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More Mini MP3-CD Players Ready To Debut

A trio of computer-industry companies will launch their first portable 3-inch MP3-CD players, joining Philips in this nascent market segment.

The products play low-cost recordable 3-inch CDs filled with compressed music files. They’re seen as a lower cost alternative to audio portables that store music in more expensive solid-state flash memory. They’re also positioned as a more compact alternative to full-size MP3-CD players.

Recordable 185MB CDs store 185 minutes of MP3 files recorded at a 128kbps datarate or twice that amount when storing 64kbps Windows Media Audio (WMA) files.

With the introductions, two of the companies — Imation and Teac’s data-storage division — enter the portable audio market for the first time. The third introduction is from Compaq, which already offers Internet-audio portables and a headphone CD player that plays 5-inch MP3-CDs.

Teac’s data-storage division, based in Montebello, Calif., will enter the portable audio market with the Nov. 7 shipment of a $129-suggested headphone MP-330 MP3-CD player that plays only 3-inch CDs. It is 4.06 x 3.75 x 1.12 inches in size.

Teac will also offer Teac-branded mini CD-R discs in single and 10 packs, which will be priced at a suggested $12.99. The 10-pack street price could hit $9.99, or about 99 cents per disc, the spokeswoman said.

In joining Philips in this nascent segment of the headphone-CD market, Teac is targeting its existing distribution, which includes PC chains and computer-selling CE retailers such as Best Buy and Circuit City. The company, however, also plans to target retailers that don’t sell PCs or peripherals, a spokeswoman said. The device is also for sale on Teac’s Web site.

The device’s price includes a bundled blank 3-inch CD-R disc, two AA alkaline batteries (which deliver seven hours of playing time), Sennheiser in-ear headphones, MusicMatch Jukebox software and an AC adapter.

Imation’s first product is the RipGO!, a portable headphone-equipped mini CD-R/RW burner/player due at the end of October at a suggested $399. The 8-ounce device, which operates up to five hours on an internal rechargeable lithium-ion battery, plays back MP3, WMA, WAV and CD-audio music. A 3-inch CD burned with 64kbps WMA files will play back six hours of music.

The USB-equipped device can also be used to store nonmusic files, such as graphics and PowerPoint presentations.

It’s intended for use with Microsoft Windows 98SE, 2000, or Me and for Mac OS 9.1 or higher.

In launching its first 3-inch MP3-CD portable, Compaq expanded its selection of portable audio products. The iPAQ PM-1 mini-CD player became available on Oct. 22 on the company’s Web site at $99 and will be rolled out to retail channels, a spokeswoman said. The device plays 3-inch CD-R/RW discs encoded with MP3 files or Redbook CD audio.

When playing MP3 files, the player offers 480-second antishock memory buffer. It also comes with rechargeable batteries, an in-line remote with LCD display, MusicMatch Jukebox 6.0 software, and Windows Media Player 7.0 software. It’s intended for use with Windows 98 and XP OS PCs.

The introduction follows the recent shipment of Compaq’s first headphone-CD player, the PCD-1 at an everyday $169. It plays 5-inch CD-R/RW discs encoded with MP3 or WMA files. Other features include FM tuner, infrared remote, customizable EQ settings, playlist management, rechargeable batteries, MusicMatch Jukebox 6.0 software and Windows Media Player 7.0 software.

The PM-1 is available at Sears, Circuit City and Fry’s. Compaq’s other portable audio products are a pair of flash-memory portables.