Some 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 reviews of CD-Based MP3 players, as submitted by visitors to this site. If you want to include your review, send an email to the webmaster, or post comments in the OTR BBS. More reviews (some of better equipment than listed on this page) can be seen in an alternate page.

Aiwa
Hi, I just bought the Awia CDC-MP3 car mp3 player last week and I can
add some info for you:

First (compared to the Genica player I had) this thing is GREAT for
playing OTR's

Price - $300 (can be got for $250 mail order)

Min  - 32 / 44 as everthing else

Long file names YES - and plays ID3 (1st 32 characters) as well as file
name (1st 32 characters) while playing, track number while browsing.

Supports multiple directories

And most important, FF and REV within an MP3 (at a decent rate of speed
too!)

The only thing missing is a pause button.  Oh well, can't have
everything!

- John Connor [asterix@bellatlantic.net]

Not sure of the Anti-Shock, haven't skipped a radio show yet.






I purchased an in-dash MP3/CD player for my car: the Aiwa CDC-MP3. Best part: IT PLAYS OTR/audiobook FILES encoded at 32kbps/22kHz !!!! Worst part: If you eject the disc, change to radio, or shut off the car, it picks up at the BEGINNING of the track you were on (no resume). The Aiwa is picky about the way you burn tracks. If you want tracks played sequentially, you should name the tracks starting with a number. It plays tracks alpha-numerically by the first 3 characters, so if you want to make sure the order is correct, you need to name the files "001..." "002..." etc. (If you are burning less than 100 files you can use "01..." "02..." etc.) I chose the Aiwa over the comperable Kenwood model because the controls on are the left side of the unit and because it has a nice handy knob for volume and other functions instead of all the tiny buttons on the Kenwood. Sony has one out too, but it does not have long filename support or ID3 tag support (both the Kenwood and the Aiwa have this)! - James Owens


Genica / MP3 Trip
Well, I went and did it. Blew some of my hard earned beer
money on an MP3 CD player. Couldn't wait. Should have, though. Here's
the story:

MPTrip is the name. Low cost is the game. Emphasis on the low.
Grand total with shipping was $107.25 from Easybuy2000. It was listed as
"In Stock!" on their web page and 6 days after ordering it, it was
delivered to my door. My purpose in buying this unit was strictly for
MP3 playback so that's what most of my testing centered around.


Now the details:

The MpTrip is a Genica with no mention of Genica on the unit, the box it
comes in, or the "docs" packed with it.

The documentation is of questionable value because of the way it was
translated from the original Chinese. We've all heard the stories of
documentation like this. With the MpTrip you'll get to see it first
hand. The company I bought the unit from (Easybuy2000) provides a
quickie help sheet at:

http://www.easybuy2000.com/store/products/mp3/manual.html

Better docs, direct from the manufacturer, can be had at:

http://www.genica.com/drivers/Genica%20MP3%20Manual.pdf

Between these 2 sources you can easily toss the cryptic paperwork that
comes with your MpTrip. Paperwork that, by the way, doesn't include even
a hint of any kind of warranty.

Mechanically, the MpTrip/Genica has a few failings. The lid, which
includes the operating control buttons, covers the entire top of the
unit. The problem is that the actual switches that those buttons actuate
are in the body of the unit. Those buttons are nothing more than
extensions. Sometimes you have to press pretty hard to actuate the
switch underneath. I have to wonder how well they'll hold up after
extended use. If they break it'll make running the beast a bit
difficult.

The display is a single line LCD with no lighting whatsoever. It shows
battery condition, play mode, track number and time, EQ setting and
whether the unit is in battery charge mode or not. This display is a
major failing when dealing with MP3s because, while the unit can deal
with the directory/sub-directory structure many of us use, it uses
numbers to deal with everything. You got it, no ID3 Tag support. No
title display. You get what you pay for.

And, with only buttons for forward and back, well, if you have a lot of
cuts on a CD you'll be doing a lot of button pushing to get to that 48th
cut. Also, the unit has no memory of what cut you were on so every time
you hit stop it goes back to the beginning. Between that and the
gyrations used to navigate the directory structure, well, it gets
tedious.

Now for the bad news:

It doesn't do CD-RW. Standard CD and CD-R, no problem. Bummer.

