By Richard Menta- 03/23/02
Wouldn't it be nice to have an MP3 CD player that not only played your CD's, but could rip them into internal memory so you can still listen to those same tunes when there is a different or no CD in the tray? Wouldn't it also be nice if you could hook up an outside audio source from a cassette or LP or even a mixing board and record into the unit on the fly? Enter Panasonic's new portable CD player.
The Panasonic SV-SR100
Selling for $399 the Panasonic SV-SR100 is a unique player in that it takes advantage advancements in flash card memory technology to add flexibility to an MP3 CD player, one that further reduces its reliance for a PC with a CD burner.
The SV-SR100 plays CD-R/RW as well as standard CDs. Incorporating an SD memory slot in the unit allows you to rip a CD placed inside the unit into an SD card placed in the slot. In the days when these flash cards were only 8MB to 32MB such a feature would be nice, but capacity would be too modest for practical real-world application.
Recently, though, we have seen a significant spike in flash memory capacity that makes this issue moot. On January 7th of this year, Panasonic announced the spring release of a 512MB version of the SD memory card with 1GB and 4GB versions on the near horizon. This brings a player such as the Panasonic SV-SR100 closer to the jukebox MP3 players than to the 32MB flash portables of which the MP3 industry niche was built upon.
Prices of flash cards are still fairly high, of course (the 512MB SD card will retail for $549 when released), but costs are steadily coming down. Presently a 64MB SD card runs about $70 and 128MB cards about $130.
The SV-SR100 plays digital files using the AAC (Advanced Audio Coding), MP3, and the WMA codecs, but it will only record to the flash card using the AAC format. The AAC format is a more modern codec than MP3, but despite better sound at lower bitrates it has not been widely adopted by the masses.
That may be the real reason for its use here. Since few people trade in this format - which is also more secure than the MP3 format - it somewhat reduces the immediate fears of the music industry who are looking for capitulation from the major electronics firms. Indeed, many of the major electronics companies lean to pacifying the content industry at this time (even though they have far more money to compete head to head with).
Digital music brings life back to a flat portable electronics market where most homes already have several standard CD players in the household. What music trading did for CD burner sales alone shows the market potential for the electronic giants over the next several years. The movie and record industry's introduction of the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act (CBDTPA) through Sen. Fritz Hollings already threatens to derail this largest electronic growth area since DVD. That's why the electronics industry is attempting to tread lightly, not trying to give fuel to the legislative goals of the RIAA while pumping out millions of digital music players.
Apart from the politics, you will get more tunes onto your SD card using AAC, which is a convenience for those using SD cards under 128MB. As long as the unit will play the MP3 files you burn on CD or transfer to the SD card from your PC, it wont make much of a difference beyond the advantages of AAC.
Music using all three codecs can be transferred onto the SD memory card from your computer using a USB reader/writer or PC card adapter. Panasonic does not include either with the unit so they need to be purchased separately.
Another neat feature is an analog input terminal that allows users to transfer their music collections on cassette and other analog media to the SD Memory Card. The ability to digitize the old vinyl and tape collection without a PC will go over well with users who have a sizeable compilation of older media.
“With its direct recording capability, the SV-SR100 makes it easier than ever to enjoy a wide variety of music,” said James Kiczek, National Marketing Manager for Panasonic portable audio products.
Panasonic's present literature does not state which format such music is digitized to. While we probably can assume they use the AAC codec here too, that has yet to be confirmed.
The Panasonic SV-SR100 runs on two rechargable AA Ni-CD batteries with charger, AC adapter, and a remote control. The player should start shipping in early Q2.
The 20GB Rio Riot Jukebox can be ordered from Amazon
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