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RCA Readies First Wireless MP3 Player

The market’s first MP3 player with integrated wireless-headphone technology will be available in October from RCA, and wireless accessories due in coming months from other brands will use the same wireless technology.

The 2.4GHz technology, developed by Cupertino-based semiconductor developer Kleer, is promoted as a better-than-Bluetooth alternative that delivers longer battery life, lacks Bluetooth’s latency drawbacks and delivers lossless CD-quality audio over the air. The technology transmits uncompressed 16-bit, 44.1kHz PCM audio at an effective bit rate of 1Mbps to 1.4Mbps instead of using Bluetooth’s compression algorithm. It was designed from the ground up to deliver lossless CD-quality audio, said Kleer marketing VP Ron Glibbery.

The first product incorporating Kleer technology is RCA’s $139-suggested Jet Stream MP3/video player, targeted at fitness buffs who complain of tangled cords when they’re working out, said sales and marketing VP Dave Arland.

Jet Stream features ear buds that are wired together but not wired to the MP3 player. One ear bud incorporates pause and volume controls. Because it’s targeted to fitness buffs, the 1GB device features a splash-proof case, stop watch, pedometer, calorie counter and body-mass index calculator. Likewise, it ships with armband, wristband and ear clips to prevent the ear buds from falling out of the ear. Wired earphones included in the package double as an FM antenna for the embedded FM radio.

The included wireless ear buds deliver 10 hours of playback time on one charge, whereas Bluetooth delivers about two to three hours in music-playing cellphones, Kleer said. The technology would deliver up to 10 times the battery life of Bluetooth if Bluetooth were used to send uncompressed PCM over the air, and Kleer would deliver eight times the battery life if Kleer used Bluetooth’s audio-compression algorithm, Glibbery told TWICE. Range is up to 30 feet in the clear or about 15 to 20 feet through walls.

At January’s International CES, about 10 to 15 products from other companies will debut with Kleer technology, most of them accessory items, and all will be interoperable with the RCA player and with one another, he said. Later this year, the first Kleer accessory — a wireless iPod transmitter packed with bicycle speakers — will be available.