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Weekly AUDIO NEWS for Jan. 10, 2001
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CES OVERVIEW = Well, the wild and crazy time in Las Vegas is over, and the Big Thing this time at the Consumer Electronic Show was the overriding presence of the digital/computer/Internet world on the hi-fi/video/home appliance world. Convergence is happening in a big way, or at least those touting it would have you think so. This goes w-a-y beyond combining one's separate audio system and home theater system. The idea is to design a super-chip that can process all the different formats of digital data, audio and video in use today. It can then serve as the central brain of a "gateway" device that not only connects all the different electronic devices in the home but also connects to broadband Internet.

C-Cube Microsystems introduced such a chip at CES, dubbing it the DoMiNo chip. At the very least it could pave the way for less expensive components in the same way that chips processing Dolby Digital and DTS made possible those features in entry-level AV receivers whereas originally that was only available on the expensive hard-wired units. Among the new introductions at CES were table radios capable of receiving RealAudio and MP3 streaming Netcasts as well as AM and FM signals. Another device was an inexpensive convertor that allows users to view HDTV programming on standard TVs - since there are 1.4 billion of the latter worldwide today and hardly any of the expensive former. MicroSoft introduced its new Ultimate TV service - converging TV, the Internet, Direct TV and a personal video recorder. It goes Replay and TiVo one better in the PVR sweepstakes by being able to record two different channels simultaneously. (RePlay just added the ability to program their PVRs from anywhere using a computer.) With both radio broadcasts and HDTV going from analog to digital it is hastening the time when everything in the home plus mobile devices will plug into a home media gateway or home server.

The first step is for users to transfer all their LPs, cassettes, VHS tapes, CDs and DVDs to the server (considering the size of my collection, count me out of that one!). The next step of course is already being seen, spearheaded by the Napster movement and the Naxos label putting their entire catalog on the Internet. That one is the end of owning physical storage of music of b%@bJ­home and getYU whatever you want at any moment - whether you're stationary or mobile - directly off the Internet.

For all the details and photos of high end audio and home theater at CES, visit ENJOYTHEMUSIC.COM

- John Sunier

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