MP3-players are selling as never before and soon ”everyone” has one. One reason is today you may get a reasonable player below the $150 mark. But I believe there’s an ever bigger factor playing around here – the evolution of MP3-players. Enormous amounts of disk space and innovative features makes them a ”must-have”, something manufacturers have understood and which we clearly saw in the second quarter of 2004.

MP3-players are selling as never before and soon "everyone"

has one. One reason is today you may get a reasonable player below the 1000

SEK mark. But I believe there’s an ever bigger factor playing around here – the

evolution of MP3-players. Enormous amounts of disk space and innovative features

makes them a "must-have", something manufacturers have understood

and which we clearly saw in the second quarter of 2004. The thing that happened

to color display phones in 2003 is about to influence the MP3-player area, and

to be at the brink of technology’s edge you got to have one, no matter the price.

And the exposition is progressing at tremendous velocity. An MP3-player isn’t

just a player anymore, it’s now possible to record audio, enjoy radio listening

and nowadays even base it digitally. Furthermore, sound format support have also

been enhanced to support even OGG,WMA and ASF.

NordicHardware haven’t overlooked this and assists the world’s innovators with

our deep digging and in-depth reviews, so we got our hands on the most cheeky

MP3-players found to date. We, the editorial staff, have chosen players which

are a bit more expensive than average, between 2000 and 3000 SEK. This is a

very popular and spending powered segment and it’s here we find the most cheesy

players sporting a lot of functions to catch the eye. The only demand we had

was that the players should be based upon flash memory not hard drives. The great

advantage these kind of players have is that the weight and physical size can

be held at a minimum, though they’re not comparable to the hard drive-based in

the matter of storing space.

You can find NordicHardware’s MP3-player roundup at the following pages.


iRiver are well renowned on the rigid MP3-market and the familiar

triangular iRiver-look is represented also with their iFP-1090. It’s the test’s

most expensive player, but also the most outstanding, it’s the first player

in Sweden with a camera and color display. The box seems to contain a lot of

interesting stuff, so just keep scrolling to find out what’s hiding in this

rather heavy dark-blue box.

Specifications:

iRiver 1090

Supported formats MP3, OGG, WMA and ASF
Memory 256 MB
Price per MB 11.72 Kr
Display type 1.2 inch with 260 000 colors,

LPTS (LowTemperaturePolySilicon)

Battery Removable Li-ion-battery,

3.7V

Battery life: (given by manufacturer)

35 Hours on vol 20, equalizer

off

Features: – Radio

– MP3-player

– Voice recorder

– Camera

– Photo album

Frequency range 20Hz – 20 kHz
Output power: 18mW per channel (16 Ohm)

12mW per channel (32 Ohm)

Size: (WxHxD) 91.1 mm x 31.3 mm x 34 mm
Weight: 63 Grams, including battery

Price:

MSRP: 3000 kr (Exchange rates)

The specifications are a true delight. A color display combined

with a high output power and an excellent battery life will make any multimedia

reviewer shed tears of joy. The removable battery is good if one wants to replace

it, or purchase back-ups for a long trip etc. It’s not exactly cheap, it’s the

most expensive player tested, even when compared to how many megabytes you get

for your money, it tops the list. The unit’s weight and size are nothing to

complain about, it will easily hang around your neck or fit in your shirt pocket.

iRiver claims that the battery will make the iFP-1090 last an amazing

35 hours before it dies, if run at volume 20 (40 is max). Is this just an empty

promise, or can one really keep the iFP-1090 on for almost a day and a half?

I spent a whole weekend testing it and rounded to about 32 hours before the

battery was empty. But I also used the camera a lot, and everyone I ran into

naturally wanted to have a look at the first MP3-player with a color display.

If you stick to music only, then 35 hours is definitely not impossible.

For those of you who think 256 MB isn’t enough, the iFP-1090 has

a big brother with 512 MB of memory that looks very similar, except for the

color and the name. It’s called the iFP-1095 and is champagne colored which,

in my opinion, is a little nicer and sleeker, but that’s up to the individual

user to decide.

What’s in the box?

As I mentioned

earlier, the box seems to be very well filled to say the least, it has a heavy

weight and it will be exciting to see what’s hiding inside the box. Is it just

bricks, or is there something actually useful inside?

Contents:
– Player

– Headphones

– Covers for the headphones

– USB-cable

– Travel charger

– Case

– Neck strap

– Wrist strap

– Three manuals

– Installation CD, 8cm

As you can see,

there were no bricks to be found, but a complete set of accessories with basically

everything one could wish for. Most of the weight was added by the three hefty

manuals included. The smallest manual (121 pages) contains a short guide to

getting started and is written in all of 15 different european languages, including

Swedish. One of the thicker manuals contains the guide for iRiver’s music software,

the last manual gives a more detailed view of the player and describes the player,

and how it is operated, in more depth. The manuals are really well done, with

a plethora of nice illustrations of the player, how one navigates through specific

functions and everything else worth knowing. I can’t other than give the highest

score for the manuals.

In the upper right

corner you see a strap that attaches to the arm. It’s meant for the sporty person

that either works out at the gym or runs. The irony lies in the fact that if

one goes to the gym too often, the player will not be able to be worn, since

the strap only will accommodate an arm smaller than 40 cm. I therefore hired

a stunt double to test the strap, since I myself spend way too much time in

the gym. According to my stunt double, the strap is very comfortable, can be

adjusted for smaller arms, and works like a belt with holes and a pin that locks

into place. The strap-material is a combination of flexible neoprene, tough leather,

comfy cotton stuffing, and a soft plastic one attaches the player on with two

buttons. ???????????!!!!!!!!!!!

The included case

is made of genuine plastic and doesn’t feel all too luxurious. It could just

as easily have come with an MP3-Player for less than 1000 SEK. One closes the

case with two sturdy buttons on the back and there are holes for all the player’s

buttons so one doesn’t have to take the case off in order to access the most

frequented functions. On the back side you will find a clip that attaches to

the strap for frail people or possibly even for your belt if it’s not thicker

than 45mm. Overall a pretty bad case, one that doesn’t fit an MP3-player of

such a caliber.

Two different straps

for the neck are included with this MP3-player, the first one is a very simple

construction consisting of a regular black string with a small snap-on clip

at the end which holds the cord and reduces the tangling. The second strap we

received is an original accessory that regularly costs about 125 SEK, but iRiverNordic

includes this accessory with every iFP-1090. It is of a much higher quality

than the other strap, made of a stronger material, and with iRiver’s logo printed

on a reflective surface. In other words, one is visible at night when wearing

this strap. At the very end of the lock is a ring with two tiny carabineer key chains,

perfect for when one doesn’t want to mess with the ring to hang keys there.

However , I have no idea why anyone would want to hang their keys next to the

player, you might as well drag the player through some gravel. Aside from that,

it’s a very good strap and I used it when I tried the player outside.

