Advantages Beautiful, well designed, excellent remote, battery life, features, outputs
Disadvantages Horrid software, "spin up" time in atrac/mp3 playback could have been better avoided
|Ease of Use|
|Look & Design|
|Range of Features|
|Value for Money|
It's also small - only slightly wider in diameter than a cd, and less than 2cm thick.It's multi-format playback supports standard cd audio (unsurprisingly!), but also mp3, ATRAC3 and ATRAC3plus formats.
You'll already be familiar with standard cd and mp3, but the ATRAC formats might be new to you - basically they are Sony's own take on audio compression algorithms, but they claim to provide higher quality at lower bit-rates, enabling you to store much more audio than if it were in the mp3 format.The difference in ATRAC3 and ATRAC3plus is small (slightly better quality/speed of encoding) but obviously it's best if your CD player supports the latest version.
At it's simplest you can take all your mp3 files and burn them onto a CD and your player will happily read through the various folders, display tracknames/artists/album etc, but to get the most from the unit you really want to use the supplied software to create an ATRAC cd, but unfortunately this is where the first weakness arises too:To create an ATRAC CD, basically you go through your CD's/MP3 albums and import them into Sonicstage SimpleBurner, a hideous piece of poorly designed software if ever there was one. If you go through the lengthy process of importing your music into the software (waiting for it to be converted to the ATRAC3 format), but have a problem when you come to the final stage of actually burning the cd and it fails, there is no way of saving what you've already imported, and so you have to start from scratch. This might sound annoying until you actually have to do it yourself, at which point you realise that it is *incredibly* annoying!
Instead, I strongly advise you to install SonicStage 2.3 (simpleburners "big brother") - it's more like itunes in that it allows you to import all your music into a central database, which is stored and persistent so no more re-importing the same music over and over again every time you start the program! Using SonicStage is actually quite nice, it looks good and actually works! I created my first cd with no problems, containing 371 songs, that's 28 albums!Whilst the buttons on the player are nicely placed, it's a pain to have to open your bag or case to find the "next track" button, and so Sony supplied an excellent lcd stick remote control. It allows you to do everything you'd want with volume controls, navigation (track and album), play, pause, stop, display (track/album/artist/times), play mode (shuffle/album shuffle etc), and sound mode (standard/megabass1/2). It also features a natty little lcd screen that is backlit which is great as you know what it's doing at a glance, as well as showing you what album/song you are listening to.
The unit takes 2 "chewing gum stick" batteries (they look like sticks of chewing gum! They cost a tenner each if you ever need to replace them, but they will last for ages and ages (mine are over a year old and are fine - I've been listening to this cd on and off for 2 days solid while at work and it still shows full battery). You sit the player on the supplied (very pretty) docking station and the charge led lights up, 7 hours later and you're all set for about 55 hours of continous music! You can also plug in the supplied extra battery holder which takes 2 AA batteries (in fact you can even run from both supplies - internal rechargable and external AA for huge playtimes!) ATRAC discs allow the player to last longest off a charge as the cd only spins up briefly at the track start while it reads in the song before stopping the motor (this also means your track can't skip as it's not been read from the CD!)The player features G Protection anti-shock which is supposed to help prevent skipping from shakes and bangs, which works very well in practice. It has two settings, but nowhere actually describes what the difference in the two settings are, apart from level 2 gives you slightly better protection (no idea how - but I'm interested in finding out!)
There is also a shared line-out and optical-out socket so there's no problem connecting it to other systems.The only other downside to the player (apart from the nasty simpleburner software which you can easily get round by using sonicstage) is from the fact that during ATRAC/MP3 disc playback, the song is read into memory, the disc is stopped (to save battery) and then at the song end, the cd spins up and the next song is read in. This unfortunately introduces a couple of seconds gap between each song. This isn't too bad on most albums, but if you listening to a mix album, or two songs that mix into one another (eg: most chemical brothers albums), then you hear the next song about to kick in, then it goes silent, 2 seconds later the song continues. It gets a bit annoying, and makes me wonder if Sony couldn't have designed it slightly better so that the next song was read in just *before* the last song ended to ensure no unnecessary pauses. The advantages (huge playtime and battery life) probably outweigh the disadvantages though, but if it had read in the next song before the last song ended it would have been an absolutely superb system.
All in all, a well rounded (haha) player with excellent features, brilliant usability with ease of access to all the controls, amazing sound and storage, looks, and build quality. Buy one now!
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