by Sergey Samarin
11/16/2004 | 11:16 PM
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that MP3 players have reached the acme of their evolution. Those diverse models various manufacturers are supplying to market have long had similar parameters and characteristics, reducing the customer’s eternal problem of choice to giving his/her favor to a particular brand.
While this situation is good for the end user, it gives a strong headache to all the manufacturing companies involved as they are trying to invent new ways to make the user prefer their particular brand. An obvious solution is an expansion of the functionality of the produced models.
But how? Should they start to integrate digital cameras into MP3 players as it happened with cell phones or what? I think that Creative with its recently-announced super-compact MuVo TX FM player has overcome this difficulty. How? You’re going to see right now.
MuVo TX FM
36.7mm x 74.0mm x 16.0mm
32g (without the battery)
Flash memory capacity
128, 256 or 512MB
Battery life during continuous playback*
MP3 128kbit/sec: up to 5 h
Supported playback formats
MP3 (8 – 48kHz)
Supported recording formats
Voice: IMA ADPCM (8kHz, 4-bit, Mono)
20 – 20,000Hz
Harmonic distortions coefficient
Updates via Internet
1.8” stereo minijack
96x32 pixels, light-blue backlighting
USB 2.0 Hi-Speed
* with the new alkaline battery
A MuVo TX FM player from Creative in its retail package
Even reading through this table attentively you will not get any clue about the new conception Creative has implemented in this product – the specified characteristics of the MuVo TX FM seem ordinary enough. So, the table says that the player has small dimensions and a chip of flash memory. It is powered by a single AAA battery, supports MP3 and WMA formats; it can receive FM radio stations and can update its firmware via the Internet. You’ll learn more about the player’s functionality in the next section.
The Creative MuVo TX FM
doesn't look like any other solution
available in the market today
The player is selling in a small transparent package, typical for highly-demanded products like batteries, memory cards, chargers and other “necessities”. Such products are not displayed in shop windows, but are stacked on a shank, usually near the cashier’s desk. Creative probably anticipates a high demand for the MuVo player or this may be just a marketing trick. The average price of models of 128MB, 256MB and 512MB capacities is $73, $100 and $129, respectively (for more details check our Check Prices engine).
Let’s now open the package up and examine its contents:
The player with the armband attached
I think the accessories are quite sufficient; I found the armband a handy thing if you have no pockets in the clothes you wear. The player’s control buttons are also always within your hand’s reach.
The player consists of several modules
The table of technical characteristics cannot tell that the Creative MuVo TX FM is a modular device. I mean there are a battery module and a USB flash drive module in it. This design solution enhances the player’s functionality, as you can use it as an ordinary USB flash drive. Alas, the manufacturer didn’t give a thought to a separate cap for the USB connector – the battery module serves as a cap. By the way, the Creative MuVo TX FM will be available in three color schemes (the color of the battery module varies).
The USB flash drive module has a standard connector for the player to attach to the computer, so there are no additional adapters among the accessories. What’s the most important thing, the player needs no special software (or driver) for communicating to the computer. Right after being attached to the PC, it is recognized by the system as a “removable disk” and becomes ready for standard file operations. Of course, only modern operating systems like Windows XP support such instant connection; the driver for Windows 98 is supplied by Creative on the enclosed compact-disc. You can just drag and drop musical files to the player in any file manager (in Windows Explorer, for example). As for DRM-protected WMA files, Creative suggests that you use either Windows Media Player or Creative Media Source to work with them. I guess you understand that you can copy files of any type to the player to transport them to another computer.
The main components of the Creative MuVo TX FM player
An LCD display and a porthole of the integrated microphone are located on the player’s front panel. There’s also a Play/Pause button here which also serves to turn the player on and off (you have to press and hold the button for a few seconds to perform the latter functions, so you’re unlikely to use them accidentally).
The player’s controls are found on its side panel: volume up/down buttons and a mini joystick (scroller) that looks like a three-positional wheel. This scroller helps to browse quickly between music compositions as well as to navigate the onscreen menu.
The menu itself has a hierarchical structure and consists of several subsections (for example, when you choose the FM receiver subsection, the main menu adds more menu items). By the way, the MuVo TX FM can store up to 32 preset stations and can seek for them either in manual or automatic mode. Radio broadcasts can be recorded into audio files whose size is only limited by the player’s memory.
Among other menu options, you can set up a five-band equalizer which comes with four presets (Jazz, Rock, Pop and Classical). The LCD display can be adapted for right- and left-handed users.
I stumbled on the problem of support of certain audio formats by the player when trying to test it. Particularly, the Creative MuVo TX FM wouldn’t reproduce uncompressed WAV-files of Microsoft’s PCM format. It is in this format that all test signals I employ for testing portable audio players are stored in. An attempt to convert these files in other (compressed) formats leads to a distortion of the signal shape, i.e. to impossibility of examining the player’s characteristics. This is illustrated by the next spectrogram. The ideal 1kHz signal is marked in the lilac color, while the same signal converted in WMA is colored blue. As you see, even a slightest compression brings in a lot of distortion. So, no tests today.
Ideal test signal (lilac) against compressed “ideal” signal (blue)
I should also note that the player refused to work with the Windows Media Audio 9 Lossless format as well as with variable-bit-rate formats. This is certainly a disadvantage of the player, but maybe new versions of the firmware accessible via the Internet are going to add this functionality. In this review I’m just reporting of what I heard (or didn’t hear) with the current firmware version.
As for my subjective impressions from listening to the player, I have no complaints at all. The maximum volume is normalized and is free from overloads. It means the player will always give out a clear and powerful sound. The player is handy in use; the menu is intuitive. The only thing you might want is a quick select button for switching between the player and the FM receiver modes.
So, that’s the end of the review. I guess you’ve got all the necessary information about the new player from Creative, although I couldn’t offer you results of my tests as the player refused to support the necessary formats. Anyway, the Creative MuVo TX FM deserves my praises, at least because the manufacturer has come up with one more method to extend the functionality of devices of that class. Another bonus is the small weight of the device (only 32 grams without the battery). By the way, the manufacturer says the player can work as long as 15 hours on one battery (the precise number varies depending on the mode you’re using the player in), which is a good parameter.
The support of the Hi-Speed USB 2.0 interface is an advantage, too. Not of the player proper, but of its USB flash drive module. Weighing all the pros and cons, I say the Creative MuVo TX FM is going to be a good buy, although some users may find its price a bit too high.