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The Rome MP3 Player (32Mb Version)

What a year it's been for MP3s. A few months ago the RIO was the only commonly available player with the Nomad just a glimmer in Mama Silicon's eye. Such a short time later and we now find more MP3 options than we know what to do with. While most people are looking for the maximum memory to store their music I wanted something that was ultra portable, and if possible, didn't need any special adapters to work in the car.

The product
  • Small form factor
  • 32 MB memory
  • Can be played in a regular tape deck
  • 7 Hr. battery - recharger included
  • 5 distinct EQ presets
  • 2.2 oz. With battery
  • Requires Win9x for the transfer software


(+,-) $200USD

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A device like the RIO and Nomad will work great in a car with a cassette tape adapter, but that's just one more thing for me to have to carry around. I started looking around and came across with the ROME MP3. Rome sells them at their website for $199, so I was intrigued how this unit compared with what is available in the retail outlets. What drew me to the unit initially was its small size and the fact that it supposed to work within a car or home tape deck. When the mailman showed up at the door with the box I was very impressed once I pulled the unit out. The Rome MP3 player is the size of an audiocassette tape.

How does it work?

Once I slipped the Rome MP3 player out of the box I was surprised that it actually does weight the same amount as a regular audiotape. Then I noticed that the battery is not inserted. The battery doubled the weight of the unit - which brought it up to a whopping 2.2 oz. This was everything I was looking for! Included with the unit is the cable that hooks up to a computer printer port, a CD with Rome's MP3 transfer program, the battery, a set if ear-bud style headphones, and a charger to drop the battery into. A nice bonus with the software CD: Rome included an MP3 player and a demo version MP3 Ripper program. While it didn't pull me away from my normal MP3 software it's nice to see a manufacturer who realizes that the software included with a product needs to be complete. Speaking of complete, the included manual is one of the best I've seen in a long time. It is almost ridiculous because it lists every step to install the software. Its nice to know I could give this thing to someone who has never installed a program and know that they should be able to install the software without any problems.

Rome's transfer software is very easy to use. You get a split plane view, the top being the MP3's on your harddrive and the bottom being the songs currently loaded on the unit. Just below that is a status line that shows how many MB's are installed and how many MB's are still available. Simple and it works great. One thing that I liked about this layout is that I could take files off someone else's Rome player, transfer them to my HD, and even move them to my Rome player all from the same interface. A small quirk: songs need to have their title and artist next to each other. If the song lists the album title in the middle it will be assumed that is the title. I kept getting overwrite prompts when I knew that I was installing different songs. I simply would rename the songs from within the transfer program to make sure that the album title was no longer mistaken for the track title.

The buttons on the unit are all sturdy. On the front of the unit (if it was inserted in a car tape deck) has an intro, menu, EQ, A-B, repeat, and random buttons. Intro will play the first 10-secs of every song on the unit. Menu was planned to interface with an optional LCD display that is currently not available. The EQ button allows you to pick through 5 presets: normal, no EQ, classic, jazz, and rock/pop. These different EQ settings are al very distinct so I had no trouble with selecting a setting that I liked with different genres of music. The A-B button moves a song about 5 secs. back. There is a small LED included on the unit that informs you if the unit is playing, off, or has a low battery. You have to study the Morse-code style output in the manual the first time but they are so different from each other no one I showed the unit to had problems understanding the LED blinking. One problem that popped up was that these buttons are not easily accessible in tape decks where the unit drops down after it is inserted in the deck. I had to use a pen to reach the buttons on this area of the player once inserted in the deck.

If the unit is in a car deck the other buttons on the unit would be on the left side of the "tape". They are VOL+, VOL -, hold, stop, REW, FF, and play. REW and FF are designed to allow you to move forward and backward from song to song and don't actually allow you to move to different areas in a song. The hold button deactivates the other buttons on the unit in case you are carrying the unit in a pocket or a bag. Press the hold button again and the other buttons are activated again.


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