August 26, 2005 10:55 AM PDT

The day Rio's music died

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The Japanese company that makes the Rio line of MP3 players is shuttering its portable digital-audio division.

Rio parent D&M Holdings said on Friday that the ultra-competitive business no longer fit its market strategy.

Although it has only a small market share compared to Apple Computer's iPod, the Rio brand name has been linked with the early days of digital-music history since weathering a lawsuit from the recording industry that aimed to shut down the MP3 hardware business.

D&M Holdings--which also owns high-end home audio brands including Denon and Marantz, and is close to acquiring Boston Acoustics--said the portable MP3 player business required too much investment, and didn't offer enough return, to warrant continuing.

The company said it will stop producing the Rio line of products at the end of September.

Despite its history of innovative designs, the Rio brand has had a choppy corporate history.

Originally produced by Diamond Multimedia, the first Rio-branded MP3 player triggered a lawsuit in 1998 from the Recording Industry Association of America, which at the time viewed MP3 as primarily a format for music pirates.

After an initial injunction blocking sales of the product, courts ultimately ruled against the record industry, clearing the way for a digital-audio market that evolved into today's iPod-dominated music culture.

Diamond Multimedia was purchased not long afterward by Taiwanese graphics chip company S3, which eventually sold its chip business and morphed into Sonicblue, acquiring other consumer technologies, including ReplayTV, along the way.

The company's fortunes fell in the middle of the dot-com crash, and Sonicblue declared bankruptcy in early 2003, selling off the Rio assets to D&M Holdings.

The last several years have seen several well-reviewed designs from the company, including the hard-drive-based Rio Karma and Rio Carbon players, which respectively competed with the iPod and iPod mini.

Neither device, however, was able to gain more than a small fraction of the iPod's market share. Some customers complained about persistent hard-drive problems with the Karma.

D&M said it would retain rights to the Rio brand and trademark, and would continue to support retailers and customer service claims.

30 comments

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my first mp3 player was Rio 32MB
It was back in the 98... got my first Rio 32MB ($200 something i think) while getting paid $11/hr doing web programming. It was so cool when I showed it in my college class... Sorry to see it go, wonderful memory...
Posted by (16 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Mine too
I received it as a freebie where I worked in sales management. It was so cutting edge, I'd say to people it plays MP3's. They'd say ...What is that...like little tapes? The battery door broke and I kept in on with a rubber band. It lasted until moving up to a 64MB Sony pen player a year later.
Posted by robanga (47 comments )
Link Flag
my first mp3 player was Rio 32MB
It was back in the 98... got my first Rio 32MB ($200 something i think) while getting paid $11/hr doing web programming. It was so cool when I showed it in my college class... Sorry to see it go, wonderful memory...
Posted by (16 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Mine too
I received it as a freebie where I worked in sales management. It was so cutting edge, I'd say to people it plays MP3's. They'd say ...What is that...like little tapes? The battery door broke and I kept in on with a rubber band. It lasted until moving up to a 64MB Sony pen player a year later.
Posted by robanga (47 comments )
Link Flag
So long
And thanks for all the dead Karma harddrives.
Posted by David Dudley (446 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Another One Bites the Dust
The early days of mp3 players were extremely torturous so I
don't miss this stinking relic and those like it. Remember the MS
Joliet naming specification? Thank God for iPods and Apple.

"Another one bites the dust
Another one bites the dust
And another one gone, and another one gone
Another one bites the dust
Hey, Im gonna get you too
Another one bites the dust."
Posted by cjohn17 (268 comments )
Link Flag
What?
I've not had one single problem out of my Karma. It's running just as good now as it did 2 years ago. I suspect the battery to go soon but harddrive wise, not one problem.

My only complaint is there wasn't anything extra released. I've seen homemade cases and such for sale, but they look cheap and have no real design feel to them. Whatever happened to the remote?

It's been a great player for me but over the last few months I wish I would have gotten an iPod. My Karma has better sound than my g/f's iPod and more file support, but that's about all I can rub in her iPod's face :) My Karma looks so lonely in it's little cradle while her iPod sits in her Bose sound dock.
Posted by SeizeCTRL (1333 comments )
Link Flag
So long
And thanks for all the dead Karma harddrives.
Posted by David Dudley (446 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Another One Bites the Dust
The early days of mp3 players were extremely torturous so I
don't miss this stinking relic and those like it. Remember the MS
Joliet naming specification? Thank God for iPods and Apple.

