HOME Technology 2003
Portable music revolution
The name that started a revolution in the music business and according to the flack almost bought the traditional music industry to its knees in the late 90s is back in the mainstream.

Napster, the software that allowed music lovers search each others hard drives for their favourite songs and download them for no charge faced an onslaught from the major labels who sought legal action and compensation for lost revenues.

Napster (http://www.napster.com ), now a division of Roxio has released Napster 2.0 a fully re-engineered legal on-line music service, offering song downloads across generations and genres for $NZ2 each and whole albums for $NZ20.

The new service also features exclusive live sessions recorded in Napster's Los Angeles studio. Users simply download Napster to their PC, sign on and begin using the service which at last count offered up to 500,000 songs plus a pre-programmed radio stations. Using the software you can create your own playlist or burn tracks to CD.

And while the idea of portable music is really catching on through a range of MP3 players which use solid state memory and are optimised to download from your PC or Mac, operate as a portable music station or plug directly into your stereo system.

Apple’s iPod (10Gb-40Gb drive $600-$1132) is geared to work with Apple’s own iTunes network. Then there’s Intels Personal Audio Player (64Mb for $409), the Diva 3-in-1 MP3 player (256Mb for $349) or the stylish Digitalway FD100 (256Mb for $359). In fact MP3 players are now becoming pervasive and are included in some digital cameras and cellphones.

Meanwhile a new class of device designed to enhance the listening experience is on the way and geared to deliver downloaded music through the home stereo system direct from the computer.

Through a wireless connection for example the new ‘digital audio recievers’ with built in WiFi cards can easily be added to the rack of sound equipment alongside the amplifier, CD selector and radio tuner..

They’re units can play pre-programmed sounds direct from a computer hard disk jukebox are being manufactured by major vendors including Hewlett Packard, Turtle Beach.

Such devices are seen as a bridging technology until next generation digital systems allow a full convergence of on-demand audio, video, sound and data as part of the ultimate interactive home entertainment of the future.

In the the meantime though hard drive jukeboxes such as those offered by Creative Nomad (20Gb for $1099) or Dlink (ROQ 10Gb player $899) may more than adequately serve the purpose. They’ll deliver hundreds of hours of MP3 files and tracks ripped from CDs (legally downloaded or purchased of course) direct through the stereo amplifier.

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