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Empeg MP3 Car Stereo Ready for Production 80

Drel writes "Empeg's car mp3 stereo has apparently passed CE/FCC regulations, and are ready for production. Units will start to come through in March. There's more information on their homepage. " It's cute, it runs Linux, and I'm told that it can function in your home stereo if you want it too.
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Empeg MP3 Car Stereo Ready for Production

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Ok, the like penguin on the display is gay. Otherwise I could care less which OS it used. It costs a little more than you average car stereo. That's probably because each one is built by hand (My guess, I really don't know...) Hopefully if it catchs on it be cheaper, but frankly as cool as MP3s are I don't think it will, except with computer techies (nerds, whatever...) The average person still has the need to be able to hold music (CD, tape, 8 track!) Plus I didn't see anything about how to get music into the dang thing anyhow...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    add a parallel port and rioexpress, I'll buy it no matter what it costs.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'm on their mailing list and haven't gotten notified when I can buy one yet, wahh!

    I will be buying one of these puppies. I agree with everyone who wishes the price tag would come down a little, but I understand why it's so high - this is basically a first-of-breed product here. Lucky for me, I do high-paying contract work and can afford one.

    There are a lot more things it can do besides play MP3's - it's really a dash-mounted, ARM-based Linux computer that can do just about everything a full-sized Linux computer can do, but happens to also have the capabilites to play MP3's in your car.

    Remember, it has a serial port, and that means you can hook up an external modem, like say a cell-modem while in your car...

    I plan to hack the shi^H^H^Hcrap out of it.
  • No, he meant "happy". :)
  • What about lugging it into the store when you go shopping, or into the doctor's office, or in with you when you go for an interview?
  • Posted by pfowler:

    My experience with hard drives is that they aren't very shock resistant. A bad bump in my SUV will bump the drive readers into the disk plate. Won't this kill it?

    Also... Who's porting it to MAC!
  • You know, most browsers have a method for adjusting the font it uses. The "size=1" is just a hint for the browser. The actual point size can be adjusted:

    • In Netscape: CTRL+[ and CTRL+]
    • In IE: View | Text Size >
  • Yes, Windows is used by me while I'm at work.

    If the Linux port of Netscape lacks such a feature, that sounds like poor design on Netscape/Mozilla's part. Why don't you e-mail them?

    As I recall, the HTML font sizes were meant to be relative to the "base" font size. If your Netscape instead hard codes these hints to actual point sizes, that's a browser problem and should probably be corrected.

    I guess I've just never had the need to adjust my font sizes in Netscape for Linux. It seems rather silly that they left that feature out...

  • > 6 layer board: May or may not be needed. 4 may
    > do it. I would guess It would cost about
    > $200-$300 for a one-off. I would have to
    > consult some sources, but I have spoken with a
    > few boardhouses on just such a design.

    BZZZZZZZT. That's the price for a double sided circuit board in prototype quantites, IF you can get them in singles.

    Oh yes, and that is no soldermask or other special board prep. Bare copper or solder over copper, that's it.

    The price change between single and double layer is minimal, but when you go from double to multilayer it damn near quadruples. However once you are in the multilayer realm, going from 4 to 6 or 8 is not that great a deal.

    Still, I'd estimate close to $700 for the setup (no boards) and then about $18 per board if it's 4 layer and $25 if it's six to eight layer.

    Of course, this is assuming that you will be doing all the layout. Ever try laying out a six layer board? It ain't fun, and it ain't fast. Autorouters are the shit.
  • I like what they say about Linux:

    "We also like it a lot, and worship Linus on a daily basis at our own personal shrine."

    Methinks we should all do this. :o)
  • I really hate to say it but RTFM. As for storing music you can hold up to 25G of data with 2 laptop HDs. On an average each MP3 is 5M and each CD is 10 songs. So each CD is about 50M. That means you can have an maximum capacity of
    about 512 CDs! Hows that for holding music? As for getting the music into the dang thing, I think you have to hold the CD up to it and let osmosis do the work for you...that and a cable to your pc and some software. =^)
  • If this thing can accept external devices, and I think it can, an orb drive would be the best. $30 bucks for 2.2G and you've got enough music a shot for most peoples CD collections (not mp3 collections mind you as per a recent poll :)...No skipping as opposed to playing CD-Rs.
  • Looks like a neat idea.

    I think the use of harddrives for data storage is going to cause them problems, as they will be unable to withstand the environment presented by an automobile.(extreme heat and cold, as well as shock)

  • I think the point is still that the design is not really suitable for the environment it will exist in.

    That's poor engineering, frankly.

