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A/V-Server Makers Cook Up New Options

Custom install suppliers cooked up some new ways to serve mankind’s desire to consume music and movies.

The ingredients in their cookbooks, opened during the CEDIA Expo, included MediaCenter-based rack-style components, Ethernet-networked components and servers that download protected and unprotected music directly from Web sites. Many new models offered capacities exceeding 1TB.

Here’s what select exhibitors showed:

Alienware: The Hangar18: HD Entertainment Center, a MediaCenter-platform A/V server that incorporates high-definition DVR and music-management functions, features up to 4TB of hot-swappable hard-disk storage. It also features internal Blu-ray disc player, 1080p HDMI output, an internal CableCARD, support for an external CableCARD, and surround-sound decoding. Besides serving as a media server, it is certified to run Lifeware home control software.

It was unclear how many time-shifted HD programs or live HD cable programming can be served simultaneously to rooms throughout the house or whether Blu-ray video could be served throughout the house.

With optional Lifeware software, Hangar18: can be connected to Lifeware’s Lifecontrollere home automation system controller embedded with software to control 142 brands of wired home systems connected via RS-232 or Ethernet. The controller also controls ZigBee- and Z-Wave-enabled wireless home systems when a ZigBee or Z-Wave transceiver is attached.

Lifeware-enabled servers and the home automation controller can be controlled from Lifeware in-wall touchscreens or from select third-party in-wall keypads and handheld RF remotes from Russound, Nuvo and Philips.

Pricing and ship dates weren’t available.

CodexNovus: The seven-year-old company from Champaign, Ill., launched four upgraded A/V server/players, all but one with embedded hard disk. They add the ability to stream audio, pictures and standard- and high-definition video up to 1080p from one another over an Ethernet network, whereas previous models only copied content from one another over the network.

The HDD-equipped models rip CDs and DVDs via a connected DV-1 DVD/CD transport with eight-in-one flash-memory card reader. Content can also be imported from networked PCs and USB-connected devices. The player/servers are controlled from a supplied IR remote or via RS-232-connected home control systems.

The HDcodex models store audio in the Dolby Digital 5.1- and 7.1-channel formats and in MP-2, MP-3, WAV, FLAC 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. The devices also feature 1080p scaling and video-performance certification by the Imaging Science Foundation.

The DML-1600 with 1.6TB capacity is priced at a suggested $6,999. The other models are the $4,999 DML-1000 with 1TB, the $3,499 DML-400 at $3,499 and the DML-Zero with no embedded storage capacity at $2,299.

Linn: The company changed its music-server architecture and added Ethernet-network capability with the launch of the $10,280 Akurate Music Server, which reproduces music stored on any networked off-the-shelf network-attached storage (NAS) device rather than from embedded hard drives. In turn, Akurate delivers eight zones of music via eight line-level analog outputs when controlled from a custom-installed multiroom audio system.

The Akurate streams only music from the NAS, but the NAS can also be used on the network to store other types of digital files. The intent is to enable “pretty much unlimited” storage capacity “only dependent on the NAS capacity,” a spokesperson said. In addition, consumers also benefit from added RAID-technology security and reliability, the company added.

Separately, Linn introduced the single-zone Klimax DS client, which also streams music from the NAS over an Ethernet network. The Klimax DS, due in the United States in October at a suggested $18,500, uses universal plug-and-play technology to retrieve digital music from anywhere on the network, and it outputs balanced and unbalanced analog stereo to a connected sound system Up to six Klimaxes can stream separate songs simultaneously from a single NAS.

Akurate and Klimax DS support FLAC and WAV music formats, and provides 24-bit 96kHz studio master quality downloads in FLAC, which the Klimax DS will play natively without any down-conversion.

Linn also added AMX software to enable control from an AMX home-control system without requiring installer programming. Crestron control is also supported out of the box.

Niveus Media: The supplier of Windows Vista Ultimate MediaCenter-based AV servers launched its lowest-priced server to date in its Pro series of rack-type servers for custom installers. The $5,000-suggested N4 features 500GB capacity and lack the dual ATSC and dual NTSC tuners and HD DVD drives embedded in the 1TB N7 and 3TB N9. Pro series prices previously started at $8,000, said CEO Tim Cutting.

All models also connect to up to two outboard digital cable receivers, each with dual tuners, to support for up to four digital cable tuners.

The music/video servers deliver audio, live standard- and high-definition video, and time-shifted video over an Ethernet network to third-party digital media players (DMPs), which cannot reproduce CableCARD content. However, with Niveus’s planned MediaCenter Extender DMP due in the fourth quarter, CableCARD content will stream over an Ethernet network. In fact, when Niveus releases Quad CableCARD support in the fourth quarter, consumers will be able to stream four separate HD cable programs simultaneously to four different Extenders. They’ll also be able to watch one live HD cable program while recording three others.

The company also announced that it will ship its servers with bundled software from Autonomic Controls for out-of-the-box compatibility with major brands of home-control systems, including systems from AMX, Crestron, Elan and HAI.

The Pro Series n4, n7 and n9 are designed specifically for rack-mount installation and offer more robust internal storage and Intel Core 2 Quad processing for optimal media playback. The company’s Denali and Rainier series servers are also intended for custom installation but are designed for placement in the living room.

Sooloos: The New York City company unveiled its first CD-ripping music servers, available in 1TB, 2TB and 3TB capacities to store up to 2,000, 4,000 and 6,000 CDs in uncompressed WAV format. Servers can be ganged to create additional capacity.

The servers stream music over an Ethernet network to a single-zone Source:One client, which can be connected to a standalone stereo system, or to a five-zone Source:Five client that can be integrated with a multiroom audio system. Up to 30 Source:One clients can be connected on a 100Base-T network to stream up to 30 separate songs simultaneously from a server.

The servers are controlled from a Control:One 17-inch touchpanel or wireless 7-inch Control:Remote touchpanel.

The systems deliver up to 32 discrete audio zones. A five-zone system retails for about $13,900.

The servers feature mirrored backup storage, low-jitter design, servo-balanced analog outputs, 192 kHz/24 bit converters and signal-to-noise ratio of 110dB RMS unweighted.