By Robert Menta- 03/17/02
We were not surprised when the major electronic manufacturers jumped into the MP3 arena - we expected it. After all, MP3 portables are the heir to the Walkman throne and over time will eventually replace the aging tape format among mobile users.
What we did not expect was a move by an early digital music manufacturer to do the reverse and leap into the home stereo system. With the Rio EX1000, SonicBlue does just that, a 120W bi-amplified system that plays MP3 CDs, CDs and cassette tapes.
Retailing for $299, the Rio EX1000 goes against recent products from RCA and Phillips, two brands that dominate the shelves of the local Sears and Wallmart. The EX1000 handles both CD-R and CD-RW disc with text support to display ID3 information. The shelf system also has an AM/FM tuner, a cassette recorder, a full function remote control, five pre-set equalizer settings, 24-track programmable CD memory.
"Another 'Rio-first', the Rio EX1000 expands the executive shelf system category to include MP3 capabilities and dramatically drives this market forward," overstates David Huffman, vice president of audio products, SONICblue (RCA and Phillips are already there). "The first mass market home audio product from SONICblue, the Rio EX1000 highlights SONICblue's overall strategy to move its technology and brands into broader consumer markets."
Broadening those markets may be a strategy more to test out the power of the Rio brand when it comes to MP3 purchases than to move fully into the world of Panasonic, Aiwa and others who will soon make a sizable percentage of their products MP3 capable. It might prove quite successful as Rio has proved by retaining the market lead in digital music products as more electronics manufacturers release competing devices. Of course, Rio is no longer playing on its home court so it will be interesting to see how well they do.
The Rio EX1000 looks pretty competitive from the photos and specs and the system is available now on SONICblue's eStore. Best Buy and Fry's among and other retail stores will carry the product too and should have them stocked on shelves by the end of the month.
The 20GB Rio Riot Jukebox can be ordered from Amazon
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