Last but not least

we have the charger and USB cable. The travel charger is almost always an optional

accessory that requires a separate purchase, but iRiver goes all out and includes

this in the box. It’s basically a regular transformer, but at the edge they’ve

placed a small USB connector. One charges the player through the USB port, and

that’s an excellent solution in my opinion. It takes about three hours to fully

charge the battery from a complete drain. The USB cable needs no introduction,

it’s a normal gray cable with a large connector on one end for the computer,

and a smaller one on the other end for the iFP-1090.

Headphones:

At first sight

the iRiver’s headphones don’t look very spectacular, they look like your average

pair of ear buds. But upon further inspection one will find something to make

audiophiles raise an eyebrow, namely Sennheiser’s logo. Sennheiser has probably

done the best job when it comes to headphones, but their price usually doesn’t

suit everyone. At the price this player runs it’s not strange that they include

name brand phones that probably match the player overall.

Specifications:

iRiver-1090: Headphones

Frequency range: 18 – 20 000 Hz
THD: (Total Harmonic Distortion) 1 %
SPL: (Sound Pressure Level) 125 dB
Cord length: ~1 meter
Impedance: 32 Ohm

This model is readily

available in the stores, so they’re not specially designed phones for iRiver

only. For those who are interested, this model bears the name Sennheiser MX400

and costs about 200 Kr. The first thing I noticed was that they’re very small,

very short and look discrete when they’ve been placed in the ears. They are

molded completely in plastic, not surprising since the weight needs to be kept

down. The comfort is adequate but they’re not as comfortable as iAudio’s phones,

they can irritate a bit since the part that sits in the ear is completely symmetric

and don’t form to the ear. But they do sit still and don’t fall ut. The included

covers are easily attached, but also fall off easily, more than once, the covers

remained in the ear when I removed the phones. One doesn’t always notice this

and it’s not too much fun to run around town with a piece of sponge in the ear,

I went to bed alone that night. The covers help to enlarge and soften the phones

a bit, which made the phones fill out more and fit snuggly. The cable is designed

with a longer cord to one phone so it can be wrapped around your neck and then

be place in your ear. I believe this is the best solution since it takes away

that cable hanging around your neck, and it looks much more discrete when you

can hide it behind the neck.

The most important

thing is of course the sound itself. Sennheiser has really performed here and

created phones with just the right amount of everything. The Bass is acceptable

and the higher frequencies get a higher score. Not as good as iAudio’s phones,

but the MX400’s aren’t very far behind. There’s no problem with volume, the

distortion is only apparent at the five highest settings. This will naturally

vary depending on the type of music played, but some half-way heavy metal shouldn’t

be a problem. Not our best score, but silver is definitely a fair score.

That’s everything

worth knowing about the accessories, on the following pages we’ll do a more

in-depth investigation of the player itself.


iFP-1090 has the classical triangular shape that can be found in

the previous models. The upside of this shape is that you can fit a lot of stuff

in the player, which we can se in the camera, color display and large battery

in a still quite petite player. The downside is that the player is slightly

protruding, and if you carry it under your shirt, an ugly bulge will appear,

no points for good looks in either the shirt pocket or pants. Still, it’s fun

having a product that sticks out from the crowd of otherwise flat and character-less

players.

If we start with the front side (if you can call it that) we’ll find

the spectacular display that will be discussed later on. On its right we find

a small silver joystick. It has five different push combinations, and if you

move it upwards it’ll either adjust the volume or scroll the menus, depending

on what mode you’re in. A vertical movement will select the next track or fast

forward (or reverse) if pressed for a longer time. The joystick can also be

pressed down, and if you hold it down you’ll see a list of all the songs available,

if you keep holding it you end up in the menu where all the settings can be

accessed.

Above the display are three small round buttons that all have an

important function. The one closest to the camera lens controls the power to

the player and also start/stop when in MP3-mode. The middle buttons switches

play-back modes; shuffle, repeat, or intro are some of the modes. If you hold

the button pressed you can change the equalizer settings. The third (and last)

button is used to switch between radio, camera, album, MP3, and dictaphone.

All buttons have two positions, a normal press, and a press-and-hold.

The other side has the hold-button and a swivel that enables a strap

to rotate freely. On the back-side you’ll find the battery and a small hole

for the camera. The left end is the most interesting. Except for the tiny USB

and phone-out connections, there’s a small turn able gadget, I’m talking about

the camera of course. The camera i housed in the 1-cm long stump that can be

pulled out of the player so you can take self-portraits and see the display

at the same time. It can be rotated 180 degrees. Exactly how the camera works

will be discussed later. The small hole on the back side enables the user to

take pictures without pulling the camera housing out, in case you want to be

discrete. The only negative thing with the turn able camera housing is the susceptibility

to dirt through the crack between the camera and the player. If sand were to

get in there, it would ruin the lens, and you could kiss the camera good bye.

But if you’re careful and mind where put the player, there shouldn’t be any

trouble .

The iFP-1090 feels altogether well thought-through with all the buttons

in the right place, and it can be operated with just hand. The quality is all-over

very good and the buttons have the right hardness and tactile feel. The nice

chromed sides will of course get oily, but they can be cleaned by just wiping

them, just rub them with your shirt. The same goes for the display. It’s a fingerprint

magnet, but it’s easily cleaned.

The color display is a knockout, this kind of display just isn’t

normal on a flash player. It’s an LCD screen with 260 000 colors and supports

40 different languages. You could compare it to a mobile phone display which

will have between 4096 and 65000 colors. So the iFP-1090 really has a nice screen.

It’s also very bright and probably uses up a lot of battery power, but it can

be turned off completely so there shouldn’t be any problems. It’s very sharp,

in my opinion, and has a very nice blue color theme that looks like Windows

XP. The layout of the display and the menus will be covered on the next page.

I’m thinking similar displays will be popping up on most of the MP3 players

in the coming years. As you might understand, this display rakes in all the

points possible in this round-up, it is, after all, the first player with a

color display.

Conclusion:

Overall, the

design is clever, and there are no problems controlling the iFP-1090 with just

one hand. It’s nice to have only three buttons and one joystick to keep track

of. The player has great quality, and there are no suspicious glitches or bad

choices of material, all the buttons feel genuine. The display is the best I’ve

ever seen on an MP3 player, and if that’s not enough, it’s also very bright.


In order to be comfortable with one’s MP3-player and not get bored

with it right away, a good menu system is required, and iRiver has put a lot of work

into this. The player is turned on with a light press on the Play button,

and the chosen splash screen is displayed. You can use a picture taken with

the camera or a .jpg image from the computer. Pressing Play again takes you

to the MP3-mode and the songs begin to play with a nice fade-in. A longer

press on the Mode button will take you to the menu where you can choose between

the main functions MP3, Radio, Record, Camera, and Album. In other words, you

don’t have to go deep into the menus to switch between functions.

The other menu can be reached by holding the joystick pressed for

a few seconds. There you will find all the settings, and there are quite a few.

