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Old 10-24-2007, 01:33 AM
redsquare redsquare is offline
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Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: Columbia, MO
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Default In-depth first impressions of 2GB Clip

I've had mine for just over a day now, and as I found the info posted here previously to be very helpful for me, I thought I'd log on and chime in. As this post got longer, I thought maybe it might be worth a new thread as opposed to a reply to another.

I'll be taking the Clip out on my first run tomorrow (my primary use for it will be wearing it while trail running a few days per week), so I haven't tested it "in the field" yet--just at home. My initial thoughts:
  • The sound is very nice--crisp, clear, vivid. The default EQ settings aren't that great, but they never are. At first listen, normal, rock (a more compressed setting) and jazz (pretty sizzly, almost harsh) sounded best, but a quick tweaking of the 5 bands on the Custom setting gave me a stronger sound than any of them--sort of like a loudness control, with better bass and midrange. (I'm listening on inexpensive Philips earclip headphones, which are slightly shy in the bass area. Haven't tried the earbuds that come with the Clip.) The radio sounds excellent by default. Reception seems decent--the primary local stations are loud and clear. The device's volume is good; there are two basic ranges available in the settings--normal and louder--and the 'normal' range is more than loud enough for me.
  • The size is nice too. A miniature Zippo lighter is probably the best way to think of it. It's quite light but just barely avoids feeling flimsy. The whole front face of the unit is a glossy, clear plastic, the rest of the body a glossy opaque plastic. The control wheel has a rougher texture, not slick, almost like rubber (but not). The controls and jacks are all pretty tight-feeling (USB and headphone jacks are very tight); as has been mentioned elsewhere, the power slider does rattle ever-so-slightly (not noticeable when in use), but when in the "hold" position, it doesn't move at all.
  • The screen, while quite small (which I like), is bright and very readable, and the two colors are good choices. (Again, yet to try it outside in daylight.) You can set the brightness of the display manually; I set it to the minimum setting and it was still plenty bright for me indoors. The control-wheel-ring brightness is constant, but not obtrusive, as the power-saving mode (which you can also control) turns it off within a few seconds of your last button-push.
  • Having read discussion about how the device shows up in Windows, how music is managed on it, etc, I was a little nervous about how that would work. But on my system (Dell Dimension 8100 with WinXP Home), it's been smooth as silk--the device shows up as a drive, I can see all the files on it, and the MTP/MSC toggling trick works fine. Dragging & dropping songs onto it works fine, and they automatically get slotted by their ID3 tags. I also had no problem getting it to work with Windows Media Player (v11)--it recognized the player (complete with a little image of it!), and I made up a quick playlist and copied it to the device without issues. Having it sort by folder, in addition to the ID3 tags (song, artist, album, genre) & playlists it currently sorts by, would be handy, but I can already tell that this will work for me.

    Note that you can create folders on the device via Windows, and store sound files in them; it's just that the folders aren't displayed when you browse files in the player itself (all the individual files within the folders get sorted out by ID3 tag). So if you want to manage things that way when you're loading from your PC, you still can, but you can't browse them that way on the player.
  • It's obviously too soon to tell about battery life. Due to some other work I was doing on my PC, I plugged and unplugged it a few times while first charging it, so I didn't get an accurate idea of how long it took to charge. It already had some degree of charge when I opened the box--it wasn't "dead" by default. I'm less concerned about the time per charge than about the overall battery life. Having had my perfectly good (and so-durable) old RCA Kazoo rendered unusable by broken software (the evil MusicMatch), I'm hoping the "planned obsolescence" of this device is several years away in the future.
  • Recording. In my first tests of the voice recorder, I, like another reviewer, found the results to be slightly muffled--good low end but somewhat boxy high end. That's a little disappointing, as I was hoping this would be a cheap tool for basic but crisp field/ambient recordings. As it is, it'll be great for dictation and capturing strong sounds, but probably not as good for capturing the details of ambient noise (perhaps something it was designed to filter, but if so, I'd like to have the option of switching that off--firmware, maybe?). I'll try it out some more, though, and try to EQ the resulting WAV files to make them brighter. One tip: speaking directly down into the mic at close range can add a bit of boominess and breath noise. If you speak "over" the mic (talk with the front of the player facing you instead of pointing the mic toward you), you'll get a more even, natural, pleasant sound. (I'd like to hear anyone else's observations or ideas on mic recording with the Clip.)

    The radio recordings I've made so far, however, sound great--just like the source. I expect that the little digital tuner will at times be vulnerable to introducing a bit of digital static, but the test recordings I made from strong local stations sounded excellent.

    One observation on the recordings: radio recordings are at 768 kbps/24 KHz, while voice recordings are at 256 kbps/16 KHz. Even with the mono/stereo difference, that voice bitrate seems low--I wonder if that contributes to the boxy sound. Don't get me wrong--the voice recording is smooth and clean (not distorted)--but just not as crisp as the radio.
  • The control system & navigation has been pleasant to use so far. Without reading the instructions, I've been pretty easily able to move around, access all the functions and tweak settings. It'll take some more use for it to become intuitive, but it's easy to figure out. For most operations, the correct button to push is pretty logical; I only occasionally feel "stranded". (Hint: when none of the labeled buttons seems to do what you want, try the blank center button.) The home button always takes you to the main menu, and the center button flips through radio presets. There is a pause button (which remembers your position in the song you last listened to, or radio station, after powering off), but no stop button.
  • The clip mechanism itself seems tight and quite securely attached to the device, and holds decently firmly to what you attach it to. It's all plastic (aside from the tiny spring), so it can be flexed, but hopefully that won't be an issue. Since it's removable, I'm hoping that replacement clips can be obtained from the manufacturer, or that they (or someone else) will make metal ones available later. I'll be running with it clipped to a sweatband around my bicep, and initial tests of that seem to work well, though that does expand the clip to its widest. It seems fine so far, but I have to say I am a little surprised that the part the device is named for isn't a little more substantial.
  • The way I'll be carrying the player, the placement of the volume control (just below the headphone jack) shouldn't be an issue for me. What does seem more vulnerable to me is the USB port--it's open, with no cover. For anyone planning to wear the unit on their left side (which includes me), that faces an open USB port into the wind. It's a very small opening, but I'll be more nervous than usual running in a light rain. Even my old Kazoo had a built-in rubber plug for the port--like the clip, it seems like something that could have been improved just a bit before final launch. Hopefully this thing will be popular enough so that third-party accessories will spring up and compensate for a few things like this.
Of course, the only real test that matters for something like this is active use. Does it sound good in all types of settings, does the clip mechanism hold up well, does the battery hold its charge over time, is it sturdy, does it hold up to the elements, do the controls continue to work for years to come? All those questions are unanswered. But so far, for all its features, its ease of use and compatibility with the PC, and its practical size and built-in clip, it feels like a great value and hopefully one I'll be using for a long time. If not, I'll come back here and complain.

If anyone has questions, I'll be happy to answer if I can.

Last edited by redsquare; 10-24-2007 at 01:59 AM. Reason: Additional detail/explanation
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