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Wide Variety Of Personal Audio Seen At CES

A conventional selection of CD/MD personal and boombox stereo units will be introduced during International CES this week. Here is a company-by-company overview of the product offerings.

Audiovox: Two new headphone CD players include the company’s first with wireless headphones, intended for use while tucked inside a backpack, knapsack, or fanny pack. It’s the $84-suggested CE180W with 45-second antishock memory.

The other player, the $79-suggested CE171S, is only 0.75-inches-thick. It features wired remote and 45-second antishock memory.

Coby: The company is stepping up antishock memory capacity to 60 seconds in three personal CD players from a maximum of 40 and 45. They are the $39-suggested CXCD240 with interchangeable color panels, the $39 CXCD540 with wired remote, and the $39 CXCD740 with built-in wireless transmitter to play music through a car radio.

A new $49 model, the CXCD690, is only 0.6-inches-thick, thanks in part to flat rechargeable batteries.

Jeep Electronics: The brand, marketed by Power Brands, is turning the boombox into a multipurpose device. Among its extensive introductions, the company is launching three models with built-in DVD and color monitors. Two add flashlight and lantern. All ship in the fall.

The $500-suggested JXDVDLTV features DVD/CD player, TV tuner, 4-inch CRT screen, fluorescent lantern, retractable flashlight, emergency flasher, thermometer, compass and audible mosquito repellent. The $600-suggested JXDVDBB features DVD/CD, TV tuner, retractable color LCD screen, lantern, flashlight and emergency flasher. The $400-suggested JXDVDCTV with TV and DVD/CD uses a TFT color LCD screen and 18-disc storage compartment.

Panasonic: The company plans to launch its first two headphone CDs with desktop recharging/docking stations that incorporate built-in speakers for in-home listening.

The $99-suggested SL-J600V, due in April, and $199 SL-J900, due in January, play MP3-CDs and feature 48-second antishock memory. The round 600JV includes AM/FM tuner and a docking station with two round pole-type speakers. The square J900, which lacks tuner, adds ID3 tag display on the wired remote’s LCD screen, and it fits into a flat docking stations incorporating flat speakers.

Also at CES, the company will continue to offer an MP3/WMA headphone CD player with the launch of the SL-CT800, the company’s thinnest at 1.25 inches deep, a hair thinner than last year’s thinnest. It is due in April at a suggested $149. Like last year’s model, two AA alkaline batteries deliver 67 hours of playback time, but Panasonic’s new nickel alkaline AA batteries coax 120 hours of use out of the device. The remote’s LCD display reads out ID3 tag information.

Philips: The company will expand its selection of personal 5-inch MP3-CD stereos to three models from two and continue to offer its two 3-inch MP3-CD models.

Unlike the current 5-inch models, the new ones lack AAC playback because of low market demand, the company said.

One of the new MP3-CDs doubles as a portable game machine. The EXP521 comes with five built-in games and dedicated game buttons. It’s 5.35 inches in diameter and 0.83 inches high. It also features 45-second antishock memory (100 seconds when playing 128kbps MP3 files). Battery life of two AA alkalines is 20 hours for CD playback time and 30 hours for MP3-CD playback. Price and ship date were unavailable.

The new AX7201 CD, which lacks MP3, is only 0.56-inches deep and is touted as the industry’s slimmest model to date at the $99-suggested price point. Models at about the same thickness have retailed for $149-$199, the company claimed. The 7201 also delivers 75 hours of battery life on internal rechargeables combined with external battery pack containing two AA alkalines. Philips’ typical battery lives are 25 hours, the company said.

Two new CD boomboxes are the company’s first with a two-way USB port to connect to a PC and first with A/V inputs to connect to a game machine. The two models with the features are the $99-suggested AS2555 CD Soundmachine and $129 2558, which adds MP3-CD playback. Both can be used to stream music from a USB-connected PC, and because they feature Microsoft Windows-compatible software, their supplied remote can be used to select hard-drive tracks for playback by skipping forward or backward a track at a time. They also feature game EQ settings.

Though their 2×8-watt power output is similar to PC speaker output, Philips contends their portability will appeal to households with multiple PCs or with a computer in a second home.

RCA: The company will continue to offer three personal MP3-CD players but at slightly reduced price points. The current line starts at a suggested $79 with multi-line display. The company has no plans for personal MP3-CD portables that play only 3-inch CDs. “No one is asking us for it,” said a spokesman.

Samsung: Two MP3/WMA headphone CD players will be priced at a suggested $99 and $169, Multicodec models started at a suggested $119 in the 2002 line. The company is dropping MP3-only headphone CD.

The $99 model plays for 13 hours on two AA alkalines. The $169 model adds an FM tuner and 23 hours of playing time on two NiMH rechargeables and two AA alkalines, and 480-second MP3 antishock memory (960 seconds for WMA files) versus the $99 model’s 125-second MP3 memory buffer.

Sony: The company will expand its selection of MiniDisc-based NetMD portables to seven from four, carrying over the sports-style model. And it will bring NetMD’s ATRAC3 codec to the CD Walkman for the first time.

Of the six new NetMDs due in March-April, several will add AM/FM/TV tuner to the wired remote. The top-line model will double the transfer rate from PC to NetMD to 64x. The other new models, like the current models, will feature 32x transfer rates.

The lineup starts at an everyday $130.