Advanced equalizer settings are mixed with the contrast settings etc. Those

who like to adjust their players into infinity will be well-pleased, there are

settings galore. If you press the joystick once you’ll get a list of the songs

stored on the player. It shows a maximum of six songs per page, which gives

a superb overview and you don’t have to search forever to find the right song.

The MP3-mode has a lot to offer. The graphical equalizer looks sleek,

but offers more eye-appeal than actual usage, it’s a little slow, and it will

lag when the playing gets tough. You can choose between a bar graph and a line

(like an EKG monitor) to represent the settings. The time in the top corner

is a nice feature I miss with many other players and, not requiring much circuitry,

it should be a standard feature on all MP3-players. Then we have the regular

information in the top part of the display; the volume, bit-rate and media type.

The song/artist info scrolls by on the bottom part, while the folder info is

right above that.

The Radio part works like any radio should. Stations are easy to

save, and the reception is adequate. It’s nothing compared to my car’s system,

but as long as you stay in town and don’t venture out into the suburbs you should

be fine. The recording mode works very well also, and the results are as good

as one can expect from such a small microphone. It’ll work just fine for a board

meeting or presentation. Moving your newly recorded files to your computer is

also a breeze with the included software.

Software

iRiver iFP-1090 ”suffers” from having to have a special program for

transferring songs. In this case, however, it’s a really good program that has

substantially more features than Windows Explorer. You can for example edit

the ID3 tags straight through the software, and format the whole player with

just one button. The draw-back is of course that you have to have the software

installed on the machine you have the music on. iRiver has gone one step further

by not allowing copying from the player to your computer, the songs must simply

be deleted, everything to stop illegal distributing of copy protected material.

The program is called iRiverMusicManager (IMM) and requires 11.1 MB free space

on your hard drive.

iRiver has, however, released a firmware upgrade that enables file

handling without the supplied software. This way you can copy music from the

player to your computer. This firmware reduces the transmission speed a bit.

When this review is published, iRiver should have the upgrade available for

download on its site.

There’s only one thing left on the iFP-1090 and that is of course

the most unique function. I’m naturally talking about the camera, and the whole

next page is dedicated to it.


It’s really a big step in evolution to integrate a camera in a MP3 player. In this case we’re talking about a 0.3 mega pixel camera module with a maximum picture resolution of 640*480 pixels. This is in comparison with any camera integrated in mobile phones. Picture quality isn’t something I’ll talk much about as it’s up to each and everyone to make their own judgment based on the many test pictures I’ve taken. The camera is sufficient as a party camera or for spontaneously taking a picture of that foxy lady passing by on the street.

When looking at the camera part there are a lot of nice and useful features. You’re able to mirror the image and add filters such as monochrome, sepia (brown filter), inverted and over exposed. As if that wasn’t enough there are different settings for when you’re indoors or outdoors and it’s also possible to determine the luminance of the picture. There’s also a digital zoom function but I recommend against using it as it really slows down the player and on the highest zoom level it takes almost a second to update the screen which is way too long to be bearable and makes it close to impossible to take pictures.

As you can see to the right there’s a nice album function so you can watch all your photos in the MP3 player and naturally you can watch pictures that were not taken by the camera as well but copied from a computer.

There’s obviously a very shifting picture quality and the motherboard was photographed in bad lighting conditions and the details disappear pretty badly. The other pictures are taken with better lighting conditions and are clearly better but far from top quality. A lot of pixel noise is present but what could you expect from a 0.3 mega pixel camera? I’ve applied the inverted filter built in to the camera on the processor in the far down right and if anybody ever figure out what to use that for please tell me so. Please note that all these pictures are taken quite spontaneously on different places and occasions, nothing else except for the MP3 player was used, no stand or extra lighting, just my shaky hand.

That’s all that iRiver had to offer, now it’s time for another popular MP3 player that has been one of the best selling during the late spring. But is it worth being so popular? NordicHardware has the answer, time for the iAUDIO4.


iAUDIO4 has sold very well this year, and it’s been praised by most

reviewers. But the real question is if it can stand up against the new wave

of MP3-players that’s arrived. This is the old-timer of the bunch since it’s

been on the market and has already made a name for itself. So it’ll be exciting

to see if this player will fair well against the others, or everyone else is

wrong and I thinks it’s a loser. Let’s find out.

Specifications:

iAUDIO4

Formats supported MP3, WMA, ASF and WAV
Memory 256 MB
SEK per MB 7.80 Kr
Type of display 128*64 pixel display with

124 different colors

Battery type 1 AAA 1.5 volt
Battery life: (given by manufacturer)

15 hours
Functions: – Radio

– MP3-player

– Dictaphone

– Line-In (recording from sound source)

Frequency range 20Hz – 20kHz
Output power: 13mW per channel (16 Ohm)
Size: (WxHxD) 75mm, 17mm, 32mm
Weight: 33 Grams, w/o battery

Price:

MSRP: 2000 SEK (Exchange rates)

The specifications aren’t that great, the only thing that’s makes

it stick out from the crowd is the colorful display, more on that later. Some

people might not like the lack of support for OGG vorbis, but I’ve personally

never used it for anything but to try it out. MP3 works fine for me, I haven’t

felt the urge to switch. The cost per MB is reasonable and it’s the smallest

player in the test. The weight is slightly less than the others also. The Line

In function is good for recording a radio program digitally and you don’t want

to mess with tape recorders or other ancient equipment. You can also record

songs from your friends MP3-player. Just don’t spread it, since that would be

copy write infringements and you could end up behind bars or getting slapped

with a ticket.

The battery life is rather good considering the single AAA battery

powering the unit. I haven’t done any scientific tests on the battery because

it’s just too boring and time consuming. I did however do some calculations

and figured out that the player was on for about 13.5 hours before it gave up

completely. During that time I used the power-hungry disco display function

to show some people, so 15 hours isn’t impossible. Please not that I use high-quality

Duracell Ultra M3 batteries, you may lose a couple hours depending on your choice

of batteries.

iAUDIO4 comes with four different memory choices; 128, 256, 512

and 1024 MB. I had the 256 MB version. They’re all identical except for the

color that can be either black or the, in my opinion, better-looking silverish

color.

What’s in the box?

iAUDIO4 has, just

like the previous player, a pretty heavy box, and that would indicate a nice

accessory pack.

Contents:
– Player

– Head phones

– USB cable

– USB connector

– Line-In cable

– Canvas bag

– Neck strap

– A manual

– Install disc

The were no extraordinary

things that came with the iAUDIO4, just the most basic equipment. The included

manual is really thick and has a lot of good stuff that’s easy to read. It’s

in three languages, English, Spanish, and German. It definitely passes. The

Line In cable is good to have when you want to record from some other source.

A length of about 150 cm is great, and it has regular 3.5mm connectors in both

ends. The little USB-connector in the middle is great, you don’t have to have

a cable when you want to transfer files from another computer. It lets you plug

the player directly into the computer’s standard USB-port.

