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RCA unveils Lyra MP3 player

Portable digital music player supports MS Audio, RealAudio too

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French consumer electronics giant Thomson Multimedia's US subsidiary this week announced its first digital music player, the RCA Lyra. However, the company's support for the controversial MP3 digital audio format, signalled last week by its acquisition of a 20 per cent stake in MP3 software specialist MusicMatch, was tempered by Lyra's 'play it safe' support for Microsoft's MP3 rival, MS Audio 4.0. However, Lyra also supports RealNetworks' RealAudio G2 format, so perhaps the decision to include MS Audio 4.0 is more about covering as many bases as possible than accepting Microsoft is about to dominate the online music format market. Still, it does suggest that RealAudio, MS Audio and MP3 are settling down as the only formats future players need support to gain a decent share of online music fans. And that suggests that lesser formats, such as LiquidAudio's LiquidTracks are increasingly being left out in the cold. RCA LyraThe device itself is 4.5in by 2.5in in size and 7/8in thick. Lyra will ship with a 32MB CompactFlash card for storage, though it will also interface with IBM's 340MB CF-2 microdrive. A built-in graphic equaliser can be controlled from the device's backlit LCD, which also displays the device's folder-style file directory. Lyra will ship in the US in September for around $200. ®

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