Deezer’s high-def audio service comes to Sonos speakers worldwide

Deezer’s high-definition music streaming tier is expanding beyond the U.S.: Sonos owners around the world can soon stream their music as high-definition FLAC files with bit rates of 1,411 kbps or higher by subscribing to Deezer Elite, as the new tier is being called. This comes after Deezer launched Deezer Elite to U.S.-based Sonos owners last September.

Deezer is rolling out the new tier in two phases: Existing Deezer subscribers can upgrade to Deezer Elite right away for no additional cost. New users that already have a Sonos device will be able to sign up by March 19th, but the company hasn’t announced yet how much it will charge customers at that point. Deezer is charging users in the U.S. $14.99 for high-definition streaming with month-to-month billing.

Deezer USA CEO Tyler Goldman told me during an interview last week that Deezer Elite is part of the company’s mission to build specialized tiers that cater to certain audiences, rather than offering everyone the same music service. “We are going to super-serve the needs of audiophiles” with Deezer Elite, he said, adding that the company has gotten a lot of positive feedback from U.S.-based Elite subscribers.

The most striking data point may be the engagement that Deezer is seeing with Elite: Goldman told me that the typical Deezer subscriber streams for close to two hours per day. With Deezer Elite, the amount of listening almost doubles, he said.

Deezer is just one of a number of companies trying to cash in on high-definition audio. In December, HD music streaming service Tidal launched on Sonos as well, and Neil Young’s Pono recently started to sell its HD music player on the web and in select stores. Pono’s model is a bit different in that it is based on digital album sales as opposed to a all-you-can-eat streaming service like Deezer, but Young told me during an interview at CES that it would be possible for Pono to team up with a streaming service down the road as well.

Neil Young: Pono won’t be a hardware company for long (video interview)

Neil Young’s high-definition audio startup Pono just started selling its Pono player, but the music legend told me during an interview at CES in Las Vegas Wednesday that he sees Pono getting out of the hardware business sooner rather than later. Asked whether Pono wants to continue to make its own hardware, Young said: “Not really. This is just so people can see what can be done. I would welcome the chance to have another company make this player.”

Young went on to say that he’d be happy to share Pono’s technology with other companies, and license the Pono brand. “It can say ‘certified Pono’ or it can say ‘branded Pono’. Those are the two things we offer, and neither of them are very expensive,” he explained.

Check out the full interview with Young:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZUY5vL7q-g]

Young said that he first thought about building the Pono when the MP3 format became popular around the turn of the century. He then started building a prototype four or five years ago. Young went on to announce Pono with an appearance on Letterman in 2012, but it took the company quite a while to actually get the product ready and out of the door.

In that process, Pono went through a number of CEOs, and is now officially headed by Young himself. Asked about that process, Young said: “It’s been difficult, we’ve made mistakes. But we are still here.”

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Neil Young’s Pono player surpasses $800,000 Kickstarter goal on launch day

Well, that was fast. Neil Young’s Pono startup, which wants to build a high-resolution digital music player by the same name, shot past its $800,000 funding goal on day one of its Kickstarter campaign. Pono launched a Kickstarter campaign to finance the production of its player Tuesday morning, and at 10pm, it already had raised more than $925,000. This also means that the discounted $200 Pono players are all gone, but backers can still secure a player for $300, which is $100 less than what Pono wants to sell the device for this fall.

Neil Young’s Pono music player is looking to raise $800,000 from Kickstarter

The Kickstarter campaign for Pono, the high-resolution music startup founded by Neil Young, is live, with an ambitious goal: Pono wants to raise $800,000 within the next 34 days to fund the production of its portable music player. Early backers have a chance to pick up a Pono player for $200, as opposed to the $400 retail price it will be selling for this fall. Other rewards include posters signed by Neil Young and a private dinner with the rock star.  The campaign page also includes a few more technical details, including that Pono will play FLAC files with bit rates of up to 9216 kbps.