GW-181

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J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
G A D G E T W A T C H
The Hottest Gadgets and Gizmos from Japan
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Issue No. 181
Friday February 25, 2005

(Long URLs may break across two lines, so copy to your browser.)

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Name: Pioneer CDJ-200
Category: DJ CD player
Price: Open Price; estimated at 50,000 yen
Release date in Japan: Early April 2005

The Gist: Bring out your inner DJ with Pioneer's new
"CDJ-200," a CD player for DJs. Quite different from
the turntables that many DJs still swear by, the CDJ-200
offers something not many devices in its class have:
playback of MP3 files stored on CD-R/RW discs. Obviously
a plus for DJs who want to mix tracks across multiple
albums, this feature alone should give DJs a reason to
at least take a glance at it.

Pioneer certainly isn't a newcomer to the DJ industry;
they offer an entire range of CD players, mixers,
headphones, and enough equipment to shake a stick at.
While their previous "CDJ-100" seemed to be popular in
the community, the CDJ-200 ponies up a number of
improvements. It of course offers the "Quick Start"
and "Cue Sampler" functions as provided by the CDJ-100,
but even puts the new "Loop Cutter" and "Beat Loop"
functions "in the mix." [Are DJ jokes even possible?]
Loop Cutter, as its name implies, will simply "cut"
a loop in half -- when playing a track, simply push
the button, and a loop half the length of the current
one will start. Pushing the button repeatedly will
create a sort of drum-roll effect. The "Beat Loop"
function is one I my non-DJ self would like to try;
the CDJ-200 will automatically detect the 4 beats that
come immediately after you push the functions button,
and loop them.

A "Digital Jog Break" function provides JET, ZIP, and
WAH effects by turning a jog dial. The CDJ-200 is
equipped with RCA, coaxial digital, and headphone
output ports. It has a signal to noise ratio of
over 110dB.

More info: http://www.pioneer.co.jp/press/release479-j.html
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Name: Sony Net Juke NAS-A10
Category: Minicompo system
Price: Open Price; estimated at 63,000 yen
Release date in Japan: March 15, 2005

The Gist: Sony is busting out the MP3-supporting
products left and right now, and this past week was
no exception. The "NET JUKE NAS-A10," while its
product name may remind you of a certain airplane,
appears to be the company's first "NET JUKE" product
to actually support MP3. That being said, the device
doesn't support MP3 nearly as much as it "could" --
more like, it supports MP3 as much as it "would."
More on this later.

The NAS-A10 is the successor to the NAS-A1, released
in May of last year. And when we say "successor"
we don't mean "oh yeah they upgraded the hard drive"
successor; the NAS-A10 offers so much more
functionality it's not even worthwhile to consider
purchasing the A1. The A10 provides a multitude of
interfaces: 100Base-TX network, CD, USB, hard drive,
Memory Stick Duo, and conventional audio. Can you
take a guess as to which of these support MP3 and
which don't? That's OK if you can't, because I'm
about to tell you anyway: MP3 files can be played
from CDs and Memory Stick Duo. The 100Base-TX
connection is provided for a variety of reasons,
such as downloading CDDB data for when you rip CDs
to the device's internal 40GB hard drive, playing
ATRAC3 files directly from a PC connected to the
same network, and so forth. Unfortunately, Sony
appears to have passed up a fantastic opportunity
to offer MP3 support here as well. I doubt there
are many people willing to convert their MP3
collection to ATRAC3 just so they can transfer
their songs over the network to the A10. In fact,
Sony does offer 8x CD to hard drive ripping speeds
on the A10 itself; but the only available formats
for ripping songs are ATRAC3 and PCM. Interestingly
enough, the A10 provides a number of "portability"
options I've taken to.

First and foremost is the USB 2.0 port for
transferring ATRAC3 files to devices
that happen to support the format; the
specifications do not list that it can transfer MP3
files in this same fashion. Additionally, the A10
gives Playstation Portable owners yet another reason
to rejoice; as I said earlier, the A10 can play
MP3 files from Memory Stick Duo. Coincidentally,
so can the Playstation Portable. In other words,
you could theoretically take your Memory Stick Duo
right from your PSP, plug it into the A10, and
resume playback of your tunes. Expect more
"crossover" functionality like this to become
increasingly popular in coming years.

The A10 may be a fantastic investment for someone
who doesn't mind going through Sony's ATRAC3 format
from time to time, but for the rest of us, it could
be too much hassle (and money).

The speakers included with the A10 are rated at 10W
each, with 10cm subwoofers and 4cm tweeters. The base
unit measures about 90 x 314 x 315mm (W x D x H).

More info: http://www.sony.jp/CorporateCruise/Press/200502/05-0217/
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Name: "Sharp AQUOS High Vision Recorder"
Category: Digital video recorder (DVR)
Price: HRD300 (400GB), 200,000 yen;
HRD30 (250GB), 160,000 yen;
HRD3 (160GB), 130,000 yen
Release date in Japan: March 10, 2005

The Gist: Sharp's enormously successful AQUOS brand
expanded this past week, with the introduction of the
"AQUOS High Vision Recorder." I'll go ahead and say
this now for readers who may not know: "High Vision"
is what Japan calls "HDTV," as it is known to
Americans (sorry, not sure about the rest of the world).
Even so, you needn't worry about this any longer as we
dive willy-nilly into the fantastic world of product
codes! Yes, Sharp has equipped the three different
flavors of AQUOS High Vision Recorder with maniacal
product codes. The "DV-HRD300" has a 400GB capacity
(that's what I said...), the "DV-HRD30" has a 250GB
capacity, and the "DV-HRD3" has a 160GB. So as you
can see, while the product code numbers decrease
exponentially, the actual capacities
decrease...geometrically... or something, I don't
know what I'm talking about. Frankly, I don't think
Sharp does either.

But hey, that's alright. Sharp has done a nice job
creating a lineup of HDTV recorders with a powerful
feature set. The HRD300 and HRD30 differ from the
HRD3 in only one area besides capacity: the HDMI
interface. HDMI, for those of you that missed it,
is a single cable offering both audio and video
signals. There're a couple other benefits to using
HDMI, but we'll just go ahead and skip those for
the time being. So while the HRD300 and HRD30
have HDMI, the HRD3 lacks it.

The AQUOS High Vision Recorder lineup offers a
multitude of standard features: terrestrial, BS,
110 CS digital tuners, direct digital recording
of MPEG-2 HDTV streams, and the same "High Vision
Quality High Speed Processing Engine" circuitry
popularized by the company's "BD-HD100" Blu-Ray
recorder. Because of this fancy engine, the AQUOS
series can record, play, and edit HD video
simultaneously.

Interestingly enough, the AQUOS series will even
upconvert DVD-Video and other video signals to
1080i/720p. I certainly can't vouch for the
quality of such a process, but one thing is for
sure: it's better than what I have here in my
apartment. Videos recorded to the AQUOS recorder's
hard drives can be written to DVD after
downconversion to one of four quality settings:
XP, SP, LP, and EP. In addition, with use of the
i.Link interface, said video can even be "moved"
to D-VHS tapes. Because of the auto-chapter
detection functionality, individual chapters can
also be moved.

More info: http://www.sharp.co.jp/corporate/news/050216-a.html
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