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Hard Drive Server Category Playing Zone

9/16/2002 02:00:00 AM Eastern

Custom installers are demanding hard-drive music jukeboxes that can be used as whole-house music servers, and they'll get more of them at this year's CEDIA Expo.

Integra is coming to the show with a new 12-zone hard-drive server, while Lansonic launches its first multizone model. Marantz and Elan Home Systems are entering the audio server market with four-zone models, and Yamaha expects to unveil a single-zone model with upgraded capacity.

In a related development, sister companies Denon and Marantz have licensed Mediabolic's home-network middleware technology, which is used in a system unveiled earlier this year by Pioneer. That system distributes audio, Internet video and still pictures to multiple TVs and audio systems in a house.

Here's what dealers will find at the show:

Arrakis: A new version of the DC6 series of hard-drive servers will be displayed. Details were unavailable.

Elan: The $3,450-suggested VIA!dj music server features 160GB hard drive, four-zone output, and ability to distribute a GUI to 30 VIA! in-wall touchscreens throughout a house. Other servers require users to turn on a TV to view a GUI, Elan said. Cover art can also be displayed on the screens.

A CD-ROM drive rips and stores music in MP3 or uncompressed form. A built-in modem downloads cover art and song and album titles from online databases. DTS 5.1-channel CDs can also be ripped and stored, but in uncompressed form.

A bulk-loading option, consisting of a CD megachanger and software, is also available.

Escient: The $1,999-suggested FireBall music-management system gets a host of new features via software available to current owners and future purchasers.

The single-zone device, also called a music search engine, streams Internet audio, stores ripped music on its internal hard drive, select music from connected compatible megachangers, and transfers music to select Internet audio portables. Recently, the company enabled access to Sirius Satellite Radio's 60 music channels via the Internet.

The new features include:

  • ability to search for music by album cover, not just by album title, song title, artist name, genre, and playlist;

  • improved integration with distributed-audio systems, including discrete codes for more functions, including play and view modes. Also has prebuilt RS-232 and IR control modules for use with control systems from AMX, Crestron, Sonance, Niles and others;

  • and compatibility with Sony's newer CDP-CX455 changer.

Onkyo: The company's Onkyo and Integra divisions plan to show separate Net-Tune music-server systems that use CAT-5 Ethernet wiring to distribute audio throughout a house. Onkyo's system uses a PC as the audio server, while Integra's system uses a component-style hard-drive audio server. Both are 12-zone systems designed for retrofit and new construction-installs in which a home is prewired with CAT-5. They're built on Imerge's XiVA Net platform, and they store music in MP3, WMA, and uncompressed PCM formats.

To go with the systems, the company offers Ethernet-equipped clients that access server-stored music via album name, artist, genre, or user-created folders that could contain custom playlists. The clients incorporate MP3 and WMA decoders to decode the music files and Internet stations streamed from the PC or Integra server. The clients also feature AM/FM tuner, amplifier, and built-in reception of MP3 and WMA-based Internet radio stations via broadband connection. Select home theater receivers can also be used as clients. They're equipped with Ethernet connections, and MP3 and WMA decoders. The Integra server also rips and stores 5.1-channel DTS CDs in uncompressed PCM form for local playback through a DTS-equipped receiver.

Under the Onkyo label, the NC-500 client ships in September at a suggested $400 without speakers and $500 with two-way speakers. Onkyo supplies the Net-Tune Central server software that turns a PC's hard drive into a music server. Also due in September: the $1,500-suggested TX-NR900 A/V receiver, which also acts as a client.

Under the Integra label, the NAS-2.3 hard-drive server is due October at a suggested $2,000. It features 80GB hard drive and built-in CD player for ripping. The Integra NAC-2.3 client is available without speakers at a suggested $500 and is due in October. Two Integra home theater receivers, the $2,200 DTR-8.3 and $1,300 DTR-7.3, are due October.

Integra will continue to offer A-Bus distributed-audio systems, which feature multizone A-Bus-equipped receivers that distribute music via CAT-5 to amplified in-wall keypads, which in turn drive in-wall speakers. Three A-Bus home theater receivers are priced from a suggested $400-$1,000. Net-Tune compatible receivers start at a suggested $1,500 under the Onkyo label.

Lansonic: The company will show its first multizone audio server, the three-zone DAS-950, to complement a single-zone model. The DAS-950 is already available in 60GB, 120GB and 240GB versions at suggested retails of $3,995, $4,495 and $5,495, respectively.

They store music in MP2, MP3, WAV and Sonapak codecs. The latter is a proprietary codec developed by Lansonic for the voice-compression industry. It losslessly compresses songs into half the size of a WAV file. The 240GB model stores 4,200 hours of 128 Kbps MP3 files or 800 hours of Sonapak files.

An RS-232 port enables connections to home-control systems. An Ethernet connection allows for LAN-based remote control from a PC through the 950's built-in Web-page server.

Marantz: The company's first hard-drive device is the XiVA-based DH9300 Digital Music Server, a four-zone server expected to be 80GB in size. Music can be ripped from its built-in CD drive or from various inputs, including analog inputs for turntables. It can also be used to download songs directly from the Web. Features include RS-232 connectivity. It's targeted to ship in October. Additional details were unavailable.

Yamaha: The company's second-generation single-zone jukebox ups capacity to 80GB from 20GB and adds RS-232 interface, onscreen display, and Advanced Audio master recording mode. The latter widens the lands and pits of a CD-R to reduce jitter and boost recording quality when transferring music from the hard drive to a CD-R/RW disc in the unit's recording well.

Like its predecessor, the device stores only uncompressed PCM, but with the bigger hard drive, capacity grows to about 120 CDs.

The RS-232 port allows for system integration as well as keyboard connection to enter disc and song titles. It ships in October at a suggested $799.

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