Opinions on Rio Karma vs. Creative Zen Xtra?

Discussion in 'Music' started by Frank Grimes, Jun 10, 2004.

  1. Frank Grimes

    Frank Grimes Second Unit

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    I'm going to be buying an MP3 player within the next week and these are the two front runners. The Zen Xtra can be had for $30 cheaper, but I would be happy to buy the Karma if many think it's a significantly better product. Main concerns are size (just needs to fit well in jean pockets or leopard skin thong without being distracting), sound quality, and durability. I've read a handful of complaints over at cnet about the Zen's headphone jack, which is a concern.
     
  2. Seth_L

    Seth_L Screenwriter

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    Not to be rude, but how did you arrive at those two "front runners" ?

    Of HD based mp3 players the Apple Ipod and the iRiver iHP-1x0 series seem to be the creme of the crop from my perusals of the genre.
     
  3. Rob Gardiner

    Rob Gardiner Cinematographer

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    I understand the RIO KARMA is the only MP3 player on the market that totally eliminates the gap between songs. This is not a problem for songs that are completely separate from each other, but in the case of live performances, or albums in which each song segues into the next (such as Dark Side of the Moon, or side 2 or Abbey Road, or virtually all the Shibuya-kei music I listen to these days) a gap between songs is quite distracting.

    The Ipod actually increases the gap between songs, making the problem worse. This is due to the poor buffering in the unit. Also, if a file is greater than 32MB (possible for a long song or if you rip to FLAC or WAV) then the Ipod actually inserts a gap within the song. As the Ipod is $100 more than a comparably-sized Rio Karma, I would stay far, far away from the overpriced Apple product.
     
  4. Michael St. Clair

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    I've had a Karma for a couple of months now. I've been meaning to write a review for this forum, but just haven't had the time.

    I listen to lots of music that segues. Pink Floyd, Frank Zappa, old Genesis, King Crimson, live Dead and Phish, and so on.

    There's no way that currently I would buy any player but the Rio Karma. I also prefer the form factor of the unit over the iPod, and the Karma has an excellent parametric equalizer. Battery life is substantially longer on the Karma as well.

    There is no one player that is right for everyone. But there are a lot of us who consider the Karma to be the absolutely best player on the market, and we have good reason to back that up.
     
  5. Seth_L

    Seth_L Screenwriter

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    For the record I wouldn't buy an iPod either, and I didn't. I bought an iRiver iHP 140. I will get it from the UPS man today. My buddy absolutely swears by his.

    What sold me is the FM tuner, optical Input and Output, ability to record to mp3 and uncompressed (16bit/44.1kHz) .wav files, no special software needed (it shows up as a drive letter), and 16 hours of battery life.

    I'll post back later after I play with it some more.
     
  6. Frank Grimes

    Frank Grimes Second Unit

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    I'm not interested in the ipod due to the battery issues, price, and difficulty in exchanging the files between computers (this also knocked the Dell player out of consideration). A major reason I'm getting an mp3 player is to act as a backup drive. If I have computer troubles, I'd love to not have to spend hours upon hours ripping CD's and organizing them all over again. Cnet reviews also claim that the Karma and Zen sound noticeably better than the ipod.
     
  7. Angelo.M

    Angelo.M Producer

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    Well the iPod meets all of your basic criteria from your original post and, despite its flaws, is worth taking a look at.

    Any of the current models will fit comfortably in a pocket, on your hip, or strapped to your arm.

    Sound quality of the iPod is outstanding; some folks (Cnet) prefer the sound quality of the Karma or the Zen however What Hi Fi?, in their most recent issue, did not prefer the Karma's sound, for what it's worth, and you'll find opinions on all sides. Apple has not, to my knowledge, ever released the signal-to-noise ratio for the iPod. With good headphones and reasonably well-encoded files, the iPod's sound quality is outstanding.

    Long-term durability, in my estimation, is a question mark for any miniature hard-drive based player, and I would strongly recommend some sort of care plan or extended warranty regardless of which you choose. I've been using a 15 GB iPod daily now for about 6 months without any operational malfunctions (I keep the unit continuously in a padded case, and jog with it strapped to my arm). I do have an Apple care contract, which will cover me for malfunctions/repairs, including battery death.

