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SongBank Jukebox

For a long time now I have wanted to get a MP3 player. Unfortunately in the past no one player I have seen met all of my needs. Some didn't have enough capacity, some lacked a FM tuner, some had ridiculous DRM schemes... All of that may be ready to change, though, due to the Songbank digital audio jukebox. On paper at least it seems to me to be the perfect MP3 player. Read on to see how the Songbank fares though with real world usage.

Before we get to that, though, here are most of the features of the Songbank. I say most because if I included all the features and specs they listed there would be no room here for the review. If you are interested in the rest they can be found here.

SongBank Package

Features:

Decode MP3/WMA format
Encode MP3 (64,192) format
External voice recording (DVR) including line-in and FM
LCD EL backlight large-scale dot matrix display (160 x 240)
16MB anti-shock buffer for better power consumption
Rechargeable through AC/DC power adapter or USB cable
FM tuner including 10 preset channels
Five preset EQ adjustment
USB 2.0 interface for fast downloads
Firmware upgradeable through USB port

The Songbank comes in the standard clear plastic retail packaging. That, as I have stated in past reviews, usually requires WMD or at minimum a very large chainsaw to open. Inside this package you will find the Songbank itself, charger, USB cable, earbuds, case, manual, and driver disk.

SongBank Bundle

Thumbing through the package I soon noticed that the manual was hopelessly outdated, with so many changes being made to the Songbank that the manual often seemed to refer to a completely different but similar product. Fortunately if you are familiar with the UI of other MP3 players you should have little trouble here learning to use this one.

There are several ways to get files on the Songbank. You can treat it as a USB mass storage device, install the Songbank software which also includes the free version of Musicmatch Jukebox and transfer and organize your music with this using the USB cable. The way I got my music on the Songbank was merely to drop in my notebook drive that was already formatted and had all my music pre-loaded on it.

SongBank Open

If you use the included Audio Phile software to manage the music on your Songbank, you will find it straightforward to navigate and easy to use. From here you can transfer files, manage your database, update your firmware, change your Songbank start-up picture as well as other functions. There is also a MusicMatch Jukebox button here which seems to do nothing more than close the Audio Phile application and open MusicMatch Jukebox. This seems quite odd to me and not very useful. I wonder if this is a placeholder and it is going to perform some additional function in the next release of the Audio Phile software?

SongBank Software

One of the main features of the Songbank that I was interested in exploring further was the recording functions, the Songbank is quite versatile and can record DVR, Line-in, or straight from the built in FM tuner. The resulting files can be saved as MP3s from 64 -192bps. To test this out I recorded some music from the FM tuner. The first recording I made wasn't very clear due to the weak signal caused from us having a basement condo. When I changed the tuner to a station with a stronger signal the MP3 recording was actually quite good--not CD quality for sure, but at least on par with a good cassette recording.

In our in-house testing battery life of the Songbank with its 1400 mah Li battery was about 6 to 8 hours, considerably less than the 12 hours claimed by Mediagear. In all fairness all my MP3s are encoded VDB. If you used, say, 128bps I bet you would see better results. More songs could be saved in the 16MB buffer so the hard drive would have to be accessed fewer times, which I bet is quite draining on the battery.

Colored an attractive gray on back and white on front, the outer shell of the Songbank seems slightly brittle. I don't think it would survive being dropped on the floor. Though I suppose an aluminum casing is out of the question in this price range, (<100 usd). On the right side of the casing are all of the jacks, each conveniently labeled for easy use.

SongBank Side

The 160 x 240 STN dot matrix display is clear and easy to read; the backlight also provides plenty of illumination for viewing in low light conditions. The three front control buttons (two push, one directional) are of adequate size and provide decent tactile click feedback.

The asynchronous white earbuds included with the Songbank produce above average sound quality, especially as included in a bundled product. While they don't sound as clear or have anywhere near the amount of bass of my high end Sony headphones, the earbuds are actually more comfortable to wear, especially for those extended listening sessions.

Conclusion:

As a self-professed gear head, after several weeks of using the Songbank enclosure I am impressed as its use as a music player as well as an external USB 2.0 hard drive. What the Songbank lacks, though, is some of the polish of its more mature competitors that include things such as a well-written manual and longer battery life. That being said, I have yet to find anything nearly as capable as the Songbank at anywhere near this price point.

Pros:

  • Extra functionality often not found on other MP3 players
  • Uses standard notebook HD
  • Cheap price

Cons:

  • Mediocre battery life
  • Plastic enclosure seems somewhat light and flimsy
  • Poor manual

I would like to thank Computer Geeks for providing us the Songbank Enclosure for review. This item can be purchased for $99.99 at Computer Geeks.

Geeks

Added: April 16th 2005
Reviewer: JimAdkins
Score: 8  
Hits: 7933
Language: english

  

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