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Good Technology SoundGood MP3 Player Module
Author: Tom Solinap
Date Posted: May 3rd, 2001
URL: http://www.slcentral.com/reviews/hardware/pda/goodtechnology/soundsgood

Introduction

In the past couple of years PDAs and MP3 players have grown a lot in popularity. Recently the PDA market has grown considerably and it continues to grow as new products and technology emerge. MP3 players have also been making appearances in new places like home entertainment systems, cars, and of course the portable market. I guess it was inevitable that these two products would merge sooner or later. Well this is my fourth review of a Springboard module for the Handspring Visor. All the other modules I have reviewed have served different functions, but this module is one of the more fun ones. The SoundsGood Audio Player from Good Technology brings the MP3 player to the PDA, or more specifically to the Handspring Visor. The SoundsGood is your standard size Springboard module, so it adds practically no extra size to the Visor. Add to that a new lower price and great features, and you've got yourself a pretty "good" MP3 player... Sorry that pun was coming sooner or later :)

Specifications And Features

SoundsGood Audio Player
Price and Availability $149.00; Available Now
Dimensions 2.13" x 2.2" x 0.35"
Mass .9 Oz
Operating Temperature
  • 41 to 95 Degrees F
  • 5 to 35 Degrees C
Environmental Temperature
  • -4 to 140 Degrees F
  • -20 to 60 Degrees C
Current Usage 50mA
Battery Life Over 10 Hours of Continuous Listening
Audio Specifications
  • Frequency Response - 20-20,000 Hz
  • Signal to Noise Ratio - 85dB
Memory Capacity 64 MB
Available MP3 Format
  • Bitrate - up to 320 kbps
  • Sampling Rate - up to 48 kHz
Transfer Rate Up to 250 kbytes / s
Connectors
  • 3.5mm stereo headphone jack
  • Handspring Visor Springboard Connector
  • Desktop Connection Via USB Cradle
Digital to Analog Converter Crystal 1-bit DAC, 24-bit resolution, 96 kHz sample rate
Processor 74 MHz ARM7-TDMI (about 66% utilization for mp3 files)
Program Storage 1 MB Flash, Field Upgradeable
Software
  • GoodDesktop
  • MusicMatch Jukebox
Requirements
  • Handspring Visor handheld computer with USB connection (Serial connect not supported)
  • Microsoft Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows Me
  • 166 MHz or higher Pentium
  • 32MB RAM
  • 35MB free hard disk space
  • SVGA or higher resolution monitor
  • Internet connection and CD-ROM drive recommended
What's In The Box
  • SoundsGood™ audioplayer
  • Earbud headphones
  • Cool little carry case
  • Good Desktop™ software
  • QuickStart guide book
  • MusicMatch™ Jukebox software
  • Sample songs provided by spinrecords.com and The Salt Brothers.

This is definitely one feature filled MP3 player. You get 64 MB of CD quality audio at your finger tips. The $149 price tag isn't bad at all considering the SoundsGood originally went for over $250. The other MP3 player for the Visor, the 64 MB MiniJam from InnoGear goes for $269. Then again the memory on the MiniJam is upgradeable, but even then the SoundsGood is still a great value. The software that comes with the SoundsGood makes transferring files from your PC (sorry no Mac support) to the player fast and simple. The SoundsGood software is also upgradeable so you won't have to worry about it being left in the dust. It has its own processor to process MP3 files so the Visor isn't bogged down on that. This also enables it to be a standalone portable MP3 player using the EnergyClip accessory. Features say a lot about a product but they don't tell the whole story. Let's see how good the SoundsGood audio player actually is.

Installation

So what's in the box? The SoundsGood came with a carrying case, head phones, a quick start guide and installation CD. The quick start guide pretty much goes through everything you need to know to get music from your PC onto the SoundsGood and start listening. Installation really isn't complicated, and the module comes with it's own software to play the MP3s. Before you can start listening to your favorite songs, you need to install the Good Desktop on your PC. This program basically allows you to manage MP3 file transfers between your PC and the SoundsGood. After I installed that, I could have transferred files to the player if I wanted to. As an option, you can also install the MusicMatch Jukebox audio player and some free MP3 songs. I opted not to try the MP3s that came with the player, but I did install MusicMatch. The MusicMatch software not only allows you to play MP3s but also record CDs and resample songs.

