With the above in mind, I first tried the iAudio 5 player. The memory capacity comes in 256 MB, 512 MB, and 1 GB. The unit I evaluated had 512 mb of memory, sported an aqua blue color, and retails for $149. The 256 MB unit is available for $129, and the 1 GB for $169. JetAudio manufactures several different players, and is predominately involved in the flash based music player sector. The blue color refers to the metal on the back of the unit only. JetAudio recently changed their name in America to reflect their parent company in Korea, and are now known as Cowon America.
What’s In The Box
The package includes the following:
-iAudio 5 player
-AAA battery (Duracell)
-fashion necklace string
-clearness carrying case
-simple USB connector
-USB 2.0 cable
-line-in recording cable
The iAudio 5 player itself is attractive and finely crafted. It is small (3.02 x 1.38 x 0.71 inches), and weighs just under an ounce without the battery. The top of the device has line-in and earphone jacks for standard mini RCA audio connections. The bottom has the USB connector with a tethered cover, and the battery door. I award kudos to JetAudio for attaching both, and for making them nearly impossible to lose. The front features the LCD display, microphone, and no buttons. The left side has a toggle switch to control volume, and menus. The right side has the remainder of the controls including another toggle for play, stop, fast forward, rewind, and switches for mode, record, and hold. The mode button toggles between MP3 player, FM radio, voice recorder, and line in recording modes. The hold button locks the device to whatever it is doing. This is useful during active sports to keep the music playing without worrying that a button press will interrupt the tunes.
Features In Use
The unit is powered by a single AAA battery. The manufacturer states that it has a 20 hour life. My testing puts it closer to 12 to 14 hours. It is great to have a device use a standard battery. It means you won’t have to send it back for a $99 battery change like the iPod, and on vacation you don’t have to bring any special charger. You can run it off a NIMH rechargeable battery, and there is even a menu choice to calibrate the device for that type of battery to maximize its life.
The music formats supported are more than most other players, and I commend JetAudio for such broad, open support. First, it plays MP3s from 8 to 320 Kbps, including both constant bit rate and the less common variable bit rate varieties. It also plays WAV files, although with these capacities, I doubt anyone will use this mode (you would not have enough room for one full CD of music). Furthermore, the iAudio 5 plays WMA (Windows Media Audio) files of both constant bit rate (5 to 320 Kbps), and variable bit rate (48 to 256 Kbps). It also supports OGG (Ogg Vorbis) files, up to a quality setting of 10. If the preceding has your head swimming, than the “take home message” is that it will play most standard PC music files. Unfortunately, it does not play AAC (Audio Associated Codec) files which is the format for downloads from the iTunes store (at the time of writing, only iPods support this format). Also, it does not support any lossless format, which while not currently popular, is likely to gain some momentum over time. However, the player still supports more formats than most others currently on the market. The device is firmware upgradeable so there is the possibility of adding support for new formats; however, there was no upgrade available presently for this model on the JetAudio web site, and it was tested using firmware 1.10 which came installed.
The LCD is a 128 x 64 pixel full graphic display. The standout feature is the color of the display. The display is not an LCD color display, but rather a monochrome LCD that gets illuminated from a series of LEDs that give it a rich color. The display is capable of “thousands of colors;” it is able to do the entire rainbow. You can even custom mix a color and tell the unit to display it for a certain function (FM radio, for example). The display goes dark after a few seconds to save battery life. If looking to impress your friends, then the display can be toggled to on, and a choice of 2 themes chosen. Next thing you know, the colors are changing with the beat. To impress even further, you can load a custom logo for starting up.
The display has more information compacted into an area smaller than the score card in the program at a baseball doubleheader. When the unit is in the case without the backlight on it is very difficult to read the display, unless in direct sunlight. Pressing any button fires up the backlight and allows those without reading glasses to find a wealth of info. The left hand side has a pixel display, and the right side has dedicated displays. The left side shows the name of the track, the album, and group name. In addition, a bar displays progress of the song. It also shows the KHz and kbps numbers. Finally, there is a teeny equalizer with the name of the settings. The right hand side displays the track number, the time into the track numerically, a battery life indicator, a volume indicator, a play mode indicator, and a “spinning” disc, and left and right channel bars. This is more information than most home stereos display in far less space, however I would prefer a little less information, in a larger, more readable, format.
