Review: Dioneer Dion DCP-100

By Robert Menta 7/08/02

Back in the 60's when "Made in Japan" meant cheap inferior products to Americans, companies wishing to import their goods would take on American names to sound as if they were made in this country. Pioneer is a perfect example, a name chosen to evoke rodeos and the American West. The truth was that these products were actually superior and by the late 70s the attitudes towards US v. Japanese products had reversed.


Dion DCP-100

Pioneer was looked upon as one of the top stereo component manufacturers by that time. Sometime in the 80s, I started seeing ads for a company called Dioneer, a Korean firm that looked to get the attention of those drawn to the ad because they confused the D with a P. I fell for it too, but once I realized my error, I just dismissed the company's products as cheap and inferior to those from Japan.

That was then. The gag today is that most small electronics are now produced out of South Korea, including nearly all MP3 portables. This is the first Dioneer product I have ever used, let alone tested, and I found that their new MP3/CD player, the DCP-100, competes with the best players out there.

The Hardware

Selling for around $100 the DCP-100 comes fairly well equipped. The unit's list of virtues starts with a remote control and rechargeable batteries (it can also run on standard AA batteries), and then adds in more than ample internal memory to improve play. This includes an eight minute memory buffer to prevent your MP3s from skipping (16 minutes when playing tunes in the WMA format) and an auto memory that will store the playlists of 12 CDs automatically.

These features alone put the DCP-100 into the mid/upper level category of MP3/CD players. The unit does not have an FM radio, which drops it a tad below the offerings of the Rio Volt SP250, our benchmark MP3/CD portable. Otherwise it is pretty well rounded. As we mentioned, the DCP-100 plays MP3 and WMA files, as well as standard CDs.

Getting Started -

Pop in a CD, hold the play button and you are ready to groove. The unit does take a few seconds to load the playlist into memory, but after that getting music to emanate from the headphones is straight-forward and simple. The eight-minute buffer worked excellently. Only under the most aggressive shaking did the unit skip, which is a level few will ever encounter in everyday use.

Controls

The controls on the DCP-100 are well spaced out and very responsive. No numb feeling or tiny, cramped buttons to fumble with. The same can be said for the unit's accompanying remote control.

The controls are fairly clear to understand, but several of them do double duty. This includes a number of very handy navigation tools that are activated through various keystroke combinations. These combinations are not always the most intuitive, but we were able to figure them out without having to run to the manual. The controls did integrate well with the fine display, which helped. The manual is also superior to those that come with Rio players, for those who feel they need further guidance.

The DCP-100 allows you to program playlists on the fly by bookmarking them in a master list. This is handled by entering the directory, scrolling down through the full song title list and hitting the select button at the appropriate track. A check mark will be placed in front of that song and it will be added to a second list that is called the bookmark list.

Programming on the fly involves the least intuitive keystroke commands we found on this unit. It wasn't difficult to set the playlist, but it was also not as straight-forward as the Rio SP250. If you don't use the feature for while you may find yourself having to re-teach your thumbs how to manipulate the correct click order.

Display -

The display is not a very large one, but the DCP-100 does a lot with the space it is given. One of the best features we have ever seen on a display is incorporated in to the DCP-100. The unit not only shows the track in play, but also shows the title of the upcoming track below it. We found this feature to be quite convenient and hope to see it mimicked by more MP3 players in the future.

Other features include the ability to control the backlight time and choose whether the display shows file names or meta tag information. The unit will even allow you to change the display to handle Korean lettering if you so desire, a legacy of the player's heritage we suppose.

Overall, we would have preferred to see a larger screen, but that was the only quibble we had with this excellent display.

Sound -

The sound was excellent. The Dion DCP-100 has a very wide volume range, a plus when you have MP3s recorded at low bit rates. The equalizer has 4 tone settings plus a bass boost feature that worked adequately. As we point out in most of our reviews, the greatest way to improve the the sound on any player is to improve the headphones or speakers from which you listen.

Conclusion

The Dion DCP-100 is a fine unit, one that compares favorably to the best MP3/CD player we have reviewed to date, the Rio SP250.

The Rio SP250 may have scored a notch above (it offers more features, a more intuitive layout, and the best display we have ever encountered), but the Dioneer DCP-100 more than held its own and is a few bucks cheaper to boot. Overall, it is a good choice for a player, especially for those who are active and can take advantage of the generous memory buffer the unit provides. You can order the player for $99 at Merconnet.

Final Score -


The 20GB Rio Riot Jukebox can be ordered from Amazon

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