WHAT MP3 2001

 BootLog.co.uk

HomeSoftwareArchiveTop TipsGlossaryOther Stuff

MP3 PLAYER ROUNDUP

 

AIWA MM-VX100

Unmistakable style references to the trendy Apple iMAC are evident in the VX100’s casework and blue see-through in-line remote control, though ironically the supplied operating software for this player (and pretty well all other models) only works with Windows PCs. There are a number of technical similarities between the VX100 and several others but it is far from being any sort of clone and it has a unique personality of its own. It is also a little unusual in that it’s only available on-line from the Aiwa web site but the price does include post and packing. The 32Mb on-board flash memory can be supplemented by SmartMedia cards, which fit into a slot on the base, there’s a useful voice recording facility that stores over two hours of speech on the internal memory, and voice recordings can be uploaded from the player to the PC using supplied utility software. The player hooks up to the PC by a parallel cable, there’s no bypass so like most other players the printer has to be disconnected to use it. The large LCD is easy to read and includes track and title information but it could do with a backlight. Control layout is good and the buttons are clearly labelled.

 

The VX100 Manager program has a three-pane Windows Explorer type interface and uses normal drag and drop conventions to manage and transfer files to and from the player. Configuration is reasonably straightforward but the software is insistent that the PCs printer port is set to ECP mode. RealJukebox is included on the CD-ROM and this provides web integration via the PCs Internet browser and features a basic CD ‘ripper’ utility to convert tracks on an audio CD into MP3 files, albeit only in mid-quality compression mode.

 

Little knobbly bits moulded into the hard outer surface of the in-ear phones suggests that they could be uncomfortable but they actually fit quite snugly, and stay put if you shake your head. Bass response is a little better than average, treble tails off a shade early but the mid range is quite lively and the overall sound is passable, though it’s definitely worth experimenting with some good quality headphones.

 

Typical price             £129 (available online only)

Media                           SmartMedia

Memory (int/sup)            32Mb

Memory (max)            64Mb

Formats                        MP3

PC min sys                   P100 of higher/32Mb/10Mb free/Windows 95/98

PC I/O              parallel

Software                        VX100 Manager (MP3 I/O library), RealJukebox (CD ripping), APDCM drivers (audio file upload)

Phones             in-ear   

Power   /life                   1 x AA/15 hours

Size                              86 x 63 x 22mm

Weight              83g

 

Features                       4-mode equaliser, fwd/rev track skip, A-B repeat, repeat 1/repeat all/shuffle, title/artist display, voice recording (128 mins), carry case

 

Contact Aiwa (0990) 902902, www.aiwa.co.uk

 

 

LG MP MF-PD330

LG have been brave with the bold and wacky casework, at any rate it makes an interesting change to the usual boxy offerings. The play, track select and volume controls are on the player; a duplicate set of controls and transport buttons, volume thumbwheel plus a tiny track number/mode/status LCD display are on an in-line remote control unit. It’s quite fiddly to use and the LCD could do with a backlight as it can be difficult to read in poor light. The PD330 has slots for two postage-stamp sized Multimedia Memory Cards (MMC) on the side of the unit; two 16Mb cards are supplied. Getting them in is no problem but extracting them is another matter, they either get stuck halfway or fly out. MP3 file download (and upload from player to PC) is via a parallel port cable, there’s no bypass so you will have to unplug the printer. A soft carry case with a belt clip is included in the outfit.

 

The MP3 Explorer software has a familiar Windows Explorer feel to it with a set of buttons for the main functions. It’s not terribly sophisticated and the program assumes a basic understanding of PCs and file downloading from the Internet. It’s dealt with in one abrupt sentence in the instruction manual: ‘Buy and store MP3 files on your PC from the Internet site, CD ROM etc.’, you’ll get no mollycoddling here…

 

Thin and tinny just about sums up the in-ear phones, which is a shame because the sound output from the player – heard through a decent set of phones or cans  – is actually quite good. There’s plenty of treble and midrange detail, bass is a bit light but with the X-Live bass boost on it’s liveable. It’s rather basic, the controls are a pain and the price is a little steep but you have to admit that it’s different…

