CD and MP3: A Match Made in Music Heaven
Melissa J. Perenson
Never mind those pricey, pocket-size MP3 players with limited storage: Give me a portable CD player that can handle 10 hours of MP3 music (about 150 files) burned to a single CD. In addition to providing dual-mode (CD/MP3) playback, these players run $50 to $180 cheaper than their all-digital MP3 counterparts.
I tested the newest such players from TDK, Pine Technology USA, and D-Link with a CD holding 134 MP3s of varying bit rates (96 kbps to 360 kbps). Many of the songs' ID3 tags--which contain artist, track, and album information--were incomplete or improperly formatted.
The TDK's large, easy-to-read backlit LCD screen is packed with icons and text information, including the track title and artist, equalizer presets, battery life, and repeat modes. Menus are generally well organized and simple to navigate, and the button controls are conveniently placed.
Thanks to an anti-skip 8-minute buffer for MP3 files, no matter how roughly I jostled the unit, the music never missed a beat--either with an audio CD or an MP3 CD.
You can't create playlists, but you can scan ahead to a point within a track (TDK expects this scan feature to be available in the shipping version of the Mojo, too). Pine's model has 50 seconds of electronic shock protection (ESP), which proved adequate for weathering most jolts it suffered while using either standard audio CDs or CDs with MP3 files.
Like the Mojo, the D'music has several equalizer pre-sets. Although neither player offers a significant sound boost through its presets, the D'music's settings were slightly more effective than those on my preproduction TDK unit.
One attractive feature of the DMP-CD100 is its programming mode, which lets you establish an ordered playlist. There are no equalizer presets, but a bass boost switch does its job nicely. Still, the sound isn't as good as on the other two players, and 10 seconds of ESP did little to prevent skipping.
Overall, the TDK Mojo is the best-designed, best-sounding player in this group, with the Pine SM-200C+ finishing a close second. But any of these three units will support hours of enjoyable music playback.
Low cost; programming mode.
Display lacks track information; inadequate shock protection.
Entry-level player at insignificant price premium over a standard portable audio CD player.
List price: $120
D'music MP3 CD Player SM-200C+
Excellent player controls.
Does not have a programming or playlist mode.
Good choice if playlists aren't a priority.
List price: $229
Pine Technology USA
Full track and artist info; easy track search and playlist generation.
Can't specify a particular song order within a playlist.
Best design and playback options available today.
List price: $180