Re: iTrax now online (Finally!)
As you're probably aware, almost any device that plays digital content contains a computer. However, I also do not wish to include a PC (or a Mac) as a permanent fixture of my home entertainment system. These are complex, general purpose computers and while it is possible to configure these boxes for hi-end audio/video, the skills required to acheve an optimum configuration fall easily into geekdom (what is ASIO and why do I need it?). And you will still likely need and A/V receiver/processor for switching and amplification. Of course there are the issues of virus protection, OS updates and all the other trials of running a PC. Advanced A/V receivers/processors, however, are almost there. Many are including advanced 24-bit/192kHz D/A's and at least as much signal processing horsepower as a Vista PC. What's missing is support for streamed, multi-channel, high resolution audio over a network. The only part missing from the Logitech Transporter is multi-channel, and I'll bet that could be added easily. If an A/V receiver/processor vendor like Integra could add the codecs for decoding hi-rez, multichannel audio (e.g. WMA Lossless), they'd have a complete solution.
DVD-Audio and SACD, while not dead (well maybe SACD is still alive), have appeal to only a small niche comprised of those of us who still care about fidelity. It's exciting to see sites like iTrax, Linn, MusicGiants and others offering Hi-Rez audio, but the hardware to fully take advantage of this format needs to be more generally available. As I described above, I don't think the development costs or added cost of goods would be substantial to add this capability to current designs. The only way the majors would consider making their content available in hi-rez formats would be if there was clearly a market for it. I'd like to think that audiophiles would snap up A/V receivers/processors/servers that allowed them to play back multi-channel content over a network that is bit for bit identical to the studio masters. Such sales, of course, would be a boon to sites offering hi-rez downloads, and would soon get the attention of the majors.