Audio Networking Advances

One of the most significant trends in audio, witnessed at the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, is the emergence of the music server market. Pioneer, Panasonic, Marantz, Meridian, Onkyo, Rotel, Philips, Linn, and others have emphasized audio products that can be networked with each other and the Internet, and are able to share content throughout a home. Pioneer even suggests that networks will not necessarily involve a PC, but instead consist of dedicated music-server-like components.

Onkyo's Integra division wants its customers to have it either way. In September of last year, the company announced the first of its Ethernet-compatible high-end audio products based on the "Net-Tune" technology. Last week, Integra announced that it has further upgraded the capabilities of its Net-Tune Ethernet distributed audio technology with the introduction of a trio of PC applications, two based on Immerge's popular XiVA media application technology.

The new products include Net-Tune Central, which Integra says enables a standard PC to function as a Net-Tune server; XiVA Producer, which allows a PC to be used to manage a Net-Tune NAS-2.3 music server; and XiVA Utilities, which provides custom installers a suite of tools for managing a Net-Tune server.

According to the company, Net-Tune Central software allows existing Windows-based PCs to function as "servers" for Net-Tune audio systems without interfering with the computer's other operations. The software searches and catalogs all the digital music files on the PC into a central database, and handles communication, requests, and streams to playback "clients" via Ethernet. "Consumers can easily generate custom playlists, delete entries from the database, and edit file tag information such as artist, track, album, or genre, without affecting the original files in any way," says Integra. "The software operates seamlessly in the Windows background on one or more PCs, allowing access to databases on multiple computers within the home."

If a customer already uses Integra's NAS-2.3 Net-Tune server, XiVA Producer provides the ability to browse, edit, and control the NAS-2.3 server with a conventional PC. The company says that, as with Net-Tune Central, the software contains full browsing and editing facilities for the server database, including playlist, album, track, genre, and artist information. Integra adds, "Audio files can be easily transferred from PC to server, storing all of the audio files in a central location, the NAS-2.3."

Finally, Integra says it has released the XiVA Utilities software package to provide dealers and installers with a suite of tools to clone, back up, and restore Net-Tune servers using a PC. While the Net-Tune Central and XiVA Producer programs are available as a free download for registered owners of Integra Net-Tune products, XiVA Utilities is only available to authorized Integra dealers and installers.