 

Typical price             £130

Media                           MMC               

Memory (int/sup)            2 x 16Mb

Memory (max)            64Mb

Formats                        MP3, GU3

PC min sys                   P90 or higher/32Mb/7Mb free/Win 95/98

PC I/O              parallel

Software                        MP3 Explorer (MP3 I/O, library)

Phones             in-ear

Power   /life                   2 AAA/6 hours

Size                              71 x 95 x 19mm

Weight              60g

 

Features                       2 mode DSP, fwd/rev track skip, intro scan, repeat/random, bookmark, carry case

 

Contact LG Electronics (01753) 500 470, www.lge.co.kr

 

 

LG AHA-FD770

This unusual, not to say unique hybrid combines an MP3 player with a tape deck and an FM stereo radio, together in one convenient Walkman-sized package, at least that’s how it looks until you see the chunky bolt-on battery pack, which rather spoils the effect. A rechargeable battery that fits inside the case is available, but only as an optional extra. The MP3 spec is pretty much the same as the PD330, it has slots (inside the lid of the tape compartment) for two MMC cards and it comes with two 16Mb cards as standard. Once again most of the controls and the display are consigned to a little remote control module downstream of the earphone lead. With all of the extra functions and buttons it’s even harder to use. The tape deck is an auto-reverse design with intro scan, blank skip and recall functions; the FM radio has 15 station presets. Audio functions include a ‘3D’ spatial sound effect and X-Live bass boost mode.

 

The FD770 comes with MP3 Explorer software and uses the same kind of parallel port interface as its stablemate. The cable plugs into a socket on the top of the unit, however, the connector is not protected and the fine contacts looks vulnerable to contamination from gunge and grime. 

 

The tape deck sounds quite good though it could do with a more efficient anti-roll mechanism, it doesn’t take too kindly to knocks and bumps. The tuner is fine though without an external antenna it needs a fairly good signal. MP3 playback is also satisfactory, and a definite notch up on the PD330, thanks to the slightly more responsive in-ear phones. There’s a whisker more bass plus a more energetic mid-range, which helps create a livelier, more robust sound. The FD770 is an interesting concept but since there’s no interaction between the technologies  -- you can’t record from tape or tuner to MP3 for example -- it doesn’t quite gel. It’s hard to see who would want to pay the thick end of £200 for such an odd-ball combination of technologies.

 

Typical price             £200

Media                           MMC, FM stereo, Compact Cassette

Memory (int/sup)            2 x 16Mb

Memory (max)            64Mb

Formats                        MP3

PC min sys                   P90 or higher/32Mb/7Mb free/Win 95/98

PC I/O              parallel

Software                        MP3 Explorer, (MP3 I/O, library)

Phones             in-ear   

Power   /life                   1 x AA/4 hours (optional rechargeable)

Size                              109 x 78 x 24mm

Weight              150gg

 

Features                       2 mode DSP, fwd/rev track skip, intro scan, repeat/random, bookmark, FM tuner with 15 station memory, auto reverse cassette player with intro scan, recall, blank skip, sleep timer, carry case

 

Contact LG Electronics (01753) 500 470, www.lge.co.kr

 

 

PHILEX MPRESS 3

Look beyond the naff cosmetics and the dubious back loop headphones and Mpress3 has the makings of a useful little player. It has a number of useful and unusual features, including voice recording, flexible playback options (proper ‘fast forward’ and ‘rewind’ instead of just track skip), a versatile equaliser with bass boost, the file transfer software is a cut above the norm and it’s one of only a tiny handful of players to have a line-input facility. The display looks large enough for track and title text info but it actually only shows numbers and status indicators. There are a couple of red lights at the sides of the display that glow when you touch a transport button. We hoped it was some form of backlight, but it doesn’t work like that and as far as we can see is just a battery-sapping decoration.

 

Files are stored on an internal 32Mb flash memory and SmartMedia cards, which slip into a slot on the side, a parallel port cable plugs into a socket on the base. The Mpress3 Manager program is one of the best we’ve seen with easy to use click-and-go icons, and you can play back MP3 files on the PC using the integrated player. It can be a little tricky to install – printer port settings are critical -- and it is prone to the occasional glitch but when it works it’s a delight.