    Again I think it's a neat idea, but it seems to be intended as one persons pet project rather than a commercially viable device.
  • The display itself is specced operating temperature down to -40degC. However, at that point the PSUs on the board might well decide they don't want to wake up :)


  • The empeg is 1.0 DIN sized. If we added a laptop CD-ROM drive, we'd have to lose the display (or put a less cute one on there). The physical display (not the active area) extends to within about 2mm of the metal casing top & bottom.

    Hugo, empeg

  • Well spotted. Ok, so we only have 8Mb total, but we use 4Mb of cache at the moment. We've got some advanced caching algorithms and we can give functionality which appears to require the drive spun up with it spun down, only surfacing every few minutes (at 128kbit).

    Hugo, empeg

  • No parallel :(

    However, it has irda, so you could feasibly download pics from your digital camera to the hdd in the unit via the front-panel IR :)

    Hugo, empeg

  • Erm, if you could design, photoplot, produce and populate an empeg board (8-layer PCB, plus a 2-layer one for the frontboard) and the metalwork (we'll exclude the HDD) for $1k, you'd be doing amazingly well. You might have problems sourcing some of the chips though, some are in-car only products and aren't sold via distribution.

    You're also overlooking the huge amount of effort that has gone into (and will continue to go into) the software. The empeg is totally software upgradeable: we only run at about 35% load playing MP3s, we've got loads of headroom for whatever comes along next. This isn't a disposable like a Rio, this product is built like a tank and is looking towards the future.

    An existing SBC unit could be done - and if you want to, there are descriptions, pictures and source of my earlier project, the mp3mobile, here. []

    I've said before: there's no room for a CDrom (without losing the display) and a CDrom doesn't give the integrated music database concept room to move. You just get a big CD with *some* of your music on it. Yes, 12x as much as a normal CD, but it's still only *some* of your music. You have to swap disks. The empeg is all about having it ALL and having it NOW.

    Hugo, empeg

  • ...actually, 8M. There are pads on the underside of the PCB for expansion to 16, but no SIMM socket (vibration isn't good, and it's 3.3v but NOT SDRAM, which makes simms...rare). Come on, you're not running X :) (at least, I hope you're not) and you can always have some swap.

    Hugo, empeg

  • This is very cool, but the price is way to high. I mean, I would pay a couple hundred for it, but at over $900 I would rather just get a laptop and play mp3's on it. Besides, it would have a cdrom so I can use my mp3 cd's that I burned.

  • I've noticed most MP3's use about 1MB per minute of music. 650MB on the CDR provides enough room for almost 11 hours of music.

    Sure you might be swapping CD's, but not all that often :-)

  • Just imagine: you get into your car, plug in your mobile and start listening to you favourite mp3s. After a while the music fades and you hear a nice voice telling you:

    "You got a call from Peter. Do you wish to take it?".

    You now have to choice to say "Yes" or "No" or use the touchscreen on your car-stereo-computer combo to select yes or no. You talk to your friend Peter (if you selected to do so), hang up the phone afterwards using the touchscreen, the music comes back on.

    A while later the music fades again, and the voice tells you:

    "You got email. Do you want me to read you the title?".

    You can also instruct the thing to read you the whole mail. Or you simply stop your car to read it yourself on the display.

    Sounds nice, don't you think? All of this could be done using a device similar to this new empeg car stereo. I guess there's enough computing power for simple voice-recognition and handling a mobile phone.


  • i see that PC software that will be used with this thing seems to only work on windows. Go figure, i was thinking that a guy who would use linux on the unit, would at least create a linux version of the software to communicate with it.
  • it seems that you will be able to use either one or the other. i think usb support is iffy right now, but i may be wrong.
  • by RISCy ( 5493 )
    some time ago I saw a product that gives you access to PC Cards through IDE. I thought so atleast, it could be just another pipe dream. ;->
  • I had to save the web pages and edit the size=1 out of the code and reload to actually read the text.

    It sounds quite slick and professional. Maybe it's a good thing the CD player in my car croaked. :) Hope they can keep the price low and still make money.
  • Sorry ... my vehicle shipped with a 1.5 DIN deck with an AM/FM tuner, a CD player, and a cassette player. While I realize this isn't a CD-ROM drive, I don't buy for one second that if they can pack all that into a 1.5 DIN unit, they couldn't do the same with a CD-ROM drive.
  • Two words: "No Ethernet."

