More Reviews of

CD-Based MP3 Players for OTR



A well-done site with reviews of the latest players is Alfmeister's iRiver Multi-Codec CD Players & Flash Player Reviews

Here are some more reviews of CD-Based MP3 players, as submitted by visitors to this site. Send an email to the webmaster if you want to include your review, or post comments in the OTR BBS.

Rio SP250
Not being one to sit on the sidelines whilst all others are drooling publicly, I plunked down the folding green and snarfed myself a Rio SP250.

WOW!

This is a 3 Rio household. I bought an SP100 when they first came out, then got an SP90 for my wife (she's into oldies, not OTR - Go figure). Now I have a shiny new SP250.

It's sleek. It's Cool. Kewl, even. It's slick. And they FINALLY got the display right. Shame they left it off the remote. The company line is that a survey of customers revealed a lack of interest in a remote with a display. Exactly who they actually surveyed to determine that isn't real clear. Most folks I have discussed the SP250 with would love to have a remote with a display on it. My order for the display remote went in 20 minutes after the 250 arrived at the office in December 2001.

As for what the 250 can read, the best test I have is the same CD I've been using on all 5 (yup, 5) of the MP3 capable (or incapable, depending on which one you're referring to) CD Players I have here. It's the same 19 second audio bit from a BBC broadcast from the 30's with an announcer introducing Rudy Vallee encoded using a variety of sample/bitrates. Here are the sample/bitrates tested along with the result:

  • 11/8 OK (little hollow sounding)
  • 11/VBR (really 11/12 but the Rio sees, and displays, it as VBR) OK
  • 11/16 OK
  • 16/24 OK
  • 32/56 OK
  • 44/64 OK
  • 44/112 OK
  • 44/128 OK
  • 44/160 OK
  • 44/192 OK
  • 44/256 OK
  • 44/320 OK
It reads CD-R, CD-RW and standard CD and deals easily with 700 MB CDs.

OK. I'm impressed.

Physically, the SP250 looks pretty much like the SP100. Tho most striking change is the color. The silver lid is now black. The blue-over-silver body is now gray-over-black. The volume and menu control buttons have been moved and separated, a wise move. Also, some of the button assignments on the left side of the display have changed due to the addition of an FM radio. The buttons still have that nice positive feel. Main control is still via a "joypad". The old mechanical ESP switch (10/40 sec.) has been replaced with a menu selection (45/180 sec).

All the jacks are in the same place and include one for "Line Out". The control lock (Hold) switch hasn't moved. There is a new jack between the earphone and line out jack. It's for the remote control and you'll note a little slot next to it. That's for that new display-equipped remote control. I got one of those little trinkets. More on that later.

Best news? The little dancing goofballs are gone from the display. Physically the SP250 display is smaller than on the SP100 but there are now 4 lines of information instead of the 3 on the 100, and the displayed information is crisper and easier to read.

When playing the display shows:
  • Cut #
  • Time remaining in cut (or elapsed time - user defined)
  • Battery/power state,
  • Directory (folder) name currently being accessed,
  • ID3 tag (scrolling, speed adjustable) or audio track label
  • Label indicating MP3 or CD (audio),
  • Sample rate
  • Bitrate
  • Left and right channel level indicator.


Yes, it's backlit. Yes, the lighting, along with a ton of other things, is configurable via a menu driven options list of 26 items! This includes a user-defined EQ setting that can really be a blessing when listening to some really gnarly OTR material.

The standard remote (comes with the 250) is also a headphone extension, and duplicates the controls on the player itself, including the menu controls. Using the remote for menu manipulation can make a strong man cry and, of course, means you have to look at the display on the unit to see the menu since the remote has no display. So, if you're looking at the display ON the unit, who needs confusing menu controls on a remote? Hmmmmmmmmmmmm ....

For those who are gadget freaks there IS a display equipped remote available. It has exactly the same controls as the standard remote does but includes a 2 line backlit LCD display. It lets you see:

  1. Cut #
  2. Elapsed time (or time remaining)
  3. battery/power state
  4. ID3 tag (scrolling)


I ordered mine from the SonicBlue eStore on December 18th 2001. It was listed as "In Stock". Hoping to get it PDQ I ordered it "Next Day Delivery". 2 weeks later it still hadn't arrived, and a check at the Order Status web page at SonicBlue showed my order as "Has Products Pending Shipment" whatever that meant. 2 email requests for information regarding my order garnered only automated responses, both of which cheerfully supplied me with the FAQ for the Rio 600/800 and RioVolt. Exactly 1 month after placing the order I finally received the remote control.

Yes, they sent it "Next Day" and charged me for it.

No, I have never received the courtesy of a human response to my requests for information on the order.

