Its elegant look and minuscule size attracted many oohs and aahs from those accustomed to bulky personal cassette and CD players, and their astonishment was heightened further when they found it had absolutely no internal moving parts, therefore making it ideal for walkers and joggers.
The JazPiper digital stereo player comes equipped with 32MB of on-board memory, which can store up to 30 minutes of MP3 audio encoded at 128Kbps, and can be expanded to 64MB via a SmartMedia flash memory card.
A parallel interface is implemented to transfer MP3 files to the JazPiper, and in my testing I found that I could fill the player's 32MB to capacity in under three and a half minutes using a standard Pentium 100 system with 16MB of RAM.
The memory can also be used as a medium for transferring large files from PC to PC, although MP3 files downloaded to the JazPiper cannot be uploaded back to a PC, for copyright reasons.
I also undertook an endurance test on the JazPiper with a 30-minute playlist running continuously at maximum volume until the player stopped. I found that it gave me a total playback time of nine and a half hours (half an hour off the stated 10 hours) with its two AAA batteries. Of course, downloading playlists, voice recording, and erasing files will further impact the life of the batteries and therefore, playing time.
And after all that listening time I found the JazPiper's sound quality to be excellent, although the supplied headphones did at times struggle with some of the more bass-heavy tracks in my rotation.
The control buttons are conveniently placed on the front panel as well as the top end of the JazPiper, and include all basic functions such as play, stop, skip, forward, rewind and pause. The addition of an erase button means you have the ability to erase any files you don't like quickly and easily without needing to connect it to your computer. The front panel also contains an LCD display which has the ability to scroll the song title and artist across the screen, albeit very slowly, while the song is playing. Unfortunately this screen is not back-lit and is unreadable in the dark.
Two pre-set filters for rock and pop music are built-in, and heavily accentuate the bass and treble, respectively. There are also three playing modes to select from, allowing you to repeat one or all songs, as well as play them in random order. For those with itchy trigger fingers, the JazPiper features a hold button, which when activated, will disable the function-ality of all the buttons and ensure uninterrupted listening pleasure.
JazPiper's software interface, called JazPiper Desk, is easy to use and allows you to drag and drop files from your hard disk straight to the player. A telephone book function is also included in the software and allows you to store up to 250 names and numbers, which can be viewed on the JazPiper's LCD screen. I also found this feature to be useful for creating small memos and shopping lists.
For creating MP3 files, the JazPiper ships with Jet-Audio, a software suite comprising an MP3 player/encoder, CD Player, Mixer and Equaliser. Files can be converted to the MP3 format simply by inserting a CD-ROM and clicking the record button on the MP3 player. It gives you a wealth of encoding rates to choose from ranging from 16 to 320Kbps, as well as offering variable rates from 96 to 192Kbps.
Of course, the time it takes to encode songs in the MP3 format will depend greatly on the power of your PC.
The built-in microphone gives the JazPiper the ability to record up to two hours of voice, but it's a very sensitive device and accidental knocks, when in use, produce annoyingly prevalent pops and clicks. I found the ideal distance for audio recording to be about 20cm away from the source, although we did get decent results when speaking at the normal level from approximately 10m.
Priced at $349, the JazPiper is a very enjoyable little gadget, which offers great functionality and is very simple to operate. The only drawback is its memory capacity, which is limited to 64MB.
Phone: (03) 9350 2299
The new JazPiper MP3 player adds the ability to store 250 phone numbers and record up to two hours of voice.