Lydstrom's "Next Generation CD Player" will Handle 5000 Songs

If Lydstrom, Inc. has anything to do with it, the next hot ticket in home audio won't be just another CD player, but a musical database manager capable of organizing and playing as many as 5000 songs, from CDs or from Internet downloads. The Boston, Massachusetts-based company announced June 30 that it has licensed Lucent Technologies' Enhanced Perceptual Audio Coder (ePAC) for inclusion in a product as yet unnamed but projected to be available by Christmas 1999.

The device is "targeted at the growing market for networked home entertainment systems," according to a news release, and will manage massive music collections in "a simple and intuitive manner." The Lydstrom device isn't a monster CD jukebox, but will archive music by copying from CDs, MP3s, or other digital audio formats. The resulting library will then be accessible via a touchscreen from "anywhere in the house," the company claims---anywhere, presumably, where there is an appropriate terminal.

"Media-less archiving" of music collections is another purported advantage, although the copies, no matter how compressed, will still have to have some sort of physical existence---presumably, on a hard-disk drive or some other type of rewritable storage. It's a tad hyperbolic to imply that music files comprising digital bits reside in the ether. That particular breakthrough is still in the distant future.

Lucent claims its ePAC is "the highest-quality digital audio codec in the industry." The Lydstrom system is intended to be used with audio equipment of higher quality than the sonic horrors attached to most computers. Company spokesmen say it offers a "true high-fidelity experience"---far better than MP3, according to Lydstrom's director of advanced research, Ashwin Kochiyil Philips: "Current implementations of online music utilize technologies such as MP3 that were never meant to render high-fidelity sound through quality stereo systems. ePAC helps us to create a high-fidelity listening experience, while still providing the greatly increased storage capacity that audio compression offers---something that has never occurred before."

Lydstrom is among the first companies to recognize the growing market for "consumer-friendly devices that can address the need for Internet/PC/home stereo convergence," according to Rachel Walkden, director of audio for Lucent's New Ventures Group. "The quality benefits of ePAC over competitive solutions become even more apparent when the music is played through a proper stereo," she says. "The combination of ePAC and Lydstrom's next-generation player promises to set the standard for consumer home-audio convergence devices." When the Lydstrom device hits the market later this year, Stereophile will report on how it really sounds.