Diamond Multimedia's controversial Rio MP3 player will be available in New Zealand in January.
Despite attempts by US record companies to get the Rio banned the portable device, which plays compressed music files that can be downloaded from the Internet, is being distributed worldwide.
The Rio uses MPEG level 3 compression technology, known as MP3, which gives unprecedented 12:1 audio compression. A typical track on audio CD may take up 50Mb of space but when compressed can be as small as 4.5Mb, making it feasible to download.
Since MP3 is an open standard, there are already dozens of compression tools and players for it on the Internet.
Until now, users have downloaded player software such as WinAmp and played the tracks on their desktop computer. However, with the introduction of the portable Rio and similar products, music fans will be able to download the music and take it with them.
The Rio has 32Mb of onboard flash memory which can store up to 60 minutes of continuous digital-quality playback or several hours of voice-quality audio.
Last month the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) took Diamond Multimedia to court, saying the Rio violated the Audio Home Recording Act, and won a temporary restraining order against shipment of Rio to consumers. The act requires recording devices to be registered with the Copyright Office and manufacturers to pay a modest royalty. However, the RIAA was dealt a blow when a federal court judge reversed the decision, though the court also ruled that the Rio would have to comply with the Audio Home Recording Act.
The Rio will be distributed in New Zealand by Dove Electronics and will be sold through retail computer outlets such as Computer City and Dick Smith, as well as music stores. It will have a recommended retail price of $599 including GST.