By Robert Menta 6/13/01
The Archos Jukebox 6000 is the third of the Jukebox players we have tested. First introduced by Remote Solution's Personal Jukebox and followed by Creative's Nomad Jukebox, these players offer GBs of tune-toting capacity. With the capability to hold over 1,000 songs, they hold a huge advantage over 32MB and 64MB portables, but this advantage comes at a cost. Using laptop hard drives for storage, MP3 jukeboxes are power thirsty, quite large and significantly heavier than the Rio style portables.
The Archos Jukebox is also a heavy player, roughly the same weight as the Nomad Jukebox, though it is unique in that it has managed to shrink in size to about half the dimensions of the Nomad. That means you can actually slip it into a pocket, making it a bit more convenient when on the go.
The Archos Jukebox contains 6GB of hard drive space, equivalent to the Nomad Jukebox. A 20GB version is in the works as well and should be available by mid summer. The unit runs on either 4 rechargeable NiMH batteries or off of an AC adapter included with the unit. File transfers are handled via a USB connection. The unit can be upgraded to accept additional formats in the future through firmware updates available on the Archos site. These updates also can correct software bugs and introduce new features. As of this writing the latest version was 4.53g.
The player itself is fairly basic, its main job is to hold and play a plethora of songs. The Nomad Jukebox on the other hand was chock full of features, some unique to a digital music portable. Like the Nomad, the player can also be connected to a Mac providing it has USB capabilities.
Best News - Non SDMI Compliant
SDMI stands for the Secure Digital Music Initiative, and organization set up by the recording industry to impose file security features on digital music players in hopes of combating file trading (they call it piracy). A technical solution has been elusive so far for the group and until one can be found, SDMI compliant players are required to possess this little quirk. That quirk is users are allowed to download MP3 files to the player, but they are not allowed to upload back to a computer, which could be a computer other than their own. As most MP3 manufacturers are members of the SDMI (a group that is experiencing significant internal strife and some defections as we write this) you find this restriction on almost all MP3 portables.
Archos is not a member of the SDMI, therefore the Archos 6000 does not have this restriction. You can download and upload any files you wish and that is not limited to just MP3 files. The Archos 6000 also positions itself as an external hard drive so you can load any type of file on including TIF, GIF, even competing file formats to MP3 like Sony's ATRAC3 format (the player can't play ATRAC3 yet, but it can hold and transfer it).
Non-SDMI compliance makes the Archos Jukebox a more attractive unit and gives it a competitive advantage over players hampered with this restriction. It is the most compelling reason for a consumer to consider this product.
Loading the drivers for the unit was simple and straightforward. An icon appears for the drive in Windows Explorer and you drag and drop files to the player as if it were another drive on your system. You can't get more basic than that and as we have pointed out in the past with other players, there is a virtue to such simplicity. Even if it seems a tad crude when compared to some of the elaborate interfaces in competing MP3 units we found this technique to be efficient and blessedly easy.
The Archos replicates Window's folder layout on its drive and display. If like us you have ripped hundreds of songs from your CDs and created a separate folder on your system for each album, all you have to do is drag and drop the entire folder library into the player. The unit will replicate the hierarchy and you can access it like you would any other drive.
As per the instructions, we charged the batteries pre-installed in our test player overnight, but we found that in the morning they were not able to hold a full charge so we replaced them. Fortunately, the Jukebox comes with a second set of batteries that worked fine once installed. The batteries are located on the sides of the portable, two on the left and two on the right. The battery compartments are opened using a small eyeglass screwdriver to pry the plastic covering. It's not the easiest method, but the user is not expected to swap out batteries frequently.
We also experienced a little trouble with the headphone jack. Sometimes when we wiggled or removed the plug while the Jukebox 6000 was playing it would short out the unit and turn it off. We suspect this was just a glitch in the particular test unit Archos had loaned us and not endemic of the player itself. Still, we thought it was worth mentioning in case others experience the same problem.
To start the player the manual instructs you to depress and hold the 'ON' button for two seconds or until you feel the hard drive vibrate. Just be aware that if you hit the ON button, but don't hold it down, the display will light up briefly and then shut off giving the appearance that the unit missed boot up. That's what we thought until we realized it was an error on our part. Lesson: always read your manual no matter how intuitive a product is. When we did what we were supposed to the unit started up with no trouble.
Overall the controls were well sized and conveniently placed. The Archos Jukebox uses a joypad familiar to Rio owners to handle the standard play, stop and jog functions. Changing the volume requires hitting the menu key, selecting the volume menu, and then using the +/- positions on the joypad to raise or lower the sound. Considering how the fluctuations in recording quality on many MP3 files require the user to constantly adjust the volume, we feel a separate volume control is more convenient.
The display was not as large or as flexible as the Nomad Jukebox, but it did the job very well. The file/folder hierarchy was actually more direct than the Nomad's providing you already had your tunes laid out in such a fashion. Showing the Jukebox 6000's international roots, the unit can display in three languages English, French, and German, a great option unavailable in the Nomad. With a few keystrokes the player will also display how much space is left on the drive and run a self-diagnostic on the drive.
The sound was good. The Archos offers both a bass and treble control, preferable to us over the five-equalizer presets available on most units. Despite the solid sound, the Nomad Jukebox does trump the Archos here because of Creative's patented EAX system, which we described in a previous review as an equalizer on steroids.
We like the Archos Jukebox 6000, but comparisons between this player and the market leading Nomad Jukebox are unavoidable, especially with a recent price drop that brings the originally more expensive Nomad into the price range of the 6000.
The Archos Jukebox's biggest advantage over most MP3 portables is the fact it is not SDMI compliant, meaning the user is free to upload and download any file he or she wishes. Word is a recent Firmware upgrade also allows the Nomad to do this also. The Archos 6000 is half the size of the Nomad Jukebox, a convenience important to many. We actually jogged with this player in our pocket, something we couldn't do with the Nomad. You definitely noticed the weight as it bounced around, but it worked.
The Nomad Jukebox is more feature-laden than the Archos Jukebox and overall a better performing unit with a better display, control functionality, and sound equalizer.
Final Score: B+
Copyright 2001 MP3 Newswire
Other MP3 Portable Reviews:
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We Test Drive the Rio 600
We Test Drive the Creative Nomad Jukebox
We Test Drive the Audio ReQuest MP3 Rack Player
Test Driving the Sensory Science Rave MP2200
Sony Memory Stick Walkman
Test Driving the i2Go eGo
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