 

The headphones may not be to everyone’s taste -- the box suggests they’re worth £25… Quite honestly they’re horrible and will not stay in place, but you can easily swap them for something else. Their only saving grace is that they don’t sound half bad, at least the bass and mid-range are quite solid but treble notes can be a touch strident at higher volume levels. It’s fair value for money and features like line input, voice recording and superior software make it worth considering.

 

Typical price             £150

Media                           SmartMedia (3.3v type only)

Memory (int/sup)            32Mb

Memory (max)            64Mb

Formats                        MP3

PC min sys                   P90 or higher/32Mb/7Mb free/Win 95/98

PC I/O              parallel

Software                        Mpress3 File Manager (MP3 I/O, library, player)

Phones             back-loop headphones      

Power   /life                   1 x AA/10 hours

Size                              89 x 70 x 18mm

Weight              75g

 

Features                       4-mode equaliser (inc. user setting), mega bass, fwd/rev & track skip, voice recording, repeat/replay 1/replay all/ shuffle/repeat shuffle, line input, belt clip

 

Contact Philex (03245) 573479, www.mpress3.com

 

 

PINE D’MUSIC SM-320V

This is a rather smart looking little unit; the discrete black rubber-feel case makes a very pleasant change from some of the gaudier designs. It fits snugly in the palm and the round four-way control pad and function buttons are in exactly the right position. For the price the feature list is covers a lot of ground and includes voice recording (2 hours 15 minutes on the internal 32Mb flash memory), A-B repeat, track/title display, a 5-mode equaliser (Flat, Pop, Classic, Jazz, Ex Bass), fast forward and rewind and it comes with a good selection of software. Extra memory takes the form of SmartMedia cards, which are loaded through a slot on the top of the case. Sadly the alphanumerical display on the front is quite small and unlit but if you get it in a good light it can be most informative.

 

Pine include a branded version of the popular MP3 Manger up/download and file organiser program, the CD ROM also contains a shareware CD ripper (Audio Catalyst) and Jukebox player (MusicMatch), plus a voice file upload utility and a selection of MP3 tracks to get you started. Software installation is relatively painless and the player connects to the PC using a basic (i.e. no through port) parallel lead. Files are moved between the player and PC using standard Windows drag and drop or icon-clicks.

 

The in-ear phones have a limited low frequency response and the player’s mid-range is a little narrow but with the equaliser set to Ex Bass it produces a passable sound. They can be quite hard on the ears though and start to irritate after half an hour or so. There’s a lot to like about the D’Music, including the price, being small cute and cuddly also helps and the range of facilities and fair to middling sound means it is definitely worth shortlisting.  

 

Typical price             £130

Media                           SmartMedia

Memory (int)            32Mb

Memory (max)            64Mb

Formats                        MP3

PC min sys                   P90 or higher/32Mb/7Mb free/Win 95/98

PC I/O              parallel

Software                        D’Music MP3 Manager (MP3 I/O, library), Music Match (shareware player), Audio Catalyst (shareware CD ripper), Voice Driver (voice file upload)

Phones             in-ear   

Power   /life                   2 x AAA/10 hours

Size                              85 x 63 x 17mm

Weight              68g

 

Features                       5-mode equaliser, fwd/rev & track skip, A-B repeat/repeat/replay 1/replay all/ shuffle/repeat shuffle, title/artist display, voice recording (128 mins)

 

Contact Pine (01908) 218243, www.cductive.com

 

 

SAEHAN MP MAN, MP-F30

No prizes for spotting a certain similarity between this and the Schneider MPMan F20, in fact under the skin they are virtually identical, however, there are differences in presentation and cosmetics, and the way they are sold, so we’ll treat them as separate products. There’s not much to see on the outside, the ‘mode’ and ‘info’ buttons either side of the miniscule LCD select replay mode (repeat, shuffle etc) and the 3-stage bass boost. The play/stop and forward and reverse track skip buttons are on the top, next to the volume up/down buttons, and that’s about it as far as the controls are concerned, apart from a Hold switch on the side. The display really is far too small and deeply recessed, it’s very difficult to see what’s going on and that’s in good light.

