Ogg Player Redux

After my last post on music players capable of Ogg Vorbis playback, I
was recommended:

I can discount the iHP120 straight away as it’s a HD based player and
will be too large for what I want.

Update: I’m intentional avoiding any Apple
products.

iRiver t10




iRiver
T10

90GBP will get me a 2GB device. Several people have claimed it works
as USB mass storage, although I’ve seen someone say American versions
wouldn’t work. iRiver have a firmware updater to convert it to UMS, so I
might need to find a Windows installation. It has good battery life of
around 45-50 hours from a single AA battery, which is good. It’s got good reviews for
its sound quality and its rugged construction might make it good in the
gym.

Kingston K-PEX100




Kingston
K-PEX100

A 2GB model will set me back around 65GBP. It’s a touch larger, but
thinner than the T10. Looks like a UMS device. It can be expanded with
miniSD cards, which seems a nice feature. It only has a 17 hour battery time using the internal
rechargable, which seems a bit low, considering my CD player will do 120
hours off two AA. Reviews have mentioned that the build quality is a
little budget and a couple of firmware bugs, but hopefully these have
been fixed now.

Samsung’s YP-U2




Samsung
YP-U2

Can only find a 1GB unit for 60GBP, although there is a 2GB unit
available. Battery life is only 14 hours from the internal rechargable
battery. It’s smaller than the iRiver T10 and is a UMS device. I’ve seen
reviews complain about the audio quality of this device. I think the
lack of battery life and audio problems will rule this one out.

Cowon iAudio U3 and T2

I wasn’t recommended any particular models, but the two I’m considering
is the T2 and U3.




iAudio
T2

The T2 is a necklace style player, which is rather unusual, but I can
pick up a 2GB model for around 100GBP. Battery is around 12 hours using
the internal rechargable battery. Looking at the reviews, the supplied
headphones make up the actual necklace part and you have to remove that
to use your own headphones, which is what I’ll be doing, having just
bought some Shure E2Cs. They also say the controls are a little
confusing.




iAudio
U3

This is the most expensive of the products I’ve looked at at 115GBP
for the 2GB model. Battery life is around 20 hours. Reviews have been
very positive. Not sure if it’s worth the extra price though.

Update: Apparently the 2GB model can only be charged
via USB, where as the 1GB model comes with a charger too, Also, I read
in a review that it has doesn’t do gapless playback, which is very annoying. Why don’t
players do gapless playback?

Summary

I think my top choice is the iRiver T10, although each of the others
have their plus points. The K-PEX is expandable, the T2 is small and the
U3 gets good reviews. I think I’ve discounted the Samsung. I will try
and find each of the players in a local shop to have a play before I go
out and buy one. If you have any comments on any of these players, or
you have another product to recommend I’d be
very interested.

Oh, and continuing my trend of discovering bands that have split up,
I’ve been getting into At The Drive-In. :S

15 thoughts on “Ogg Player Redux

  1. Martin Ellis
    on said:

    Not sure if this is any use to you:

    $ easypmp -l |grep “(Device|codec)”|grep -B1 Ogg
    Device identifier: samsung_yh920
      Audio codec(s): MP3, WMA, Ogg Vorbis

    Device identifier: iriver_h10jr_ums_1.00-1.61
      Audio codec(s): MP3, Ogg Vorbis, WMA, WAV
    Device identifier: iriver_u10_ums_1.00-1.65
      Audio codec(s): MP3, Ogg Vorbis, WMA, WAV
    Device identifier: iriver_e10_ums_1.0-1.4
      Audio codec(s): MP3, Ogg Vorbis, WMA, WAV
    Device identifier: iriver_h100
      Audio codec(s): MP3, Ogg Vorbis, WMA, WAV
    Device identifier: iriver_h300
      Audio codec(s): MP3, Ogg Vorbis, WMA, WAV

    There’s presumably also some of the devices supported by libmtp, but then you don’t have a regular USB mass storage device.

    Oh, did I mention I’m also looking for a sponsor :o)
    http://mentors.debian.net/cgi-bin/sponsor-pkglist?action=details;package=pmplib

  2. My understanding is that there are two different firmware blobs available for the iRiver, only one of which supports use as a USB mass storage device, but if you have the wrong one it’s a simple matter to switch to the other one.  Perhaps one’s the default in the US and the other’s the default elsewhere?  No idea.

  3. My fiancee recently got ahold of an iAudio U3, as her previous attempt at a Vorbis player (a StormBlue A9) wasn’t capable of playing a single track all the way through without issue.

    It seems reasonably capable, and certainly does what she needs – doesn’t come with a charger though, and is charged only via USB.

  4. I never tried it with the iRiver T10, but I successfully coverted the iRiver T30 and the T20FM to a USB Mass Storage device.
    This even works without access to a Microsoft Windows machine, even though it is easier, as iRiver nowadays offers a nifty GUI to manage the conversion.

    The easiest way to convert the device under Linux is to get gphoto2 and access the iRiver device with it. Luckily gphoto2 offers the necessary MTP/PTP support.
    Get the needed conversion firmware from http://nyaochi.sakura.ne.jp/iriverupdate/ and rename the file to T10_MTP.HEX and transfer it into the Data folder of the T10 with the help of gphoto2. Reboot and the firmware “upgrade” starts.

