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S3 Rio 500 Portable MP3 Player

S3 Rio 500 Portable MP3 Player - PCSTATS
Abstract: Anything related to controversy and audio piracy has been thrown in with the word MP3 ever since Diamond Multimedia, whose Rio Division has recently been purchased by S3, launched their Rio PMP300 Portable MP3 Player.
 85% Rating:   
Filed under: MP3 Players Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: S3 Sep 14 2000   P. Masrani  
Home > Reviews > MP3 Players > S3 Rio 500

Audio Quality

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 task.

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 enough.

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 playback sources.

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.

The Rio 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.

Conclusions

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 look.

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Contents of Article: S3 Rio 500
 Pg 1.  S3 Rio 500 Portable MP3 Player
 Pg 2.  First Impressions
 Pg 3.  — Audio Quality

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