Rockbox on iRiver H320: A new lease on life
Mar 27, 2007 at 4:53 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 24

mkozlows

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So a while back, my wife bought an iRiver H320 for use with Yahoo Unlimited's subscription service and WMP. We both hated the thing, and mocked it soundly for its insane level of badness. From the comically unintuitive controls to the fact that it only synced via MTP on a USB 1.1 port to the complete lack of any database/tag browsing functionality at all, it was just so horribly bad in every way.

Meanwhile, I had bought a Dell DJ30 (and posted a review of it here, taking the opportunity to get in a few digs at the horrid little iRiver) that I used for the same purposes, and liked it well enough.

Well, time passed, and Microsoft did that whole Zune thing, which pissed me off enough that I converted my whole music library to FLAC (which works better with the Squeezebox, anyway). Since then, I'd just been transcoding the FLAC to MP3 before syncing it up to the player, but it was kind of irritating doing that with the Dell, since I pretty much had to use an MTP-compliant program to load the MP3s up, which in practice for me meant WMP. If I were actually using it for music playing and library management, this would work really well; but since I'm deeply into the Foobar world now, it's a bit awkward.

Well, a solution presented itself: I traded players with my wife, who now has a perfectly competent Dell for her Yahoo Unlimited usage, and I've got... well, a horrible little useless player that can be Rockboxed.

So I go to the internets and follow the instructions for upgrading the firmware and installing the Rockbox stuff, which goes smoothly enough. And at the end of the process... well, wow.

Okay, limitations first: Rockbox is like Foobar in that I'd never ever recommend it to somebody who wants an "It Just Works" solution. It's mildly hideous out of the default, some of the configuration choices are borderline crazy, and in general it wants you to know what you're doing.

That said, the H320 has such a terrible, terrible UI that even the Rockbox's barebones default is arguably an improvement on it. And sure, the database functionality isn't enabled right by default -- but the iRiver doesn't even have one, so it's not like that's a loss.

But anyway, once I installed a theme (iPodMax) on the box, initialized the database, and set some default configs, I was really impressed with the player. The database browsing UI is great, and it does the thing that almost no devices (except the Squeezebox!) do: The three-tier genre->artist->album browse. I don't know why this is so rare, but it's my default browse mode where possible, and I love that Rockbox supports it. Also a nice plus: Crossfeed support! I've gotten to really love this from my HeadRoom Micro amp, and having the option on a player is a nice touch.

So at this point, I've got a device that has solid sound quality (better than the Dell or any iPod that I've used; worse than the Micro DAC/Amp going to HD650s unamped, but I'd hope so), the ability to play FLAC natively so I don't need to muck about with transcoding, support for crossfeed, support for a browsing style that's widely unsupported, solid responsiveness and reasonably sensible controls, and a UI that's generally configurable and tweakable to do pretty much exactly what I want it to do

Okay, so it's still only a 20GB player, and it's still a fat ol' chunk. Nevertheless, the bar for my next player just got raised awfully high. I'm shocked by how good this thing is once you take iRiver's godawful programmers and UI designers out of the picture. Kudos to the Rockbox people, and if you've got one of these players with the original firmware, get it fixed as soon as possible.
 
Mar 27, 2007 at 11:22 AM Post #2 of 24

Dzjudz

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I agree. After rockboxing my H340 more than a year ago, there's no way I'd ever go back. The H340 Rockbox combination is a match made in heaven.
 
Mar 27, 2007 at 4:45 PM Post #3 of 24

ozstrike

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I really didn't think the default firmware was too bad. I know Rockbox is a lot better, but it's not as horrible as you desribe. The controls aren't that unintuitive, and there is a tag browsing function.
That said, I love my rockbox
biggrin.gif
 
Mar 27, 2007 at 5:39 PM Post #4 of 24

duff138

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I'll have to check this player out. I also have a squeezebox, so everything I have is in Flac format, and I'm looking for something decent that'll play Flac instead of having to recode them to mp3.
 
Mar 28, 2007 at 1:08 AM Post #5 of 24

mkozlows

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Quote:

Originally Posted by ozstrike /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I really didn't think the default firmware was too bad. I know Rockbox is a lot better, but it's not as horrible as you desribe. The controls aren't that unintuitive, and there is a tag browsing function.
That said, I love my rockbox
biggrin.gif



The tag browsing with the default firmware only works if you use a particular piece of software to sync with it. If you use Windows Media Player, it doesn't work.
 
Mar 28, 2007 at 1:10 AM Post #6 of 24

mkozlows

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Quote:

Originally Posted by duff138 /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I'll have to check this player out. I also have a squeezebox, so everything I have is in Flac format, and I'm looking for something decent that'll play Flac instead of having to recode them to mp3.


To be completely honest, I don't know that I'd really recommend this unit in particular. Rockbox works on a bunch of different players, and something like a 60GB iPod would certainly be a better piece of physical hardware, considered purely as hardware. But I have no firsthand experience of Rockbox on those other players, so can't say if the overall experience is better on the iRiver -- Rockbox on the iRiver DOES appear to be more mature than most versions, though, so that's something.
 