 

The player has a 32Mb internal flash memory and a slot on the side for a SmartMedia card. PC to player transfers are handled by parallel data cable, which plugs into a covered socket on the underside of the machine, the outfit includes a CD-ROM with a MP3 file management program called MPManager. In addition to downloading files to the player’s flash memory this enables two-way file transfers, from memory card to PC and vice-versa.

 

For once the earphones deliver a fairly respectable level of bass though the mid-range is constricted and treble notes have a bit of a struggle making themselves heard on busy tracks. In the scheme of things it’s not too bad but compared with some other players there’s a more of a sense that the high level of compression is missing out a lot of information, especially on material you are be familiar with. The tiny LCD display and limited functionality do not help but keep it in mind if you’re on a tight budget.

 

Typical price             £100

Media                           SmartMedia     

Memory (int/sup)            32Mb

Memory (max)            64Mb

Formats                        MP3

PC min sys                   P100 of higher/32Mb/10Mb free/Windows 95/98

PC I/O              parallel

Software                        MP Man Manager (MP3 I/O, library)

Phones             in-ear   

Power   /life                   1 x AA/4 hours

Size                              70 x 91 x 18mm

Weight              95g

 

Features                       3-stage bass, fwd/rev track skip, repeat/replay 1/replay all/ shuffle/repeat shuffle

 

Contact (01234) 344206, www.mp-man.co.uk

 

SAMSUNG YEPP YP-E32

Yepp has to be one of the cutest looking players on the market, the brushed ally fronted case, sensibly sized controls and display are nicely understated, it’s one of those covetable little gadgets that you want to pick up and play with. This model has 32Mb of on-board memory and this can be expanded using SmartMedia cards, which fit into a slot on top of the unit. The eject lever has a neat little lock, to stop you popping it out by mistake. The most unusual feature is a voice recording facility, via a built-in microphone on the front panel; the 32Mb memory has a 128-minute capacity, the quality is not very good but it’s perfectly adequate for speech. The LCD includes track and artist information, along with the usual mode indicators, it’s a good size but it definitely needs a backlight. The parallel data transfer cable plugs into a socket on the side of the case; it could do with a cover, as the contacts look a bit exposed. A USB to parallel port adaptor is available as an optional extra.

 

The CD-ROM installation disc includes Yepp Explorer and a trial version of Audio Catalyst, for converting audio CD tracks to MP3 files. Yepp Explorer has a two pane window display, for copying files form the PC hard disc to the Yepp’s internal flash memory or a memory card. It’s all fairly intuitive and easy to use but it does assume some prior knowledge of MP3 file downloading and management.

 

The large display and well thought out controls makes it easy to use, though only in good light as the LCD contrast is not very good. Audio performance is okay but the supplied in-ear phones are not very comfortable for prolonged listening and need to inserted quite firmly to achieve any kind of bass response, treble and mid-range are handled fairly well, though. A good all-rounder, worth considering.

 

Typical price             £150

Media                           SmartMedia (3.3v, proprietary file format)

Memory (int/sup)            32Mb

Memory (max)            64Mb

Formats                        MP3

PC min sys                   P90 or higher/32Mb.20Mb free/Win 95/98

PC I/O              parallel, USB adaptor optional

Software                        Yepp Explorer (MP3 upload, library) Audio Catalyst (CD Ripper)

Phones             in-ear   

Power   /life                   2 AAA/10 hours

Size                              87 x 65 x 17mm

Weight              72g

 

Features                       4-mode equaliser, fwd/rev track skip, repeat/shuffle, title/artist display, voice recording (128 mins), carry case

 

Contact 0800 521 652, www.samsungelectronics.co.uk

 

 

SAMSUNG YEPP YP-E64

Whilst the YP-E64 looks almost identical to the YP-E32, and the two players have a similar set of MP3 features, there are some very significant differences. It begins with the price, the E64 costs around £50 more and the most obvious reason for that is a doubling in size of the on-board memory capacity, from 32 to 64Mb. Look closely at the case and there are other, more subtle differences. Around the back there’s a mounting hole for the supplied belt clip, and labelling on the controls indicates a number of extra functions. These include A-B repeat during playback and a 3D spatial sound mode, tied in with the 4-mode equaliser facility. The increase memory size doubles the voice recording time to 256 minutes, and there’s now the option to store up to 350 phonebook entries in the Yepp’s memory and shown on the LCD screen. A contact book can be created from scratch on the PC, or imported from existing database files, such as those used in Internet Explorer or those using the ‘.wab’ file format.

