MP3 appears to be the best medium for achieving CD-quality audio
reproduction. With no moving parts, any sonic disturbances attributed to
mechanically induced interference are totally eliminated. However, this simply
isn't enough. As important to the medium of playback is the quality of
components used in signal reproduction and amplification. It is understood that
portable units are primarily used to enjoy music on the go. Nevertheless, we
wish to know exactly how well MP3 audio
(specifically the Rio 500) sounds against other devices used for the same
One important observation is that the bundled earbuds (made by
Koss) should not be taken too seriously. Though aesthetically pleasing to the
eye, these earphones are uncomfortable and do not fit into the ear as they
should. Audio output lacks in every way conceivable. Its foam padding
continuously slips off and on the second day of use, I had lost them. Knowing
this, I would strongly recommend spending an extra $20-$30 on better earphones.
It is definitely worth the added expense.
Interestingly enough, the Rio 500
plays as loud as its predecessor, the Rio 300. A Sony Walkman that I have been
using the past 6 years plays a bit louder than both MP3 players. However, I have
never found Rio 300/500 volume to be less than I desire. All of my colleagues who
have used these players agree that the available level of volume is sufficient
In my home audio system, the Rio 500
is used quite extensively for the simple fact that I can add 64MB worth of
tracks that I would like to listen to for the next couple of days. By doing so,
the hassles of changing CDs in my NAD 502 CD Player (single disc player) is
eliminated. Though the NAD surpasses Rio 500 in terms of overall sound quality,
the Rio is just about on par in the clarity department, provided no excessive
bass/treble settings are used. Increasing bass levels of the MP3 player to high
levels resulted in a bit of harshness to bass output. The same went for treble
control as well.
Increasing bass/treble adjustments on my Carver HR-742 Sonic Holography
Receiver went along much better than the Rio. However, no degradation of
bass/treble/sound was experienced with conventional Sony earbuds as they are not
as capable of reproducing subtle changes in EQ settings as high-end loudspeakers
are. Though these changes are there, please note that they are small and the
only reason I was able to point these differences out was due to the fact that I
have been spending so much time analyzing audio quality from a variety of
Lately, I have
been travelling quite a bit by just about every transport means available. By
far, the "loudest" experience once can have is going by intrastate buses with
engine noise being the culprit. Fortunately, volume levels on the Rio 500 are
definitely sufficient enough to prevent much of the outside noise interference.
Though I have used Sony Walkmans which are louder than the Rio 500, this
portable MP3 player will not leave you with the need for more amplitude --and
quite frankly, the Rio sounds much
better than any cassette-based portable player.
A few days back, I had
access to a Sony Mini Disc player as well as a Sony Discman. The Rio 500 sounded
as good as (if not better) than the Mini Disc player and sounds just as good as a
Discman. The only [minor] point that I could possibly raise is that bass output
from the tested Discman is slightly "stronger" than the Rio 500.
500's miniature dimensions certainly add to the convenience of a true portable
audio player. It can fit discreetly into any pocket and never did I once feel
inconvenienced by it.
For a portable unit,
I prefer MP3 players over any cassette or CD-based player out there.
Ease-of-use, convenience and stability being the primary reasons. In case of the
Rio 500, audio playback is top notch and its physical design is very
ergonomical. Its on-board 64MB is a definitely an answered prayer from my days
with a Rio 300. If that's not enough for you, an additional 64MB SmartMedia card
can be inserted into the unit with ease, bringing the maximum attainable storage
to a whopping 128MB!
All-in-all, I firmly believe that the Rio 500 is a
smartly crafted MP3 player sporting a good array of options and aesthetic
enhancements. The Rioport Audio Manager software is indeed a comprehensive
package. Again, my only complaint with the Rio 500 is the included earbuds.
Aside from that, the Rio 500 is definitely worth a