cd3o Wireless Network MP3 Player

By Gerry Blackwell

April 09, 2004

Another wireless media player limited to music that innovates by not requiring a screen -- it uses text-to-speech to tell you what's playing.

Model:c300
Price: $199
Pros: Voice interface, digital outputs.
Cons: Another infrared remote control to deal with, no video support

by Gerry Blackwell

Wireless network music players like the c300 Extended-Range Wireless Network MP3 Player from cd3o all face the same basic problem -- how to present information about music libraries stored on a PC in the absence of a PC screen to display it on.

cd3o's text-to-voice interface is definitely the most original solution. It works fairly well, too -- though it's probably not for everyone.

The idea with all of these products -- we've reviewed a few, including most recently one from Creative Labs -- is to stream digital media from your PC hard drive to your stereo system or TV over the home WLAN you set up to link the computers.

You connect the included Wi-Fi (802.11b support only) receiver to your stereo system using A/V cables. The receiver streams media files off the remote PC hard drive over your network, converts them to analog -- typically -- and feeds them to the stereo system.

Some play music only, some play music and videos, a few can pipe streaming media from the Internet. The c300 is a stored-music player only, though the company says it will add Internet radio functionality soon.

As with similar products, cd3o provides PC server software for building and managing music libraries and managing the flow of media files between PC and Wi-Fi receiver.

The cd3o software does many of the same things that programs like MusicMactch and Windows Media Player do. It will find all the music on your hard drive, for example, and load it into its library.

It automatically lists each track under genre, artist and album based on the information stored with it, or data about it that the cd3o software pulls off the Web. You can also use the library program to create favorites lists.

The problem is, you typically don't have a computer in the room where your stereo is. If you did, you likely wouldn't need one of these things. Some wireless media players, usually the ones that also stream video, expect you to use your TV screen. For pure music players like the cd3o product, this really doesn't cut it because you might not have a TV in the listening room. Besides, do you really want to fire up a TV to listen to music?

The cd30 solution is nothing if not ingenious. The Wi-Fi receiver (802.11b only) incorporates a text-to-speech chip and some pre-recorded audio, plus some processing capacity.

When you click one of the buttons on the infrared remote for Genres, Artists, Albums or Tracks, you'll hear a bong sound from the stereo and a voice says the name of the mode you selected.

Now press the down arrow key. The cd3o system goes to the PC music library and finds the first entry -- the first listed track, album, artist or genre -- and a machine voice reads it. Click down arrow again and it reads the next item.

You can also use the telephone-like alpha-numeric keypad to key in the name of the entry you want -- B-E-A-T (2-3-2-8) for Beatles if searching by artist, for example. The machine voice repeats the name of the entry once it finds one that matches what you punched in.

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