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MP3 PLAYER/SOFTWARE ROUNDUP – ISSUE 3

 

MPIO MPIO-SJ

It looks like an upmarket cassette personal player that has shrunk in the wash but despite its size the MPIO-SJ packs quite a punch. In addition to MP3 replay it can store telephone numbers -- up to 250 of them -- and record around 2 hours of speech on its internal 32Mb memory (a 64Mb version is also available). This can be supplemented with removable SmartMedia cards. Front panel layout is neat though the buttons are borderline fiddly. The LCD carries a lot of information, including artist and track title details using ID3 tags. Unfortunately it’s quite small and unlit, moreover the angle of view is fairly shallow but in good light its okay. There’s a good assortment of replay controls, including forward and reverse search plus all of the usual track repeat options It has a 3-mode equaliser (pop, rock & classic) and a somewhat dubious 3D effect. MP3 and voice tracks can be erased in the player, which is quite handy.

 

Connection to the PC is via a parallel cable and it comes with a well thought out and very easy to use file manager program called iMusic Desk. This also includes a telephone book utility for copying names and numbers across to the player. The supplied in-ear phones impart a slightly tinny quality on the music, what little bass there is tends to be thin and strained. Nevertheless the actual quality, when heard through a decent set of ‘phones can be very good, and for once there’s bags of volume on tap. Battery life is better than average; you can expect around 8 hours from a single AA alkaline cell. Check the web for a good price, bin the phones and you’ve the makings of a very decent little player.

 

Typical price             £209

Media                           SmartMedia

Memory (int/sup)            32Mb

Memory (max)            64Mb

Formats                        MP3, phonebook

PC min sys                   Pentium 90MHz or higher 16Mb/40Mb free/Windows 95/98

PC I/O              parallel

Software                        iMusic Desk file manager telephone book

Phones             in-ear   

Power   /life                   1 x AA/8-hours

Size                              62 x 65 x 17mm

Weight              67g

 

Features                       voice recording, 4-mode equaliser, 3D sound, fwd/rev search, track skip, track/disc repeat, shuffle, title/artist display

 

Contact Vionic Technology, 0115 9447292, www.vionic.co.uk

 

Ease of use                   8

Features                       8

Performance                  7

 

MPIO MPIO64

No, you’re not seeing double, the MPIO64 is none other than a thinly disguised Jaz Piper player. In case you’re in any doubt of its origins have a look inside the battery compartment, the printed circuit board inside is clearly labelled with the Jaz Piper logo. It is virtually identical to the MVR64P model, in fact the only significant differences are the supplied software bundle and the price, which is likely to be a fair bit less on this version.

 

In case you missed the Jaz Piper review in issue 2 we’ll run through the salient points once again. It’s a very well equipped little player with 64Mb of on-board memory, expandable with SmartMedia memory cards. Extras include an FM tuner with 15 station presets, voice recording (up to 4-hours) and a telephone book memory. Replay facilities comprise a 5-mode equaliser and 3D sound option plus user-set bass and treble. The LCD is a good size with plenty of useful information, artist and track name, bit rate, mode and status, it could do with a backlight but legibility is satisfactory. The MPIO comes with MPIO Desk file manager and a copy of Jet Audio player/CD ripper utility. Incidentally MPIO Desk is identical to iDesk, which is provided with the MPIO-SJ. In performance terms the only differences between the MPIO64 and the Jaz Piper original can be put down to the in-ear phones, which have gnats less bass coverage though by way of compensation they’re not quite as uncomfy for prolonged listening (or perhaps all the odd-shaped things we’ve been shoving in our ears in recent months has numbed the nerves…). The bottom line is that this is a Jaz Piper in all but name. At £230 the Jaz was one of our best buys, the MPIO64 sells for a good bit less, you work it out!

 

Typical price             £215

Media                           SmartMedia

Memory (int/sup)            64Mb

Memory (max)            96Mb

Formats                        MP3

PC min sys                   Pentium 90MHz or higher, 16Mb/40Mb free/Windows 95/98

PC I/O              parallel (optional USB)

Software                        MPIO Desk, Jet Audio player/ripper

Phones             in-ear   

Power   /life                   2 x AAA/9hours

Size                              66 x 90 x 18mm

Weight              86g

 

Features                       FM tuner with 15 station presets, 5-mode DSP/3D sound, fwd/rev track skip, A-B repeat, repeat 1/repeat all/shuffle, title/artist display, voice recording (240 mins), telephone data recording (500 numbers), belt clip 

 

Contact Vionic Technology, 0115 9447292, www.vionic.co.uk

 

Ease of use                   7

Features                       9

Performance                  8

 

 

MPIO MPIO-X

Quite why the letter X should be so trendy right now escapes us but here it is once again slap bang in the middle of another new MP3 player from MPIO. The MPIO-X is quite modestly specified with a 32Mb on-board memory, there are no fancy widgets, just basic track play facilities (search, skip, repeat all/1/shuffle) and a 3-mode equaliser with presets for pop, rock and classic. Even the display is fairly rudimentary with just track number and time info and some microscopic mode indicators; still, it is quite big and easy to read. Playback controls are grouped in and around the front panel X motif and for once the buttons are quite big and easy to use, a row of four smaller buttons on the top handle volume up/down repeat mode and equaliser. Power comes from a single AA battery, lash out on a Duracell and you’ll get around eight or nine hours playback.

 

File download is via a parallel cable link and the outfit includes MPIO Desk file manager and Jet Audio player/ripper, both of which are easy to use and a notch up on the software bundles supplied with most budget and mid-market players. So far it has all been fairly routine but when it came to the performance checks we were very pleasantly surprised. It sounds very good indeed but the odd thing is the phones are not significantly different to the ones supplied with other MPIO players, which sounded pretty mediocre. One explanation could be the differences in this player’s processing and output circuitry, which seems to be a much better match for this design of phone. It produces a crisp treble and midrange, a chunky bass response and plenty of volume in reserve. Not cheap, a bit basic but worth considering.

 

Typical price             £170

Media                           SmartMedia

Memory (int/sup)            32Mb

Memory (max)            64Mb

Formats                        MP3

PC min sys                   Pentium 90MHz or higher, 16Mb/40Mb free/Windows 95/98

PC I/O              parallel

Software                        MPIO Desk, Jet Audio player/ripper

Phones             in-ear   

Power   /life                   1 x AA/8-hours

Size                              65 x 65 x 18mm

Weight              68g

 

Features                       3-mode equaliser, fwd/rev search, track skip, track/disc repeat, shuffle

 

Contact Vionic Technology, 0115 9447292, www.vionic.co.uk

 

Ease of use                   8

Features                       7

Performance                  9

 

---end---

 

Ó R. Maybury 2000, 2605

 

 


 

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