AudioFeast: Radio Streams for Digital Portables

By Richard Menta 9/10/04

Back on September 1st 2000, during the early days of MP3 portables, we reviewed the I2Go eGo. It was a revolutionary player for its time as it was not only the first to offer IBM's Microdrive (the same drive, now made by Hitachi, is used by the iPod Mini) as a storage option, it was capable of running TWO Microdrives simultaneously. This gave the player a 2GB top end in an era of 64MB MP3 players.


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That wasn't the only unique option, there was another feature of that player and the company that fits this particular article.

I2Go created a free online service for MP3 players called MyAudio2Go.com. In my original review I describe it as such:

One of the best options available from the folks at i2Go is a website they created called MyAudio2Go.com. On this site you can download daily news stories in the MP3 format. You can select articles covering the top news stories, sports, business and finance, even recaps of a dozen or so television shows like ER.

MyAudio2Go.com was essentially daily radio streams that brought, at first, news-only items to portable devices. The goal was to expand to music radio, but the company succumbed to the dot com crash before the music service was opened.

Enter AudioFeast. Their new subscription service looks to continue where MyAudio2Go.com left off, offering talk radio but also music radio streams that are compressed into a single file for playback on digital portable devices.

The idea has always been intriguing (interestingly, AudioFeast's PR folk are claiming they are the first to do this, which the above shows is not true). Radio has always been a source to initiate people to new music - though much less so in these Clear Channel Communications monopoly days - and having it available in places radio is not accessible, like on a frequency-insulating commuter train, seems compelling.

"What they're offering is something that's new and novel in terms of expanding the possibilities of the user experience with portable MP3 players," IDC analyst Susan Kevorkian told CNET. "(With radio) you can add a more serendipitous experience on portables than what you can get with just your own music collection."

AudioFeast's chief executive officer, Tom Carhart, also spoke to CNET. "We really saw an opportunity to reignite the whole radio experience for consumers. "We take that experience, and allow you with a button click to put that on a portable device."

AudioFeast is already offering compressed broadcasts from the BBC, National Public Radio, Bloomberg, and the Sporting News. There are a number of music streams too, covering most genres.

Unlike MyAudio2Go.com, which compressed its files in the common MP3 format, AudioFeast was forced to wrap it's "casts" in DRM technology to keep a litigious music industry off its back. To facilitate this AudioFeast has chosen Microsoft's WMA format.

This means not all MP3 portables can play AudioFeast's product, most notably the market dominant iPod which plays MP3 and AAC files, but not WMA files.

Pricing for the talk-only subscription is $49.95 per year. AudioFeast has yet to price music subscriptions, which are available presently under a 15 day free trial.

 

 


The 20GB Zen Touch is the latest iPod challenger and is available on Amazon

 

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