Ask the PowerPage: Hard Drive as a Stereo Component

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Date: Wednesday, December 8th, 2004, 07:16
Category: Archive

I recently developed an idea for an interesting product that Apple could develop using existing technology.
I am a bit of novice audiophile and have recently gotten very frustrated with the user interface of numerous products. I would like to put all of my music onto a hard drive and use it like a stereo component. I have a Xbox but it has a bad user interface and the sound quality is bad. Tivo kind of has something like it I hear but I have Direct TV which does not support Tivo 2. The iPod is a great product but is limited by connections, hard drive space and its small screen. So far I like my computer collection of music the best.
Apple should make a component system that is hard drive based with optical outputs and a CD slot for loading the music. It should have 2 user interfaces. The first should be like the current Ipod user interface and only require an audio hook-up. The second should involve an optional iTunes interface that is displayed on your television and can organize your collection. No other product offers the easy interface of iTunes.
You should be able to encode in Apple lossless, AAC, MP3, etc. The big perk would be to transfer your purchased music to your hard drive to listen to and to use the Apple lossless format while listening through your stereo speakers.
The device could have an ethernet port for optional networking. Hard drive should be 80-160 GB. As mentioned above, optional optical out. Possibly a USB port for transferring music possibly.
The remote could look kind of like an iPod as well.
Target audience: People wanting to transfer their CD collection onto one easy-to-use source and maintain excellent quality. The interesting part is I tried to see how I could explain my idea to Apple and I got a nasty email back before they would even listen. Oh well.
My intention is not to make any money. But I think that Apple is the perfect company to make such a basic product and it would perfectly complement the iPod.
I know from reading the PowerPage almost daily that you are very “audio friendly.” Do you have any ideas on how to get the idea to them? Does Apple ever read these Web pages for ideas? Is this product even a good idea? I haven’t seen anything else really like it with a good user interface, but I am kind of picky.
Read on for the PowerPage’s response…


I recently developed an idea for an interesting product that Apple could develop using existing technology.
I am a bit of novice audiophile and have recently gotten very frustrated with the user interface of numerous products. I would like to put all of my music onto a hard drive and use it like a stereo component. I have a Xbox but it has a bad user interface and the sound quality is bad. Tivo kind of has something like it I hear but I have Direct TV which does not support Tivo 2. The iPod is a great product but is limited by connections, hard drive space and its small screen. So far I like my computer collection of music the best.
Apple should make a component system that is hard drive based with optical outputs and a CD slot for loading the music. It should have 2 user interfaces. The first should be like the current Ipod user interface and only require an audio hook-up. The second should involve an optional iTunes interface that is displayed on your television and can organize your collection. No other product offers the easy interface of iTunes.
You should be able to encode in Apple lossless, AAC, MP3, etc. The big perk would be to transfer your purchased music to your hard drive to listen to and to use the Apple lossless format while listening through your stereo speakers.
The device could have an ethernet port for optional networking. Hard drive should be 80-160 GB. As mentioned above, optional optical out. Possibly a USB port for transferring music possibly.
The remote could look kind of like an iPod as well.
Target audience: People wanting to transfer their CD collection onto one easy-to-use source and maintain excellent quality. The interesting part is I tried to see how I could explain my idea to Apple and I got a nasty email back before they would even listen. Oh well.
My intention is not to make any money. But I think that Apple is the perfect company to make such a basic product and it would perfectly complement the iPod.
I know from reading the PowerPage almost daily that you are very “audio friendly.” Do you have any ideas on how to get the idea to them? Does Apple ever read these Web pages for ideas? Is this product even a good idea? I haven’t seen anything else really like it with a good user interface, but I am kind of picky.
A. The PowerPage’s Ammad responds:
Every company should have a suggestion box. I’m not sure who you spoke with (and if they were having a bad day or not) but most of what you describe can be done with a Mac and an AirPort Express already.
I own over 400 CD’s so most everything I’m broadcasting is something I own. With a few rare MP3’s from Europe that aren’t for sale here in the US. I can’t read Amazon Germany/Russia too well to order anything so one must suffer.
You basically need a Mac with a big hard drive. I have an old G4/400 with two 120GB drives (because the older IDE BIOS restricts you to 120gb drives)–you can throw a 300GB drive into an external FireWire enclosure as FireWire doesn’t have that restriction. Since I lost my entire collection after MP3ing it and shipping all my CDs to my brother I’ve since then striped the two 120’s together (RAID 0) to make a 240GB drive and then have an external 250 in a firewire enclosure that backs that and my powerbook up nightly. If the place burns down I have to grab my PowerBook, one FireWire drive, a few X-Men comics and run out the door. I also have itunes on the G4 in my office set to import and eject any CD inserted.
The machine is on a network with an AirPort Express base station in my office. One thought was to buy a G4 Cube and throw a 120GB drive into it. Ebay lists a cube for less than US$500 and you can even put a wireless card into them if you can find one. My brother has a cube but after he heard my idea decided he would do it instead of giving the cube to me.
Over by my stereo I have an AirPort Express with an optical cable out to my Sony receiver. I’m planning on adding an AirPort Express in the bedroom. But that is going to violate my no computers in the bedroom rule to change music selection so that’s a problem.
To change the music selection in the living room I just use my wireless PowerBook in the living room (or kitchen) to remote connect to my G4 using Apple Remote Desktop and have it change what iTunes is doing.
To get the iTunes display on my TV I could move my G4 (or my brothers G4 cube 😉 ) to be behind the TV stand but that would leave it too close to the patio door. 🙁
To get the computer to display on your TV/plasma/LCD you could use a VGA converter. Using a TV as a computer monitor sucks as TV refreshes every other raster line whereas a computer monitor refreshes every line–hence why a TV is cheaper. You can get a pretty cheap VGA to RCA/component converter but they suck. They sell TV’s/LCD’s/plasmas with DVI input but they aren’t cheap. I’ve also seen LCD monitors with a TV cable jack and built-in tuner so you could go that direction as well. That would keep the TV processing on the LCD instead of your older slower mac.
To get Tivo functionality I’ve been researching EyeTV (mentioned here on PowerPage a few weeks back) and that will let you hook an actual cable jack into it and then FireWire to your Mac to record live broadcast. That would mean moving the G4 over to by the TV so that’s why I’ve not done that yet.
So your idea already exists–you just have to know what you are doing (and read the documentation). Maybe they need to do better promote AirPort Express for doing this? That would be my feedback to Apple.
Instead of buying a plasma TV you could get an LCD projector and broadcast TV or computer to a 10-foot screen. They cost less than some of the plasma TVs and are portable.
P.S. You do have your stereo on a UPS, right?

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