 

One of the biggest changes has been to the software package supplied with Yepp; the trial version of Audio Catalyst has been replaced by a full version of Real Audio’s RealJukebox. In addition to the program’s more intuitive interface and integrated web browsing facilities it has an audio CD ‘ripper’ feature that creates MP3 files from your favourite CD tracks. Te YP-64 can also be used with Samsung’s optional USB to parallel port adaptor.

 

Handling and MP3 performance are unchanged from the YP-E32 – same controls and murky LCD – and it comes with the same uncomfy in-ear phones, it’s worth budgeting an extra £10 to £20 on a decent set of in-ear phones or headphones to bring out the best in this potentially great sounding little unit. The extra £50 is well spent, making an already competent and well-specified player even better!

 

Typical price             £200

Media                           SmartMedia (3.3v, proprietary file format)

 Memory (int/sup)            64Mb

Memory (max)            64Mb

Formats                        MP3

PC min sys                   P90 or higher/32Mb.20Mb free/Win 95/98

PC I/O              parallel, USB adaptor optional

Software                        Yepp Explorer, RealJukebox,  (MP3 upload, library, CD ripping)

Phones             in-ear   

Power   /life                   2 AAA/10 hours

Size                              87 x 65 x 17mm

Weight              75g

 

Features                       7-mode equaliser & 3D spatial effects, fwd/rev track skip, repeat/shuffle, title/artist display, voice recording (128 mins), phonebook memory (350 entries), detachable belt clip

 

Contact             0800 521 652, www.samsungelectronics.co.uk

 

SCHNEIDER MP MAN F20

It’s okay, you’re not suffering from deja vu, the F20 is a dead ringer for the Saehan MP-F30, apart from the all silver livery that is. Once again the most distinctive, and least appealing feature, is that horribly small LCD display, which to be honest is worse than useless, unless you have 20:20 vision and are standing beside a bright light. The characters on the display are tiny and because the panel is quite deeply recessed, graphics along the sides and edges, like the battery level meter and bit-rate display can be very difficult to see. The cover for the SmartMedia card is small and detachable and just asking to get lost, though the rubber bung for the data transfer socket on the base is a good idea, that some other manufacturers might want to take note of. However, it’s not all bad news and the F20 is powered by a single AA cell that slots into a compartment on the underside, under normal conditions it should last between 8 and 10 hours.

 

The supplied software and in-ear phones are also the same for this unit as the Saehan F30, though the MPManager has been lightly customised. Otherwise it looks and works pretty much the same with a 3-pane window, showing the standard Windows directory tree on the far left and on the right side the screen is split between the player’s flash memory and a SmartMedia card. MP3 files are copied across from the PC’s hard disc to the player or card using drag and drop or copy and paste functions.

 

Audio quality is fairly average, the in-ear phones manage a little extra bass but it’s a flat and uninvolving sound, okay for a bit of background music when you’re on the move but not really up to serious listening. The price is not very competitive considering a near identical model is available for significantly less.

