Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Tivoli Audio: Satellite Yes, HD Radio No

Tivoli Audio showed off the new 2005 Fashion Collection
colors for its PAL (Personal Audio Laboratory) portable
AM/FM radios at a June 21 press conference in New York.
© 2005 Stadium Circle Features
Posted by Hello

HD Radio may have a future with the hundreds of radio stations that use the technology and with radio manufacturers like Polk Audio and Boston Acoustics Inc., but not with Tivoli Audio LLC--at least not for now.

During a June 21 press conference to announce new products, Tivoli Audio founder and CEO Tom DeVesto said his company wouldn't be enabling its products with HD Radio any time soon "...because I don't really see what the consumer benefit is."

Tivoli Audio is known for its high-end, conservative-looking table radios like the Model One. At the press conference at New York's St. Regis Hotel, Tivoli Audio showed off colorful new additions to its portable radio line and new table top radios.

When asked about HD Radio during a Q&A session, DeVesto said it didn't appeal to him. "There's no content that you can't get with analog radio," said DeVesto. "There's really no advantage that I see to the consumer today."

HD Radio technology allows existing radio stations to broadcast static-free digital radio programming using the same AM and FM frequencies they are now assigned. According to iBiquity Digital Corp, which developed and licenses HD Radio, the technology results in AM reception that has the fidelity of today's FM stations and FM reception with the clarity of a music CD.

HD Radio also allows stations to stream text data like weather and traffic reports along with their audio broadcasts. For example, during a music broadcast an HD Radio-enabled radio can display the name and artist of the song that is playing. HD Radio is free--no subscription is required--just an HD Radio-enabled radio.

DeVesto said today's FM stations, when tuned in with quality equipment, already provide better audio quality than what HD Radio promises. He also noted that the modules necessary to build HD Radio reception into a radio are expensive and only available through iBiquity. He said HD Radio might be more appealing when there is more unique content available.

At the press onference Tivoli showed off its limited-edition 2005 Fashion Collection colors for its PAL (Personal Audio Laboratory) portable radios. These weatherproof, rectangular units offer Tivoli Audio's trademark precision analog tuning dial and a 2.5-inch speaker. The speaker is monaural but a headphone jack offers stereo output. The $129 units have rechargeable batteries that offer up to 16 hours of playing time, according to the company. The 2005 Fashion Collection colors include sky blue, pink, orange and lime green.

The new $329.99 Tivoli Audio iSongBook, a slim, digital-tuning portable radio, offers a flip-down dock that accommodates Apple Computer Inc.'s iPod digital music players and a detachable second speaker. The 2.2-inch deep unit can run on AA alkaline batteries but also has a built in battery charger for nickel-cadmium (NiCad) or nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries. A small remote control unit controls the album and play list functions of a connected iPod. The second speaker can be attached to the right side of the unit or detached and connected with an included audio cable.

Also seen at the press conference was the $299 Model Satellite, which has a Sirius Satellite Radio receiver in addition to an AM/FM tuner. The sleek table radio is built into a cherry wood cabinet, offers a three-inch, top-mounted speaker and comes with a small remote control.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Samsung Unveils Its First Prosumer Digital Camera: The Digimax Pro815

Samsung Camera unveiled the Digimax Pro815, its first
prosumer model, at a June 17 press event in New York.

The 8-megapixel unit has has a 15X zoom lens, 4X digital
zoom and an $849 price tag.

© 2005 Stadium Circe Features Posted by Hello

The rear of the Samsung Digimax Pro815 reveals a huge,
3.5-inch LCD. That's larger than some portable TV
© 2005 Stadium Circe Features Posted by Hello

From a glitzy venue which offers picture-perfect views of New York's Central Park, Samsung Camera rolled out its first prosumer-grade digital camera, the $849 Digimax Pro815. Samsung made the announcement June 17 at press conference at the Samsung Experience product showcase in the midtown Manhattan's Time Warner Center.

The black SLR is a departure from Samsung's line of silver or red point-and-shoot models and enters market already crowded with high-powered entries from Canon USA Inc., Nikon Inc., Fuji Photo Film USA Inc. and others.

The Digimax Pro815's specifications are impressive, starting with the 15X zoom lens on the front and the super-size, 3.5-inch color LCD on the back. There's also a 1.44-inch color LCD display on the top which can display photo data or, with the push of a button, be used as an alternative preview screen for taking photos from the hip or from overhead.

A key factor in keeping down the price of the unit is the fact that Samsung can manufacture most of the key components itself, said Kenneth J. Gerb, senior vice president, sales and marketing for Samsung Opto-Electronics America Inc.

Because of the length and heft of the zoom lens, Samsung representatives said the company had taken measures to reduce sharpness loss due to "hand shake." When the Digimax Pro815 is put into "High Speed" mode, the ISO rating (the sensitivity) of the image sensor in is increased up to ISO 800, thus allowing the camera to use higher shutter speeds. The extra-large f/2.2 to f/4.6 maximum aperture allows plenty of light into the 7.2-to-108mm lens (equivalent to a 28-to-420mm lens on a 35mm film camera), once again allowing for higher shutter speeds and enhancing sharpness.

While the unit has an array of automated functions, the lens can be manually focused and zoomed and users can make manual exposure adjustments as well. The Digimax Pro815 uses CompactFlash removable memory cards, the first Samsung digital camera to use this format, the company said.

Also introduced was the ultra-slim Digimax i5, a 5-megapixel camera with the footprint of a credit card. The 0.68-inch thick unit comes in a stainless steel case which Samsung representatives said was more durable than aluminum. Despite its thin form factor, the unit still offers a 3X optical zoom lens as well as 5X digital zoom and a 2.5-inch color LCD.