    The battery life is less than other players, granted, but I find 6-8 hours sufficient for most real-world applications (to be fair, I have no clue what the true life is as I keep it continuously charging between uses).

    As far as price, the units are pricey compared with the competition, and I think it's short-sighted of Apple to market the iPod to Windows users and not include a USB adapter in the box of the entry-level models.

    I can't comment specifically on exchanging files between computers; haven't needed that capability. If you mean that you can't transfer files from your iPod to your computer, then I know for certain that there is Windows software which allows this (XPlay, I believe).

    Good luck. There are several excellent players to choose from, as you know.
     
  8. Tim Markley

    Tim Markley Screenwriter

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    I agree with Michael on this. I bought a Rio Karma last Christmas and have been very happy with it. It's an excellent player! [​IMG]
     
  9. Michael St. Clair

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    The Karma is not the best player on the market for PC file use; non-music files have to be interfaced using a program called Rio Taxi...there is no plug-and-play where you can use the player as a normal USB hard drive with no software or driver.

    File storage is not a criteria I care about, but some will surely have different priorities.

    There are definitely many excellent players on the market, and not everyone will care about gapless playback...but it is a deal-breaker for some of us.
     
  10. Richard Gilmore

    Richard Gilmore Stunt Coordinator

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    Karma plays FLAC. That makes it better for me and others who prefer lossless compression.
     
  11. Angelo.M

    Angelo.M Producer

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    I didn't realize the iPod increased the gaps. As far as this being an issue of "poor buffering," I'm not sure it is. As far as the buffering in general is concerned, my iPod routinely gives me skip-free playback while exercising (running) for 20, 40, 60 minutes or longer.
     
  12. Michael St. Clair

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    One thing to keep in mind is that gap issues are not purely a matter of buffering. My understanding is that the vast majority of MP3 files have gaps on the end, and that this is because frame size is fixed but a typical song will not equal a perfectly even number of frames. It is also my understanding that good encoders these days embed metadata in the tags so that a playback program knows how many milliseconds of music in the last frame is additional gap. There have been programs for a few years to eliminate these gaps during PC playback, and that the Karma is the first to eliminate them on a portable.

    Many (possibly most) portables add additional gap to the gap that is already present.

    Here is a gap that is inherent in the encoding (using a real-world example of two tracks that segue on Tool's 'Lateralus' album). This was created by re-joining two tracks back together into a single track:

    [​IMG]

    Here is the same gap, from the two songs played back to back on the 2nd gen iPod with 1.3 firmware:

    [​IMG]

    Here's a site if you want to hear those examples:

    http://www.pretentiousname.com/mp3players/#examples

    (warning...this guy is really mad at Apple about this, and he isn't very polite about it)
     
  13. Angelo.M

    Angelo.M Producer

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    Michael:

    Excellent info. Essentially, it's an encoding issue, one which can be corrected.
     
  14. RobBenton

    RobBenton Stunt Coordinator

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    You might look into the Creative Muvo2. It is 4gb and only costs 200 bucks and is really tiny and has a great battery that is swappable for a new one. I have heard great reviews about sound quality as well.
     
  15. Seth_L

    Seth_L Screenwriter

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    Well, I got my iRiver iHP-140 today. So far I'm very impressed with it. It mounts as a drive letter on the PC so it's simple to put data on it (A USB 2.0 [high speed] port on your PC is a must 1.1 is way toooooooooo slow). I don't have any good headphones here with me at the moment, so I can't completely comment on the sound quality but from what I'm hearing with the earbuds that came with it seem quite good.

    I'll post more impressions later.
     
  16. Frank Grimes

    Frank Grimes Second Unit

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    That Muvo2 caught my eye a few weeks ago, but I recently realised that I have 6 gigs of mp3's on my computer, so it's not an option.
     
  17. Seth_L

    Seth_L Screenwriter

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    Have you considered a DVD-R drive to back up your collection? Then you can get a smaller capacity player and still have your songs "safe".
     
  18. Robert James Clark

    Robert James Clark Second Unit

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    I shopped for an MP3 player 2 months ago and after much comparison I preferred the Kharma over all the other models I tried.

    BUT, I needed 40 GB so I ended up with a Zen Ultra for a very good price.
    It works as advertised but it is very quirky and really doesn't compare to the Kharma...
     

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