Since most if not all my MP3s have a bit rate of 192 Kbps, they're rather large. I wanted to fit as many songs on the SoundsGood as I possibly can, so I used MusicMatch to resample my songs to a bit rate of 64 Kbps. I managed to fit 34 songs on the player with the new sample rate, compared to only 11 with the higher sample rate. Although CD quality is 128 Kbps, the lower 64 Kbps isn't that bad. You have to decide which is more important to you, more songs or better quality. It doesn't take long to transfer 64 MB worth of files, about 4 minutes. The fast transfer rate is due to the Good Desktop software. It transfers data differently than the HotSync method, so you can't HotSync to transfer files but you also get a faster transfer rate.

After all my files have been transferred, I could control the built in player through the Visor's screen or through the external buttons. The player that comes with the SoundsGood is decent and has features most other MP3 players have. The software has an intuitive user interface so you won't get confused, and it even supports color if you have the Visor Prism. You can search through the files on the SoundsGood and display information about the MP3 file. It also comes with Bass and Treble adjustments and repeat 1, repeat all, or shuffle modes. The external buttons make it convenient so you can still listen to music and control the audio player while you run other applications on your Visor or while the Visor screen is off. That's definitely a battery saver. The headphones that came with the module are better than normal.

Software

The software that came with the SoundsGood includes the built in audio player, the Good Desktop, the MusicMatch Jukebox, and some free MP3 songs. The build in audio player has on screen controls to select tracks, forward through tracks, change the play mode, change the treble and bass, and display information on the current track. The lay out is easy to use so you won't be stumbling around looking for something. The Good Desktop is how you transfer files from your PC to the SoundsGood. You can import MusicMatch play lists or individual MP3 files to the player. The files that are currently on the player are displayed as well as the files you want to add. The total memory being used is also displayed as well as the time it will take to transfer the new stuff to the player. The changes you make don't take effect until you hit the "Move It" button. In addition, you can also export MusicMatch play lists so you can quickly get that blend of music you created without having to open MusicMatch. The Good Desktop also allows you to search your PC for MP3 files. MusicMatch itself is a decent audio player. Personally, I prefer Winamp and I just use MusicMatch for my portable devices. It has all the features you'd expect from an audio player and more. You can record audio CDs using MusicMatch from play lists you make. There is also support for plug-ins for various portable MP3 players to send files to the device. Unfortunately, a plug in is not available for the SoundsGood but you can open up the Good Desktop from MusicMatch. One nice thing that the plug ins allowed is the automatic setting of the bit rate, so you can lower the quality and fit more songs into the player. Since the SoundsGood doesn't have a plug in, you have to do that manually before hand and then transfer the files to the player using the Good Desktop. Not as convenient but you can still do it. That's about it for the software side of things.

Performance

Well in terms of an MP3 player, the SoundsGood definitely performs on par with other stand-alone players out there like the RIO 500 or the Soulmate MP3 player. Not to sound silly but the SoundsGood really sounds good... In terms of battery life, the specs say around 10 hours of continuous listening which seems about right. With the Visor in sleep mode, I listened to songs all night and still had over 20% battery power left in the morning. It's very power efficient, which is good since you're draining Visor batteries as you go. The external play button has an LED in it that lights up when a song is playing. Although the LED probably doesn't drain that much power, you can still shut it off or make it brighter if you want through the software. The included player software does a pretty good job. You can fast forward through songs that are playing, or search through the tracks on the SoundsGood. Transferring songs to the player is very fast, but Mac users won't be happy because there is no Mac support at all. 64 MB takes about 4 minutes to transfer over. You also need to have a USB connection to do it, which probably isn't so much a problem. Most everyone probably has a USB connection by now, and if they don't then it's time to upgrade.

Applications

So now that you have an MP3 player on your Visor, where would you use it? Well, it's convenient if you're traveling and just want to listen to your favorite songs. If you're going camping or just on vacation somewhere without your computer, it would be nice if you can listen to music if you want to. You can pretty much use the player anywhere you can think of. Personally, I use it in class sometimes. I'm not saying this is a good thing to do, but since I bring my Visor to class anyway and I get bored, listening to music is better than falling asleep... ;) You can probably even try to get away with bringing it to a board meeting or some other boring get together. If you had a carrying case or belt clip, you can take your Visor with you when you go running or biking to listen to songs. You can even use your Visor to track your progress or just log your exercise activities if you don't already. The applications are only limited to your imagination. Not only can you play MP3s where ever you want to but you can also play games or do work on the Visor at the same time.