  • OK so if you are going to take the unit inside to keep it from getting cold what is the problem with the 10C temp change per hour. You are running about in your car with the heat on anyway. The walk from house to car is not going to cool the unit more than 10C unless you have like a 10 - 20 min walk. Also when you get in the car in the morning its going to take about 10 min for the car to heat up. Again not enough time for the temp of the unit to drop 10C. You keep your car at a comfy temp and the same for your house. I doubt that they are more than 10C apart in temp.
  • A desktop CDROM, maybe. But a laptop style CDROM would not take a whole lot of space. They are just a little bigger then the CDROM disc itself. About 12mm tall and length and width very close to that of a jewel case. Stack 2 jewel cases and you will be close to the right size. Use a little smaller display so you have space in front for it and lose the HD mounts and you have plenty of space.

    I make custom CDs for myself from my music collection. If I were to MP3 compress every one I have I would have space for about 4 more on a disc. That's plenty of music for me. I use a 6 disc changer full of my custom CDs (I have 3 more I can't fit) and I change discs every 2-4 weeks. I just run on Random play. If I could only change one disc I'd be set. Not to mention I would only HAVE one disc for at least the next 6-12 months. I just don't buy all that much music, and I don't pirate MP3s..
  • Yes, I read the WWW site.

    Laptop CDROM drives are allready quite shock resistant. I use one on occasion in a car with no problems, even on bumpy roads. Consider also, they don't need to run the CDROM constantly. Put 32M of DRAM in there and buffer the CDROM. That's about 10 songs, plenty of time to compensate for skipping. No to mention, they are using a laptop HD as the data source now. Are you telling me that a HD can take more hits then a CDROM? I doubt it. I tend to stress all my hardware. I know what my parts can handle, and I don't have anything wonderfull. The CDROM is a Toshiba 10x that came with the notebook. I've had 2 HDs die in the same time I've had my notebook.

    Also, I didn't say they should design a CDROM! I said they should buy one from someone else and mount it in the case they allready have. Use the same shock absorbers they have for the HDs! There isn't much NRE here to worry about. The little plastic brackets the HDs are mounted in would need to be changed or removed. Hell, I could probably build something that would hold a Laptop CDROM in there with parts from the hardware store. If I can do it with off the shelf parts, they can too.

    At $1K I'm not really interested unless they include schematics and source so I can mod it to include the features I want. Even then, I could probably design my own board and have it prototyped for less then that. Or I could just use an existing SBC. Cheaper and would work just as well.

    Oh, I design circuits too, so I do know what I'm talking about. It's all about looking at a soultion rather then re-stating the problem. If they decide not to do it, fine, it's thier product, they can do as they please. But I don't see any reason not to do what they allready know the customers want.
  • My time is my own, and it's worth spending on something like this if I decide to.

    6 layer board: May or may not be needed. 4 may do it. I would guess It would cost about $200-$300 for a one-off. I would have to consult some sources, but I have spoken with a few boardhouses on just such a design.

    Assembly: Who cares? I can do that, not for 1k units, but for a single, or even a few boards it's no problem. I *ENJOY* working on circuits.

    Parts: Not much. An ARM chipset is about $50, and that's the most expensive part. I probably wouldn't even bother with it for a device strictly for audio. I'd use a smaller CPU and a MAS3507 hardware decoder for the MP3. I would like a full computer in the car though... and the ARM is a good choice. I'd guess about $100-$300 for parts. That's if I can't get samples, which I probably could for a lot of the smaller parts.

    Unique hardware: So? It's for me, and I don't care if everyone else likes it or not. I don't need any free help from the community, however, I would open the design specs and let anyone use it. Much like the GPL.

    SBC: No, it doesn't have a display. I could get a good LCD display for under $100. (6" square type there) DIN case, boo-hoo. I'll go find a dead car radio and replace the guts. A family member has one I'm sure they would give me if I asked nice ;). The drives are a minimal expense. Hell, I could shock mount an IDE changer for under $100 and have a 6 CD changer. That wouldn't fit in the dash, but that's ok with me. I would probably use the laptop CDROM I mentioned earlier though. The software is dead simple, just hack existing code. Power filtering, PLEASE, a DC/DC converter and a good filter cap should level that out for about $30.

    I probably wouldn't be able to beat the price, not on a whole unit, but I could do it under $5k. And I would get what I want. Since nobody else seems to be making a CD player for MP3 I may just do this. I would probably use the SBC for mine though, I can get a complete board for $400 and not have to bother with designing a board and soldering all the parts. And that board would fit in a DIN case. Use the parallel port for a keyboard and basic display and all is well.

    This discussion is rapidly getting childish. If you're not interested in a CD based product, then fine. Nobody is making you buy one. However, some of us ARE interested. I see no reason to continue this if you don't have anything usefull to add.
  • The problem is not the LCD, car stereos have those already. The problem is that the MP3 files are read from a hard drive.