The iAudio 5 connects over a USB 2.0 interface. The unit connects to a “simple USB connector,” and then to the included cable to connect to the computer. The fast read and write speeds are consistent with a 2.0 USB connection. It takes roughly 5 minutes to fill the 512 MB with music (129 MP3s, for the record) and can be done with the unit off. The MP3s can be placed in the music folder on the player; no software is required to be installed on the computer.
The player, while very small and light, still has to be carried somehow. The choices are the included fashion necklace string, or the clear carrying case. The case is designed to allow visibility to the LCD, and to protect the player from moisture. There are cutouts for the controls, and headphone jack. However, with the cutouts, if caught in the rain, the player will get wet while in the case.
The iAudio 5 also includes the ability to record sound via the built in microphone, FM radio, or the line-in jack. For such a compact device this is a lot of power and flexibility. The recordings are stored in WAV or MP3 formats, and get saved into a file on the flash drive. In my tests, I found that voice spoken right in front of the player sounded pretty good, but television from a few feet away could not be heard on playback. Therefore, this is adequate for a quick voice memo, but not for recording a lecture or much else.
The included headphones from iAudio are an earbud design with a white color. They have a strong mid-range sound, but lack high end performance, and low end punch. Unfortunately, MP3s are generally lacking in upper and lower frequencies, and the headphones accentuate these deficits further. Even with the bass boost, and separate Mach 3 Bass, the bass was still anemic with the included earbuds. With the Sony headphones, or the tested speakers, I obtained a fuller frequency response. The iAudio 5 sound system offers more features than any HSN special deal of the day. Additional filters include MP3 enhancer which gives it a fuller, brighter sound. Also, 3D surround sound can be dialed in along 10 incremental settings. Pan to boost left or right channels (rather useless), and play speed settings (equally useless) serve to round out the features. The play speed settings are useless because the pitch is not held constant as in dedicated digital voice units, so voice can be listened to at a faster speed, but still sound like the same voice. If that wasn’t enough post processing, there is a 5 band equalizer with presets for normal, rock, classical, jazz, vocal, and even one user defined. In addition, each of these effects can be applied while listening so you can hear what the effect is doing and optimize it to your listening taste.
The FM radio is a nice added feature when you’re done listening to all your MP3s. It tunes in available stations clearly, and can scan for broadcasting frequencies (in 0.1 increments, although in the US the stations go by 0.2 and end in all-odd numbers). In addition you can record directly off the radio to the internal flash memory for that song you want to hear again and again.
http://www.livedigitally.com/wp-content/iaudiophoneBIG.jpg” target=”_new”>Indeed, any device that is so small, with so many features can only achieve this with some trade-offs. The iAudio 5 is no exception. For starters, there are too many ways to boost the bass: through the equalizer, the BBE, and the Mach 3 Bass. At least one could be eliminated to simplify adjustments. The manual does not explain many of the features and only has 20 pages in each language and left me wanting for more. There is a learning curve to navigating around comfortably using the two toggle switches, but I was comfortable after about 2 days. The buttons are on the smaller side, and users with larger fingers may have some difficulty. Speaking of smaller, the info on the display is very small as well. I was frustrated that I could not build playlists from the device. Also, there is no removable storage slot to expand the memory so I recommend you buy the larger 512 MB or 1 GB model. The player takes several seconds to start up, or shut down, which delays the start of the music. Audiophiles (as with just about all players they buy) will want to upgrade the headphones to a better model.
The iAudio 5 is a very stylish music player, with enough features to keep even advanced users satisfied for some time. The colorful display is clearly the standout feature. The use of a common AAA battery for power minimizes down time. The FM tuner means you never run out of new music during long layovers at the airport. The variety of recording modes and options extends the possibilities and usefulness of the device to a variety of applications. The number of supported file formats for playback complements these options. I envision this device for the young executive who likes to exercise with music, and travel without being weighed down with a heavier device. With all these possibilities, I’m sure they’ll find something worth listening to. For the extra dough, you can have something that is far more exclusive and feature rich than just another iPod Shuffle. When your friends see the multiple color display they’ll know why you chose the iAudio 5 and will be envious.
-standard AAA battery
-broad file format support (MP3, wav, ogg, and WMA)
-microphone and line in recording
-FM radio that can be recorded from
-fast transfer times
-very light and compact
-accessories included: case and necklace
-equalizer and bass boost
-MP3 enhancer enriches sound
-small text size on display
-battery life shorter than claimed
-no AAC file support
-microphone can only record nearby voice
-ear buds merely adequate, lack bass
-small buttons and switches
-manual doesn’t explain many features, too short
-no removable storage option
-several seconds to start up and shut down
-no way to enable back light to see name of song only