The docs say the minimum sample rate is 44.1 kHz, minimum bitrate of 32
kbps. I took a 20 second excerpt of an OTR (Old Time Radio) wave file
and encoded it 12 ways. I then burned the resultant files to a CD, stuck
it in the MPTrip, crossed my fingers and hit "Play". Here are the
results:

  8 kbps / 11 kHz - No Play
 12 kbps / 11 kHz - No Play
 16 kbps / 11 kHz - No Play
 24 kbps / 16 kHz - No Play
 56 kbps / 32 kHz - OK
 64 kbps / 44 kHz - OK
112 kbps / 44 kHz - OK
128 kbps / 44 kHz - OK
160 kbps / 44 kHz - OK
192 kbps / 44 kHz - OK
256 kbps / 44 kHz - Played, but with moderate distortion
320 kbps / 44 kHz - Played, but with heavy distortion

The distortion noted above matched peak audio levels. When the level
went up, so did the distortion, and vice-verse. On the tracks that the
player would not play, the unit simply proceeded on to the next track
and kept sequencing until it came to a playable track.

Audio quality is acceptable for the playable tracks and equals what you
get from most MP3 playback software on a PC with decent speakers.

The unit has a big problem with drop-out. I suspect it has to do with
the power supply (more on the power supply in a minute). While on a road
trip I was listening to a 96/44 encoded CD with 48 15 minute cuts. I was
running on battery and it seemed that when the battery indicator showed
half charge remaining the unit started experiencing stuttering when
starting a new track. It seemed to get worse the longer I ran those
batteries. Once fresh batteries were installed it began working properly
again. I tested the batteries when I got back home and, under load, they
produced 1.40 volts. That should have been more than enough to power the
unit properly. Still, even with fresh batteries the MPTrip tends to lose
itself every once-in-awhile and simply stop producing any audio. Usually
it would start back up again after a few seconds, in nearly the same
spot where it had stopped. It should be noted that the CD is spinning
normally during this whole process.

I mentioned problems with the power supply. The ads boast a 6 hour life
on batteries. I'd like to see what they used for a battery to get those
results. I have now tried 3 types with the following results:

Eveready Energizer Alkaline  -  3 hrs  5 min. Duracell Ultra Alkaline
-  3 hrs 20 min. Eveready NiCad Rechargeable  -  3 hrs 15 min.

I considered the batteries to be useless when the unit started
exhibiting the drop-out mentioned above. All alkaline batteries were new
with "freshness" dating well in the future. The NiCads were freshly
charged. I actually tried them twice. The first time they were charged
in an external charging unit, the second time they were charged using
the MPTrip's built-in charging circuit. The differences in time were
negligable.

 Dave Ratcliffe [dave@frackit.com]



MP786
The Lenoxx MP786 player does indeed have a fast forward/rewind feature
and a fast track advance feature.  It is also very easy to navigate
directories.  There is a 'resume' feature which is VERY handy when
listening to a long track (I have some audiobooks with 80+ minute
tracks!) as it lets you pick back up in the middle of the track.

It will NOT play tracks sampled below 44 KHz or at bitrates below 32kbps
(or above 225 for that matter).  However, I have been quite successful
in converting those files into usable formats with the 'MusicMatch
Jukebox' which has an MP3 to MP3 converter.  You can't control sampling
rate directly, but if you convert to CBR at 64kbps it automatically
creates the files at 44KHz sampling.  They take up more space, but at
the cheap price of CDR media, it's no problem.

Also, MP786 ignores other files on the disk, so you can mix in
descriptive text files and/or cover photos with no problem.  It
recognizes a max of 80 tracks per directory, so if you go over 80, you
need to use multiple directories. You can also navigate several levels
of directories.  One thing though: you must burn your CD in a single
session. If you burn multi-session, MP786 will only see the last
session.  Also, it is a bit picky about file order, so you must be sure
to get the files on the CD in the order you want to listen to them.

Sincerely,
James Owens, yxalag2@home.com




Likko
I purchased a Likko unit from the manufacturer in Hong Kong, and it does
not play my OTR shows.  It can't handle MP3s that are recorded at 22KHz
or below.

Dave Hood (dhoodpa@aol.com)



Classic CM415
Review of the Classic CM415 MP3 player for use as an OTR MP3 player.

The Classic CM415 player is manufactured by Combined Luck Industries,
and distributed by Circuit City.  The retail price is about $100.

The construction of the device is fairly solid.  The buttons have a
solid feel,  operate positively, with both a tactile and audible click
when depressed.  The back of the device has four thin rubber feet, but
no belt clip.

