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How well does it work?

With only 32-Mb memory I knew putting very high quality MP3's wouldn't be very feasible. Not if I wanted to have more than 15 minutes of music. I settled on 96-KB and 128-KB songs. I also installed one 160-KB song to see how well that sounded compared to the other songs. I was quite impressed. The ear-bud headphones included with the unit were able to reproduce sound faithfully. There was no bass cut off or distortion noticed with these headphones. Since most people will probably use this unit in this capacity it's a good thing that Rome didn't skimp on their choice for headphones

In the car it was a little different. Rome's FAQ's clearly state that the unit doesn't work perfectly in all tape decks. The first car I inserted the unit into had a maddening problem. Although there were no problems with the audio output of the unit, the deck kept switching between side A and B constantly. The constant click-clack can get to be quite annoying in a quiet area of a song. The second car I tried the unit had the same A-B switching problem, with drops in volume that corresponded with the switching. Obviously the head on this deck moves when the deck switches from one side of a tape to the other. I did find a couple of decks that the unit worked correctly in. Seems that it's about a 50/50 chance you won't need a tape style adapter to plug into your tape deck. I tried the unit in a couple of different home stereo units and am happy to report that I had absolutely no problems with the unit playing in them. Even in a small boombox I was able to get very good sound. The sound reproduced is noticeably better when played in a car or home stereo, or even in the small boombox. That shows the limitations of a set of ear-bud phones. The sound is great when used with a high quality set of normal headphones.

So at this point I'm sure you are wondering how you are supposed to switch songs when the unit is inserted in a tape deck. You simply use the normal controls on the deck to make your selections. I'm sure this explains the REW and FF naming convention on the unit rather than NEXT or LAST. Battery life was great, especially considering I kept playing with the unit on a less than full charge when I first pulled it out of the box. The little kid in me couldn't wait 3 hours for the battery to charge before I started playing with it.

Conclusions:

This is a great MP3 player. The combination of 32 MB of memory with the size of an audiocassette make this a very appealing player for someone who moves in out of a car all the time. I liked having the tiny unit in my pocket while on the go and then being able to put it in the car's tape deck when I wanted to hear my MP3's on the road. I eventually got over the A-B switching problem by using a tape-style adapter designed for portable CD players. Decks that aren't so sensitive to switching between sides will work great with this unit in its as delivered state.

The transfer software for the unit is very easy to use. I noticed at Rome's site that they are working with MP3 software publishers to add support for this unit within those programs. I look forward to being able to move files from within Real Jukebox and skipping the need for the transfer software altogether. Larger MP3 players have LCD screens to display the artist and track info and more memory. Those are nice features, but I was more than willing to give those features up for the tape adaptability of this unit.

I would have liked to have more memory in the unit. You can't add more, but Rome will be selling a 64-MB version at their site soon. I don't have pricing for the 64-MB version, but at $199 I think the 32-MB version is great for someone on the go that would like the unique tapedeck adaptability of this unit.

Victor Oshiro
00/05/23






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