Slacker, SRS Making Audio Waves


Slacker G2 Personal Radio player

Slacker steals the thunder and SRS battles Dolby for high-end enhancements.

Sep. 25, 2008 — by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Fresh on the heels of some interesting product introductions in Denver a few weeks ago, audio systems and accessories took center stage at two different previews in New York City the last few weeks. Battling with Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin for attention at the Millennium Hotel, was the long awaited Slacker program aimed at the audiophile component and PC software market. Palin was at the same hotel during her visit to the United Nations.

Slacker also unveiled an at home and/or portable music player/download system that works with and without a component player for under $200 stealing the thunder from Dell, whose first audio system has been delayed until next January.

According to some analysts, the Slacker System could deeply undercut Dell which was planning to enter the market this week and affect the industry leading Rhapsody service. Slacker, a music sharing web site similar to Rhapsody and Pandora and extremely popular with the under 25 demographic, was founded by Dennis Mudd, the long time so-called visionary in the digital audio business. The Slacker G2 Personal Radio player will be available immediately at Best Buy and other national chains. The Slacker G2 offers a whole house or mobile way to play digital music either from its proprietary Radio stations or on this new full-featured portable player.

The basic system is free; a monthly upgraded version with more features and no ads is $7.50 a month, undercutting industry leader Rhapsody by a few dollars. However, the Slacker system will also be available on selected mobile phones and audio component systems soon. Subscribers will not have to pay extra for their subscriptions on other Slacker devices. (Recently Verizon started charging extra for Rhapsody users to use Verizon mobile devices….causing quite a stir at both company’s customer hot lines.)

Slacker’s patent-pending radio delivery network automatically downloads and continuously refreshes thousands of personally selected songs on each device, and turns them into personalized radio stations – all for free. Because the players don’t have to be connected to Wi-Fi to play, Slacker G2 owners can listen to CD quality, personalized radio everywhere they go.

As for Slacker, multiple entry into mainstream consumer electronics via its own new hardware, the Web and other third party components, the Slacker system offers more than 100 expertly programmed Slacker stations, over 10,000 artist stations, or their own custom-created stations Slacker has previously announced licensing arrangements with all of the major record labels and publishers, and thousands of independent labels and publishers, to provide access to millions of songs that can be played online or on Slacker Personal Radio players.

Free service:

  • 2 million+ song library
  • 100+ hand picked, expert-programmed genre stations
  • Unlimited custom stations
  • Compatible with the online service and Slacker Personal Radio players
  • 6 song skips per hour, per station

Premium service ($7.50/month on an annual basis):

  • Unlimited song skips on radio stations
  • No advertising (on the free service you may get 1 or 2 short audio ads per hour or visual ads online)
  • Saved songs - with Premium most of the radio songs can also be saved when you hear them to be played again later whenever you choose, either online or on the Slacker G2.
  • Song requests - with Slacker Premium you can create custom stations by selecting an unlimited number of your favorite songs using the Slacker station creator (Create Station), with Free there are limits on the individual songs you can pick to build stations, but in either option you can select an unlimited number of your favorite artists.

And, speaking of hot, SRS, battling for brand and bragging rights against well healed DTS and Dolby, unveiled another multi-channel plug-in for audio systems that caused quite a stir at another showcase.

SRS, whose audio enhancement process is now featured on many elite audio components, is using a new version of its iWOW software plug-in for use with home speakers, MP3 players, iTunes and PCs to show-off its technology. The iWOW software (for Mac and PC) uses a similar DSP-type patented process to restore a high level of fidelity to audio files. The new software is designed to make music and videos that sound much more natural with full details i.e.: the better receivers and amplifiers and speakers. 

SRS iWOW plug-in provides full, 3D audio over any headphone, desktop, laptop or monitor speaker. As a complete new retail boxed product, iWOW offers a new user interface. The user interface provides the ability to personalize acoustic preferences with an array of music and video presets such as rock, classical, jazz, blues, country and more.

“The iWOW suite of products is yet another example of how SRS Labs is continually seeking to develop new ways for consumers to enjoy improved audio quality from their digitally compressed music and video files,” says Craig Marking, Director of Product Marketing for SRS Labs.  “As the number of listening options continues to grow, our research and product development is aimed at helping listeners experience an immersive, natural sound – without adding anything artificial – so consumers hear audio files the way they were meant to be heard.”

The SRS iWOW software package will be available next week; an iWOW adaptor for iPod will be available in November. The suggested retail prices are $79.95 and $99.95 respectively. 

At the same event, Digital entertainment services company RealNetworks unveiled RealDVD, the first mainstream PC “legal” application allowing consumers to easily save their DVDs to their hard drive. RealDVD saves DVDs to a PC or portable hard drive and allows users to watch them later without the need for the disks themselves. Unlike existing consumer applications on the market today, RealDVD is licensed DVD software that saves a secure copy of a DVD to the hard drive without removing or altering the CSS encryption.

“RealDVD gives consumers a great new way to get more out of their DVDs,” says Rob Glaser, chairman and CEO of RealNetworks. “RealDVD is ideal for those traveling for business or entertaining the kids on a long trip; it provides instant access to a variety of content without having to manage a physical disc. Laptop users will also appreciate improved battery life, as the disc drive is no longer needed for video playback. Saving DVDs to portable hard drives creates an easy to manage personal library that is great for travel. Content saved to portable drives can be played on up to five machines licensed to an individual user.”

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