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TDK Expanding Audio Hardware

TDK is stepping up its diversification drive with the shipment of its first hard-disc-drive (HDD) home jukebox, which will be followed later this year by its first flash-memory headset stereos and its first HDD headset stereos.

The company, known for blank media, launched its first consumer hardware product in 2000 in the form of a CD-RW burner for PCs. Later that year, TDK launched its first audio CD-recorder, followed by multimedia speakers and an MP3-CD headphone stereo, which has been discontinued.

The company is repositioning itself as a complete provider of digital recording and playback solutions for consumers. Its parent, TDK Corp. of Tokyo, already manufactures many digital-recorder components, including the magnetic heads for hard drives. TDK also makes integrated circuits, ceramic capacitors and other hardware components.

TDK’s latest consumer hardware product is the $399-everyday DA-9000 HDD jukebox with built-in CD-R/RW recorder. The single-zone 20GB jukebox is the lowest priced home HDD jukebox on the market, with others starting at $599, the company said.

The unit stores music in the MP3 and uncompressed PCM formats and delivers a capacity of about 4,000 MP3 songs encoded at near-CD-quality 128Kbps data rate. As uncompressed music, the device stores songs from about 30 to 60 CDs.

Thanks to the built-in CD-R/RW drive, the unit burns MP3 files and uncompressed PCM files to recordable CDs. The unit also converts MP3 files to PCM for burning to recordable audio discs.

A Gracenote database of disc and track titles, stored in less than 500MB of hard-disk space, makes it unnecessary for consumers to type in disc and track titles. For an updated database, consumers can download an update from Gracenote’s database via PC, then transfer it to the 9000 via USB or CD-R.

TDK continues to offer a dual-well CD-recorder at an everyday $249, plus $20 rebate.

In portable audio, the company is dropping CD models in favor of flash memory and HDD models.

TDK’s first flash-memory headset stereo, due in June, will incorporate 128MB embedded memory and FM radio directly into the headphones at an expected everyday $179. It will feature SD/MMC expansion slot, FM recording (as a .WAV file), and MP3/WMA decoding. It’s not certain whether it will support WMA’s DRM technology, which would allow for compatibility with authorized WMA downloads. A single AAA battery delivers 10 hours of playback time.

In August, TDK will ship three more flash-memory portables, all with MP3/WMA playback all with outboard memory/control unit. The entry-level model is a $99-everyday 128MB model without FM. It wasn’t certain whether an expansion slot would be included. The step-up is an approximate-$139 model with FM, FM recording, voice recording, SD/MMC slot, and 12 hours of operation off a single AAA. The 256MB version of this model will retail for $189.

TDK’s first HDD portables will ship in September at undetermined prices. One will feature 1.5GB drive, and the other will be 10GB or 20GB, according to current plans. Both will incorporate MP3 encoder and MP3/WMA decoding. Additional codecs, including AAC, are also under consideration.