MP3 has never excited me because of its poor quality. The same reason that I dislike buying VCD’s (I prefer the superior quality of DVD) is the same reason I have been slow to take up MP3. The Minidisc is my preferred recordable medium. Anyway, I usually end up just buying all of my music on CD from HMV. Eventually though, I knew I would take the plunge. When Sony introduced two “Network Walkman”, that could play MP3s, I knew I had to get one.
The first thing I had to overcome was Sony’s insistence on using ATRAC3 instead of MP3. I understood that would mean converting all current and future MP3s as well as CDs into the proprietary format. That sounded like a tedious process. However, I still chose the Sony because at that time, I didn’t have too many MP3s anyway, so converting it to ATRAC3 wasn’t a huge task.
There were 2 Sony offerings at that time. One was the Music Clip (MC-P10), and the other was the NW-MS7 (called the Memory Stick Walkman). In the end, I chose the Music Clip because of two deciding factors. First, was battery life. The MS7 has a built in battery. At that the time, Sony said it could last over 3 hours. That doesn’t work for me, because one of my main purposes of a portable player is to take with me traveling – there’s no way to charge it while sitting on a 13-hour flight. The MC on the other hand uses a standard AA battery.
I will admit though, that I was initially willing to forgo this limitation and I went to the store with the intention of buying the MS7. But when I got to the shop, I learned that my Vaio Z505 laptop was not compatible with the MagicGate Memory Stick (the white Memory Stick instead of the Sony purple Memory Stick). This meant I would still have to use the USB port to transfer files instead of the Z505’s built in Memory Stick slot. (Note: Sony’s later laptops are compatible with the MG Memory Stick). Upon learning this, my mind was made up and I opted for the Music Clip.
The Music Clip is an extremely sleek device. The primary appeal of the MC has to be its size. It’s no bigger than a Montblanc Pen in your hand. The buttons are all conveniently located (play/stop is a nice big button at the top), and the device is easy to use. It’s also very light so carrying it around in a shirt pocket, for example, is a viable option. The MC is extremely sturdy and has survived a battering including being dropped several times. It comes with a Velcro cord that attaches it to your neck, which I find difficult to use, as the Music Clip sways around when you move. I would rate the looks and feel of the Music Clip as its biggest drawing point.
The MC is not your typical MP3 player. The main reason, as I have mentioned, is the software that Sony bundles with the MC. By forcing you to use ATRAC3, Sony has created an extra step for MP3 lovers. I have to admit that ATRAC3 does seem to sound better than MP3 when I create tracks from a CD (yes, I’ve tried various MP3 encoders). But converting a MP3 into ATRAC3 is really a waste. For this reason, the MC is less than optimal.
The software isn’t bad though. It does do a good job of keeping things in order and it’s pretty straightforward how to make ATRAC3 files and transfer them back and forth to the MC. I’m still not a big fan though of the whole process. It’s not as simple as sticking a CD into the CD-ROM and selecting a song to copy. The program makes you jump through a few holes that I find just eats up time. In the end, I can make two MDs for the time it takes me to convert, title, order, and transfer files to the MC. I think MP3 is great idea. But, if I’m going through all this effort, I wish the quality were better.
Keeping in mind that the 64MB is embedded, you have to live with only being able to put in about 15-18 songs. If you travel for long periods, you’re going to be pretty bored of the songs by the end of the trip. The only way to get new songs into the device is to have them already on your laptop ready for transfer. Because I have more than one laptop, this has become a headache for me.
The sound, as expected is only average. I’m so used to CD and MD players that can really “pump” out the tunes that the MC paled in comparison. Yes, it’s much better than the days of Cassette Tapes, but the sound was still just mediocre. The player gives you 3 equalizer levels to choose from (Rock, Pop, and Jazz), but the impact of each one just isn’t there. No real amount of bass in any of the presets. Even when I cranked up the volume to full, the only noticeable difference is the “hiss” and scratching that is inherent in the poor quality of MP3. The MC also lacks the ability to fast forward to different parts of a particular song (say the first 30 seconds). This is a slight irritation.
The device tends to get very hot when playing for some time. After about an hour or so, the device heats up so much that it’s a bit difficult to hold it in your hand. However, because it has no moving parts, you can shake it like crazy and it keeps on playing.
Overall, there are small little quirks that just make this less than a great music player.
The MC is a neat little device. But, its reliance on ATRAC3 is one of its main drawbacks. As I mentioned, a primary consideration of the MC is its battery life. I had hoped that I would also be able to use the Memory Stick slot of my laptop to transfer files (though USB isn’t that difficult). After I bought the MC, Sony came out with the NW-E3. That device uses one AAA battery and also comes with 64MB of internal memory. I also like the way it looks better than the MC.
However, it looks as if Sony is set to introduce a number of upgrades to the Network Walkman family. There are two new Music Clips, the MC S50 and the S25 that are being introduced. They both have “cosmetic” upgrades, but appear fat relative to the MC I have. Sony is also introducing the NW-E3 in red or blue and the NW-E5 with 96MB of memory instead of 64MB. And what looks to be a good improvement, the MS9, which looks more like the other “E” Network Walkmans rather than the old MS7. It uses the MG Memory Stick and is rated to last 10 hours on its internal battery.
As a result of the new players, and because of some of the limiting factors stated above, I’d rate the Music Clip, as it is today, a WASTE OF TIME.