Suppliers are giving installers more ways to centrally manage their audio/video content and distribute it throughout the house, often by tying into a home's Ethernet network. The trend will be highlighted during CEDIA Expo to be held here this week.
In many cases, the content is stored on a networked PC or network attached storage (NAS) device supplied by an IT company. In other cases, a dedicated media server is installed in a home's central A/V rack. In either case, suppliers are leveraging the economies of the Ethernet and Internet Protocol to reduce costs and simplify installation.
At least one company, NetStreams, will use Ethernet networking to integrate the control of music stored on a PC and a separate dedicated music server (see p. 32).
Another company, Escient, will use Ethernet connections to integrate the content of its central music server with docked iPods located anywhere on the network.
Other companies here with new Ethernet-connected distribution systems include Kaleidescape, NiveusMedia, ReQuest, and Slim Devices.
Also at the show, installers will find Harman Kardon's first music server. (See story, page 32.)
Here's what else installers will find at the Expo:
CodexNovus: The Champaign, Ill., company is adding a third single-room AV-content server to its selection of two models, which have been displayed at previous shows but won't ship until the fourth quarter along with the new model. All are said to deliver the highest capacities at their price points. The latest model in the HDcodex lineup is the 1.6TB DML-1600 at a suggested $6,999. It joins the $4,999 1TB DML-1000 and the $3,499 250GB DML-200. All ship in the fourth quarter
Besides ripping CDs and DVDs, the servers copy content from other networked HDcodex players, but when the company upgrades them at an unannounced time to multiroom servers, they'll be able to stream HD (up to 1080p) and SD video, plus music, from one another.
Access to content is said to be instantaneous, whereas other servers are said to take up to 30 seconds to access a file.
The HDcodex models store audio in the Dolby Digital 5.1- and 7.1-channel formats and in MP-2, MP-3, wave, and AAC formats. Video is stored in the MPEG-2, MPEG-4, and AVI formats, and images are stored in bmp, png, tiff, gif, and jpeg.
Escient: Two new Ethernet-network zone players, which stream music from networked FireBall HDD servers/music managers, include Escient's first iPod-docking zone player. It lets consumers stream music from a docked iPod to another new zone player also scheduled for introduction.
The iPod-docking FP-1, shipping in November at a suggested $599, displays an integrated menu of iPod music, music residing on a Fireball HDD music server, and music stored in select Fireball-connected DVD/CD megachangers. A $499 version lacking an iPod dock is capable of remotely controlling an FP-1-docked iPod and displaying the integrated menu.
iPod music files that can be streamed include Apple-protected AAC files, which are converted from analog to PCM for streaming over the network. Only one iPod song can be streamed at a time. The zone players also display PC-stored music if FireBall software is installed on the PC.
The devices are Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) certified and measure 1.25 by 8 by 5 inches. Music metadata and cover art are stored in solid-state memory.
In another announcement, Escient is launching an upgrade to its PC software to enable Fireballs and zone players to stream music in unprotected AAC format from a networked PC. Previously supported codecs were MP3, unprotected WMA, Flac and WAV.
Kaleidescape: Expanding its range of music-and-movie servers, the company is unveiling its lowest-priced, lowest capacity model to date, delivering a minimum of 500GB of data storage (enough for 450 imported CDs or 37 imported DVDs) at $9,995. It's expandable to 2.25TB for storing up to 4,050 CDs or 337 DVDs at $16,730. The Ethernet-connected 1U is also the company's first server available as a music-only server. The company's previous opening price for A/V server was $22,000.
When connected to a Gigabit Ethernet network, the pizza-box-sized server streams up to 25 separate audio or video programs throughout the house to desktop movie players or desktop music players, which connect to TVs and stereo systems. The system also integrates with home-control systems from companies such as AMX and Crestron.
The new model complements the 3U and 5U, which are taller and deliver capacity up to 5.5TB (9900 CDs or 825 DVDs.) Capacity can be further increased by adding multiple servers.
Kaleidescape components and networked PCs can be connected to the same Ethernet switch in a home, but separate Ethernet ports are needed in a room for a PC and Kaleidescape client.
NiveusMedia: The company is expanding its selection of Media Center PC-based A/V servers (or media distribution hubs) with the Rainier, n7, and n9. The latter two are in the new Professional Series of high-end rack-mount-style components. They're due by the end of September and will join the top-end K2, Denali, and Denali Limited.
All include Gigabit LAN and distribute audio and video across an Ethernet network to Media Center extenders such as the Xbox 360 or other-brand DMAs (digital media adapters).
The three new models offer optional HD DVD drives and Intel Viiv technology. The Rainier adds wireless 802.11b/g and features Intel's Core Duo CPU. The Pro Series models feature Intel Core 2 Duo processor.
The Rainier is the company's slim form-factor, entry-level system with HDD storage up to 750GB and prices ranging from $3,499-$5,999 depending on configuration. Niveus also expects some dealers to use Rainiers as 'zone players' to pull content across the network from a Denali, K2 or Pro Series server.
The Pro series models feature a rack-mount form factor for placement in utility closets and are the company's fastest. The n7 features 1TB of storage at $6,999-$8,499. The 3TB n9 costs $14,999.
Slim Devices: The Mountain View, Calif., maker of wired and wireless Squeezebox digital media players (DMPs), has developed an audiophile version of its Squeezebox DMP at $1,999.
The audio-component-style device, called the Transporter, ships Sept. 18.
More than 16 Squeezeboxes and Transporters can be used in a home, each simultaneously streaming a different song from an NAS (network attached storage) device or PC over Wi-Fi, depending on the PC's capabilities.
The $1,999 Transporter incorporates wireless 802.11g technology and wired-Ethernet port.