Sony's Fake MP3 Player

By Richard Menta- 4/3/00

I picked up the box for the Sony Music Clip at a local electronics store a couple of days ago. I knew what I was looking for and had no difficulty in finding it. It was right there, printed in large white type on the front, the letters MP3.

It was a disappointing thing to look at. You see, the letters lining that box are a lie. The Sony Music Clip does not play MP3 files. Instead it plays Sony's proprietary ATRAC3 digital format, a competitor to MP3. Had they called it a digital music player that would have been correct, but here were those words staring at me, MP3.

Richard Menta

It Amazed me. Even though the unit doesn't play MP3 music, those at Sony marketing knew it needed to say MP3 to sell. So, they just put it there.

Their argument? Sony simply put a program on the accompanying CD that will convert your present selection of MP3 files into the ATRAC3 format or some OpenMG equivalent, leaving you to now store two digital copies of any songs you wish to play on this portable, occupying double the hard drive space.

Even if I had hard drive space to burn, that is not the point.

My cassette player can record music piped in from my stereo's CD, in essence converting a digital signal into an analog one. Does that make it a CD player? According this logic, yes. I can also tape off my other (proper) MP3 players with a $4.00 mini-to-mini stereo jack. Gee, all this time my cassette player was a MP3/CD/Vinyl Album player and I didn't know it.

Forgive my sarcasm, I wish to keep it in check, but I have again read some of the emails we received here at Many are angry ones by unwitting MP3 consumers who waited and finally purchased a Sony product based on name satisfaction and brand loyalty. Some we posted online.

What they got for their $300 dollars - premium priced compared with other digital music players - was a player that will not play their collection of MP3 music unless they spend hours converting it.

The box is not the only place where this falsehood exists. We here at ran several stories on Sony's MP3 offerings based on their press releases that said these units specifically play MP3's. They have not only lost some customer trust, but credibility as far as the press is concerned. Hey, these releases are all a pitch and we know it, but to blatantly put misleading information?....

Sony Electronics is more than the dominant player in portable music. They invented it with the original Sony Walkman. This company is no stranger to the opportunities of new technology and they recognized immediately that the conveniences offered by MP3 music will lead it to replace their profitable cassette players over time.

Entering the digital music arena was the smart business decision and one that, as an early player, Sony could have dominated thanks to that high brand trust they possess - and just violated.

Word is, it was Sony Music and its anti-piracy fears that forced Sony Electronics to yank the players true MP3 playing abilities. Despite the internal struggles the engineers at Sony had to face to get this player to market, the trappings of corporate bureaucracy are no excuse for misleading the public.

Our advice? There are real MP3 players out there, almost all of them for less money. Sony generally makes excellent products and we are so impressed by the pen concept of the unit, we still eagerly await our demo unit for an upcoming review. Even if it proves to be a fine digital music player, we suggest you avoid the Music Clip and wait until they come out with a model with true MP3 capabilities or a bios upgrade for this unit.

They have a right to put out a competing format - that's how technology improves - but not to mislead. If you already bought one and are unhappy, return it and circle the MP3 lettering on the box as you tell the vendor why. Also, tell Sony, so they will get the message.

Sony's Digital Music Clip Is Cool, But Treats Users Like Criminals - Wall Street Journal Personal Technology
Why This Fan May Say Sayonara to Sony -

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