cd3o Wireless Network MP3 Player - Page 2

By Gerry Blackwell

April 09, 2004

When you hear the name of the library item you want, click the remote's Play button. The system will start playing the first entry. If it's an album, it will start playing from the first track. If it's an artist, it will start playing the first track of the first album by that artist. For genre, it starts playing the first track of the first album listed. You can click Album Skip to skip to the next album when using Artist or Genre.

You can use the interface to create favorites and move items around in the library -- though this was far too tedious a process for me.

The cd3o solution works and it's quite slick really. It's not as clumsy as it might sound. But is it the ideal solution? Probably not.

The Creative Labs product solves the same problem by incorporating a small six-line LCD screen in its jumbo-size RF remote controller. It displays library lists in text. All of which works better than the cd3o voice interface. For one thing, it's more familiar, more comfortable.

You might think the LCD screen and related technology would add to the cost of the Creative Labs product, but in fact the same price at $199 (cd3o also sells unit for less that don't sport an external antenna and lack digital outputs). What's more, the Creative Labs remote controller uses 900 MHz RF -- it doesn't need line of sight like the cd3o's infrared remote so you don't have to be in the same room as the Wi-Fi receiver to make selections.

If you already have remote speakers in another room connected back to your main stereo, you can use the Creative remote to play digital music there as well.

The cd3o product does have a couple of important advantages. It includes digital music outputs -- optical and coax -- for connecting the device to modern digital stereo receivers to get optimum audio quality.

It can play WAV files. I think this is important because compressing to MP3 or WMA -- the other possibilities with the cd3o product -- does reduce sound quality, and you're more likely to notice this when playing it through a hi-fi stereo system. With huge-format hard drives available now at relatively low prices, is it really necessary to rip from CDs to MP3?

The c300 also holds out the promise of adding streaming Internet radio down the road. The remote control already has a button for Radio. It will only take firmware and PC software upgrades to enable it. (This does not appear to be an option for the Creative product.)

How does the c300 sound? Setting up a side-by-side comparison with similar products was not possible. My subjective impression was that it was no better or worse than the Creative product. Worth noting, though: even playing back 360-Kbps MP3s, it didn't sound as good as a CD.

The c300 was a breeze to set up. The driver and library software installed without hitch. The manual instructs you to connect the receiver to your network router via the Ethernet cable first to set it up. In fact, the network found the device over the air before I had a chance to plug in the cable.

Connecting the Wi-Fi receiver to the stereo system was as easy as connecting any other input source -- and the system worked first time, exactly as advertised.

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