New Spin On The Term 'Server' Emerges From Escient, Arrakis

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New audio and video "servers" introduced at CEDIA's Expo took the form of Escient's 200-disc DVD/CD changer and a lower priced hard-drive-based music server from Arrakis.

Both products can be integrated into distributed-AV systems.

Escient's changer is part of a $5,000 Power Play package that includes a FireWire-connected CD/DVD disc-management controller. The package ships in December.

The controller is the first of its kind to autobuild a database of information on stored DVDs, not just stored CDs. The database includes cover art and such disc data as title, artist, chapters, reviews and ratings.

PowerPlay grabs the data automatically from Escient's CDDB Web site after discs are loaded. CDDB stores text information on about 3,300 of 3,900 current DVD titles and on about 420,000 CD titles. CDDB accesses a separate cover-art database to deliver cover art to a PowerPlay. Once the database is built, a GUI displayed on a TV or other display device lets users select DVDs or CDs by cover art, genre, artist or disc title.

Additional 200-disc changers cost $1,500, and up to 15 can be daisychained via a single FireWire cable. When multiple changers are linked together and tied via IR or RS-232 connections to a multizone, multisource distributed-AV system, the system can simultaneously play back different discs in different rooms.

The changers are designed by Escient but built by an OEM supplier.

The PowerPlay's controller uses a hard drive and embedded Windows operating system. It comes with IR remote and IR-equipped wireless keyboard for adding titles not in CDDB's database, which doesn't include X-rated DVDs.

A development that might eventually make it unnecessary to tap a Web site to autobuild a DVD database was unveiled by Sony, whose new $799 200-disc DVD/CD changer captures DVD-Text and cover art encoded on a disc.

Only one such disc is on the market, however, and not all movie studios have endorsed the concept. Columbia, MGM, New Line, and Sony Music have announced plans to issue discs with both features (see p. 20).

Escient also offers CD-management controllers that connect to a limited number of megachangers from Denon, Sony and Pioneer, but the company said it developed its own megachanger so it could implement a FireWire connection.

The audio-only server unveiled by Arrakis stores music on a hard drive. At $1,995, the Digilink 4 server is due in October. It delivers music to one zone, while a three-zone option is available for $2,495. Two years ago a Digilink with three-zone capability and expandability to 12 zones sold for $5,995.

All models can be integrated with leading distributed-AV and home-control systems.

In the latest model, music is stored in a 96 GB hard drive in the MP2 format, which is less compressed than MP3 and allows for storage of 1,200 to 1,500 songs, the company said. The songs are played back at a data rate of 256 Kbps compared to the more common 128 Kbps used in portable MP3 players. Larger hard drives are optional.

Consumers can get Arrakis or its dealers to encode their CD collection for them, or they can use supplied floppy disc-based software to rip CDs from a PC, encode the songs, and transfer them to the Digilink.

The software transfers CD-Text info into the Digilink's music-management database, but it also goes out to the CDDB Web site to download disc data. Disc information can also be entered manually via the PC's keyboard.

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