WHAT MP3 2001

 BootLog.co.uk

HomeSoftwareArchiveTop TipsGlossaryOther Stuff

MP3 PLAYER/SOFTWARE ROUNDUP – ISSUE 3

 

SMART mp3CD 300

 

It looks like a personal CD player and in fact it is a personal CD player, but there’s a twist, it can also play MP3 tracks recorded onto CD-R/RW discs. The point is MP3 files take up a lot less room than audio CD files, enabling a recordable disc to hold around 12-hours of highish quality music. As personal CD players go it’s moderately well equipped with a 50-second anti-shock memory but the transport functions are a bit limited with only fast forward and forward track skip. There’s no reverse track skip, rewind or program play functions. It has a 2-stage bass boost for CD replay and 5-mode equaliser, though it only works when replaying MP3 tracks. One rather usual feature is a 500 second voice memo recorder but to use that you need to plug in a microphone (not supplied).

 

The controls are a good size and easy to get to but the labelling is very confusing and the instruction book sheds comparatively little light on the matter, in fact it’s best to ignore it and try and figure it out by trial and error. (The importer assures us the instructions are being re-written)

 

Power comes from a pair of AA cells or a mains power adaptor, which is included. Sounds are piped through a pair of in-ear phones, they’re borderline tinny and struggle a bit with bass notes but it’s not too bad when playing less demanding MP3 material.

 

Be warned that if you want to take advantage of the MP3 replay facility you need to have, or have access to a PC with a CD-R burner. MP3 tracks sound okay, audio CD performance is just about passable – upgrading the phones helps.

 

Typical price             £154 (includes shipping, online order only)

Media                           internal

Memory (int/sup)            n/a

Memory (max)            n/a

Formats                        CD, CDR/RW/MP3

PC min sys                   n/a

PC I/O              n/a

Software                        n/a

Phones             in-ear   

Power   /life                   2 x AA/4-hours (mains adaptor included)

Size                              130 x 147 x 33mm

Weight              g

 

Features                       track play/skip, repeat one/all/random, intro, program play, 2/5-mode equaliser, 50-second anti-shock memory, 500 second voice memo recorder (requires external microphone)

 

Contact Jedan Design & Technology, www.jedan.co.uk

 

Ease of use                   7

Features                       8

Performance                  8

 

 

SIREN JUKEBOX

With so much free software and shareware available on the Internet and bundled with MP3 players the big question is why should anyone want to spend good money buying programs? Siren Jukebox from Sonic Foundry might just make you change your mind. Most freebie programs have limited functionality, some are flaky or unstable and there are a few we could name that are just plain crap. Siren on the other hand looks and feels like a quality item and £25 buys a lot of features that are rarely if ever seen on the ‘lite’ versions and give-away programs.

 

First off it’s a sophisticated media player for Windows (98 and NT only), that can play audio CDs as is, or it will rummage through your hard disc drive, looking for MP3, .wav or .wma music files that it will attempt to organise into some semblance of order in directories of your choosing. The player section incorporates a graphic equaliser and you can further mangle the sound with variable reverb and replay speed controls. An annoying winky light show and ‘spectrum analyser’ display can be disabled.

 

The feature that will make most MP3 fans sit up and take notice is the versatile CD ripper, tracks can be extracted in .wma or MP3 format, the latter with the unusually wide selection of bit rates, from a lo-fi but highly economical 96Kbps to close to CD quality 320Kbps. Once recorded to hard disc Siren has another couple of tricks up its sleeves and it can be used to manage and download tracks to most players, or create custom CDs on PCs fitted with a CD-R/RW recorder. Siren is slick and easy to use and it could very well be the only piece of software you’ll need to enjoy CD and MP3.

 

Typical price             £25

Media                           n/a

Memory (int/sup)            n/a

Memory (max)            n/a

Formats                        audio CD, MP3, wave (*.wav), Windows media (*.wma)

PC min sys                   Pentium 200MHz or higher/32Mb/20Mb free/Windows 98/NT, IE 4 or higher

PC I/O              n/a

Software                        Acrobat Reader, IE5, DX Media 6, Public Enemy & Gas Giants sample tracks

Phones             n/a       

Power   /life                   n/a

Size                              n/a

Weight              n/a

 

Features                       CD Player/hard disc music library organiser, CD Ripper (96 – 320kbps MP3 mode/64 – 160kbps *.wma), graphic equaliser, custom CD compiler, integrated web browser for MP3 download, player organiser, changeable ‘skins’, 

 

Contact

 

Ease of use                   8

Features                       9

Performance                  9

 

 

MAYCOM MERIT MP-100

The MP-100 looks quite promising; the unit is very small and covered in that soft touchy-feely plastic. In addition to the MP3 replay facilities it has a built-in FM tuner with 3 station presets. It comes with a 32Mb MMC as standard and the outfit includes a card reader module, which we reckon is a tad more flexible than a direct data link, allowing you to manage multiple cards without having to keep hooking up the player to a PC.

