only available for Pono players, but we think this is unlikely and that other sellers will licence the Studio quality downloads library as well. Selling downloads is a commercial 'number' game, and Omniphone must be thinking about how to sell their licenced music files to the largest customer base.
At last, are we seeing the real tipping point for studio quality music to reach the masses and become mainstream in 2014/2015?