The neck strap

that’s included isn’t anything worth mentioning. A plastic coated chain with

a tacky lock doesn’t feel very luxurious. Still, it’s a clever attachment device

which lets you easily remove the player if you don’t want id hanging around

your neck. The company will definitely have to come up with a better strap for

it’s next release.

The bag, however,

is really good. A real canvas bag that’s form fitted and looks good. The gray

bag is attached with a small lock on the back-side and you can access all buttons

and control wen using the bag , even the microphone. There’s a clip on the back

for a belt, and the display is protected by a thick silicon plastic that won’t

break easily. Simply a great bag.

The included USB

cable differs from the others in that it’s transparent, and goes well with my

otherwise cool computer. One meter is plenty of cable.

Head phones:

Specifications:

iAUDIO4 Head phones

Frequency range:
THD: (Total Harmonic Distortion)

SPL: (Sound Pressure Level)
Cord length: ~1 meter
Impedance: 16 Ohm

The included head

phones have a peculiar look, it’s hard to describe but they are higher that

usual for starters. The main body doesn’t actually touch the ear, but rests

a bit away from it. For me it feels perfect, but those with a differently shaped

ear will probably not like it since they’ll probably fall out easier. They’re

not symmetric, the round part is slightly larger on one side, which is give

good ergonomics if you ask me. As you can see in the picture, there are three

large openings in the protective rubber which I found not to disturb the sound

at all. It’s nice to have the rubber keep the cold steel away from the skin.

I can’t really find any draw-backs with these phones regarding the ergonomics,

except that they stand out slightly more than others, they just aren’t as slim.

Unfortunately,

I haven’t been able to find any information on the phones, but the name is at

least AXE2.

The sound quality

is actually really good. They’re not a brand name, the company is called Cresyn,

and to be honest, I had never heard of it before, until I received the iAUDIO.

As I said before, the sound is really good, and surprisingly powerful for such

small phones. The special (and comfortable) shape makes a very good seal, which

gives a little more support to the lower frequencies. The BASS reproduction

is exceptional, in other words.


First of all I have to mention that the iAUDIO4 is the test’s smallest

player, a priority for some, but I think all the players are sufficiently small-

Perhaps the iRIVER is slightly obtrusive. When everything needs to be made very

small, it becomes increasingly difficult to squeeze the technology into an enclosure

and at the same time place the buttons in an intelligent way. We’ll have to

see if Conwon succeeded in doing this with its iAUDIO4.

There isn’t much on the front side, just the multi-colored display,

an iAUDIO label, the aluminum frame that comes in two colors, and a tiny hole

for the microphone. All the buttons on are on the sides of the player, and since

the buttons are small and discrete, the player altogether looks clean and stylish.

There are three buttons on top; Play/Pause, Mode, and Record. They’re

very small but aren’t difficult to find or push. On the end you’ll find the

Hold-button, which locks all other buttons so you don’t press them by mistake

when the player’s in your pocket. Every MP3-player should have a button like

this, it’s more of a necessity than just a commodity. The Skip-button surrounds

the Play-button. With it you either advance songs, or fast forward/reverse by

holding it down. The button is activated by simply tilting it to either side.

There are only two buttons on the bottom; a regular button for accessing

the menu, and yet another tilt-button for controlling the volume.

One short-side houses two 3.5mm jacks. One is for your head phones,

and the other is for Line In. It can be easy to mix the two up at first, but

you quickly learn to distinguish the two (unless you of course look at the tiny

icons below each jack). You can attach a strap to the metal bar that sits next

to the audio jacks. Not the easiest task, but with a little patience and luck

you can manage to get the string through the hole.

One especially irritating aspect is the battery lid. It’s very easy

to lose, since you have to remove it every time you plug the player into your

computer. It disappears in all the junk on my desk every time I take it off.

I don’t understand why it covers the USB connector, it’s not terribly ugly.

I think Conwon should have designed a lid that’s permanently attached to the

player since you have to take if off a thousand times every day when downloading

songs or changing batteries.

The box boasts a stylish and exclusive aluminum casing… I’m still

looking for it. They may be alluding to the aluminum frame, but to call it exclusive

and stylish takes the meaning out of the words "style" and "exclusivity".

It might help if it were polished, it would at least resemble aluminum. It does,

in some way, add a sense of robustness instead of using plastic.

The screen on the iAUDIO is a little special. Besides having a pretty

high resolution, you can change the back light in 124 individual steps. There

are three bars with four steps in each. Every combination produces a unique

color. I personally like the dark, colorful, and solid colors myself, i.e. you

take one bar to the max and leave the others alone. That gives you all of three

different colors; red, green, and blue. All the other colors are dull, but there’s

always someone that’ll appreciate them. The contrast is till sharp though, and

with 124 different colors you can personalize your player a bit.

Conclusion:

The tiny dimensions

don’t allow for any extras on the iAUDIO4, but the player is, on the whole,

a nicely designed player with a a few flaws, such as the battery lid, and

the not-so-flashy aluminum frame around the player. The display is sharp and

has a high resolution. The many colors is a welcomed feature, even though most

colors just look washed out, and don’t really fulfill their function.


iAUDIO4, as you know, has an oblong display, which can have a variety

of different colors. The displays large size should contribute to an easily

navigated menu since you can fit several characters on it. The player turns

on by a press on the Play-button and you see a splash screen with a dancing

figure and a frantically blinking display. A second press will skip the intro

and start playing the song immediately. When in the MP3-mode, you can press

the Menu-button on the bottom and access the play list (press-and-hold) or go

straight to the menu (quick press).

The menu has a lot of interesting things. JetEffect is the first

thing to pop up. It is the name of the collection of excellent equalizer-settings

on this player. First, we find a regular five-band equalizer with presets for

various music styles, and you can of course store you own setting also. Below

the JetEffect are the so-called BBE-effects that can clean up the sound from

a compressed file, and it actually works pretty well. Mach3Bass enhances the,

as the name alludes, lower frequencies, and even it works very well. The sound

doesn’t end up so "artificial" as with many other players. And as

if that weren’t enough, ConWon has also implemented MP enhance which "re-builds"

the digital sound files to their original state, or at least it tries. The process

works somewhat, some songs end up sounding strange, while most of them end up

sounding a little better. There’s even a 3D surround effects alternative. I’ll

spend a little more time on iAUDI4’s equalizer, since it, combined with the

superb head phones, gives a great audio experience, definitely the best in this

test.

There are several more settings in the menu to mess around with.

The display has received a little more attention when it comes to controllability.

You can also configure the lay-out of the display really well also, everything

from the speed of the fast fwd/rev, to to showing how much remains of the song

instead of how much has been played so far. All the settings exist that you

could ever need, even the least important like checking the battery voltage.

The other functions – Line In, Voice recording, and FM radio – are

reached by a small click on the Mode-button. If we start with the radio, it’s

very easy to use, you just can’t misunderstand it. 20 station pre-sets is a

nice feature. You can even record anything playing at the moment. The Line-In

recording works just as easily, you simply press the Record-button and off you

go. Voice recording works just like Line-In, and quality is excellent, no trouble

recording a conversation to be heard later at home on a bigger system.

