well for $100, i took a chance and bought this unit.
after several hours of listening (Senn mx500 and Koss 35), i would say this player is "average good." after listening on a lot of portables, i have come to the conclusion that above a certain threshold of decent sound, most improvements can only be made through headphones and/or amps. there is no such thing as an audiophile portable. but that is a topic for a whole other thread!
sound is good: no hiss or other non-musical noise; treble is slightly rolled off.....makes for non-fatiguing listening, but a little less crisp than i like. bass is very good...even with the earbuds, i do not use the megabass setting. imaging and dynamic range are as expected -- minimal. Surprisingly, i like the sound better on MP3's (using 320 kbps CBR). The highs are cleaner and there is actually a sense of soundstage and space between instruments.
functionality: good basic unit. uses AA batteries (30 hour life) which i happen to prefer to recharging. listening at work, i use an ac adapter (not included btw). minimal LCD readout...just enough to know what's on. it will support CD text...nice. no sure yet on navigation in an MP3 CD....so far i have just listened either stright through or random. skip protection is amazing....short of breaking the unit, i could nt even make it skip once.
It sounds like you like your new unit, and I'm really glad to hear it. I owned a Sony D-CJ506CK for 26 hours before I returned it. I strongly believe the unit I bought was defective. I mean MASSIVELY defective. On every CD I played, the low range (about 125 hertz and down) clipped. It was like the bass was skipping but the rest of the music played on. This was a problem with both G protection settings, and Bass 1 and Bass 2 only aggrevated the problem.
I was really disappointed the player didn't work well, because I really liked it aesthetically. I'm glad to hear your unit works fine. Even though I had the 506 and you have the 500, I think they're siblings. Maybe the one I picked up just got banged around a little too much in the blister packaging. You're right, though. That G-protection skip stuff is amazing. I think the only way to skip it is to actually break the player! Hope you enjoy your new unit.