"Another one bites the dust
Another one bites the dust
And another one gone, and another one gone
Another one bites the dust
Hey, Im gonna get you too
Another one bites the dust."
Posted by cjohn17 (268 comments )
Link Flag
What?
I've not had one single problem out of my Karma. It's running just as good now as it did 2 years ago. I suspect the battery to go soon but harddrive wise, not one problem.

My only complaint is there wasn't anything extra released. I've seen homemade cases and such for sale, but they look cheap and have no real design feel to them. Whatever happened to the remote?

It's been a great player for me but over the last few months I wish I would have gotten an iPod. My Karma has better sound than my g/f's iPod and more file support, but that's about all I can rub in her iPod's face :) My Karma looks so lonely in it's little cradle while her iPod sits in her Bose sound dock.
Posted by SeizeCTRL (1333 comments )
Link Flag
De ja Vu!
And , after fighting tooth and nail to destroy all mp3 players, and depleting the cash reserves of the groundbreaker, now all the major record companies seeing the how this format is a license to print money and obtain a 2nd or 3rd helping in royalty payments for the same old music previously sold, initially as an LP, secondly as a reissue on CD, and now as another reissue as an mp3 compressed version or Itunes! This is one hell of a license to print Money! In the recording industry the Gordon Gekko's rule! Vale RIO, De ja vu!, for the industry claimed the philips compact cassete was the main weapon of the music pirate, in times past, how times do not change!
Posted by heystoopid (691 comments )
Reply Link Flag
De ja Vu!
And , after fighting tooth and nail to destroy all mp3 players, and depleting the cash reserves of the groundbreaker, now all the major record companies seeing the how this format is a license to print money and obtain a 2nd or 3rd helping in royalty payments for the same old music previously sold, initially as an LP, secondly as a reissue on CD, and now as another reissue as an mp3 compressed version or Itunes! This is one hell of a license to print Money! In the recording industry the Gordon Gekko's rule! Vale RIO, De ja vu!, for the industry claimed the philips compact cassete was the main weapon of the music pirate, in times past, how times do not change!
Posted by heystoopid (691 comments )
Reply Link Flag
My Rio S35s Orphaned!
This is so sad! Rio was so far ahead of its time. No moving parts; 640MB of memory; ruggedness. I've had my Rio S35s for years and never had any problems; jog and workout with it daily. Not only does the FM radio work great but the 512MB SD cards I have provide a wide variety of programming possibilites, from canned music to delayed radio broadcasts in mp3 format. My family owns four different Rio Players. We'll miss them when they die.
Posted by Des Alba (68 comments )
Reply Link Flag
My Rio S35s Orphaned!
This is so sad! Rio was so far ahead of its time. No moving parts; 640MB of memory; ruggedness. I've had my Rio S35s for years and never had any problems; jog and workout with it daily. Not only does the FM radio work great but the 512MB SD cards I have provide a wide variety of programming possibilites, from canned music to delayed radio broadcasts in mp3 format. My family owns four different Rio Players. We'll miss them when they die.
Posted by Des Alba (68 comments )
Reply Link Flag
New and old news.
It took Rio dying to get any coverage of the point that Apple didn't invent the MP3 player market.

Also notable that it took Rio being discontinued to get any note that the music industry attempted, and failed to kill MP3 players when they where introduced.

History repeats itself in different flavors.

NWLB
*****************
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.bloggercist.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.bloggercist.com</a>
Posted by NWLB (326 comments )
Reply Link Flag
New and old news.
It took Rio dying to get any coverage of the point that Apple didn't invent the MP3 player market.

Also notable that it took Rio being discontinued to get any note that the music industry attempted, and failed to kill MP3 players when they where introduced.

History repeats itself in different flavors.

