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Sonicblue adds new devices to playlist

The consumer-electronics maker announces two new digital audio players as the struggling company looks hopefully for a boost from the upcoming holiday selling season.

Sonicblue announced two new digital audio players Monday as the struggling company looks hopefully for a boost from the upcoming holiday selling season.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Sonicblue said the Rio S50 and the Rio S35S will be available for purchase soon on the company's Web site and via retailers, such as Best Buy, Amazon and Circuit City, in the coming weeks.

The $179.99 Rio S50 comes with 128MB of built-in memory, a MultiMedia card expansion slot, a backlit screen, clock and stopwatch features and an integrated tuner. The S50 can play music for up to 20 hours with a rechargeable battery and up to 35 hours with an alkaline battery, according to the company.

The $199.99 Rio S35S, built for sports enthusiasts, includes 128MB of built-in memory, a MultiMedia card expansion slot, a backlit screen, clock and stopwatch features and an integrated tuner. It is wrapped in a rubber shell to protect the device, and can play music for up to 15 hours using an alkaline battery.

Both devices also come with Rio Music Manager software, to help organize music libraries and transfer audio files from a PC to the music player.

Sonicblue has struggled this year with executive turmoil and financial troubles. In August, the company fired its chairman and CEO, and has had to cut 25 percent of its staff. Trading at 21 cents per share, the company also faces delisting by Nasdaq.

However, the market for digital audio players may be waking up just in time for the holiday season.

"The MP3 player market is maturing," said IDC analyst Susan Kevorkian. "What was formally a niche market is now more mainstream."

Flash memory--the storage component for audio files in the new Rio devices--is now less expensive, and manufacturers of MP3 players have been able to pass these savings on to consumers. However, Sonicblue has also been losing market share to major consumer-electronics makers, such as Sony, Philips and Samsung.