Escient is making its range of Fireball digital music servers available to the UK general public. Escient is already a big player in the United States but has, until now, remained the preserve of custom install specialists in the UK.
There are two models in the range: the 160GB S-E160i (£800) and the 500GB S-E500i (£1,200). Both models are able to play, rip and record CDs, copy files between PC and Mac computers, and can also stream internet radio.
Just like a PC or Mac, the Fireball server uses Gracenote CDDB to identify each CD. Cover art for each stored CD is provided by AMG.
CD data can be stored in either lossless FLAC, or in a choice of MP3 bit-rates from 320 to 128kbs. Ripping CDs at 192kbs, the S-E1500i has enough capacity to store 5,622 hours of music, so space is unlikely to be a problem. Each server is controlled via a user interface on your TV or dedicated display, and Escient claims this system is both easy to use and glitch-free.
Also launching in the UK is the all-new Fireball FP-1 iPod dock for a rather hefty £400. This allows full wireless control over a docked iPod through the Fireball interface. It's also possible to use it to transfer material stored on a docked iPod onto the master Fireball server and the company says this includes songs purchased at the iTunes store.