I think we all have that one band which we could listen to all day, every day, and never get tired of it. For me, that would be the Beatles…or maybe Led Zeppelin. Certainly not Abba (though my wife would disagree.) For listeners like us, Sandisk has come up with an extremely creative music experience; the slotMusic Player. It is a complete package for the music lover in all of us. So, I was excited to give this one a try and listen to the sounds of my favorute bands. Unfortunately, Sandisk sent me the Abba version instead. Now, like I said, Abba is not my favorite band. Looks like my Dancing Queen wife is going to be getting an early Christmas present to help feed her Abba-diction when this review is done.
So before we get into what sets the slotMusic Player apart from other music players, let’s just take care of a few preliminaries. One of the things I really liked about this player was that it is completely self contained. Everything you need is going to be in that tiny box. In there, you will find the player, a 1 GB micro SD card (containing one of your favorite albums), a USB adaptor (for easier music transfer), and a AA battery. Since this player runs on a single AA battery, there is no need for additional plugs or chargers. There is also the traditional media player-throw away headphones. These are standard fare and will likely never see the light of day in most of your homes. I suggest tossing them in the garbage – they are uncomfortable and do not sound great – and investing in a good pair of earbuds.
The other really nice thing I wanted to discuss before getting into the player were the instructions. Now, most media players give you a foldout pamphlet of black and white instructions, usually with tiny print and a dozen languages. Not exactly user friendly.
With the slotMusic Player, Sandisk has come up with a fantastic solution for getting the vital information directly to you. They have reduced everything you need to a series of seven colored cards, complete with larger than life illustrations. The included cards are:
- Let’s get playing
- Controlling your slotMusic Player
- Replacing the battery
- share your music with other devices
- Want music?
- Having trouble? These might help
- Need more?
Really, the instructions are generally a throw away item in these reviews. But I was extremely impressed by the creativity and accessibility exhibited in these instruction cards. Everything you need to know is still there, but in a presentation which you might actually use.
The biggest draw of the slotMusic system is the entirely new way in which it presents music. The slotMusic system places all of your favorite albums (along with some videos and other special features) on tiny microSD cards, which can be quickly and easily swapped into this (or many other) player.
I did have some reservations about this system, however, and whether it would ultimately pose a benefit over more traditional media players. Sure, the microSD cards are extremely accessible and make it easy to grab-and-go the music you need. But is there an advantage to having 16 external flash cards instead of one large 16 GB flash drive inside the player itself?
But then I started thinking about the current state of the music industry, which is still predominantly based on hard media, like CD’s. Sure, there is a wave of digital downloads, but there still seems to be a huge disconnect between the two formats.
With the slotMusic system, you get a card which is preloaded with your favorite music…and plenty of room for more. Syncing is easy. Just insert the card into your player and start listening. If you want to add more music to the card, then all you have to do is drag your music from your hard drive and drop it onto the card. Heck, the bundle package even includes a USB adaptor so you can plug the microSD card right into your computer.
I know a lot of people (more than you might expect) who simply do not know and will not learn how to download music. Their music is stored on cassette tapes, CD’s, and even a few vinyl LP’s. Frankly, the slotMedia is a great way to drag them (sometimes kicking and screaming) into the digital music era. It is inexpensive, sounds pretty good, and easy to use. There is no computer required. And if you want to listen to a different album, you can just swap cards.
Of course, even our more advanced users might find something to like here. Imagine you are at the airport and your favorite band recently released a new album. You are not near a computer and do not have time for a lengthy download. So, you duck into the closest music store, slap down your $15 and walk out with a digital copy of the music stored on a microSD card, ready to play.
It also allows you to easily share music between devices. Since the microSD card is universal, you can pop it into any other music playing device with a microSD slot and hear the same music from anywhere. This means your Windows Mobile device, your laptop, your media player, they all can play the same media which you dropped onto your slotMusic player.
The plan from there is that slotMusic cards will be available everywhere CDs are sold. Apparently, Sandisk has already made agreements with many of the major record labels to start producing the $14.99 album on a microSD cards.
OK, let’s take a look at the slotMusic Player which you will receive in teh bundle package. Note, hwoever, that the slotMusic cards will fit in any player with a microSD jack, so you do not need the slotMusic player in order to enjoy the slotMusic system. This also means that the player itself is really nothing more than a vessel. There is no onboard storage, no hard drive, no flash memory. As a result, the slotMusic player could be absolutely tiny. And yet it wasn’t. Not really. While it was much smaller than a traditional media player, it felt large compared with players like the Sansa Clip and iPod shuffle.
The other cool thing about the slotMusic player is that they come themed to your favorite band (or your wife’s favorite band.) Each player includes a customized cover containing album art from your band of choice, and it even includes the CD insert booklet. And no bulky jewel cases to go with it. I thought this was a pretty nice touch, which really drew the whole package together.
The controls are comprised of several rubberized buttons. I liked the layout here, with the three buttons on the front of the device.
It fits perfectly in your hand, with the three buttons naturally resting under your fingers. This made it pretty easy to control the music without even looking.
The volume control is on top of the player, next to the headphone jack. It is made from the same rubberized material as the other controls. The problem I had here, however, was that it was just a little too close to the headphones. when plugged in, the headphone makes it difficult to wrap your thumb around to the buttons. It would have been nice if the headphone jack had been on the bottom of the device. The second problem was that the volume defaults to a middle level, where it will reset every time you turn on the player. It would be nice if the volume would stay where you left it the last time you were listening.
OK, I know that what you really want to know is how does this thing sound. Now, I am always hesitant to talk exactly about how these players sound because it is hard to isolate a lot of external variables. This player, however, provided the ideal setting in which to test the sound quality. Since all of the media is stored on a microSD card, I was able to swap the card from one player to another, thus ensuring that I was hearing exactly the same thing in each. I also made sure to use the same set of Ultimate Ears headphones for all of my tests. What I found was that the sound quality on the slotMusic Player was passable.
Tested against its sister player, the Sandisk Sansa View, it was clearly not as crisp, and did not handle the highs and lows nearly as well. But, considering the View costs approximately $200 while the slotMusic player comes in at $19.99, I think these differences are to be expected. Overall, while the sound quality cold not compare to the higher end players, I thought it played far better than I would have expected from a $20 player.
I have to admit that I had some reservations about the format of the slotMusic player. I mean, keeping your music on an external card just seems so 1980’s and harkens to a more advanced version of our mix tapes. The truth, however, is that this is really a very creative idea. The fact that each one includes one of your favorite albums is just a bonus, as far as I am concerned. I love that the music comes preloaded on the included card, meaning you can start listening immediately, rather than waiting to load all of your music. I think this has some fantastic potential to bridge the divide between CDs and digital media. The only question remaining is how long the need for this technology will remain as the space it is bridging gradually draws together.
What I Liked:
- Creative look at new media
- Bundle highlights yoru favorite artists
- Easy to use controls
- Pretty good sound quality
What Needs Improvement:
- Volume controls are partially blocked by headphone jack
- No screen to view song information
Price: 34.99 (the player is available separately for $19.99 and each expansion card costs $14.99).