Quick mini-review: RioVolt SP-250
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minya

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I'm inside a library now so this won't be very long, but I figured I could post my thoughts of the player and hopefully see other people's opinions.

Really short version: Pretty damn good - with some flaws - but still overall worth the price.

Little longer: I recently decided to pick up an MP3 CD player since I'm an MP3 freak (I'm not a 'dyed-in-the-wool audiophile' by any means; music lover indeed, but I don't have the money or the need to really delve into "hi-fi" audio). I browsed several sites (but not this one, didn't know it existed yet) trying to find information on the various most popular models and narrowed it down to the RioVolt 250 and the iRiver Slim-X (which seems quite popular on here). Why did I choose the RioVolt? Mainly because of the $30 rebate (which brought the final price to $113).

My first encounter with the unit was an interesting one. The things it come with are really quite commendable; an AC adapter which recharges the batteries (more on that later), a neat "carrying case" (more like a leather jacket for the CD player with a strap and belt clip, which actually works really well), a remote (no LCD), and of course the canal-phones and earbuds (neither of which I have tried... nor do I think I need to).

My first step with the player was trying to charge its included rechargeable batteries. My God, what a mess that was. All in all it took me approximately three hours and three burnt CDs. Why burnt CDs, you ask? Because, as far as I know, you need to update the firmware to recharge the batteries (from 1.00 to 2.05) and for some reason, Nero couldn't burn the firmware disc properly (only CDRWin could). I don't think I really needed to update the firmware, but that was the only thing that finally worked for me.

Once I got that settled, it was time to actually test the player. I used a pair of Koss PortaPros (and later a Grado SR-80) and my first impression was "wow!" The sound really is quite nice out of this thing. (All my MP3s are 192+ or VBR, so my collection is nearly-CD quality.) One thing I did notice, however, is that the SP-250 seems to have problems driving phones. My normal PCDP is a two-year old Philips which works quite well (I don't have the exact model #, sorry) and which can drive headphones to excruciating ear-splitting volume. The RioVolt, however, is really quiet - until you get to the nearly-full volume level. The volume goes from 1-40 and from 1-35 the volume changes accordingly but is still on the rather quiet side (not to say that the low 30s won't be enough for most people), but when I turned it up to around 38 and 39, I got wonderfully full volume and (I think) better, more natural sound. (I think.)

The interface is generally excellent; you can easily maneuver through a disc of mp3s (make sure to organize them by folder though!) and you can jump tracks 10 at a time, which I found to be useful. One incredibly irritating (and arbitrary) little flaw that I noticed was the lack of an "artist - album" scroll on the main playing-info screen. The player reads ID3 tags and scrolls the filename with the artist's title, but above that lies a stagnant, non-scrolling view of the folder title. When listening to a band with a longer name, that can get really annoying. (Tip: when navigating through the disc's folders in the "NAVI" menu, if you sit on a folder/album for a few seconds it will begin to scroll. But not in the main screen - don't ask me why.)

Battery time was atrocious the first time I charged them up. I then recharged (using the supplied "discharge, then recharge" option of the player - very useful!) and managed a far more respectable ~12 hours or so; not bad at all when you can recharge for free.

I just recently ordered one of Fixup's Super Mini amps, so I will soon be able to give my thoughts regarding its sound when amped, but I did for the hell of it test the line-out. I've read others reports that the 250 (or at least the lesser models, like the SP-90) don't have "true" line outs; in other words, they're just second headphone ports. Not (really) true in the 250's case. It's definitely not a headphone port, as far as I can tell, because the sound is far quieter and sounds a bit "farther away" than with the headphone jack. Nonetheless the volume controls on the player affect the line-out port, so I don't entirely know what's up there.

On a final note, I have heard several reports of the players dying very soon after first use, or of being generally fragile. I can vouch for the fragility: I didn't drop it or anything, but it seems to me like this is a player you want to be very careful with. I did also some weird glitches the fourth or fifth time I used it; I was afraid I had purchased one of the "DOA" 250s (discs took extraordinarily long times to load, said "NO DISC" when there was a disc, etc.) but it went back to normal shortly after and has been so since. So, no idea what the problem is, but it seems like it's just a fleeting thing.

