Dell Previews Digital Audio Receiver

One can almost imagine how it all started: "Hey, you got a computer in my audio system." "No, you got an audio system in my computer . . . "

No matter how it began, manufucturers are still trying to crack the "convergence" market with products intended to leverage the processing and connectivity abilities of computers with the popularity and ease of use of the home entertainment system.

Another twist on the convergence concept emerges this week as computer manufacturer Dell unveils the Dell Digital Audio Receiver during PC Expo in New York. Dell says that the new receiver is intended to enable listeners to hear "CD-quality" music stored on a PC in any room of the home by distributing audio to remote receivers or home stereo systems while demonstrating that "the PC is at the center of all computing and Internet experience."

The receivers are expected to hit the market in August, direct from Dell, for $199 if purchased with a Dell Dimension computer system configured with a home phone-line networking card. The company says that customers will be able to purchase the receiver for an existing desktop system for $249. While stretching the traditional use of the term "receiver," which usually refers to a component with an integrated amplifier and radio tuner in one box, Dell feels that the ability of their new product to stream Internet audio (including radio-station Internet broadcast feeds) clearly qualifies.

While Dell is still a little shy about releasing product specs, the company says that the new receiver will have a remote control, backlit LCD screen, music-management software, and be able to power external speakers with a built-in amplifier. Streaming digital audio room-to-room is accomplished using a 10-megabit/s phone-line connection to the PC, which Dell says enables quick access between the receiver and music files located on the PC hard drive.

As Dell explains it, "previously, customers could not easily enjoy their favorite PC music with traditional stereo systems, especially if the stereo and the PC were located in different rooms. The Dell Digital Audio Receiver, which supports MP3 and Microsoft Windows Media Audio files, addresses this need by distributing digital music stored on the hard drive to other rooms with existing phone lines."

Dell's Stephan Godevais adds that "Customers have made a significant investment in their PCs, music libraries, and home stereo systems. The Dell Digital Audio Receiver is designed to make it easy for all of these things to work together so our customers can enjoy their favorite digital music in any room of the home on remote receivers or on their stereo system."

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