By Robert Menta 6/08/01
An interesting thing happened when we received the AVC Soul MP3/CD player for review. To our surprise, the unit turned out to be a cosmetically altered version of the Rio Volt, another portable player we were testing at the time. We put both through their paces and found them to be exceptional models.
The Soul DMP-01 portable is the size and shape of a standard CD player, but plays both the MP3 and Windows Media formats as well as music from regular CD's. The unit comes with an 8 function remote and a neoprene carrying case. The unit retails for about $130
Power consumption is stingy; the unit gets a lot of mileage out of its 2 AA batteries. An external AC adapter is also included. In addition, the Soul has a line out jack for hooking the player up to your stereo and a hold switch.
The unit offers a healthy array of other excellent features that help the user navigate through 150 tracks:
+10 button - A thoughtful feature: each time the user hits the button the player jumps 10 tracks.
Program button - Press and hold this button when the unit is not playing a track. This allows you to select specific tracks to create an on-the-fly playlist.
Navi button - provides a scrolling directory of the tracks on the CD. One of the biggest advantages of MP3 tracks over those stored in the conventional CD format is the ability to display track names.
Mode button - the are 8 options here including repeat, shuffle, and an Intro option that cycles through the first few seconds of every track.
EQ/Menu Mode - This button has a dual purpose. Cycle through the first menu and choose between five equalizer settings. Hold the button down for 1.5 seconds and you enter Menu Mode. Menu Mode allows you to customize certain aspects of the player's configuration. For example, you can program the player to retain new settings after being powered off. You can also choose to display either the file name or the ID3 tag of that file in the display (Tag Control) or select the speed at which you can scan through directories (Speed Scan).
Operating the Soul DMP-01 is as simple as operating any standard portable CD player, just pop in the disc and hit play. The only difference is that this player can read multiple formats.
Excellent and easily navigated. Buttons were large enough and conveniently spaced and positioned. A joypad is there to facilitate basic play and scan functions. As for the remote, which is identical to the Rio Volt's, the side buttons lacked "feel", but worked adequately. The joypad on the remote worked very well.
The program feature turned out to be a simple straightforward affair that easily allowed us to pull a dozen tracks and play them in any order we wanted. The "navi" button allowed us to easily select and jump to individual tracks. With 178 tracks on the particular CD we were playing, this function (coupled with the +10 button) allowed us to quickly scan the song menu.
The display was fine, clearly showing track information and mode icons. In order to identify what each icon means, it's necessary for the user do a quick review of the operations manual -- a simple enough chore. The three-line display shows only part of the track name at first, but begins to scroll to the right after a half-second to reveal the rest.
In an attempt to add a little flash to the unit, the player has dancing figures on the bottom of the display. We thought it was a cute idea, but one that has no real use except for providing some eye candy. The space could have been used for an additional line of track information -- a minor quibble. Overall, the display did what it was supposed to do and did it well.
In general, sound quality was great. The volume control on the Soul DMP-01 had plenty of range. It can get quite loud when necessary, great for music files recorded at lower than the standard 128Kbit rates. The five-tone presets also performed well. We favor the built-in equalizers that are cropping up in more MP3 portables these days, but we have no real complaints here.
The interlude function is another useful feature. It allows you to sample an entire CD by playing the first 10 seconds of each track before jumping to the next.
Spending a few extra dollars for a better set of headphones will do more to improve sound quality than anything else, which is true for any player we review. When not on the go, connecting the DMP-01 to your stereo offers the best audio quality.
If you have a CD burner, several hundred MP3 or WMA tracks, and you want to listen to music beyond the confines of your PC, then you can use a portable MP3/CD player. Like its soulmate (no pun intended), the Rio Volt, the Soul DMP-01 will more than get the job done. It's well laid out, convenient and a pleasure to use. Best of all, the Soul lists for $30 less than the Rio, making it a better buy.
Even if you don't have a CD burner, you may want to consider the Soul DMP-01 when it comes time to replace your conventional portable CD player. You don't have to burn CDs to get MP3 laden discs these days. General Mills has shipped millions of them in cereal boxes, and sites like MP3.com and EMusic sell them to promote the artists on their sites. It makes sense to consider a single unit that can read multiple formats since it may save you from having to buy a second player in the future.
Final Score: A
Copyright 2001 MP3 Newswire
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Review: AVC Soul/D-Link