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MP3 PLAYER/SOFTWARE ROUNDUP – ISSUE 4

 

ERICSSON HANDSFREE HPM-10

The first thing to say about the HPM-10 is that there’s absolutely no point buying one unless you also have, or plan to get a Ericsson T10, T18 or T28 mobile phone, because it won’t work without one! However, as a bonus, it doubles up as a hands-free kit, but more about that in a moment. The small clip-on player module attaches to the base of the phone, from which it draws power and it uses the phone’s keypad and display. MP3 files live on a 32Mb MMC card and copied across using a parallel port card read/write module. It comes with a set of in-ear phones with an in-line microphone and the installation CD-ROM containing the card reader software and Music Match file manager/player/CD ripper. The disc also includes one of the best ‘online’ instruction guides we’ve seen in ages. It’s presented as a series of ‘web’ pages with links to useful Internet sites.

 

The player’s is accessed from the phone’s ‘Extras/Accessories’ menu; the display shows track number, time, title and artist. In addition to volume there’s adjustments for bass and treble. When the phone rings playback pauses and you answer the call by pressing a button on the microphone or opening the flip, but you hear the caller through the earphones and you speak into the in-line mike. When the call is over playback resumes.

 

The rather brutal looking phones are surprisingly easy on the ear, the bass is bit thin but they produce a solid sound with good treble and midrange coverage and plenty of volume in reserve. If you’ve already got a suitable Ericsson phone get one, otherwise if the idea of a combi phone/MP3player appeals it might be worth hanging on for a bit as we reckon there could be quite a few of them to choose from before much longer.

 

Typical price             £130

Media                           MMC

Memory (int/sup)            32Mb

Memory (max)            32Mb

Formats                        MP3

PC min sys                   Pentium or higher 166, 16Mb/30Mb free/Windows 95/98

PC I/O              parallel (external card read/write module)

Software                        MMC card manager, Music Match Jukebox, player CD Ripper

Phones             in-ear, with in-line mic

Power   /life                   powered by phone/8.5 hours

Size                              44 x 40 x 14mm

Weight              30g

 

Features                       Play one/all/random, track/time/artist/title display, 32Mb MMC card, in-ear phones with in-line microphone, read/write module

 

Contact            Ericsson UK, 01483 303666, www.mobile.ericsson.co.uk

 

Ease of use                   8

Features                       8

Performance                  8

 

 

YELO DMP64VR

This is the second player we’ve seen from Yelo and in terms of presentation at least, it is a big improvement over its predecessor. The DMP64VR is a fairly conventional looking little unit, the same width but a little shorter and a bit thicker than a compact cassette. The unlit display is a good size and the surround is available in a range of colours (including a particularly vivid yellow, naturally). The display is most informative showing title/artist in addition to normal track, time and status info. It has a 64Mb on-board memory that can be supplemented with MMC modules. Extras include a 3-mode equaliser (jazz, rock, classic) and a voice recording facility. On the back there’s a belt clip and it comes with a wrist strap, parallel port transfer cable, reasonably easy to use MFDP file copy/management utility and Music Match Jukebox/ripper. It is powered by a single AA cell that lasts for between 8 and 10-hours.

 

Build quality is okay though we don’t much care for the rubber bungs that are supposed to protect the card slot and data cable socket, we give them about five minutes, before they’re lost. The card slot and socket are also much too close together, making it difficult to eject cards when it’s hooked up to a PC and the earphone jack gets in the way of the volume buttons. Apart from that control layout is okay though the prominent play/pause button is easy to nudge accidentally. Playback performance is very good and it’s one of the loudest units we’ve reviewed. The overall sound is largely flat and uncoloured, the in-ear phones deliver a modest amount of bass and we didn’t notice any untoward processing artefacts (unlike the earlier model).

 

At first glance the asking price seems to be a little on the high side but it reflects the useful 64Mb memory capacity, voice recording facility and better than average performance. Worth considering.

 

Typical price             £179

Media                           MMC

Memory (int/sup)            64Mb

Memory (max)            128Mb

Formats                        MP3

PC min sys                   Pentium or higher 90MHz/16Mb/2Mb free/Windows 95/98

PC I/O              parallel

Software                        MP3 Loader, Music Match Jukebox, player CD Ripper

Phones             in-ear   

Power   /life                   1 x AA/8hours

Size                              63 x 94 x 28mm

Weight              80g

 

Features                       voice recording, 3-mode equaliser, track/time/artist/title display, fwd/rev track skip, repeat 1/repeat all/shuffle, belt clip, wrist strap

 

 

Contact Yelo UK, 020 8366 0000. www.yelo.ws

 

Ease of use                   9

Features                       8

Performance                  9

 

 

SAMSUNG YEPP YP-NEU

Apple iMac styling, now starting to look a just little bit jaded and over-done, lives on with the YP-NEU blue see-through case. The size and wacky shape are reminiscent of early LG players and there’s a similar sort of in-line remote control module, halfway down the earphone cable. The model we’ve been looking at has 64Mb of on-board memory, a slightly cheaper 32Mb version is also available, extra memory comes in the form of an optional SmartMedia card, which fits into a slot on the underside.