The device plays both audio CDs and CD-ROMs with MP3 files.  A maximum
of 200 MP3 files can be read, in up to 25 directories (each directory is
also counted against the 200 file maximum).  Only MP3s burned at 44.1
KHz sample rate will be read, but the bitrate can be between 32 and 128
KBPS (users have reported reading up to 320 KBS successfully). The
device will read both CD-R and CD-RW discs, if recorded correctly. Since
most OTR MP3s are recorded with a 22 KHz sample rate, they must be
resampled / reburned to be played in the Classic player.  If a disk
containing both 44 and 22 KHz sample rate files is inserted into the
player, only the 44 KHz files will be played; the remainder will be
skipped.  If the disk contains non-MP3 files, strange things could
happen.

Battery life is claimed to be 3 - 7 hrs when playing regular CDs, and 4
- 10 hrs when playing MP3s.  There is also a battery saver feature.  If
the device is left on PAUSE or otherwise inactive, the display will
clear after 10 seconds, and automatically turn OFF after several more
seconds.  Any settings or programming will be lost at this time.  No
batteries are supplied, but a 4.5VDC wall wart is.

Two output jacks are supplied:  Earphone and Line Out.  (Earphones are
also supplied).  The earphone output's bass can be dynamically boosted.
A volume control is also provided.  Some users have reported hearing
occasional  fractional second skips while playing MP3s.  The
documentation claims 105 seconds antishock and 45 second digital anti
skip protection.

The LCD display shows two lines of 12 characters each.  The content of
each line depends on the various modes or functions of the player.  On
start, with a CD containing MP3s inserted, the LCD displays a welcome
message on the top line, and the number of directories and tracks on the
bottom line.

During MP3 playback, ID3 information scrolls across the top line of the
display.   If there is no ID3 tag, the first 8 (or 12) letters of the
filename appear.  The second line shows the subdirectory number, track
number, and time into the track.  The stationary filename is displayed
as 8 characters (similar to the MSDOS 8-char short filename) if the CD
was burned with Joliet long filenames.   It is displayed as 12 uppercase
characters if the CD was burned with ISO-9660 long file names. Displayed
ID3 tag information includes Title, Album and Artist.

There are several ways to navigate through the directories and tracks.
With the unit ON, but not playing an MP3, the user can:
*  Enter the number of the directory and/or track, or
*  Enter the name of the directory and/or track, or
*  Scroll through directory and track numbers, or
*  Scroll through short directory and track names.

If an MP3 is playing, tapping the SKIP/SEARCH buttons will move forward
or back a track.  When the last track is reached, the next directory
will be accessed.  If the SKIP/SEARCH button is depressed and held, the
player will fast forward or fast rewind (depending on the button
pressed) within a track.

A "playlist" can be programmed to play up to 24 tracks in different
positions on the CD.  Alternately, in addition to the regular sequential
play, various playmodes can be selected:  Intro, Random, Repeat All, and
Repeat Last.  The playlist is lost when the unit is turned OFF.

Whle playing, the selection can be paused or restarted with the
PLAY/PAUSE button.  The motor seems to continue to run while PAUSEd.
There is also a RESUME button that is claimed to store and continue
playback from the last track heard.  The position recorded by RESUME,
however, is lost if the machine is turned OFF, so it is not very useful.
If the machine is STOPped for more than 30 seconds or so, it goes into a
powerdown mode (if running on batteries).

Summary: A decent unit, with some good features.

Some additional functions would be helpful for OTR fans using this
device: Resuming within a track. Backlight for the display. Tone
control. Scrolling title even if no ID3 tag is available.

Other options can be provided by third-party suppliers: Carrying bag or
belt clip Auto Kit (12VDC to 4.5VDC converter plus "cassette") FM
transmitter to "broadcast" within a house or car.

Note:  The electronics contained in the Memorex (Version "A")  CD/MP3
player are similar to those in the Classic.

Lou Genco



Memorex MPD8505CP
I wanted to let you know about the Memorex MPD8505CP MP3 CD player in
regards to it's use for listening to Old Time Radio Programs. I
purchased one from Target about 3 months ago, and I was somewhat happy
about it's use for Music MP3s (128kbps/44khz) but it doesn't do 22khz
nor 32khz Sample Rates, only 44khz! This makes it useless for an OTR CD
player.

Another issue is the shoddy design of the buttons that can be hard to
push at times. A plus about the design is the Buttons allow you to
search though ID3 Tags on the CD (There are Letters assigned to the
Buttons as well as numbers (They are normally function buttons, but one
of the funtions, Search, changes them to Letters/Numbers and then a
shift key allows the toggling of the different letters/numbers such in
the way a Nokia 5165 Cell Phone allows the use for sending short
messages.

