By Robert Menta - 9/13/01
With the success of its Rio Volt, the company's first MP3/CD player, SonicBlue announces the release of two new MP3/CD players which will complement the original Rio Volt SP100.
Selling for $179 the first player, the Rio Volt SP250, will step into the top of the Rio Volt line. The SP250 includes an FM tuner as an option and comes with added internal memory to store 8 minutes of audio, increasing the anti-skip buffer for better shock protection. Compare this with the original Rio Volt SP100, which came with just 40 seconds worth.
The Rio Volt SP250 adds a rechargeable battery to the line that allow for over 15 hours of music with quick recharging capabilities and two sets of ear-gear; headphones and earbuds. Like the Rio Volt SP100, the SP250 comes with a remote.
The SP250 can also be upgraded by firmware, though in a way a little more time consuming than expected. Because there are no parallel USB ports on the unit, firmware upgrades must be accomplished by downloading the upgrade, burning it on a CD, then running that CD on the player.
The $99 Rio Volt SP90 comes in as the starter player in the Volt line. $40 less that the Rio Volt SP100, the SP90 drops the remote and comes with 120 sec shock protection. Like the SP100, the SP90 runs on two AA batteries.
All three players read CD tracks in the MP3, WMA and standard CD formats.
Rio products dominate the MP3 market, but they are finally experiencing strong competition from old electronic giants that are now turning their full attentions to this market. Most of the Rio products are flash memory based units and until now there was only one MP3/CD player available.
With CD burner sales skyrocketing and Napster clones facilitating the trades of millions of digital music files, both Philips Electronics and RCA have focused aggressively on the CD-based digital-audio player market. To give you an idea of how aggressive, RCA has already announced 20 MP3 players by years end, about a dozen which are CD-based.
CDs offer significantly cheaper storage than expensive flash memory cards and have a higher capacity. This has made CD-based digital-audio players very attractive to consumers. MP3 laden CDs are also sold on eBay and General Mills recently put MP3 CDs in 80 million boxes of cereal.
Commenting on the new products, Sonicblue Chief Technology Officer Andy Wolfe said "These new players allow people to play from their existing collections...they don't require someone to have as much computer knowledge as those that use our products that use flash memory".
This news comes days after SonicBlue announced the layoffs of 90 employees in a concerted cost cutting effort. Earlier this year the company cut about 500 jobs, almost half of its workforce.
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