 

The remote module has a small backlit LCD that shows track and time info and player status using microscopic legends but there’s no track or title display. It’s fitted with a gripper clip and the player comes with a hard plastic slip-case, wrist strap and spare battery cover and it’s fairly obvious why. It’s a very fiddly design, battery change is awkward and the cover has a tendency to fly or fall off. Sooner or later it will get lost, it’s as simple as that! File transfer is via a USB data link to the PC. The outfit includes Samsung’s reasonably straightforward Yepp Explorer file manager and a copy of Real Audio’s classic Real Jukebox player/ripper program.

 

The secondary controls on the remote are fiddly and difficult to distinguish by feel due to the shape of the thing alone which means unclipping the remote to peer at the labelling every time you want to skip track or change the equaliser settings. The cables could do with a bit longer too; finding somewhere to put the player and clip the remote can be a real nuisance.  Sound quality is actually quite reasonable, the earphones deliver a solid mid-range with useful smatterings of bass and treble, the only trouble is, it’s not very loud and it struggles to make itself heard in noisy surroundings. It’s quite expensive too, there’s not much in the way of extras and the styling is now fast approaching its sell-by date.

 

Typical price             £230

Media                           SmartMedia

Memory (int/sup)            64Mb

Memory (max)            128Mb

Formats                        MP3

PC min sys                   Pentium 133MHz or higher/32Mb/20Mb free/Windows 98

PC I/O              USB

Software                        Yepp Explorer file manager, Real JukeBox player/ripper

Phones             in-ear   

Power   /life                   2 x AAA/6-hours

Size                              85 x 60 x 25mm

Weight              120g

 

Features                       3-mode equaliser, track/time display, fwd/rev search & track skip, repeat 1/repeat all/shuffle, case, wrist strap

 

Contact            Samsung 0800 521652, www.yepparty.com

 

Ease of use                   8

Features                       7

Performance                  8

 

 

MAMBO-X P-3000

Mambo-X is the second personal CD player we’ve seen recently that can also play CD-R/RW discs containing MP3 files. This is a very convenient facility if you have a PC with a CD-ROM recorder or ‘burner’ since you can get up to 12 hours of MP3 music on a single disc. The spec looks quite good, it has a 45-second anti-shock memory, separate bass and treble controls and it comes with an infra-red remote control and a nifty looking set of back-loop headphones.

 

The anti-shock system works in mysterious ways, pressing the ESA (electronic shock absorption) button sometimes made the player skip tracks, sometimes it stops playback altogether and occasionally it locks the player up. In fact all of the buttons on the top panel were a bit iffy on our sample, or maybe it was the control system? Sometimes they worked, other times there was a long delay or nothing happened, though it seemed to misbehave more often when playing audio CDs, MP3 playback was a lot more reliable.

 

Maybe it’s something to do with the shape of our heads, but after a few minutes the headphones started to get a bit uncomfortable, bending them to fit might help, though we hesitated to try as they didn’t look as though they would stand much twisting. In fact they don’t sound too bad, and the player does a fair job on audio CDs and MP3 files, though unless the headphones are close to the outer ear what little bass there is leaks away. There’s also a fair amount of popping and occasional background noises and this happens on pristine over the counter CDs, as well as homemade recordings.

 

Although the control and anti-shock systems seem a bit flaky, on a flat solid surface, free of vibration and knocks and controlled via the remote handset it does a passable job but we’d hesitate to use it on the move or in an in-car installation.

 

Typical price             £200

Media                           n/a

Memory (int/sup)            n/a

Memory (max)            n/a

Formats                        CD-Audio, CD-R/RW MP3

PC min sys                   n/a

PC I/O              n/a

Software                        n/a

Phones             back-loop headphones      

Power   /life                   2 x AA/7-hours (mains adaptor supplied

Size                              140 x 145 x 28mm

Weight              268g

 

Features                       variable bass & treble, repeat, 45-second anti-shock memory, infra-red remote control

 

Contact            www.mambox.com

 

Ease of use                   7

Features                       7

Performance                  7

 

 

Ó R. Maybury 2000, 2605

 

 


 

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