Mr. Seishi Ohmori, vice president of the DSC Development Center of Samsung Techwin Co. Ltd., the parent company of Samsung Camera, said the Digimax i5 was the right thickness to be held comfortably, "...unlike Sony's T7, which is maybe too thin to hold."

He said the Digimax i5's Safety Flash technology compensates for red-eye effects, preserves natural colors and conserves power. The $349 unit will be available in silver, black red or gray.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

JVC Perfect Experience Studio Debuts

The JVC EX-D5 desktop audio system has a DVD
player, Wi-Fi and USB connectivity and speaker cones
made of wood. Yes, wood! It
was on display at the June
14 opening reception for JVC: The Perfect Experience
in New York. ©2005 Stadium Circle Features Posted by Hello

If you were distracted by the music, free food, open bar and fashion models, you might not have noticed the small video cameras, giant flat-screen, high-definition televisions or other nifty electronics gear on display at the debut of JVC: The Perfect Experience Studio in New York. The showcase of products from JVC Company of America opened with a reception for the media and invited guests on June 14 and will be open to the public daily through July 13.

The corner storefront, located in Manhattan at Fifth Ave. and E. 40th St. across from the twin-lioned New York Public Library, will offer free concerts, product demonstrations and other events. The showcase was developed by JVC and Hachette Filipacchi Media US, publishers of magazine titles such as ELLE, Woman's Day and Car and Driver.

Included in the showcase is JVC's new line of Everio video cameras. Instead of using tape or other removable media, the Everio camcorders have internal hard disks, a design that makes it easy to transfer videos to a PC for editing. You can connect to a PC with a cable or burn videos directly to a DVD with an optional DVD burner.

The Everio line ranges from the $800 Everio GZ-MG20, which has a 20-gigabyte (GB) hard disk (good for up to seven hours of DVD-camcorder-quality video), to the $1,000 Everio GZ-MG50, which has a higher-resolution, 1.33-megapixel image sensor and a 30GB hard disk (up to 10.5 hours of video). All of the four Everio models weigh less than 14 ounces with the battery installed, according to JVC.

The JVC EX-D5 executive desktop audio system (pictured above with Fifth Ave. in the background) features speaker cones made of wood. Thin sheets of wood are soaked in saki (Japanese rice wine) before they're hammered into shape. According to JVC, this design provides a richer, higher-quality sound than traditional paper speaker cones.

The unit has an AM/FM tuner and a DVD player that can handle DVD Audio and DVD Video discs as well as DVD-R/RW, CD, CD-R/RW and SVCD/VCD discs. It can play back music stored in MP3 or WMA formats and read images stored in JPEG format.

You can play digital audio files from your PC by linking the unit via a universal serial bus (USB) cable or wirelessly via its built-in Wi-Fi wireless networking adapter. The $604.95 unit will be available later this month.

Hard disks in camcorders? Wooden speaker cones? What do you think?

Friday, June 03, 2005

Not Just Another Table Radio: Polk Audio Raises Bar with I-Sonic

Polk Audio's new I-Sonic Entertainment System can
receive XM Satellite Radio broadcasts and HD Radio
stations in addition to the AM and FM bands. It also
has a DVD player and, yes, even an alarm clock.
© 2005 Stadium Circle Features. Posted by Hello

(See update below)

If you spotted Polk Audio Inc.'s new I-Sonic in a store window, you probably wouldn't be impressed. It looks like a conventional stereo table radio with what looks like a CD player--certainly nothing special.

Look closer, however, and its abilities come into focus. In addition to the standard AM and FM radio bands, the I-Sonic can also receive XM Satellite radio broadcasts (with the help of an extra-cost antenna) and can tune in the high-quality HD Radio broadcasts now available in many cities. That CD drive? It's actually a DVD player. The video connections are on the back. So much for first impressions.

The $599 I-Sonic Entertainment System was announced at the recent Home Entertainment Show in New York City, but the unit on display was only a non-functioning mock-up. Working units won't be available until September, according to Polk Audio.

[UPDATE (8/11/2005): Polk Audio reports that due to "technology integration issues" the I-Sonic won't be available until the first quarter of 2006.]

If the final product works as advertised, the I-Sonic would be a versatile home entertainment solution for those who don't want to deal with multiple devices. Aside from DVD movies and music CDs, the I-Sonic's DVD player can play music saved in MP3 format. According to Polk Audio, the radio's I-Sonic surround-sound technology and Power Port bass-enhancing speaker ports create a room-filling audio effect from the unit's small stereo speakers. A remote control is also included.

By connecting a $49 Connect & Play XM antenna, the I-Sonic can tune in XM Satellite Radio's offerings, which include 150 commercial-free, CD-quality stations. A basic subscription is $12.95 per month.

HD Radio, developed by iBiquity Digital Corp., allows radio stations to use tiny slices of their unused bandwidth to broadcast high-quality digital radio content. HD Radio, now available in many major radio markets, bumps FM reception to CD quality and improves AM broadcasts to today's FM quality.

Like satellite radio stations, HD Radio stations can broadcast data such as streaming stock reports, weather reports, sports scores or the name of the song that's playing. Unlike satellite radio, HD Radio broadcasts are free and don't require a subscription.

You can connect a digital music player to the iSonic via standard audio input jacks and at the end of the day you can use the I-Sonic as a standard dual-alarm clock radio.

Too much in one box? What do you think?