Overall, I'm very pleased with the performance of the player, especially for the great price I got it for ($113 from Amazon.com after the $30 rebate). I haven't used any other MP3 CD players so I can't directly compare it, but I would definitely recommend it to someone in the market for one.

- Chris
 
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TripsRight

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Quote:

Originally posted by minya
The RioVolt, however, is really quiet - until you get to the nearly-full volume level. The volume goes from 1-40 and from 1-35 the volume changes accordingly but is still on the rather quiet side (not to say that the low 30s won't be enough for most people), but when I turned it up to around 38 and 39, I got wonderfully full volume and (I think) better, more natural sound. (I think.)


This is quite interesting because on my original Rio Volt (what's now called the SP-100) my normal listening volume is anywhere from 14-19 out of 40 on PortaPros, KSC-35s, and SR-80s. They must have gone down the whimpy headphone out route like everyone else.
 
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minya

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Quote:

Originally posted by TripsRight
This is quite interesting because on my original Rio Volt (what's now called the SP-100) my normal listening volume is anywhere from 14-19 out of 40 on PortaPros, KSC-35s, and SR-80s. They must have gone down the whimpy headphone out route like everyone else.


Huh... yeah, interesting. Oh well. It isn't really a problem. After I got over the guilt of turning it up so high, I get great sound out of it, and I expect it to sound even better with Fixup's amplifier.

- Chris
 
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a1leyez0nm3

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umm... i have a 250 and my bro has a slimx... i use 14-19 , 21 at most with 280 pros, V6, koss series (like porta pro), and ex70.... when i turn it past 30, the sound really degrades.. (bass dulls, becomes faint sounding, etc..) (which rio said they do so that the unit doesnt distort too much). 40 is earsplitting... on any of my phones... either your unit is broken or you must have really bad hearing dude... or u just listen really super loud!... not a good thing..
 
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minya

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Quote:

Originally posted by a1leyez0nm3
umm... i have a 250 and my bro has a slimx... i use 14-19 , 21 at most with 280 pros, V6, koss series (like porta pro), and ex70.... when i turn it past 30, the sound really degrades.. (bass dulls, becomes faint sounding, etc..) (which rio said they do so that the unit doesnt distort too much). 40 is earsplitting... on any of my phones... either your unit is broken or you must have really bad hearing dude... or u just listen really super loud!... not a good thing..


Weird. I have *really* good hearing and I rarely tend to listen to things over-loud, so it looks like the circuits in mine are switched or something. :p

The higher I turn mine up, the better it sounds.

Regardless, I'm getting an amp soon, so I hope that'll make it sound even better.

- Chris
 
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I just picked up one of these today myself. I chose this over the SlimX because I figured the display is everything when dealing with mass storage of MP3s, and the utter lack of one on the SlimX's main unit made it a no go for me, and I hate carrying remotes. The final thing that sealed it was the lack of even directory navigation buttons on the SlimX's main unit. This looks to be a trend with the upcoming 400 model, so I figured the SP250 could very well end up becoming like Sony's older vs. newer PCDP situation.

This thing is obviously not small in comparison to the newer PCDPs out there, but it is very feature rich with easily accessible buttons right on the main unit. The build quality though rather sucks. Sony's plastic based players are built better for sure. My main worry is the loose lid that actually slides slightly while the lid is closed. The battery door also slides open rather easily. Overall not something to be roughed around, so I question how well it'll hold up everyday in my backpack stuffed with books.

Sound quality is very good out of the headphone jack. Playing a normal CD and playing around with its EQ, it definitely has the potential to sound as good if not better than MD players. And I think this thing toasts all current PCDPs as far as the headphone out is concerned. One annoyance though is how fast the volume jumps incrementally...it's not as well spaced as MDs have their volume levels spaced. I listen at level 14 with my MX500s and it's just a bit too soft...jumping to level 15 is a bit too loud.


