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MP3-CD Spreading Through Thomson's Audio Product Lineup

7/23/2001 02:00:00 AM Eastern

MP3-CD playback is spreading through Thomson's audio selection, marking the company's first year of MP3-CD product availability.

The feature, which turned up earlier this year in a headphone CD player and a five-disc shelf system, will be extended later this year to a second shelf system, a second headphone portable, a CD boombox, a DVD-receiver-based home-theater-in-a-box system, and a five-disc carousel CD changer.

Shipments of the company's first two MP3-CD products, the headphone portable and shelf system, were originally targeted for late last year.

MP3 is also taking a higher profile in other RCA product segments. MP3 playback is included in six DVD players, up from last year's one, and in the three-in-one X-cam, which combines an MP3 player, digital still camera and full-motion video-clip recorder with audio recording.

During a press conference here, the company also said it plans next year to extend its new RCA Scenium series name to select audio categories. The Scenium name, already used on Thomson-brand products in Europe, will be reserved for the company's most advanced products in the United States. This year, Scenium is reserved for five top-end HDTVs. Next year it will be extended to other video products and to broadband products.

"Scenium won't be used in all our audio categories," said worldwide audio VP Mark Redmond. "We're looking at home-theater-in-a-box and possibly separate components." Dealer requirements for carrying the series will be more stringent. When asked, Redmond agreed that Scenium "could take us into new distribution, perhaps the CEDIA channel, depending on the product." The GE name will continue to be used on clock radios and kitchen products.

The first Scenium-designated audio products, he said, could include the company's set-top Digital Media Manager, whose launch has been delayed again, this time until early 2002 from the third quarter of 2001. At a suggested retail price that will be $999 or less, Digital Media Manager will stream audio from Web sites via Radio Free Virgin's streaming service, use an internal hard drive to store MP3 songs ripped via an internal CD/DVD drive, and manage A/V content through an onscreen menu. The menu will display Gemstar's TV Electronic Program Guide, streaming audio sites, local AM and FM stations, titles of songs stored on the hard drive and in 1394-connected DVD/CD changers, and DVDs stored in those changers.

In other developments, the company said:

  • It plans no DVD-Audio products in 2001. The company is still trying to come up with the "right cost solution" that delivers a "quality" audible benefit, Redmond said.

  • Its first mp3PRO-equipped headphone portable, the Lyra III, won't be available until early next year. Development of the mp3PRO codec is still underway.

  • It is "pretty sure" the Lyra I and II won't be upgradable to mp3PRO, despite their programmable processors, because of the lack of enough embedded RAM (see July 9, page 32). The company is "pretty sure" the Kazoo portable will be upgradable, Redmond said.

  • It plans later this year to ship an upgraded Kazoo MP3 player, which will get 64MB of on-board memory compared to the current model's 32MB. Its MAP will be $149, and the current model's MAP will drop to $129 from $149 in time for back-to-school promotions.

  • The company's new MP3-CD-equipped audio products include:

  • RCA's first DVD-receiver-equipped HTiB, the $499-suggested RTDVD1, due in November. A DVD-receiver-equipped HTiB intended to ship last year was cancelled.

  • The RCD118 boombox, due in the fall at a suggested $129 with memory buffer, digital tuner, remote, multiline LCD display and support for multiple compression rates.

  • The RP8079 five-disc carousel CD changer, due in the fall at a suggested $199 with CD Text and disc titling.

  • RS2533 shelf system with five-disc changer, biamplification and digital tuner at a suggested $199 when it ships in the fall. It joins the higher power $399-suggested five-disc RS2538, whose shipment was delayed from late 2000 to January 2001. Both feature five-disc changer and CD-R/RW compatibility. was cancelled.

  • The RCD118 boombox, due in the fall at a suggested $129 with memory buffer, digital tuner, remote, multiline LCD display and support for multiple compression rates.

  • The RP8079 five-disc carousel CD changer, due in the fall at a suggested $199 with CD Text and disc titling.

  • RS2533 shelf system with five-disc changer, biamplification and digital tuner at a suggested $199 when it ships in the fall. It joins the higher power $399-suggested five-disc RS2538, whose shipment was delayed from late 2000 to January 2001. Both feature five-disc changer and CD-R/RW compatibility.

  • the RP2415 headphone CD with car kit at a suggested $149, due later in the year. It joins the $149-suggested RP2410.

Other MP3 products include the X-cam, available in the fall with a suggested $249, and the $699-suggested portable DVD player, available in Target and Wal-Mart stores.

DVD players featuring MP3-CD playback include the RC5915P five-disc changer at a suggested $349, due in the fall, and the RC5240 at a suggested $269. It's currently available.

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