Thursday, June 23, 2005

Cambridge Audio 640H Music Server

CA has finally announced its 640H Music Server. CA claims 640H to be an audiophile quality hard-disk player, based on their "mid-hifi" CD player Azur 640C. Specs are interesting: 160GB hard-disk, Wolfson WM8740 24/192kHz DAC, Internet radio, and in-built CD-R/CD-RW burner. Included WiFi and Ethernet connections enable the 640H to access music stored on any PC or Mac in home network. The Music Server is controlled with its embedded Audiophile (?) software, either via a small front LCD screen or external TV. Indicated retail price is €1200.

Viewpoint: The music server business is poised to be owned by Apple, building on their iTunes / iPod franchise. I'm baffled that they haven't announce CA 640H kind of product yet. Having said that, Apple actually already has a direct competitor to CA 640H in terms of Mac Mini, AirPort Express WiFi access point and iTunes software. And Apple solution enables a seamless use of iPod. However, Apple's iTunes has one key weakness what I've already reported. The iTunes software should be enhanced in a way that audio files could be stored in iTunes in WAV / AIFF format, but then during the transfer to iPod files would be converted on the fly to either Apple Lossless or MP3. This would enable users to use iTunes as their high quality media library, and at the same time maximize drive space in iPod.

I'm a proponent of music server type of products, but I'm even bigger fan of iTunes. I'm personally puzzled that according to studies only some 15% of iTunes users use its track/album rating system (1-5 stars). I use rating system to copy selected 4/5 stars songs to my iPod Mini, and have really been delighted how I've re-discovered some terrific tracks on unnoticed albums.

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