I haven't gotten to checking out how it does with MP3s because it *ahem* takes just as long if not longer than doing an MD recording session. So far it has taken an hour to rip and encode one CD with the best sound quality settings on EAC and LAME. This is definitely going no faster than MD recording. The only thing to look forward to at the end of it all is that I'll be able to have 5-6 albums on one disc instead of only one album on one MD, but in terms of time period, I could just as easily have made 5 MDs to this one MP3 CD. No time gained here.

I do have to painfully admit though, with the cost effective MP3 CD player finally here, MD may very well be at the end of its lifespan as a portable player. It's just ultimately too troublesome to have only one album per MD, and to have to sacrifice an audible amount of sound quality to fit any more then one album, which is what drove me to look into an MP3 CD solution. MP3s of my CDs at 320 still allows me to fit a good 5-6 albums on. This may very well be the way to go.
 
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acs236

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Vertigo,

Out of curioisity, why does it take you so long to make an MP3/CD -- can you do a rough break down between DAE and compression? I haven't timed it myself, but I'm certain it takes under an hour to rip 5 CDs, encode at 320vbr and burn, which would be out as long as it takes to convert a single CD to a minidisc, if I'm not mistaken.
 
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minya

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Quote:

Originally posted by Vertigo-1
I just picked up one of these today myself. I chose this over the SlimX because I figured the display is everything when dealing with mass storage of MP3s, and the utter lack of one on the SlimX's main unit made it a no go for me, and I hate carrying remotes.

One annoyance though is how fast the volume jumps incrementally...it's not as well spaced as MDs have their volume levels spaced. I listen at level 14 with my MX500s and it's just a bit too soft...jumping to level 15 is a bit too loud.


Vertigo, I definitely agree with you re: the remote/display. That's also why I didn't get the SlimX. I really like the RioVolt's display.

About the volume, were you aware that you can go into the settings and change the volume "detail level" (for lack of a better word)? i.e. you can make it become less incremental, so turning the volume up has more effect per "notch", or more incremental, so you can finely tune the volume. Try turning it to the more incremental setting if it isn't already.

- Chris
 
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Vertigo-1

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acs236: it takes about 45 minutes for my drive to rip a CD, because I believe its max audio extraction speed is 7x (it's a Cyndyne/Hitachi 32x CD/12x DVD ROM). Then encoding takes about 15-20 minutes.

minya: I didn't see such an option under the options menu. This is a RioVolt SP250, you sure what you're talking about isn't a iRiver 2 firmware exclusive?
 
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Tim D

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http://www.l33tpeeps.com/l33t/module...rticle&artid=1

Follow some of these settings and you can encode during rips. Also I don't know how the encoding speed of 192 VBR compares to 320...I'd personally pick the VBR myself since most of the quality hit comes from the mp3 compression itself, and not the few extra bits that are being squeezed in or out.

What I'd want in any Mp3 player is gapless playback (without track merge like the ipod/itunes supposedly has option for)
 
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minya

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Quote:

Originally posted by Vertigo-1
acs236: it takes about 45 minutes for my drive to rip a CD, because I believe its max audio extraction speed is 7x (it's a Cyndyne/Hitachi 32x CD/12x DVD ROM). Then encoding takes about 15-20 minutes.

minya: I didn't see such an option under the options menu. This is a RioVolt SP250, you sure what you're talking about isn't a iRiver 2 firmware exclusive?


Positive, Vertigo, I've got the RioVolt as well. I did upgrade my firmware (to 2.05), but I'm almost positive the option is included with the firmware the player ships with. I'm sure the option is in there - just dig around. And read the manual.


P.S. If you're going to update the firmware, I recommend burning the disc with something like CDRWin, not Nero. Nero, for whatever reason, didn't work for me, on the three times I tried.