  5. I would love to hear what you think of your Shure headphones.  I was thinking about getting a pair, but it’s hard to spend $100 on something like that.  Can you tell that much difference in sound quality compared to a cheaper pair?  Do they seem sturdy?  Are they comfortable (I’ve never had in-ear phones before)?

    Thanks!

    Google can’t seem to find any prior mention of these headphones on your blog 😉

  6. The penultimate generation of iPods can also play oggs if you install them with RockBox.

    I’ve got a 2GB Nano running RockBox and it is awesome. It is a shame it doesn’t work on the newer models yet.

  7. Kris Marsh
    on said:

    You’ve already had a few comments about the iRiver, but here’s another one 😉

    I’ve got an iRiver U10 – similar type of thing, 2GB UMS flash drive. The European model is UMS, and the American model is proprietory.

    With both models the iRiver keeps an internal database of available music files… which doesn’t get automatically updated. This means you will either need Windows or download pmplib/easypmp to manually update the iRiver DB whenever you add/remove files.

    I imagine this is the same for all iRiver flash players, so hope this helps.

    P.S. I’m keeping an eye out for something not so retarded, so thanks for the article 🙂

  8. @thedward:

    Whilst Rockbox is fantastic, I’d recommend against buying an Apple player to run it – Apple’s players all use proprietary PortalPlayer chips, which don’t work remotely as well as other targets (e.g. battery life is considerably lower than with the original firmware when using PortalPlayer-based targets, the UI is much slower)

  9. David Weinehall
    on said:

    Several of the Ogg Vorbis-players I’ve tried so far has had problems playing certain songs of q6 or higher, despite claiming to be able to.  It is only a few specific songs, but they sounds perfect on my desktop system, so I’m ruling out encoding errors (also, they’re encoded with the latest available version of oggenc). Also, the songs play back fine if encoded as q5 or lower.

    If you’d like to have a small snippet of the troublesome songs for testing, feel free to contact me.

  10. I’d hazard a guess that ogg-playback via rockbox on any player without native ogg support will be detremental to battery life as the decoding will be done on the GPU rather than in a hardware decoder. This is all speculative, though. I’d guess most players have a hardware mp3 decoder and so battery life for MP3 playback would be better. Mind you, you can’t put rockbox on the T10 afaik.

    I’d be tempted to go for the T10, but only because I’ve had luck with iriver stuff before (I have an H140).

  11. I would recomend going for one of the Cowon Players over and above an iRiver.

    I bought my other half an iRiver player, unfortunatly it was DOA, but things like this happen fair enough. I sent it off the the iRiver repair base in Germay, about 2 months later they returned it supposedly fixed. However when it came back it initially appeared to be working, however it was unable to play a tune without crashing.

    At this point, I returned it and got one of the Cowan Players. It runs for 40 hours from a single AAA battery has a FM radio, Play’s OGG’s, appears as a USB Filesystem and works great with linux….

  12. @Jon

    There’s no such thing as “hardware decoders” anymore – all players currently on the market do CPU-based decoding. Apple & modern iRivers use PortalPlayer (dual ARM); iAudio and older iRivers use ColdFusion (m68k) chips; Microsoft’s Zune is a 540MHz ARM.

    The old era of players (e.g. the old Archos players) were hardware decoder based, but it’s presumably cheaper to manufacture a player with a slightly faster CPU and do all the decoding on there, rather than have a “controller” CPU and separate decoder chips.

    ColdFire-based iRiver players are known to give better battery life with Rockbox than the original iRiver firmware!

  13. A few years ago I bought an iriver iFP-880 and
    was pretty happy with it, although it took some
    effort to make it work (nowadays ifp-line handles
    this unit perfectly under Linux). That player
    is essentially obsolete but I was happy with
    iriver and so I bought a 2GB T10 (black). The
    biggest hurdle in using this player under Linux
    is finding a Windows box in order to update the
    firmware (and this is a big negative for me, I
    was on the brink of not purchasing this player
    but unfortunately Cowon is not easily accessible
    in Canada). In any case I got the iriver and
    after following the instructions in this page:

    http://www.pantip.com/tech/gadget/topic/TM2227046/TM2227046.html

    I had a working UMS ogg vorbis player (note that
    it’s a two-step process if the firmware is 1.71
    or below, but once it’s at 1.72 it can be updated
    to 1.73 UMS). The software itself is at:

    http://www.iriveramerica.com/support/mtpupdate/

    I’m quite happy with the player: the AA batteries
    have good life and the unit is rugged. It mounts
    under Linux as any other UMS device. It also
    has an FM radio which I rarely use. There are
    a few cons:

    Not the cheapest player

    No case (the iFP-880 had one)

    There is a limit as to how many files can be
    stored in a directory… I forget how many,
    I simply stored 125 files in each of five
    directories I created (125 is well below the
    limit, though).

    The equalizer isn’t very good… the “Rock”
    setting sounds bad, I use the “Classic” presets,
    it seems to be fine for most stuff.

    It’s fugly

    I’ve tested q0 to q10, all worked perfectly,
    but q0 sounds pretty bad. I think q3 strikes
    a pretty good size/quality balance, I’ve stored
    about 600 ogg files this way.

    Overall recommended if one can get past the
    initial Windows hassle.

  14. Oh, one perhaps important thing I forgot to
    mention, I don’t know if the T10 can have playlists
    when uploaded via UMS. In fact, the files seem to
    show up in random order, which is rather annoying.
    Since I use shuffle mode for playback I don’t
    really care, but finding a particular song is
    rather a hassle.

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