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.
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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.