However, if you're an active person, carrying the Visor around runs the risk of dropping it or damaging it in some way. Is there a way to just use the SoundsGood by itself without needing the Visor? Actually there is... With the addition of the EnergyClip accessory, you can take your music where ever you go without having to bring the Visor along. This little battery pack basically turns the SoundsGood into a stand-alone MP3 player. You still have to use the Visor to load songs on the SoundsGood, but at least you can opt not to bring the Visor along. I mean there will be situations where you really don't want to bring your Visor along or you'd rather be carrying something smaller. You get about 6 hours of continuous listening time from 1 AA battery. The EnergyClip not only make the SoundsGood really portable but also has a belt clip to keep it with you while you run or work-out.

Pros

The SoundsGood Audio Player has a lot of good things going for it. The reduced price of $149 is very tempting considering the higher price of other similar MP3 player solutions out there. The player originally launched for over $250, so having the price drop down that considerably is good for us consumers. You get 64 MB of memory, which can hold about an hour of CD quality music. That should be good for most people. In addition to that you still have 1 MB of flash memory for future upgrades to the software. Installation was quick and very user friendly. The built-in audio player is easy to use and has a lot of functionality. The Good Desktop transfers files to the audio player very fast so you don't have to wait long when you're changing songs. The inclusion of MusicMatch Jukebox software is also good since you can resample songs through it. You get all these features in a surprisingly small package. The SoundsGood is a standard sized Springboard module and virtually adds no size to the Visor. The Visor cover could even be placed on the back while the SoundsGood is installed. Size definitely matters when it comes to the portable world. The external controls allow the use of the SoundsGood while the Visor screen is off. The SoundsGood already consumes very low power so having this feature helps even more. In addition to those, the SoundsGood can be used as a standalone MP3 player with the use of the EnergyClip accessory that's sold separately. Here's a summary of the pros I've found:

  • New low price
  • Flash upgradeable software
  • Easy to use
  • Fast transfer rate of files through Good Desktop (250 Kbps)
  • Small size
  • Efficient power consumption
  • EnergyClip accessory to use the player without the Visor

Cons

The SoundsGood is a great product so there really aren't that many cons. The memory isn't upgradeable so you are stuck with 64 MB for life. I mean that's not bad at all but with people having large MP3 collections these days 64 MB isn't enough to hold all the songs you want to listen to. Also if a removable storage media like smart cards or compact flash cards were used then it would have been useful in terms of organizing your MP3s. Put your running music on one card and your relaxing music on another card and just switch cards when you need to. Instead, you have to erase and reload songs on the player. Not as convenient as the newer portable MP3 players out there that support some sort of memory upgrades. Another little flaw is in the MusicMatch software implementation. Even though MusicMatch does allow you to resample songs, you have to do it manually and then transfer them to the SoundsGood. Other portable MP3 players out there that use MusicMatch have a built-in plug in where you can specify the bit rate of all the MP3s before you transfer them into your player. So basically all the MP3s will be resampled to the specified bit rate automatically before they are transferred. Here's a quick rundown on the cons I've found:

  • Memory not upgradeable
  • Can't resample songs automatically
  • Conclusion

Conclusion

So as you can see, the blending of MP3 player and PDA is pretty cool. The SoundsGood audio player from Good Technology definitely pulls it off with flying colors. You get a first rate MP3 player with 64 MB of memory in a very neat and slim package for a fairly low price. The installation is fast and the software is easy to use. The SoundsGood is also surprisingly battery efficient. Even though the memory can't be upgraded, the player is still a good value. Visor owners who don't have a portable MP3 player yet should really check this out. It adds another element to your Visor that's only possible through the Springboard modules. You can even use it by itself with the EnergyClip accessory. I'd like to thank Good Technology for providing us with a review unit. I have to say that this Springboard module is one of the coolest I've reviewed so far. I hope you enjoyed the review.

Installation: 10
Features: 9
Value: 10
Performance: 9
Quality: 9
Final Score: 9.5

Rating: 9.5/10 SystemLogistics

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