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Custom Focus: Managing, Distributing Media In Homes

9/05/2005 02:00:00 AM Eastern

Managing and distributing media throughout the house is a priority for a growing number of suppliers here at the CEDIA Expo, where the selection of media-management and media-distribution systems is rising to keep pace with the proliferating amount of content and content sources in the home.

Here at the CEDIA Expo, installers will find Xantech entering the music server market and at least two companies, iMuse and CodexNovus, displaying components of their first A/V server systems, which network with TVs throughout the house via CAT-5 cable.

Also, music server maker Imerge is venturing into video for the first time with a DVD-management system while Escient and ReQuest expand their selections of HDD music servers.

In what could be the first A/V network system that streams multiple simultaneous high-definition video programs throughout the house over CAT-5 cable will also be featured. It's from UStec.

Here's what various suppliers plan to show:

CodexNovus: The Champaign, Ill., company will show two HDD-equipped networked media players that will connect via CAT5 to a planned A/V server, which is expected to be displayed at January's International CES. The HDcodex DML-1000 stores video, music, images and PC content on a 1TB HDD. It incorporates CD/DVD drive; stores HD video in MPEG-4; and up-scales video to HD formats, including 1080p.

Also on display: the 250GB HDcodex DML-200 media player. Both players copy content from other networked HDcodex players, but when the centralized server comes out, they'll be able to stream HD and SD video, plus music, from the server without copying it.

Escient: The D&M brand is broadening its customer base and adding such enhancements as Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) compliance to current and new media-management systems.

With DLNA compliance, the company's music- and music/DVD-management systems can be accessed from other-brand Ethernet-equipped DLNA clients in other rooms and from Escient's own $999-suggested MP-150 client, which will also be upgraded with DLNA compatibility.

Upgrades will be available to current Escient owners, incorporated in four new Escient devices, and added to continuing SKUs as a running change.

The company's new opening price point for a music HDD is a suggested $999 for the 80GB SE-80 Music Manager, down from $1,999 for a 40GB E2-series model.

The $1,999 model controls up to three CD megachangers, but the $999 model lack megachanger controls and deletes all RS-232 ports.

Eliminating RS-232 ports eliminates SE-80 control from RS-232-based distributed-audio systems, but control from IR-based distributed-audio systems is still possible. In an IR distributed-audio system, up to five songs can play simultaneously in five different zones.

Even without being integrated with traditional distributed-audio systems, the SE-80 can use its DLNA-enabled Ethernet connection to stream four songs simultaneously to four DLNA-compatible clients and to compliant Escient media management systems. The connection also enables Ethernet-networked PCs to view and play the SE-80's songs. Previously, Escient used Ethernet connections only to connect to a broadband modem, stream Internet radio, download song metadata from the Web, and drag-and-drop songs from PCs to its music HDDs.

In the E2 series of music managers, consisting of CD megachanger-controlling HDD systems, three replacement models add the previously mentioned upgrades and greater storage capacities in their standard configurations.

The 100GB E2-100 retails for a suggested $1,999; the 200GB E2-200 retails for $2,999, and the 400GB E2-400 retails for $3,999.

All new Escient models ship in the fall. Software upgrades for the installed base of systems will be available in September.

Imerge: The U.K.-based maker of SoundServer music servers, which was recently bought by Linear, will venture into video for the first time with a DVD management system. The V3000 Video Manager controls up to four Sony 400-disc CX777ES DVD/CD/SACD changers, enabling consumers to select discs by title, director, actor, rating or year of film.

ReQuest: In launching two new series of HDD music servers, the company will offer its first two single-box multizone servers. They comprise the F series. Along with the new N series, both series accelerate CD-to-WAV ripping speed to 20x, boast improved audio circuitry, add open-source Ogg Vorbis compression, and enable direct connection to a touch-panel controller in the main A/V room without going through expensive home-control or distributed-audio systems.

Two F series models distribute up to four songs simultaneously to different rooms, with in-wall controllers in each room able to independently select songs with full transport control.

The $3,500-suggested F2.250 stores up to 250 CDs in uncompressed WAV format. The $5,000 F4.500 stores 500 WAV-encoded CDs. Song capacity quadruples if music is encoded and stores in 320kbps MP3.

The F series models, and the single-zone N.125, also store music in open-source FLAC lossless compression. The N1.125 stores 125 WAV-encoded CDs and retails for a suggested $2,500.

All are due in the fall.

Xantech: The company's first music server, the $4,580-suggested XMUSIC, streams four songs simultaneously to different rooms from its 160GB HDD. Music can be loaded through its 20x-speed CD ripper or from connected portable MP3 music players, including iPods.

Through a TV display or LCD touch panels, consumers can select songs by song or album title, artist name, genre and playlist. Compression levels can be adjusted song by song. Through a built-in modem or Ethernet connection, the device can download album and song metadata and album art from the Web.

Yamaha: Yamaha plans October shipments of its next-generation networked music server, the $2,199-suggested MCX-2000, which doubles capacity to 160GB and adds additional zones without raising the price. The new version also adds FM tuner, Internet radio compatibility, XM-ready capability and ability to stream connected legacy sources such as turntables and cassette decks to clients in other rooms.

The server's internal and external sources can be accessed from, and streamed to, five IEEE 802.11b-equipped wireless clients to create a six-zone system, or the sources can be streamed to 15 wired-Ethernet-connected clients, up from seven, to create a 16-zone system.

Clients are available in a desktop version and in an in-wall version at a suggested $599 each. Each features amplifier, optional speakers and Ethernet port. The desktop version adds built-in 802.11b.

The clients remotely control the server, which stores music in MP3 and uncompressed PCM formats when ripped from discs in the device's CD-R/RW drive, which can also be used to create custom PCM-format CDs from songs stored on the hard drive.

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