Software

iAUDIO4is delivered with two different programs on a disc. The first

one is JetShell which is a standard program for transferring files to the player.

It’s a simple program that looks very much like the Windows Explorer. You have

a little better overview, and there’s a small integrated media player at the

top. It also has good tools for changing the bit rate and file type as well.

A sound program that’s fast, and easy to learn, since most people already know

how to navigate Explorer.

The other program is a very advanced media player that can handle

all types of media. It’s also a great karaoke machine. The program is fast,

and you can have music playing quickly in spite of the many buttons. It’s not

good with overviews though, and may songs will slow it down considerably. In

any case, it has several settings of useful, and not do useful functions. New

skins are available for downloading on the Internet if you’re looking for a

more individual style JetAudio. But I’m still not convinced enough to switch

from the over mighty Foobar.

Jens Of Sweden has released a new player that’s investigated on

the following three pages.


Jens of Sweden is a well known brand here in Sweden and their MP-100(MP-110) is one of the most sold players for the last and preceding year, the iPod of flashplayers you could say. This is the company’s third player and the second wasn’t the success they had hoped for, it was ugly and then they had to remove the FM transmitting module due to Swedish laws. JoS hopes this new tiny and gorgeous player will make them kings of flashplayers again.

Specifications:

Jens of Sweden MP-130

Music support MP3, WMA, ASF and OGG

Memory 256 MB
Price per MB 8,20 SEK
Display Two color OLED
Battery Built in, 520 mAh
Battery time: (according to manufacturer)

18 hours

Functions: – Radio

– MP3-player

– Dictaphone

– Line-in (recording from sound source)

– OLED display (Organic Light- Emitting Diode)

Frequency range: 20Hz – 20 KHz
Output: 13mW per channel (16 Ohm)
Size: (WxHxD) 79,5 mm x 15 mm x 31

mm

Weight: 42 Gram

Price:

Recommended price: 2100 SEK (Exchange rates)

The specifications aren’t exactly extraordinary, small and light is at least one thing we’re sure of. OGG-support is good, but perhaps not something that will affect the final judgment, I don’t really have any reasons to abandon MP3 and switch to OGG. It’s suppose to improve sound quality, but I can’t say it’s enough to switch from the well established MP3.

The battery time is ok and with a fresh battery it’s suppose to go a full 18 hours, and it does. As with the earlier players I haven’t done a super exact test with a stop watch but used it as a normal person would, switch from song sometimes, move around between different equalizer settings and brag about it to other people. With regular use I managed to reach about 16 and a half hour, more than acceptable since Jens of Sweden probably measured the battery time without using the screen at all.

The output isn’t extraordinary, but size doesn’t matter as the old saying goes, we’ll see how it passes the power output test later on. The display is probably something many people will focus on when looking at the MP-130, which isn’t completely unjustified since an OLED-display is really beautiful, at least considering it’s mirror effect. This technology has been hyped quite a lot lately and the thought is that OLED is suppose to replace the aged LCD-technology. In general OLED consumes less power than LCD since no background lighting is needed. Except from that they are cheap and easy to make and there are no problems with viewing them from the side without colors being distorted and/or inverted.

MP-130 is available in two sizes except 256 MB, 128MB costs about 500 SEK less than 256MB and the big 512MB costs right now 2700 SEK.

What’s in the pipe?

The small aluminum pipe doesn’t bode well for a big set of accessories.

Content:
– Player

– Headphones built into the neck tie

– USB-jojo

– Line In-cable

– A ”checklist”

As you can see MP-130 doesn’t have a lot of accessories. If we start with the Line In-cable it’s a simple cable with a 3.5mm-connector in both ends and the length is about a meter, no need to discuss this any further. The neat USB-jojo that comes along is really convenient and other manufacturers should definitely follow JoS example. Except from taking up less space in the pocket the cord can’t tangle, a perfect complement to the built in USB-connector when you have a USB-port on the front of the case.

The neck tie is made of cloth and feels good against you skin. The attachment to the player is a little loop that is attached through a hoop on the players top. The special with this neck tie is that the headphones are attached to it, they can in other words not be used without using the neck tie. Clever move if you use the headphones that comes with the player but not so clever if you want to upgrade but still use the neck tie, you can of course have have the old hang there, but how good looking is that? You can remove the player without loosening the tie, there is a snap lock at the end of it.

The ”manual”that comes with the player is a simple folded paper with the basic ”how to get started ”-instructions. No pictures or anything else that might ease the eyes but plain text, not much to send along, but the aluminum pipe is pretty crammed as it is. The real manual can be downloaded from the homepage where you can also find software and firmware updates for your MP-130.

Headphones:

As mentioned above the headphones are attached, or smashed together with, the neck tie, there isn’t a chance in hell you can reach you pocket no matter how tiny you are. It’s 40cm of cord we’re dealing with here.

Specifications:

Jens of Sweden MP-130

Frequency range :
THD: (Total Harmonic Distortion)
SPL: (Sound Pressure Level)
Cord length: ~40 cm
Impedance: 16 Ohm

Recognize the headphones? It’s no illusion but the same type that mobiBLU DAH-900 uses, that I reviewed earlier this year. They fit nicely and doesn’t chafe or anything. No cushions though, but they are still comfortable. The length if the cord to the neck tie itself is about 20cm, which is just about right.

The sound is descent, they aren’t the worst but not the best. Average in other words. The sound is clear and nice, but there is no real bass, the treble is ok, but nothing to cheer about. If you want to experience the max of your new mp3 player a new set of headphones would help.


The MP-130 isn’t big, it’s one of the first things we

notice. It’s almost identical in size with iAUDIO4. Jens Of Sweden’s

goal with this player is probably to create a stylistically pure and elegant

machine that any one with some taste for fashion could buy. But that remains

to be seen.

The front doesn’t have many buttons at all, only a joystick that have five

different modes. Besides the normal left/right, up/down, you can also push it

down and get a menu and register over all songs stored in the memory. Although where

you expect to find the display you find a mirror. But where is the display

then? Well, it’s under this mirror and how it works you can read about

further down.

The three silver buttons on the side above the display are small but stands

out a little so you can find them in darkness. The Hold-switch is pulled to

the right to lock the buttons and it is also pretty small. They have overall

good finish and feeling.

On the upper side there are three interesting things. First we have the obvious

socket for headphones and beside it we find the smaller socket for the Line

In-cable. Why they have chosen not to use standard 3.5 mm sockets is a mystery

to me. Probably it is to prevent people form plugging the headphones in the

wrong socket, unnecessary since you have to use Jens Of Sweden’s own

cable to use the Line In feature.

Between these sockets are a little triangular steel profile that you can tie

your key chain/necklace in, stable and good.

