Escient: The $1,999-suggested FireBall is a "music-search engine" that streams Internet audio (via the Radio Free Virgin service), stores music on its internal hard drive, select music from connected compatible megachangers, and transfers music to select Internet audio portables. Year-end availability is targeted.
Users rip music from the connected changers or from CDs in the device's CD drive, which can also be used to burn music onto CD-R/RW discs from the hard drive.
"Ours is the only one to control different brands of changers," said president Bob Pankratz. It finds and plays CDs in select Sony and Denon CD megachangers and in select CD/DVD megachangers from Denon, Integra, Kenwood, Marantz and Pioneer.
Multiple FireBalls are needed for multizone capability. It connects with ADA, AMX, Crestron, Elan and other home-control systems.
Music can be stored in MP3 and WMA format.
In a related introduction, the company will unveil the TuneBase 200 at $1,199 suggested, replacing the $3,000 TuneBase 100 and adding an RS-232 port to connect with RS-232 control systems, not just with IR-based control systems. It also adds HomePNA networking to connect to HPNA-enabled broadband modems but continues to incorporate a dial-up modem.
TuneBase connects to select compatible CD changers, identifies their CDs, and downloads track and title information from an on-line database. It's due by year's end.
Imerge: For its single-zone S1000 SoundServer, the company will demonstrate the new Thin Client LCD touchpanel to distribute the hard-drive's music to a second zone. The RJ-45-connected touchpanel ships in January. It will be available optionally in a tabletop stand. Pricing hasn't been set. The company also offers multizone M1000 expandable to 16 zones.
Onkyo and Integra: These two Onkyo USA brands will unveil their first hard-drive recorders, a 20GB and 40GB version, respectively, at a suggested $800 and $950. They ship in September and October, respectively. The single-zone products feature built-in CD-ROM drive and RS-232 ports for connection to distributed-audio systems. They store music in MP3 or Redbook CD form.
Yamaha: The $999-suggested CDR-HD1000, due late summer, includes a CD drive/burner letting users rip music to hard disc and then transfer the music from the hard drive to a CD-R/RW disc. To comply with SCMS requirements, the song disappears from the hard drive when it is transferred to a recordable disc.
The single-zone device stores music only in Redbook CD form, allowing for storage of about 30 CDs on the 20GB hard drive.