By Richard Menta- 8/29/00
Sensory Science chose the high ground when they entered the MP3 portable market last year with the excellent RaveMP 2100, the first MP3 player with 64MB of built-in memory. They continue this trend with the release of the MP 2200, a polished update of the original unit.
Like its predecessor, the RaveMP 2200 comes with 64MB of built-in memory. Memory expansion is handled with the addition of a slot for a Smart Media card. The player can read cards up to 64MB giving the unit a 128MB top end.
The player is encased in an attractive and sturdy brushed aluminum case, a step up from the plastic case on the 2100, and the folks at Sensory Science filled that case with more options than the majority of its competition. To work those options, Sensory Science also includes one of the best operating manuals we have come across.
To start, the 2200 has an FM radio tuner that allows up to 20 presets. We found the tuner to be quite sensitive with easy access via the function key on the side of the unit. The radio has a scan feature, a nice touch.
The unit has a built-in microphone to facilitate its voice recording and playback feature. Voice is recorded in the PCM format that can be transferred and played with any standard Wave player. We found the recording process was very easy and intuitive.
An in-line remote control comes standard with the MP 2200. The remote, located half way up the headphone cable, is a very convenient feature and is not standard on any other MP3 unit. A few, like the Rio line of portables, offer a similar product as an additional option to be purchased separately.
The RaveMP players are still the only units on the market to include text capabilities. This includes a phone book capable of holding thousands of numbers and a memo function.
All files are uploaded via a direct USB connection, faster than the parallel connection used on the original RaveMP series, and more practical for units with more than 64MB of memory capacity.
Getting started: A-
We have always found the RaveMP's Digital Media Manager software to be one of the most straightforward and blessedly non-complex packages out there for uploading tunes to the player. Compare this with the Rio's offering, which we felt required the user to jump through too many hoops or Sony's annoying check-in/check out strategy and you get the idea. The USB cable made for quick uploading.
One disappointment that we hope the folks at Sensory Science will rectify soon is that the Digital Media Manager still doesn't work on Windows NT 4.0 systems. We found this out the hard way when we tried to load the software on our NT work machine. A call to Sensory Science hinted they were working on this, but no timeline was given. The player does work on Windows 2000, which is really NT 5.0 so we see the migration to NT 4.0 coming soon.
The controls are excellent, an improvement from the small closely aligned buttons on the RaveMP 2100. On the original RaveMP we tended to accidentally hit multiple buttons when manning the keystrokes. The buttons on the 2200 are still small, but well placed allowing clean key activation.
The Display: A-
Even though the display does not have a backlight, a desirable option, it was clear and easily read. Text files are handled very well. When you select to view a memo the text is streamed across the bottom line of the display like a ticker. The ticker speed can be controlled easily with the +/- keys. Frankly, it would be better if the screen were larger allowing for several lines of text to be displayed at once, but given the limits imposed by size, it does an admirable job.
The sound from the player is great. The RaveMP 2200 offers 5 tone presets (Jazz, Pop, Rock, etc.). We prefer a separate tone/bass control or a full equalizer as found on the RCA Lyra, but the music sounded excellent so we didn't quibble.
Because of it's additional features, aluminum case, and convenient software, the RaveMP 2200 out-points the Rio 500 overall, our benchmark player. The only negative we found in this unit is that it doesn't yet work on Windows NT 4.0 machines. It does work on NT 5.0 (AKA Windows 2000), and we expect the NT 4.0 version of the software to come out soon. Overall, this player is one of the top three portable units out there and highly recommended.
Final Score: A- (an A when NT 4.0 software is released.)
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The Rio Volt SP250 has an FM tuner and is available on Amazon