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More Home Servers Add MusicGiants Downloads

DENVER — The number of music servers that directly download losslessly compressed CD-quality music in stereo and multichannel from the MusicGiants site grew to six with the announcement that Niveus Media is adding the MusicGiants client to its 2007 Windows Vista-based media centers.

The Niveus Vista-based servers are the first Microsoft Vista-based servers to offer the MusicGiants download client. They are the Rainier and Denali Editions of the Summit Series as well as the Pro Series n7 and n9. Niveus called them “a great option for those dealers and custom integrators looking to fill the void from Hewlett-Packard’s recent decision to discontinue development of its Media Center Edition-based Digital Entertainment Center.”

Other companies offering servers with the ability to browse the MusicGiants stores and download “high-definition” music without connecting to a PC include Crestron, Imerge, Audio Design Associates, Inteset and Xperinet. Servers from additional companies are due, MusicGiants said.

Last fall, MusicGiants announced agreements with U.K.’s Imerge, Niveus Media, Crestron, Inteset and Xperinet to include MusicGiants’ MediaStore in their home media servers.

The agreement also enabled licensees of Imerge’s XiVA platform to incorporate the MusicGiants store. Companies offering XiVA-based servers include Crestron, ELAN, Speakercraft, Niles, Revox, Xantech and Marantz.

One advantage of using the Vista platform to store MusicGiants’s high-definition downloads is the platform’s ability to transcode the downloads from high-bit-rate WMA Lossless to other codecs playable on a broad variety of MP3 players and PDA phones. Among portable devices, only Toshiba’s Gigabeats and Windows Mobile-based PDA phones play most MusicGiants downloads in native WMA Lossless format.

The MusicGiants store, launched in November 2005, uses WMA Lossless to boost sound quality beyond what is offered by other download sites. Stereo downloads available in bitrates of up to 1.1Mbps are called HD downloads, and their file sizes are 10 times larger than protected 128Kbps iTunes downloads. The 1.1Mbps downloads deliver “true CD quality,” the company contended.

MusicGiants also offers 2.0 and 5.1 “Super HD” downloads at 88.2kHz and 96kHz sampling rates with 24-bit resolution, also in WMA Lossless format. The Super HD files are about 10 times the size of the company’s CD-quality HD downloads at around 11Mbps.

MusicGiants offers more than 500,000 tracks in HD at $1.29 per song or $15.29 per album. The company also offers about 100 albums in stereo and multichannel surround in Super HD. Super HD albums cost $19.99. The albums are remastered DVD Audio and SACD titles available in either 5.1 surround sound or 2.0 stereo.

MusicGiants, which launched in 2005, is the only music download service to offer downloads at these quality levels from major and independent music companies. The catalog includes music from all of the Big Four — Universal, Warner, Sony BMG and EMI — music companies.