The solution for the USB-plug is one of the best I have ever seen. For once

you don’t need to bring a cable with you, if you planned to take home

some files from work. It has happened more than once that when you going to

save all the work to continue at home, and you haven’t got the cable with

you. JOS has putted the USB-plug behind a little hatch witch you pull forward

and back. It can be a little problem to connect the player behind the computer

but if you have front mounted USB-plugs there should be no problem.

Now we have come to one of the most interesting things on this player, the

display. OLED-displays are not something ordinary with MP3-players.

But I can promise that OLED will replace LCD in within the near future. OLED

doesn’t need any background light, it glows by itself. This saves a lot

of power, and it is a very important in just about everything that contains a battery.

And that OLED also has full watching angle doesn’t make it worse exactly.

In this case they have chosen a OLED-display with two colors, orange and a

blueish color.

Jens of Sweden has chosen to mount it’s OLED-display behind a see through

mirror. This is of course very cool and original, but is it good in the long

run? I regret to answer no, it’s nearly impossible to see anything in sunlight,

you get completely blend by the light. So for anyone that does his/hers makeup

every half hour this mirror would be great, but to us normal users its not so

good. Its cool but not very functional. I let you decide witch comes first,

cause its clearly very cool that it is a small display behind the mirror. Too

let you really understand that it is a real mirror, I have photographed it with

my camera. Picture below.

When you see the display its really good. The two colors contribute to a nice

screen and the little special lighting gives a comfortable feeling. But it is

the tests smallest display, do not believe that the whole mirror area is display,

its only a small area in the middle.


Jens Of Sweden’s latest creations has a fairly small display in comparison

to the others. A small display is not to be preferred if you’re going to make

functional and easily navigated menus. Though MP-130 has the advantage of being

able to use two colors (blue and orange), so it’s easier to set up a more easily

understood menu system that way.

The player is turned

on by a little press on the play button. You’ll be welcomed with logos (you

can make your own) and a notice about the fact that you are holding a Jens Of

Sweden MP-130 for the moment.

The menu is easily

reached by a push on the joystick on the side and if you hold it you’ll enter

a list over the songs available on the player.

The two colors are diligently used to create an overview. Now that you’re in

the menu, there are nine main categories.

The display settings are many and it has even got its own main category. You

can for example set the time of how long the fade of the display will be, thus

saving power. Also the equalizer has been well worked through. In addition to the

old usual one with a few presets and a user-defined one, we find WOW-effects.

They are thought of as creating more space in the music and that they make the

music feel like its played from speakers and not small earpieces.

They work fairly good, and if you turn the effects up too much it sounds pretty much

like crap; there’s to much echoing and other drivel.

SRS, Focus and Trubass in adequate amounts (they are the three hiding behind

the name WOW) gives a little lift for the sound but not as good as iAUDIO’s

at all.

When you’re in

play mode the display is filled with a lot of numbers, colors and other things

that you want to know about the music you’re listening to.

It’s a little too messy for me but sure, it’s good to know just how the MP3

player is set up and in which folder the song is in but when you have such little

space for it perhaps you should remove some of it. Some nice-looking equalizer

visualization with nice stacks isn’t here unlike the other players – but I can

manage without them. Anyway, MP-130 is very fast since the OLED-technology is

fast and you can control almost everything on the player with the joystick –

easily navigated but a little too messy on certain places.

The other functions

are Line-In, voice recording and FM radio. Line-In works flawlessly and there

are some settings to choose between – nothing to complain about here. The voice

recording works just like Line-In, the same user interface and settings. The

quality is fair and an ordinary conference or a lecture are excellent to record

and listen to afterwards. I can’t complain about the FM radio either – it has

the usual functions with preset and programmable channel settings. The reception

is adequate even though it can’t be measured with an ordinary tuner for home

use.

Software

Jens Of Sweden

doesn’t send any software with their MP-130, but offer an application free from

the web site if you need it.

It’s not an application for file transfer but for making your own backgrounds

that are shown when the MP-130 is powered up.

The application is really nice – it looks like it’s from the times when

people still ran Windows 3.11. At least it works and it’s pretty easy to do

backgrounds with it, though the user interface is a bit ’out of date’, as I

said.

Time to go on to

a player that is manufactured by Northern Star – fresh on the MP3 player market.

Will it be able to fight the giants?


Northern Star is a brand that not everyone has heard of, its a relative

small brand and haven’t done an MP3-player before as far as I know. Northern

Star is celebrated in the media for it’s excellent tv’s with plasma screen,

anyway now they have done a machine called NS-Xen-205. The special about this

MP3-player is that the chassis made out of pure metal, with calls for great

durability.

Specifications:

Northern Star-Xen-205

Supported formats MP3, WMA and ASF
Memory 512 MB
Price per MB 5 SEK Exchange

rates

Display

type

LCD, negative back light
Battery Two AAA
Battery life: (given by manufacturer)

16 hours
Features: – Radio

– MP3-player

– Voice recorder

– Line-in (recording from source)

-TTS (Text to Speech)

Frequency range 20Hz – 20 KHz
Output power: 20mW per channel (16 Ohm)
Size: (WxHxD) 75 mm x 19 mm x 35

mm

Weight: 40 Gram excl battery

Price:

Recommended price: 2600 SEK (Exchange rates)

The specifications are very nice to look at, the highest output

power in the whole test. The size is great also, perfect in my opinion. With

the metal shelf kept in mind, one can think that Xen would weigh a some more

than the other players. But so isn’t the case here, 40 gram without the battery

is no problem to carry around. The Text To Speech feature might be a little

interesting, cool but completely useless. The small display I will address later

on.

The battery time is completely acceptable with two AAA-batteries

as power source. Neither is 18 hours any dream time cause I managed to get approximately16

hours with normal use and two Duracell M3 batteries. 18 hours should not be a

problem if you just listen to music at a decent

volume.

The NS-Xen are available

in many sizes and colors: The 512MB versions comes only in white, 128 and 256

only comes in the nicer black color. At the time of writing the 128MB version

cost 1500SEK and if you add another 500SEK you will get the 256MB version.

What’s in the box?

The small white

box doesn’t seem to be to filled, and its not good-looking either, but that doesn’t

really matter as long the player is good.

Content:
– Player

– Head phones

– USB-cable

– Line In-cable

– Manual

– Installation CD

It’s only the

most essential things that comes along with the Xen, no comfy bag nor battery charger.

If we start with the manual; Its a quite pleasant creation with 70 pages in

english. A lot of pictures and pedagogic text that makes it easy to understand.

The USB-cable is a regular big USB-plug in one end and a smaller in the other,

however not the same as the others players, this has a little different shape.

The cables length is about one meter. The Line-in cable is about 50 cm long

and has regular 3.5mm-plugs in the ends.

The elegant neck

strap is made out of imitation leather and is really durable as it is beautiful.

It ties up in a loop on the top of the MP3-player and the small cylinder at

the bottom can be taken apart. Its a really good feeling in this strap.

