Meridian Commits to FireWire and Digital Harmony

LAS VEGAS, Jan. 10---Meridian has announced its intention to license Digital Harmony's IEEE 1394 (FireWire) technology. "Digital Harmony embodies the technology we can implement to produce the next generation of digital systems for home entertainment." So said Meridian's Bob Stuart, in an announcement sure to be a turning point for the high-end audio industry.

FireWire, a digital interconnnecting and interoperability technique originated at Apple Computer in the mid-1980s, has just recently begun to be adopted by large numbers of computer makers. Ease of operation is the philosophical foundation of the 1394 protocol: all electronic devices should be able to work together in a network without conflicts or configuration problems. Ideally, FireWire-equipped digital devices will integrate seamlessly with other such devices.

IEEE 1394 is a set of open specifications, cables, connectors, and integrated circuits that enable such integration. Control signals, copyright data, and the entertainment/information datastream can all coexist on the same bus, with the additional advantage of extremely wide bandwidth.

Seattle's Digital Harmony is one of the first companies to bring this technology to home entertainment. Consumer electronics fitted with 1394 interfaces will need only a single cable to connect to each other, or to source providers such as cable converter boxes. Hooking up a FireWire system should be extremely simple: just link the various devices, power them up, and you're in business. Digital Harmony will license its chips---which can be configured for specific applications---and its logo to manufacturers complying with its licensing requirements.

Digital Harmony will license its technology in one of two ways: as OEM-ready finished ASIC chips, or as specifications to be incorporated into a manufacturer's proprietary ICs. Designs for evaluation should appear in the first half of 1998, and final products by the end of the year. According to Mark Bridgwater, VP of Marketing, Digital Harmony's "open custom interoperability and control protocol" will be available in April 1998, relieving manufacturers of the necessity of developing their own implemention.

Meridian is the first high-end manufacturer to sign on with Digital Harmony. At a press conference in the Las Vegas Convention Center, Meridian's Bob Stuart stated uniquivocally that "FireWire is the only contender [in digital interfaces] . . . the S/PDIF is substantially broken, inadequate for multichannel audio and video." He called the agreement with Digital Harmony "tremendously exciting," and said that at least two FireWire-equipped Meridian products would appear as soon as the end of the year.

"We plan the introduction of compliant A/V products as early as 1998, and increasing the number of digital products throughout 1999 and beyond," Stuart said. Meridian's DVD player, digital controller, and DSP-5000 digital speakers are a part of Digital Harmony's prototype A/V system at the Consumer Electronics Show.