    I have yet to see a hard drive that doesn't list 5C or thereabouts as the minimum operating temperature. Furthermore, it would be useless to take it inside every day because in addition to the 5C minimum operating temperature, hard drive specs also state a limit of maximum temperature change per hour. The maximum I have found is 10C temperature change per hour, so going from a warm house to a cold car is begging for failure.

    So without some other memory technology to store the MP3 files, there is no practical way for this to work in the winter in areas where it gets really cold.

    Is it worth the price to use it 3 seasons of the year?

    Best regards,
  • First, the new Zip is 250, not 200.

    According to Iomega's web page (Doesn't anyone check these anymore?) the minimum operating temperature for a Zip drive is even higher than than a hard drive. The specs say that the Zip drive's minimum operating temperature is 10C, which would limit its use to 2 1/2 seasons for most US users, worse than the 3 seasons a hard drive affords.

    Any other ideas? I'd like to hear them, as I'm in the process of building a 3 season MPEG player for my car that I'd like to use in the winter, too. I'll probably just run the HDD below it's operating specs and see how long it takes to toast itself, after all, decent size drives can be had for $99 in case of a "learning experience."

  • click on the 'no windows' link on that page, they say they'll provide command-line software to upload from Linux, and release specs so you can write your own for any other OS. they also mention eventually open sourcing the python code that controls the thing's display. I give them a big thumbs up.
  • most 'professional' web 'developers' seem to think that small fonts make the site look spiffy. well, here's a cluepon: they don't! they look like shit that you can't read without getting far too close to the screen, or editing the damn html, or even better using Lynx.
  • Yeah, they totally have been negligent with the email stuff with me too. I'm one of the first batch to sign up (150? 330?) and put my order in when they began taking requests. It sure is a cool device, and I intend to plop down my hard earned $900, but man I sure wish they'd keep up on the email side of things.

    Also, for us folx in the US, what can we expect to deal with when it comes through US Customs? Do we simply declare it as a computer?

    I agree a hack is needed for us people with Linux Boxes out there to hook the empeg to our home systems. No way am I loading W****ws in order to zap mp MP3s to it.
  • I don't mind supporting artists by paying for my CDs. I feel profoundly uneasy about paying for downloads with no physical component; what happens if my hard disk crashes?

    Is it technically legal for me to copy a CD that I own into my car MP player (not distributing the CD or its contents to any third party)? And if not, would record companies seriously want to prosecute such infringements? (I don't see software companies seriously attempting to prosecute individuals [as opposed to corporations] that violate license agreements).

  • Hmm, sure looked to me like it was the exact size and form factor of a car stereo.

    I still want to know how the quality compares to CDs.

  • > Otherwise I could care less which OS it used.

    So you'd be willing to pay extra to have a proprietory OS like Windows CE installed?

    > The average person still has the need to be able to hold music (CD, tape, 8 track!)

    In their car? I think most people just listen to the radio because of the hassle of swapping tapes or CDs. Or they listen to the same tape over and over and over. Having had tapes stolen from my car, I have no "need" to store them there anymore and don't really want to have to carry them back and forth, either.

    Sure, you can get a multi-CD changer installed in your trunk, but then if you wanna listen to them at home, you either need to bring them back and forth or make tapes of them. Of course, you could burn MP3s at home, but then that defeats the "need to be able to hold music".

    Most people, while driving, aren't reading liner notes.
  • This is one of the coolest things I've seen yet! What does everyone think of the (fairly steep) price tag? Is it worth it?
  • They already make car CD players. There's your shock resistance. Now add some computer hardware. This has obviously been done in the Empeg's case. There you have it! It's all been done, it just needs to be put together.
  • I would buy it...but its too expensive! Im gunna build my own...and it will have a bigger Im gunna use the LCD from :) Much cooler :)
  • What's holding up someone from making what most of us really want? An MP3 player for the car that just reads the MP3's off a CD-R?
  • Getting your own CDs in should be no problem. Didn't see if the supplied software included a ripper, but even if it doesn't, you can find a freeware ripper through to create MP3's of your legacy CD's. This assumes your CD-ROM supports it (most do these days).
  • I like the idea of an MP3 player for my car (with ftpd & ethernet), but I would rather have a HUD (Heads Up Display) with realtime data on the car's condition. I'm working on one now. :-)
  • hmmm... 8 megs might not be enough for X,
    but I'm sure it could crank out a few 100,000
    keys / second with that strongARM proc :}

    grab keyblocks when you docked it with your PC...

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