I have since returned the player because of the OTR problem, as I want a
MP3CD player that can play ALL my mp3s!

Here is the run-down for your spec sheet:

Make/Model: Memorex MPD8505CP Price: $99.99+tax (At Target Discount
Stores) Min Kbps: 32 Min Khz: 44 Long File Names? NO (Names have an
arrow charecter like -> instead of the Tilde in the short filename. This
is a very big pain for CDs without ID3 tags. Directory Support: YES (It
allows the use of Album Storage in subdirectories, however you need to
Alphabetize the directory names in order to get the album you want
played first, played first etc... Display: ID3 tags while playing. short
file names while browsing. There is a counter for the Directory Number
in the Display. Rewind & Fast Forward?: Yes but it's clunky Antiskip: 45
seconds CDDA about 8 seconds in MP3 mode (this is not factory spec but
this is my experience, the Anti Shock can be turned off as well)
Hope this is useful,
Alan Ricotta




RCA 2410
In a nutshell, take a pass for OTR.  It skips like crazy.  It IDs the
low bitrates just fine (24, 32), but just can't decode them very well.

64 seems to be its lower limit.  Works fine for music and the three
line display is nice... but for OTR, not so hot.

Now to see if I can get my hands on the Rio 250. :-)

Jeff Knapp (director@gti.net)




Emerson HD7088
With the interest in portable .mp3 players I would like to recommend
the Emerson model # HD7088 which I purchased at Wal Mart for $79 in
October.  (I understand they are even cheaper now).

This model comes with a a/c adapter or can be used with batteries,
though I find the battery life is much less than the 10 hours the
company cites, but rarely use it on battery  power.  Speakers are
extra but I had a second pair at home so use them.  It has a resume
feature, which I have yet to figure out since its not something that I
would normally use and the instructions have disappeared.  This
Emerson has played everything I've thrown at it with no problem.  It
will not read multi-sessions.  However, I simply burn a new CD when I
have enough to fill one and use those.  For the price it can't be
beat, IMO.

Joe Mackey





JVC KD-SX980
I finally found the perfect MP3/CD player: The JVC KD-SX980. ($170 
online - after shipping!)

The JVC beats both of the other players I have reviewed here. (AIWA 
CDC-MP3 and Lenoxx MP786) It plays any bitrate and any sampling rate 
MP3 file.  Tracks resume where you left off unless you eject the 
disc.  It supports long file names as well as ID3 (artist & title 
only, though).  This makes this the perfect player for OTR and 
Audiobooks!

Controls are on the left side of the player for easier reach from the 
driver's side. There is no pause, but if you just turn off the power, 
it'll pick right back up when you turn it on.  Also comes with a nice 
little remote for your keychain!

Installation was SUPER-EASY with a $10 wire harness adapter from 
AutoZone (varies by car).

If anyone has any questions about this player, please send them my 
way.

James Owens - yxalag2@comcast.net






Sony CFD-S20CP
Although the majority of my OTR collection is on cassette, I have a 
number of MP3 CDs.  For the past year or so, I've been playing them on
a RioVolt SP-250 player.  While it's a great little unit, I wanted a 
bed-side player that had built-in speakers and ran on AC without a 
bulky wall-wart.  I also wanted to be able to play my cassettes and 
listen to radio.  The Sony CFD-S20CP, at under $100, was my choice
(list price is $149.95).

The CFD-S20CP is a compact boombox that plays audio and MP3 CD's and 
cassettes and has a digital AM/FM radio.  It runs on AC or batteries 
(6 "D" cells for the main unit, 2 "AA" cells for the remote), comes 
with a full-featured remote, has a sleep timer and a headphone jack.  
The AC cord is detachable.  The two front-firing 4" speakers sound 
decent enough for listening to music or OTR.  It comes only in blue 
and has a typical modern look, with rounded back and sides.  The front
slopes up, curving into the top which continues to slope up slightly
to the back.  The carrying handle folds nice into the case.  Overall 
dimensions are 16 1/2" (386mm) wide, 6 1/4" (166mm) high, 11 1/8" 
(252mm) deep but with all the curves seems smaller.  It's styling is
definitely geared toward a modern look.  Weight is approximately eight
and a half pounds with batteries.  