 

Typical price             £129 (available online only)

Media                           SmartMedia

Memory (int/sup)            32Mb

Memory (max)            64Mb

Formats                        MP3

PC min sys                   P100 of higher/32Mb/10Mb free/Windows 95/98

PC I/O              parallel

Software                        MP Man Manager (MP3 I/O, library)

Phones             in-ear   

Power   /life                   1 x AA/4 hours

Size                              70 x 91 x 18mm

Weight              95g

 

Features                       3-stage bass, fwd/rev track skip, repeat/replay 1/replay all/ shuffle/repeat shuffle, bit-rate display

 

Contact   www.bymp3.co.uk

                       

THOMSON LYRA

The Lyra is an advanced second-generation product loaded with advanced features like 20-track program play plus an unusually large and informative backlit LCD display that shows artist/track/album information (downloaded from the net or keyed in manually) as well as mode and status indicators. The player is housed in a stylish and reasonably compact curvy-cornered box with a two-tone silver/grey finish, it is the only model currently supplied with proper headphones. Audio files in MP3 and Real G2 format are stored on a 64Mb Compactflash card (supplied) that slots into a compartment on the side. Power comes from a pair of AA cells (alkaline recommended) that runs the player for up to 20 hours.

 

Files are downloaded from the PC to a card writer module using a rather elaborate parallel lead that draws power from the computer’s keyboard. The supplied software is Real Audio’s RealJukebox, which can also handle a variety of other file formats. Web integration is good and it will launch the PC’s browser and go straight to selected download sites. The program features extensive library and file management facilities and a built in ‘ripper’ to transfer tracks from audio CDs to the PCs hard disc. RealJukebox is highly configurable; it supports four MP3 compression levels and is very easy to use.

 

The controls are neatly laid and easy to use; the combined volume/track select button on the side is a neat idea, making it easy to use when the player is attached to the user’s belt. Despite looking a bit cheap and cheerful the headphones are quite comfy and deliver a surprisingly fulsome sound. The preset and manual equaliser helps but bass notes are a touch lumpy and although treble and midrange responses are clean and reasonably flat vocals and instruments lack the crisp precision of native CD. Well specified, versatile, definitely worth considering.

 

Typical price             £199

Media                           Compactflash

Memory (int/sup)            64Mb (supplied)

Memory (max)            64Mb

Formats                        MP3, Real G2

PC min sys                   166MHz PII/32Mb/4Mb free Win 95/98/NT

PC I/O              parallel

Software                        RealJukebox (CD ripper, library, browser integration)

Phones             headphones

Power   /life                   2AA/20 hours

Size                              115 x 42 x 21mm

Weight              147g

 

Features                       5-mode DSP & manual equaliser, display contrast, ff/rev & track skip, track/artist/album display, auto resume, repeat 1/repeat all/shuffle/20-track program, belt clip, Sound Pressure Control

 

Contact            Thomson Multimedia, 0800 028 7956 www.Thomson_lyra.com

 

---end---

 

Ó R. Maybury 2000, 2502

 

 

 

CREATIVE LABS NOMAD*

Sarah Watson, 11/02 launch June

 

Typical price             £

Media                          

Memory (int/sup)            --

Memory (max)  

Formats                        MP3

PC min sys                  

PC I/O              parallel/serial/USB

Software                       

Phones                        

Power   /life                  

Size                              mm

Weight              g

 

Features                      

 

Contact

 

 

 

DIAMOND RIO 300*

 

Typical price             £

Media                          

Memory (int/sup)            --

Memory (max)  

Formats                        MP3

PC min sys                  

PC I/O              parallel/serial/USB

Software                       

Phones                        

Power   /life                  

Size                              mm

Weight              g

 

Features                      

 

Contact

 

 

DIAMOND RIO 500*

 

Typical price             £

Media                          

Memory (int/sup)            --

Memory (max)  

Formats                        MP3

PC min sys                  

PC I/O              parallel/serial/USB

Software                       

Phones                        

Power   /life                  

Size                              mm

Weight              g

 

Features                      

 

Contact

 

Typical price             £

Media                          

Memory (int)            --

Memory (max)  

Formats                        MP3

PC min sys                  

PC I/O              parallel/serial/USB

Software                       

Phones                        

Power   /life                  

Size                              mm

Weight              g

 

 

LATE LAUNCHES

BUSH GOODMANS late Spring*

PANASONIC

PHILIPS RUSH, launched June*

SONY, summer

 

                                               

 


 

[Home][Software][Archive][Top Tips][Glossary][Other Stuff]


Copyright (c) 2005 Rick Maybury Ltd.

admin@rickmaybury.com