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Audio In Vegas: A Place To Hook Up

In the audio industry, Las Vegas was the place to hook up.

During CES, suppliers introduced traditional audio components that use Ethernet connections to stream music from centrally located hard-disc-drive (HDD) music servers. Other Ethernet-connected products are designed as PC-stereo bridges to stream music through a stereo system from a PC’s hard drive. Many of the new products also transfer video and images from a remote PC for viewing on a TV screen.

Even mass-market home-theater-in-a-box (HTiB) systems are connecting to the home network. They’re from Philips and Kenwood.

Here’s a short list of networked products displayed at CES:

Denon: The company’s first networked A/V distribution system is based on a platform developed by Mediabolic, whose investors include Denon parent D&M.

The system’s final feature set was demonstrated at CES in “closer-to-production prototype” form, the company said. Shipments are due in the second quarter.

The client-server system is built around an HDD-equipped Denon Network Server, an all-in-one solution featuring a multizone controller, PVR, music server, two FM tuners, two NTSC/analog-cable tuners and CD drive.

Via an Ethernet network, the server streams content from two 120GB HDDs and TV tuners to tabletop clients, which must be connected to local TVs and local stereo systems. Analog-video inputs allow for the streaming of video from digital-cable boxes, premium-cable boxes and satellite-TV receivers. Only standard-definition video can be transported.

Denon plans to incorporate clients in future products, such as receivers.

Music can be downloaded to the server from a CD drive, from a networked PC, or from connected megachangers and stored in compressed or uncompressed form. The clients will also stream music from DNS-connected CD megachangers and audio and video from Ethernet-connected PCs.

The server’s tentative targeted price is $4,000 to $4,500. Remote-room clients, which will lack amps and speakers, will cost somewhere around $700 to $1,000.

Fosgate Audionics: The HDD-based $999-suggested FAP-S1 Digital Music Streamer, due in the late second quarter, downloads audio and video content for local storage from a PC via 100Mbps wired Ethernet or wireless 54Mbps 802.11g. It also streams content from a PC.

The Streamer, which incorporates 120GB HDD and CD/DVD drive, plays music files in the mp3PRO, MP3, .WAV, Ogg and WMA formats. For video, it stores and plays files transferred in the MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 formats. It hasn’t been determined whether the device will rip CDs or DVDs from its internal drive.

The 120GB device can be used with a $299-suggested DMS1 client, available from sister brand Omnifi, to stream MP3, WMA and WAV files over a wired Ethernet or wireless 802.11b network to audio systems in other rooms.

The FAP-S1 can also be used with Omnifi’s new $349-suggested DMS2 to stream audio and video to stereos and TVs in other rooms. The video would include DVD-Video playing in the DVD drive. It ships in the third quarter.

Integra: The Onkyo USA brand offers Net-Tune Ethernet connectivity on all its products, allowing them to pass audio from an Integra HDD music server or PC

hard drive to all connected components over an Ethernet network.

The network feature will be extended to the industry’s first two-card-based audio/video receiver, the THX Ultra II-certified DTR 10.5, which can be customized by dealers or installers to offer only the features needed by a particular customer. One card will be a Net-Tune card.

The receiver, which also allows for future upgradability, has a suggested base price of $3,500. Most cards will be priced from $100 to $200. It ships in April.

NetTune-equipped receivers and clients, which consist of an AM/FM tuner and amplifier, stream music from a central Net-Tune HDD 12-zone music server that stores music in MP3, WMA and PCM formats. The receivers and clients also connect via Ethernet to broadband modems to access Internet radio stations.

The DTR 10.5’s basic configuration will include THX EX and DTS ES decoding, tuner and upconversion of composite and S video to component video. It also features FireWire connection to the first Integra universal DVD player to transport DVD-Audio and SACD signals in the digital domain. Another optional card offers HDMI input.

The DTR 10.5 can be shipped on a build-to-order basis for custom installers, but dealers can also stock cards, which can be installed with a screwdriver.

Integra Research: Onkyo USA’s elite brand, Integra Research, will ship its first Net-Tune-enabled product in April. It’s the THX Ultra II-certified RDC-7.1 preamp/processor, which is also a card-based component that accepts optional cards for AM/FM tuner, video switching with video upconversion to component output and HDMI input/output, among other things. The base price is a suggested $4,000, with all optional cards bringing the price to $5,500. It will also be available on a build-to-order basis.

Onkyo: A new TX-NR1000 receiver, due in April at a tentative suggested $4,000, will feature Net-Tune connectivity (see Integra, Integra Research information above). It’s also card-based but will be shipped out of the box with more cards as standard equipment than Integra models.

Kenwood: The NHT-S810DV home theater system, targeted to retail for a suggested $1,000, features an Ethernet port on the included receiver to stream audio and video files from a connected PC. The receiver decodes MP3, WMA, and Ogg Vorbis audio, MPEG-4 (DivX and XviD) video, and MPEG-1 and -2 video. It also plays media stored on PCMCIA memory cards.

Omnifi: The Rockford-owned brand plans third-quarter availability of the $349-suggested DMS2, a client that consumers connect to a TV or audio system to stream audio, video and digital images from a PC via wireless 802.11g or wired Ethernet network. The existing $299-suggested DMS1 uses 802.11b to stream audio.

Compared to its predecessor, the DMS2 adds removable HDD, giving consumers the option of owning multiple drives to free up space on the PC.

Likewise, Omnifi unveiled the DMP-2, an audio/video version of its audio-only DMP-1 car audio system, to wirelessly download audio and video files from a home PC to its 60GB HDD.

Philips: The company’s first HTiB with built-in wireless 802.11b Wi-Fi is the MX6000i, due in March at a suggested $699. The wireless-networking feature, combined with Philips-developed PC software, enables the device to display JPEGs, videos and music stored on a PC’s hard drive. It also features an Ethernet port.

To stream audio and video from the Internet to a TV or stereo, users must first sit at their PC to log onto a streaming site.

PrismIQ: The $299-suggested Media Player/Recorder, due in April, connects to home stereo systems and TVs to play back audio and video content stored on an Ethernet-networked PC or streamed directly from the Internet. It also connects to cable and satellite-TV tuners to pause live TV and record TV shows. TV shows are captured in SDRAM for pausing and transferred to the networked PC for storage.

It features EPG, the ability to archive recorded TV shows to a PC’s DVD burner, Web browsing and viewing of images stored on the PC.

Roku: The SoundBridge, due in February, features a built-in Ethernet port to stream music files from an Etheret-connected PC in another room. Users select the PC’s music files from front-panel controls or an included IR remote.

The M2000 version features 512-by-31-pixel display, and the M1000 features 280-by-16-pixel display. They retail for a suggested $499 and $249, respectively.