The CD player is located on top of the unit.  The cassette deck and 
digital display are on the front, between the two speakers.  The 
controls are scattered across the top and front, putting them near 
what then control.  All the controls are duplicated on the remote.

Volume control is via push buttons.  In fact, all controls are push 
button.  Instead of tone controls, you select one of five sound 
emphasis modes.  You can emphasize the lows, the highs, both lows and 
highs, the mid-range or just select a flat response.  There's a 
separate button to reinforce bass, referred to as "mega bass" that can
be turned on or off.  While these may not be the best for OTR 
playback, they can be helpful.

The keypad of the remote can be used to select CD track or radio 
presets, depending on what's in use when pushed.

The LCD display is used for both the radio and CD player.  The display
consists of an 8 character display and some small icons, like stereo 
indicator, sleep timer indicator, etc.  The 8 characters are divided 
into 3 upper characters and 5 lower characters.  For radio, the upper 
characters indicate AM or FM and the lower characters indicate 
frequency.  For audio CDs, the upper characters show track number and 
the lower characters show playing time.  For MP3 CDs, the upper 
characters show track number and the folder/track name scrolls through 
lower characters.  Seeing only 5 characters at a time is not especially
good for long titles usually found on OTR MP3 CDs.  (The CFD-S20CP 
supports ID3 Version 1.1 tags).  Other display options can be selected 
to display additional information.

The CFD-S20CP selects the type of CD automatically and lights a rather
large, bright orange light when it finds an MP3 CD.  It supports CD-R 
and CD-RW type CDs.  There are folder select buttons on the main unit 
and the remote for navigating folders (or directories) on a CD.  If 
you ignore folders and just step through the tracks, it'll select next 
folder automatically.  The CFD-S20CP supports a maximum of 255 folders
and a maximum of 255 files.

Pressing the Play button starts play, pressing Pause pauses it.  
There's no way to jog through a show to a particular point.  If you 
press stop or turn power off, you'll have to start a show from the 
beginning.  Fortunately, it does remember what track you last listened
to when you shut it off (on AC, haven't tried it on batteries).

Like most CD players, this one offers you different playback modes,
Program, Shuffle and Repeat, although they aren't especially useful 
for OTR.

My collection of MP3 CDs is not very large, but I do have various bit 
rates.  So far, I've had no problems playing anything I have, except 
for a few tracks that play on nothing else either including the CD 
burner that created them.  The manual does recommend 44.1kHz/128kbps.
Fortunately, it plays a lot more.  The lower minumums for sample rate
and bit rate are not known.

Although I don't intend to use the recorder for transferring CD to 
tape, it can be done.  It provides synchronized CD-to-cassette 
dubbing, starting cassette recording when CD starts play.  Of course, 
it can be used to also record from the radio.  There are no external 
inputs or outputs, like Line-In or Line-Out.

The AM/FM Stereo tuner receives 530 kHz to 1710 kHz for AM and 87.6 
MHz to 108 MHz for FM.  There's a built-in ferrite bar antenna for AM 
and a telescoping whip for FM.  Radio reception seems reasonably 
decent.  There are 30 memory presets for the tuner, 10 for AM and 20 
for FM.

Although I haven't made use of it, the sleep timer makes sense if the 
unit is used bed-side.  It can be set to automatically turn off in 10, 
20, 30, 60, 90 or 120 minutes.  It can be turned off any time before 
the timer expires.  If you're listening to a tape, the sleep timer 
works a bit differently.  If the timer expires while a tape is 
running, it will continue until the tape reached the end.

There is no clock in the unit, so it won't replace your clock radio or 
alarm clock.

I have not used it on battery power but I have heard comments that it 
is hard on batteries during MP3 CD playback.  It's much easier on 
audio CDs or cassettes and very easy on radio. 

If you don't need cassette playback, there are more choices available.
Overall, the CFD-S20CP offers a decent amount of functionality for the
price.  I feel it is a compromise, with only 5 characters of the show 
title scrolling by and not having a way to jog to a specific point in 
a show.  I miss being able to resume play in the middle of a show 
after shutting power off like I can with the RioVolt.  However, since 
it's sitting next to my bed, ready to go whenever I want, I tend to 
listen a bit more that I did with the RioVolt that's packed away until 
I need it.  The remote is especially welcome when listening in bed.  
With the CFD-S20CP, I can still listen to my cassettes and catch those 
oh-so-occasional radio plays that still grace the airwaves.  

Frank Passage (wb2ntp@arrl.net), Feb. 6, 2003



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