 

The controls are neatly laid out and it has separate bass and treble controls. The LCD panel isn’t very large and it only shows basic track info but it is backlit and easy to read. The only slight niggles with the operation of the player is the lack of any fast search facility and the instructions are truly dreadful. The CD-ROM contains an MMC card reader utility and Music Match Jukebox. No problems there, but the user is left completely high and dry as to how to use them. The pathetic little leaflets are no help whatsoever and we suspect many users, not familiar with the ways of the PC and MP3, will be driven to despair or give up in frustration. 

 

Performance is not too bad at all. The in-ear phones deliver a surprisingly punchy bass and crisp treble, moreover there’s plenty of leeway with the user tone adjustments. The FM tuner is just about okay, it is dependent on a good strong signal and we found it to be quite directional. The problems with the MP-100 are mostly to do with presentation; a decent instruction book explaining how to use the software in conjunction with the player is all that it really needs.

 

Typical price             £129

Media                           MMC

Memory (int/sup)            32Mb

Memory (max)            64Mb

Formats                        MP3

PC min sys                   Pentium 166MHz or higher/32Mb/10Mb free/Windows 95/98/NT4

PC I/O              parallel & keyboard

Software                        Music Match Jukebox, Maycom MMC card reader

Phones             in-ear   

Power   /life                   2 x AAA/ hours

Size                              52 x 88 x 23mm

Weight              68g

 

Features                       FM tuner with 3 station presets, bass/treble controls, fwd/rev track skip, A-B repeat, repeat 1/repeat all/shuffle, carry case

 

Contact            Dixons/Currys/PC World,  www.pcworld.co.uk

 

Ease of use                   8

Features                       8

Performance                  8

 

 

LG ‘SOUL DIGITAL’ MF-PD360 300

No-one could ever accuse LG of producing bland-looking ‘me-too’ MP3 players. Whereas its first models were funkily styled, in a cheap and cheerful sort of way, the new Soul Digital is a clear attempt to move the product up-market, possibly an attempt to woo a female audience, though ironically the crisply styled little box is a rather soul-less design and seems ill at ease alongside the shiny in-line remote control module, which looks as though it belongs to a quite different product.

 

MP3 and data files are held on a supplied 32Mb MMC; there’s two card slots built into the side of the unit giving a maximum capacity of 64Mb. File transfer is via a USB link and MP3 Explorer Express software. This only handles file management but it is very easy to use, the only point to be aware of is that it only works under Windows 98 and 2000; there is a specific warning against using it with Windows 95 and NT. Power is supplied by a prismatic NiMh rechargeable battery; the outfit also includes a clip on battery module. A mains charger is supplied with the kit but we’re a little concerned that it doesn’t have any power on or charge indicators. The LCD on the remote module has a backlight button, which is just as well as it’s all but invisible, even in good lighting.

 

 The in-ear phones are very similar to the ones provided on other LG players, treble response is good and there is a fair amount of bass on tap, but only if they’re pressed very firmly into the ear, which does become quite uncomfortable after a while. MP3 player, powder compact or a packet of fags, we’re not to sure, but the good news is that it sounds okay…

 

Typical price             £

Media                           MMC

Memory (int/sup)            32Mb

Memory (max)            64Mb

Formats                        MP3, data files

PC min sys                   Pentium 133 or higher/16Mb/7Mb free/Windows 98/2000

PC I/O              USB

Software                        MP3 Explorer Express file manager

Phones             in-ear   

Power   /life                   rechargeable/6.5 hours or 1 x AA/ 8hours

Size                              72 x 76 x 16mm

Weight              66g

 

Features                       2-mode equaliser, fwd/rev track skip, intro, repeat 1/repeat all/shuffle, title/track/time display, bookmark, carry pouch

 

 

Contact LG Electronics 01753 50047, www.lge.com

 

Ease of use                   8

Features                       8

Performance                  9

 

 

PINE D’MUSIC SM-320F, £180

Pine D’Music players have been around almost since day-one and although from the outside the basic design appears to have changed very little, under the bonnet the technology has been steadily evolving. The SM-320F is the current flagship model with voice recording with more than 2-hour capacity and an FM tuner in addition to MP3 playback. It comes with 32Mb of on-board memory and there’s a single card slot for an optional SmartMedia card that can increase capacity up to 64Mb. There’s a five mode equaliser, all of the usual track play options plus forward and reverse search, which is quite unusual. Another rarity is file deletion, which lets you erase files in the player’s memory, without having to connect the player to a PC. The outfit includes a parallel data transfer lead and a CD ROM containing a good selection of file management, jukebox and CD ripper software.

