ReQuest Unveils Home Stereo MP3 Unit at MP3 Summit99

The MP3 audio format has been rapidly gaining a solid reputation in the last several months. Portable products such as Diamond Multimedia's Rio have hit the market, and websites (typified by MP3.com) have gained financial success. (See related story.) But one area that has so far lagged is MP3-based playback and recording equipment for using the files at home without moving a computer next to the stereo.

Lagged, that is, until last week. At the MP3 Summit99 conference in San Diego, ReQuest announced the AudioReQuest, a stereo component resembling a CD player that the company says can store, organize, and play up to 150 hours (roughly 2000 four-minute songs!) of MP3-quality digital music using a high-capacity hard drive. Designed specifically to connect with home-entertainment systems, the AudioReQuest is the first consumer product that uses the MP3 (MPEG I Layer 3 compression) format to encode audio CDs directly into digitally compressed music. The unit includes a CD player.

The company plans for the AudioReQuest to be available in fall 1999 at an estimated retail price of $599.95. ReQuest says that the player provides connectivity to MiniDisc, DAT, and amplifiers through digital inputs and outputs, and that it includes a remote. The recorder also has a line-in input, as well as a parallel connection for downloading digital music directly from a PC or the Internet.

The company website offers an explanation of how the new device hopes to deal with the thorny copyright issues that landed Diamond Multimedia, makers of the Rio portable, in court with the RIAA: "Unlike the Diamond Rio, we are not disputing the fact that we are a digital recording device. Although AudioReQuest digitally records music for archival backup purposes, we cannot be sued because we will fully comply with the Audio Home Recording Act of 1992 by paying the royalties associated with the product to the recording industry, which is reflected in the price of the product. We will also incorporate Serial Copy Management System (SCMS) verification into AudioReQuest, again to fully conform with the 1992 Recording Act."

ReQuest's Steven Vasquez says that "people already enjoy the ease and convenience of downloading music from the Internet to build personal collections. With AudioReQuest, they can play these collections on a stereo system without a computer. Entire music collections become available from one-point storage and playback."

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