When dealing with the SonicBlue eStore YMMV. In fact, I hope it does.

Second best news? The SP250 can be used with either alkaline OR rechargeable batteries (it comes with 2 NimH AA cells). If plugged in to external power the unit prompts you for one of 3 options:

  • Discharge, then charge
  • Charge
  • Quit


The default is "Discharge and charge" (not a good default option IMHO).

In my list of "Nice Things But Not A Deal Breaker" items has always been a CD player with an FM radio in it. The SP250 has it. Programmable, has 20 channel pre-sets available and can scan-and-program them automagically for you. The FM antenna is the headphone cable so fringe reception can be a bit hairy. Sensitivity of the receiver is adaquate for urban areas. I found it to be a bit on the poor side for the rural areas of Western Pennsylvania where I did some testing. It can also be manually tuned from 87.5 to 108 mHz in 100 kHz steps. Both the display remote and the main display on the 250 show current frequency and battery/power state, and momentarily switch to show volume level when an adjustment is made.

My 2 word advice on the Rio Volt SP250?

"Buy It"

Dave Ratcliffe - dave@frackit.com



AVC Soul
I like OTR. If you are reading this review, you probably like it too (grin). The WWW has helped cause a tremendous growth in the number of OTR fans, as well as introduce new media via which OTR can be heard.

The primary purpose for which I bought a portable MP3 player was to take advantage of its capability to play a hundred or two OTR shows on a single CD. Very handy on long trips or to ease the task of lawn mowing or car washing. Unfortunately, most OTR available via the WWW is encoded at low bitrates -- bitrates that are not playable by many portable CD-based MP3 players. One workaround was to resample these shows to a higher bitrate, and reburn to a new CD. This method works, but is time consuming, and requires the user to have a CD burner.

Not too long ago, a couple of new CD/MP3 players appeared. Designed in Korea, manufactured in China, and sold in the US. The US brand names are Rio Volt and AVC Soul. Both the guts and the appearance of these two players are similar, but the firmware that helps drive the two machines is somewhat different (and incompatible). I bought the AVC Soul because I liked its looks better than those of the Rio.

How are these machines different from other CD-based players I have used or tested for OTR purposes?

  • The Soul has played all the low bitrate test files I tried, including rates equivalent to those used for OTR CDs. :)
  • Its display can scroll the entire title of the episode, both during play and while searching for selections!
  • The display has three useful lines of information (plus some dancing figures to watch, if your TV is broken).
  • So far, it hasn't skipped noticeably on CBR recordings!
  • The machine has a remote control that is very useful when the player itself is tucked away out of sight in your car our under your blanket wink (Older OTR fans might remember listening to their early transistor radios under their blankets, so their parents wouldn't know they were still awake)
  • Under-blanket listeners will also like the backlit LCD that allows reading the display in the absence of ambient light.
  • The manufacturers claim up to 15 hrs of life for a pair of AA batteries.
  • Version 1.20 firmware allows stopping anywhere within an episode, and resuming play at the same place, even after turning the machine OFF in the interim! :)
  • If you have a bunch of short MP3s on your CD, the Soul will recognize up to 999 selections!
  • If you prefer a single l o n g MP3, firmware verson 1.02 will play a single file of up to 256 minutes length.
  • The navigation system for both directories and selections is quite nice! The original selection will continue playing while you search for other selections, and the full-name display is very helpful! (Mysterious directory and track numbers are a thing of the past)
  • You can display either filename and ID3 tags, or filename only
So, if you want a single, portable player that can play your low-bitrate OTR and audio books, medium bitrate moldie oldies, and high-bitrate modern music; plus the capability to play regular audio CDs, check out the AVC Soul player!

Lou



Rio SP90
I purchased the Rio Volt Sp90 Mp3 player, and have found that it
plays just about every cdr disc that I have burned from downloaded
Mp3's from the news group(alt.binaries.radio.oldtime.highspeed).

I would recommend this player with some qualifications, the battery
door is poorly designed, not closing securely, also no case for the
player is included.(I found a case that was designed to hold
compact discs works really well, brand name "case logic" I just 
removed the disc holder sleeves) Also some Otr files seem to end
a little early skipping to the next Mp3, this is not a big problem
as it's usually very close to the end of the show anyway.

I would also recommend getting a set of different head-phones
for the unit as the earbuds are alittle unconfortable after
extended wearing(a pillow speaker is great too fall asleep
to your favorite otr show!)

electricwarrior@yahoo.com



iRiver ChromeX 150
OTR mp3s recorded at a variety of bit rates play fine on the iriver 
ChromeX iMP-150 ($89 @ Amazon). Great features for the price 
including exact resume w/ fadein, remote, line out, upgradeable 
firmware, etc. 

Masson Robertson



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