P.P.S. Supposedly iRiver firmware works fine with RioVolts; if so, iRiver just released version 2.10 of the iMP/SP-250 firmware, which, so far as I know, Sonicblue has not yet released. So, check http://www.iriver.com for hot, new 250 action.

Quote:

Follow some of these settings and you can encode during rips. Also I don't know how the encoding speed of 192 VBR compares to 320...I'd personally pick the VBR myself since most of the quality hit comes from the mp3 compression itself, and not the few extra bits that are being squeezed in or out.


Hrm.. yes, ripping even at 7x should not take 45 minutes. Are you using EAC? http://www.exactaudiocopy.de If not, I recommend it.

Second, you should use this as an MP3 encoder: http://www.dors.de/razorlame/index.php . It makes encoding much easier and gives you a nice GUI to handle all the options LAME has (www.lame.org - definitely the MP3 encoder you should be using. Stay the HELL away from Xing/MusicMatch, and even away from Fraunhofer - LAME is the best by far.) If you don't know what bitrate you wnt to encode in, I highly recommending using one of the presets: "--alt-preset standard" for ~180kbps MP3s, "--alt-preset extreme" for ~256kbps MP3s, or "--alt-preset insane" for ~320kbps MP3s. All are variable bitrate and joint stereo (things you want!).

Quote:

What I'd want in any Mp3 player is gapless playback (without track merge like the ipod/itunes supposedly has option for)


There's an easy solution for this. Some newer computer software players offer "track blending" that crossfades in between tracks and works sufficiently well, but for true gapless output (and for hardware players) just record the disc as one giant file and encode that. In EAC, it's simple; press the "img + cue" button (or something like that) and EAC will encode the entire disc as one .wav file, preserving all the original track markers/track fades completely, as well as creating a. cue containing that information for re-burning with CDRWin or for playback with Winamp/MP3Cue.
This is the solution I use for mix CDs and the like. I definitely recommend it.

I hope this helps.
- Chris
 
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Vertigo-1

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I really don't see that option under the menus, and I'm using firmware 2.05.
You might have to get specific with me. I flashed the 250 within minutes of getting it out of its package. I used Nero BTW, worked flawlessly and the new features that were stated in the readme like the Study feature are now there, but I've read of other people having problems. I read the manual, it's gotta be one of the worst manuals I've ever read considering it left out the specifics of quite a number of features the player had. i.e. I pretty much have to do any instructive reading online.

And yeah, I'm using EAC and Lame, both are the latest versions. I think the drive just sucks...back when I had a Kenwood 72x installed, ripping tracks took about 10 seconds each. Now it takes over a minute per track.


Getting the iRiver 2 firmware to work on the SP250 actually requires some hex editing/hacking. I can do it if I must, but it's something I'd rather not do given I'm already happy with the SP250's current feature set.
 
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Quote:

Originally posted by minya
Positive, Vertigo, I've got the RioVolt as well. I did upgrade my firmware (to 2.05), but I'm almost positive the option is included with the firmware the player ships with. I'm sure the option is in there - just dig around. And read the manual.



Yeah, I have the original RioVolt (now called SP-100) and it has the ability to change the volume control from increments of 20 or increments of 40, so it should definitely be on the SP-250.
 
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Okay, I see what's going on now, after reading the online manual. My 250 is completely missing the volume level set feature. In its place is a fade in feature. The player came like this, and it's like this even after the 2.05 flash. How the heck can I get the volume level set feature in, cause I seriously need it! Or do I have some older, cruddier 250 that can't accept that feature or something?
 
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minya

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Quote:

Originally posted by Vertigo-1
Okay, I see what's going on now, after reading the online manual. My 250 is completely missing the volume level set feature. In its place is a fade in feature. The player came like this, and it's like this even after the 2.05 flash. How the heck can I get the volume level set feature in, cause I seriously need it! Or do I have some older, cruddier 250 that can't accept that feature or something?


I don't think so. I have that "fade in" feature but I also have the volume level feature. I just got home, so I'll soon check my RioVolt and tell you exactly where it is.

- Chris
 
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