NWLB
*****************
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.bloggercist.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.bloggercist.com</a>
Posted by NWLB (326 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Really Now?
Bottom-line ... they couldn't think of anything else. If they had,
they'd still be in the MP3 business.
Posted by Thomas, David (1947 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Really Now?
Bottom-line ... they couldn't think of anything else. If they had,
they'd still be in the MP3 business.
Posted by Thomas, David (1947 comments )
Reply Link Flag
But!
They did think of things to come out, they just had no marketing whatsoever. And of course, the stuff they were planning on coming out with was not mind blowing, but some of it was somewhat original for an mp3 playing device. Like the Carbon C that was supposed to support themes or the Karma 2 that briefly was on the Rio web site that boasted 24 hours of playback thanks to a longer life battery.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.engadget.com/entry/1234000407056297/" target="_newWindow">http://www.engadget.com/entry/1234000407056297/</a>
Posted by David Dudley (446 comments )
Reply Link Flag
But!
They did think of things to come out, they just had no marketing whatsoever. And of course, the stuff they were planning on coming out with was not mind blowing, but some of it was somewhat original for an mp3 playing device. Like the Carbon C that was supposed to support themes or the Karma 2 that briefly was on the Rio web site that boasted 24 hours of playback thanks to a longer life battery.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.engadget.com/entry/1234000407056297/" target="_newWindow">http://www.engadget.com/entry/1234000407056297/</a>
Posted by David Dudley (446 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Sad
My first MP3 player was the Diamond Rio 32mb, then I skipped Rio for my next player, but went with Rio Riot CD/MP3 player, followed by the Rio Volt 20gb and finally on the Rio Karma 20gb. I picked the Karma over the iPod mainly because it offered much more file support including FLAC and Ogg which I have a lot of. The sound to me is better than the iPod. My only complain was the lack of extras such as remotes, cases etc... my girlfriend has some really awesome stuff for her iPod and I will probably end up getting one just for all the extra stuff made for it. Sad to see the Rio line die off but I really believe they brought it on themselves. No marketing, no 3rd party extras... nothing other than what came in the box, while people continue to invent new goodies for the iPod that makes it so much consumer friendly.
Posted by SeizeCTRL (1333 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Rio demise
My first MP-3 player was a Rio 800-128.
A bigger piece of junk I've not owned lately.
No customer support, very little trouble shooting advice in the
manual. Manual? You call that a manual?

Might have had something to do with their demise.
Posted by Whenif (2 comments )
Link Flag
Sad
My first MP3 player was the Diamond Rio 32mb, then I skipped Rio for my next player, but went with Rio Riot CD/MP3 player, followed by the Rio Volt 20gb and finally on the Rio Karma 20gb. I picked the Karma over the iPod mainly because it offered much more file support including FLAC and Ogg which I have a lot of. The sound to me is better than the iPod. My only complain was the lack of extras such as remotes, cases etc... my girlfriend has some really awesome stuff for her iPod and I will probably end up getting one just for all the extra stuff made for it. Sad to see the Rio line die off but I really believe they brought it on themselves. No marketing, no 3rd party extras... nothing other than what came in the box, while people continue to invent new goodies for the iPod that makes it so much consumer friendly.
Posted by SeizeCTRL (1333 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Rio demise
My first MP-3 player was a Rio 800-128.
A bigger piece of junk I've not owned lately.
No customer support, very little trouble shooting advice in the
manual. Manual? You call that a manual?

Might have had something to do with their demise.
Posted by Whenif (2 comments )
Link Flag
MP3 player market in trouble soon?
It is sad to see RIO call it quits (D&#38;M has sold the technology to SigmaTel) since they made some of the best solid state MP3/WMA players. I'm listening to the lastest TWIT cast on my old S30S as I write.
Microsoft's "PlaysForSure" will probably cool the player market as users discover they they no longer control the music on their own players. The days of MP3 (which is inherently DRM free) are near an end. D&#38;M could read the writing on the wall and decided to get out of that market before they lost a ton of money in it. So long Rio.
Posted by Arbalest05 (83 comments )
Reply Link Flag
MP3s Will Live
I don't see MP3s being replaced anytime soon. The format is too wide spread, to easy to use and embedded in ungodly ammount of applications. It's here to stay for many many years.
Posted by SeizeCTRL (1333 comments )
Link Flag
MP3 player market in trouble soon?
It is sad to see RIO call it quits (D&#38;M has sold the technology to SigmaTel) since they made some of the best solid state MP3/WMA players. I'm listening to the lastest TWIT cast on my old S30S as I write.
Microsoft's "PlaysForSure" will probably cool the player market as users discover they they no longer control the music on their own players. The days of MP3 (which is inherently DRM free) are near an end. D&#38;M could read the writing on the wall and decided to get out of that market before they lost a ton of money in it. So long Rio.
Posted by Arbalest05 (83 comments )
Reply Link Flag
MP3s Will Live
I don't see MP3s being replaced anytime soon. The format is too wide spread, to easy to use and embedded in ungodly ammount of applications. It's here to stay for many many years.
Posted by SeizeCTRL (1333 comments )
Link Flag
 

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