 

The distinctively styled case comes in a choice of lurid colours, major controls are grouped together on the front panel, they’re large and easy to identify, the LCD display is a reasonable size and quite clear but it could definitely do with a backlight. The D’Music file manager program is exceptionally easy to install and use and although the bundled software is most shareware or lite versions with limited functionality the whole package works well together and provides a good introduction to what MP3 is all about.

 

Sound quality is impressive, thanks mainly to a half decent set of in-ear phones. Not only are they fairly comfortable, they also have a crisp treble, flat mid range and an unusually punchy bass response. Even the radio works well though not having any station presets is a nuisance. Only one gripe, the soft carry pouch is a bit naff, what it really needs is a belt clip; pricey but highly recommended!

 

Typical price             £180

Media                           SmartMedia

Memory (int/sup)            32Mb

Memory (max)            64Mb

Formats                        MP3 & voice files

PC min sys                   Pentium 90 or higher/16Mb/20Mb free/Windows 95/98

PC I/O              parallel

Software                        D’Music file manager, MusicMatch Jukebox, Audio Catalyst ripper, voice driver

Phones             in-ear   

Power   /life                   2 x AAA/10 hours

Size                              63 x 85 x 17.5mm

Weight              70g

 

Features                       FM tuner, voice record (2hrs 15 mins), 5-mode equaliser, fast forward/rev search, fwd/rev track skip, intro, repeat 1/repeat all/shuffle, title/track/time display, carry pouch

 

Contact Pine Technology 01908 218812, www.pinegroup.com

 

Ease of use                   9

Features                       9

Performance                  9

 

YELO DMP 32

Clairvoyance is a useful ability to possess if you’re thinking of buying a Yelo DMP 32 otherwise you may find it quite difficult to use because the instructions are no use, nor do they tell you about the bundled software on the CD-ROM (there’s no mention of Music Match anywhere) or how to use the file manager program. The player is a compact silvery box with a sprinkling of controls on the front and side, reflecting the fairly modest feature list. It comes with two 16Mb MMC cards, which slot into a compartment on the top; data transfer is via a parallel link to the PC. The central LCD display shows track number but that’s about it. There’s a switchable Super Bass mode and a 4-stage equaliser (classic, jazz, pop, normal) and power comes from 2 AAA cells, which last for around 6 hours with the wick turned up.

 

The DMP 32 file manager is okay, once you’ve figured out how to use it… The lack of instructions is a real problem though and we suspect it will tick off a lot of MP3 newbies and those still getting to grips with their PCs. The in-ear phones sit fairly comfortably and the sound isn’t too bad, though on several of our test tracks the player (or the software) managed to introduce some low level processing noise.  For once there’s ample volume and the treble and mid range responses are reasonably wide and flat. Super Bass isn’t super at all, it sounds like someone just stuffed a sock into your ear – it’s best left alone… The four equaliser modes are not quite so heavy handed with the neutral ‘normal’ doing the least harm to the sound. For the price it’s actually not too bad though it could be a lot better with some decent instructions.

 

Typical price             £99

Media                           MMC

Memory (int/sup)            32Mb

Memory (max)            64Mb

Formats                        MP3

PC min sys                   486 or higher/16Mb/30Mb free/Windows 95/98

PC I/O              parallel

Software                        DMP32 file manager, Music Match CD Ripper

Phones             in-ear   

Power   /life                   2 x AAA/6 hours

Size                              71 x 56 x 18.8mm

Weight              60g

 

Features                       4-mode equaliser, Super Bass, fwd/rev track skip, repeat 1/repeat all, wrist strap

 

Contact            www.gtodist.com/yelo

 

 

Ease of use                   9

Features                       8

Performance                  8

 

 

---end---

 

Ó R. Maybury 2000, 2805

 

 


 

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


Copyright (c) 2005 Rick Maybury Ltd.

admin@rickmaybury.com