Head phones:

Specifications:

NS-Xen-205 Head phones

Frequency range
THD: (Total Harmonic Distortion)
SPL: (Sound Pressure Level)
Cord length: 1 meter
Impedance: 16 Ohm

The head phones that comes

along with the Xen are very unsymmetrical, a little strange shape on them. But

they’re real comfortable and they fit really good in the ears. Not a chance that

they’ll fall out. The rubber protection around the grating, just like the prior

two players. The long cord is long enough to have the player in the pocket if

you don’t want it around your neck. The Head phones are very pleasant in the

ear and they are almost the most comfortable phones in the test, they share the

first place with the iAUDIO head phones when it comes to comfort.

Unfortunately the

sound doesn’t match the comfort. There are no ”space” in the phones and it really

feels that you are wearing the phones, this is not something to strive for.

You would like to have as good space feeling as possible. The base and treble

lacks point and doesn’t put out from the music, a little boring sound. The sound

is as clear as glass and has average song quality but you have to get new phones

to get a total sound experience.


NS-Xen has the

classic squared form with a joystick as main control. It’s not much larger than

an ordinary lighter and fits in every man’s pocket or neck.

White, a color that is unusual for MP3 players, feels pretty luxurious and you

get the feeling that this is of high quality. The whole player breathes high

quality since all buttons and mounts feel very professional and the heavier

weight contributes to that.

The front is divided

into two sections. At the top we have the relatively large LCD display which

we look closer upon further down. The lower section contains the five-jointed

joystick (up/down, left/right and pressed) and four buttons that altogether

creates a border around the joystick. The buttons are chromed and have an enormously

nice feeling. The joystick as well has the same nice feeling as the remaining

four buttons.

To the right of

the display, the USB contact is seated under a little piece of rubber. Next

to it is the switch for the hold-button for the buttons.

Now we’ve reached the thing that makes Xen a pretty unique player. It has a

steel casing. The entire back and sides are made from a single piece of polished

steel. It gives a nice feeling to the whole player. As if it wasn’t enough,

they’ve made it incredibly good-looking as well. If it is because of my special

liking to things that shine or if it’s actually good-looking we have to leave

unsaid. It gives a small increase in weight, but I like things that have a little

weight so it’s not a drawback for me. Heavy Metal has gotten a new meaning.

On the gable above

the display we find two 3.5mm connectors, one for headphones and one for Line-In.

Clear symbols show what’s supposed to go in where. In between them we find a

little microphone to record bits of sound, conferences or whatever you want

to record. Parallel to the microphone we find the loop to tie the cord to. It’s

fastened to the metal shell so there’s no risk of the cord breaking in heavy

use.

On the lower gable

we find a track that is screaming for me to put in a nail and pull some. Underneath

the two AAA batteries are hiding.

If you look close on the picture you can see hinges in brass (very nice). Stabile

and nice seems to be the keywords over at Northern Star’s office in Taiwan.

The battery door gets the highest grading as it melts in with the player, also

because it’s stabile and well constructed.

Northern Star describes

their display as an inverted or negative LCD. At first I couldn’t understand

what they meant but now I’ve come to insight.

On an ordinary LCD, the background has a color and the letters are black. Xen

has a display that is the exact opposite – the letters are colored and the background

is black. In this case the letters are red and as far as I know, players with

lesser memory are equipped with the same LCD, but with blue text. In my opinion,

this is very luscious and it reminds me of Jens Of Sweden’s OLED display, except

that it has a very high resolution and in addition a comfortable back light that

is just right. The contrast is adjustable to get the display just the way you

like it. What I’m missing here is a function that turns off the display completely

after about a minute. As it is now, only the light is turned off, but you can

still see text and such on the display to save batteries, though there’s nothing

that is saying it’s impossible to correct in future firmware. Anyway, this is

one of the most pleasurable and best LCD displays I’ve seen on an MP3 player.

A real delight for the eyes.


Northern Stars Xen-player has a proportionally large display and a high resolution, which gives a good overview with a lot of text. You will not be disappointed, the display gives a very sharp and clear view, with quite a lot of columns and pleasant little graphical icons. We can now begin to entangle ourselves in the menus.

You can reach the main-menu by pressing the button, just below the joystick. There are a variety of different main-menus and side-menus and it is very possible to configure most things you could think of. Everything to the contrast on the screen, to the current time, you have seen the clock in the upper right corner? You explore through the menu system with only the joystick and you can also explore the the player with just one hand, without it becoming to complicated. If you press the button to the right on the player, you will open a list showing what files are stored. There is only room for three songs at a time which in my opinion is very few, they should have done the same as they did with the menu-system, where they have room for five columns, and if you remove the headline at top you will have room for even more. It still works in any case, but it takes its precious time to flip through all songs if you have no memory space left.

Mean while in process of playing music you will be meet of a graphical equalizer placed in the upper corner which contains two peelers that vary to the beat of the music, not a necessity, but it makes the player a whole lot more pleasurable to look at when they move. You can configure the equalizer with the button located to the left, otherwise the equalizer is completely standard with a few preconfigured presets and you can of course make your own. Just like on the other 3 you have complete overview on the time, bitrate,song being played and which equalizer configuration you are currently using.

Radio, voice recorder and Line-In are present, it is almost becoming a necessity with these expensive players. If we start with the radio, all i can say is that it is as god as can be, you can store channel frequencies and configure it after which continent you are currently present at. Signal receiving is pretty good and if you live within a larger city you will have no problems in receiving. Line-In and voice recording look precisely the same and you have full overview of what you are recording and how you are recording it. A little hard in the beginning to decipher because of a whole lot of text with the same font size, but you will grip it after a while.

Software

Included with the Northern Star player is a cd with one program on it. Music Friend as it is called is a typical program where you can convert, listen to music and of course transfer music. The program is easy to use and looks preferably nice. You can even upgrade firmware very easily and also you can configure your font settings, variety is fun they say.

We shall now descend to the file transfer test, its it important that it transfer fast when in a hurry.


We’ve reached the part where it’s time to test transfer speeds. I’m

going to run two tests, where the first one is to transfer a folder containing

a homepage of exactly 100MB in size. The timings are being calculated with the

help of an ordinary stopwatch. Since the iRiver player has to use an own program

for file transfers, it’s not possible to use a program to measure the times.

The second test is basically how long time it takes to fill up the memory of

each player respectively by having folders with music that are the same size

as each player’s memory respectively. For this test I’ve used an USB2 PCI-card

from Adaptec, though no players in this test supports the considerably faster

USB2-interface. It’s somewhat poor that they don’t implement today’s MP3-players

with this, since it’s not very expensive nor difficult to put in either. The

USB1.1 standard is starting to get old.

Transfer test, part 1
Player:
MB
Time
~MBps
iRiver iFP-1090

110

163s

0,67

Cowon

iAUDIO4

110

141s

0,78

JOS

MP-130

110

163s

0,67

NS-Xen

205

110

258s

0,43

As you see it’s very close between the first three players. MP-130

and iFP-1090 even ends with the same timings. Though I can’t understand why

Xen is so miserably slow, I tried on many different computers sporting different

mainboards and operating systems, but still ends up approximately the same numbers.