Mar 28, 2007 at 1:18 AM Post #7 of 24

configure

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As I understand it, Rockbox was originally for the Archos players - and is most mature on those. In fact, rockbox on the H3x0 has only been around for maybe a couple of years? Only last summer did they fix a bunch of battery life issues and make it a viable replacement firmware. Since then, of course, it's been excellent - a great feature set combined with a fair amount of usability.

I would advise mucking around with some themes if you have some time to kill. Theme-swapping is very enjoyable and can really change the 'feel' of the player. Also enjoyable are the vast amounts of plugins available. I've never used them to any great extent, but I'm sure there are some gems of usefulness there. Oh, and - of course - you can play doom on the thing
biggrin.gif
.


Just a note - if you have one of the H1x0s, you probably already know this, but rockbox is somewhat more mature on that player.
 
Mar 28, 2007 at 1:58 AM Post #8 of 24

Dzjudz

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Quote:

Originally Posted by mkozlows /img/forum/go_quote.gif
To be completely honest, I don't know that I'd really recommend this unit in particular. Rockbox works on a bunch of different players, and something like a 60GB iPod would certainly be a better piece of physical hardware, considered purely as hardware. But I have no firsthand experience of Rockbox on those other players, so can't say if the overall experience is better on the iRiver -- Rockbox on the iRiver DOES appear to be more mature than most versions, though, so that's something.


It all depends on the features you're after of course. The H3xx supports FM Radio, recording (both FM and line-in), has a line-out, etc etc. If you're just going to play music, then I'd get an iPod.
 
Mar 28, 2007 at 3:46 AM Post #9 of 24

mkozlows

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Dzjudz /img/forum/go_quote.gif
It all depends on the features you're after of course. The H3xx supports FM Radio, recording (both FM and line-in), has a line-out, etc etc. If you're just going to play music, then I'd get an iPod.


Okay, there's a line-out jack, but when I plug headphones into the line-out, I get exactly the same signal that I get out of the regular headphone jack, including volume control. How is it actually different from the headphone out?
 
Mar 28, 2007 at 4:02 AM Post #10 of 24

jewman

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Quote:

Originally Posted by mkozlows /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Okay, there's a line-out jack, but when I plug headphones into the line-out, I get exactly the same signal that I get out of the regular headphone jack, including volume control. How is it actually different from the headphone out?


You will notice that if you plug you phones into the line-out jack and pump the volume very loud, the bass gets distorted, whereas through the headphone jack it doesn't (as much). This is because the line-out jack is meant to bypass the internal amplifier and go into the line-in of an amp. This will save the player's battery life as you can imagine. Another thing is that if you try to play the radio with your headphones in the line-out jack, you will just hear static.
 
Mar 28, 2007 at 4:49 AM Post #11 of 24

crypt@

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The HXX0 player lineout is a real line out. The UDA1380TT (ADC/DAC) chip has separate pinouts for lineout which bypass headphone drivers.

The UDA1380TT has sound processing features in playback mode and volume control will act on both headphone out and lineout. Since line out is without a headphone driver stage, it will have problem driving a load and resulting in distortion.

With maximum volume on the HXX0, lineout to an amp is much better than the headphone out.
 
Mar 28, 2007 at 5:10 AM Post #12 of 24

mkozlows

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Quote:

Originally Posted by crypt@ /img/forum/go_quote.gif
The HXX0 player lineout is a real line out. The UDA1380TT (ADC/DAC) chip has separate pinouts for lineout which bypass headphone drivers.

The UDA1380TT has sound processing features in playback mode and volume control will act on both headphone out and lineout. Since line out is without a headphone driver stage, it will have problem driving a load and resulting in distortion.



Huh. Well, that's good to know. To be honest, though, plugging HD650s directly into the thing and playing them as loud as I feel comfortable with (I dislike the ear-destroying volumes that a lot of people seem to use), the difference between the headphone out and the line-out is awfully slight. Either of them seems to be delivering more power than, say, an iPod's headphone out.
 
Mar 28, 2007 at 5:26 AM Post #13 of 24

crypt@

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Quote:

Originally Posted by mkozlows /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Huh. Well, that's good to know. To be honest, though, plugging HD650s directly into the thing and playing them as loud as I feel comfortable with (I dislike the ear-destroying volumes that a lot of people seem to use), the difference between the headphone out and the line-out is awfully slight. Either of them seems to be delivering more power than, say, an iPod's headphone out.


But it is that "slight" difference that tips the balance between moderate and in-control spending to our "Head-Fi" lunacy!

Beside, it has nothing to do with actual listening volume. It is acquiring the "capability" to go beyond *any* listening volume with total control and authority, that matter the most!
very_evil_smiley.gif
 
Mar 28, 2007 at 12:40 PM Post #15 of 24

Dzjudz

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I hear a significant difference between the headphone out and line out if I plug in my E4 or HD650.
 

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