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Thomson Expands Compressed-Music Lineup

Thomson expanded its selection of portable hard-drive-equipped music players, introduced its first portable audio/video recorder, and launched the industry’s first home-theater-in-a-box (HTiB) system equipped with hard-drive music jukebox.

The portable A/V recorder, one of a trio of new hard-drive portables, is Thomson’s first hard-drive portable to store and display video recorded from a TV or video camera.

The company is also bringing the price of a 128MB solid-state music portable down to a suggested $99.

The hard-drive HTiB is the RTD750 RCA Home Theater Music Jukebox, due in the spring at a suggested $699. It features DVD receiver, 20GB hard drive, Internet radio reception, and Dolby Digital and Dolby Pro Logic II decoding. MP3 songs ripped and stored on the device can be transferred via USB connection to Thomson MP3 portables.

For Internet radio and CDDB connectivity, the system can be connected to broadband or dial-up modems. The system’s Internet radio services are Radio Free Virgin and, through broadband connection only, Sirius Satellite Radio’s commercial-free Internet-streamed music channels. An on-screen display shows FM station call letters and CD cover art, artist name, album title and track titles.

The system is based on an OpenGlobe platform, which is also used in RCA’s existing $999-suggested Digital Media Manager, a standalone DVD-receiver with 20GB hard drive, Radio Free Virgin streaming and HomePNA connectivity.

In replacing the current RD2820 hard-drive music portable, Thomson announced the new RD2821 20GB RCA Lyra personal jukebox at a suggested $249, down from the current 20GB model’s $299. The new model is smaller, adds USB 2.0 connection, and adds mp3PRO playback to the predecessor’s MP3 and Windows Media Audio playback. Battery life is up to 15 hours. It ships in June.

A second new hard-drive portable is the 1.5GB RCA Lyra Micro, which ships in the summer at a suggested $199. It uses a 1-inch hard drive, is about the size of a deck of cards, and plays MP3, mp3PRO and WMA files.

The hard-drive A/V portable, targeted to youth and frequent travelers, is the $399-suggested 20GB RD2780 with 3.5-inch TFT LCD screen. It’s due in the summer.

Also called the Lyra Audio/Video Jukebox, the 5.2 by 3.14 by 0.98-inch RD2780 plays mp3, mp3PRO, and WMA audio files. Video playback codecs are MPEG-1 and MPEG-4 simple profile, and the company intends to add Windows Media Video and DivX video playback. The device’s built-in encoders encode in MP3 and MPEG-4 simple profile.

Its hard drive stores up to 80 hours of TV shows or home videos or up to 100,000 JPEGs. It accepts Compact Flash memory cards and connects to a PC via USB 2.0 to transfer JPEGs, music, and video. The device also stores and organizes PC files such as word processing documents.

In solid-state music portables, the company plans June shipments of two new models: the 128MB RD1071 at a suggested $99 and the 64MB RD1021 at a suggested $79. RCA’s current 128MB model retails for $129 on promotion in the fourth quarter, and other companies’ 128MB models have retailed for as little as $129-$149.

Both new solid-state models weigh 1.5 ounces, feature a MMC/SD memory-card slot to add to their embedded memory, and play MP3, mp3PRO and WMA files.

In another Lyra-series launch, Thomson unveiled a device that wirelessly connects a PC to a home stereo system to play back music stored on the PC’s hard drive or streamed through the PC’s modem. The $99-suggested Lyra Wireless, already shipping, comes with RF remote to adjust volume, skip songs, and choose among sources (hard drive, CD, and Internet radio).

In another new HTiB due in the second quarter at a suggested $299, RCA is incorporating a proprietary Neo-5 five-tray DVD-changer mechanism. The RTD250 is RCA’s first HTiB with JPEG-disc playback, component-video output, and progressive scan output. The 420-watt system features Dolby Digital, DTS, Pro Logic II and MP3-CD decoding.