Exceptionally for the iRiver player which doesn’t support UMS, you have to use

a separate program for this (new firmware is available on iRiver’s homepage

which supports UMS). Onward to the next test; to fill up each player’s memory.

Transfer test, part 2
Player:
MB
Time
~MBps
iRiver iFP-1090

241

358s

0,67

Cowon

iAUDIO4

233

315s

0,74

JOS

MP-130

248

365s

0,67

NS-Xen

205

497

1104s

0,45

We see that all players almost ends up with the same numbers. iAUDIO

has conquered the 1st place with JOS and iRiver close behind. Xen doesn’t seem

to be bothered with strain, 1000 seconds is enough for you to make a sandwich

and brew some fresh coffee. Still we don’t have any good explanation to why

Xen works so slow.

Next is the "in use" tests.


The power output test is important especially if you plan to get

a new set of headphones to you new MP3-player. If the headphones are of a bigger

model as the ones I use today a good power output is a must otherwise the sound

will be poor. Today I will use Koss UR-18 to find out if the power output is

enough. They are a set of 32 Ohm headphones, just like any other headphones

you can find at stores and that’s why I have chosen them.

iRiver iFP-1090.

This is a very pleasant experience. Already at volume 30 of 40,

I get a volume level that is more then enough. Neither has it any problem

to keep the membrane under control when its pumping on as worst. The

base and treble is clear and to sum up, I can only say that the iFP-1090

is excellent with a set of bigger headphones.

COWON

iAUDIO4.

The volume isn’t a problem here but the sound starts to let go on simple

songs, which is a little boring. The depth of the base and the sound of

the treble is not a problem. A high volume together with a fast and heavy

song is something to recommend. I don’t think you should use your iAUDIO

together with big headphones, the ones that come along actually does a better

job with the iAUDIO4 then my UR-18 does.

Jens Of Sweden MP-130.

The first thing that hits me is that you have to turn to volume to max

to get a pleasant volume level, not much power in the headphones jacket

then. But is compensates it with excellent control of the membrane and

at max volume I don’t get much distortion no matter what song I play.

The base and treble are ok, but no more then that. Is recommended to the

person that plan to use big headphones, but if you have a set that is

more hard driven than mine its not going to be fun.

Northern Star Xen 205.

The Xen has the highest output power and it shows. Already at volume

20 of 30 it starts to be a little loud. Distortion is in principle undetectable

even at heavy fast songs. The lower frequencies comes well in to place and

the treble doesn’t have a problem to be heard either. Very pleasant with

big head phones, highly recommended.

The Xen and iFP-1090 has to share the first place here with the other

ones on second place. I dare to say that every player will work out fine if

you buy quality headphones from Shure, Koss, Sennheiser or equal. You will have

to think twice if you plan to buy ordinary head hones to use with the iAUDIO4

or JOS MP-130, the Xen and iFP-1090 on the other hand should handle the task

excellent.

That was the end of testing for today now the only thing that remains is to

wrap it all together, so lets go on to the next page.


Now we have come

to the most difficult part of the whole test, to choose a winner. First of all

I would like to say that all player that I have tested have been really good.

On a scale 1 to 10, there would be no one under 8 so you won’t be disappointed

with any of them. There is no clear winner but I feel that the NS-Xen is a small

step ahead of the others. The price ratio per MB is very good and the design

is good looking while functional. The metal chassis does it’s part to. On

second place I think the iAUDIO4 comes with the great headphones and good equalizer

as its biggest trump card. The MP-130 and iFP-1090 both comes in third place.

The iFP-1090 comes here because its much more expensive then the others and

also because its biggest player in the test. The MP-130 on the other hand falls

on its display, which you otherwise would think would be the best thing on it.

Its very good looking but completely useless in light. But you should keep in

mind that if I would grade them, they would get 8 out of 10. The other two get

9 and 9.2 so just because they finish first doesn’t mean they are bad players.

Summary:

iRiver iFP-1090

The iRiver breaks new grounds with its color display, a really good display.

The battery time is huge and the amount of accessories should be enough for

anyone. Good headphones and some nice functions, the camera doesn’t do much

but have a high cool factor. But it is the most expensive player in the test

and it is a bit large, and due to that it does not go all the way. For the ones

with financial freedom is this the one and only player but for us mortal is

it a little to much.

COWON iAUDIO4

The iAUDIO4 isn’t big but it sounds like a whole orchestra. Nice headphones

and nice sound settings whom together make the sound very good. The many colors

on the background light is nice, and is pleasant with some change in the light.

The battery time is just too good for only one small AAA-battery. The accessories

are good and it comes with a real good bag which actually can be used. The backsides

are that it has a clumsy battery hatch and a little plastic look but it finish

in second hand because of the fantastic sound.

Jens Of Sweden MP-130

OLED-displays are a hot topic these days, its understandable. But JOS has made

the mistake of making the display to small and mounted it behind a mirror. Completely

useless in sunlight, when you has to hold it close to your eye and make it dark

to be able to use it. The built-in USB plug is and the ability to charge the

battery through USB, is very much liked and also the size is good. Comes in

at the same place as the iRiver, its a little more expensive then the iAUDIO4

which also contributes.

Northern Star Xen 205.

The Xen’s design really is something special, the metal chassis found its way

in to my heart directly.

Very user-friendly and has the tests best price per MB, even if you choose to

go down to 256 MB you get a decent price per MB. The display is really good

looking to be a regular LCD and the solid construction in every little detail

is just what makes this player a bit better then the others. But I do think

you should get a new set of headphones because the ones that come in the package

doesn’t match the rest of the player. The slow transfer speed is probably something

that bothers others but I think it is just a trifle that probably will be fixed

in an coming firmware.

iRiver

iFP-1090

Cowon

iAUDIO4

Jens Of

SwedenMP-130

Pros:

+ Good battery time.

+ Color display.

+ Accessories.

+ Fairly good headphones.

+ Features.

Cons:

– Clumsy design.

– The price.

– You need a firmware upgrade to use UMS

Pros:

+ Small.

+ Good sound.

+ Good headphones.

+ The bag.

+ The display.

Cons:

– Battery hatch.

– Plastic feeling.

Pros:

+ OLED-display.

+ Retractable USB-connector

+ Small.

+ Rechargeable through USB.

Cons:

– Few accessories.

– The mirror.

– Small display.

NS-Xen

205

Pros:

+ Good looking.

+ Steel chassi

+ Good display.

+ Solid feeling in all small details.

+ Good price ratio per MB.

+ Average sound.


Cons :

– The headphones doesn’t the Xen right.

– A little slow transfer speed

Nordichardware

would like to thank all the manufacturer that have made this test possible.

Keeps your eyes open for future MP3-player reviews.

Annons

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