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Digital music and portable digital music players have transformed our listening experience. Now a well-known company called SanDisk is offering a new twist to purchasing and listening to digital music. Their slotMusic Player plays microSD cards which you can fill yourself or you can purchase with DRM-free albums pre-loaded. It is a unique idea that combines the old-fashioned “buying a record or CD” with the new iPod-like way of listening to music. We took a look at the slotMusic Player and slotMusic cards to check out the pros and cons of this new way of packaging and listening to digital music.
As shown in Figure 1, the slotMusic Player comes encased in a hard plastic shell, which is somewhat difficult to open. Once you have cut through the heavy plastic, you will find the slot music player, a pair of typical hard round ear buds, and a “Let’s get playing” set of cards which give visual instructions on using the player, as shown in Figure 2. There is also a small adapter.
The adapter is very tiny. It measures in at 1” x ½” x 1/8” (25.4 x 12.7 x 3.17 mm), but it is quite useful. The adapter is shown in Figure 3 with a microSD card. You simply put the SD card in one end of the adapter and plug the other end into the USB port on your computer.
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The slotMusic Player, shown in Figure 4, is small and well-built. At 2.84” x 1.45" x 0.6” (72.1 x 36.8 x 15.2 mm), it is a compact little device. Although the cover (black part) is molded plastic, the rest of the device is metal. It feels sturdy and somewhat heavy in the hand. The weight and curved sides reminded us of an oversized cigarette lighter. The slotMusic Player is a very basic device. There is no internal memory. All the music is played from microSD cards.
The controls are large, obvious and easy to use. The bottom of the player, shown in Figure 5, has a Previous/Rewind button marked with a back arrow. Pressing it allows you to skip to the previous track or you can press and hold this button to rewind. In the middle is a larger button with the play and pause icons on it. As you might expect, this allows you to play and/or pause the music. You can also press and hold this button to turn the player on or off. To the right is the third button, marked with a forward arrow. This button lets you skip to the next track or fast forward the music. Next to this button is a small LED status indicator that shows a blue light when the player is turned on or a flashing blue light when it is on hold or when powering down. The player powers down automatically after a few seconds on hold or when the ear phones are removed. This is a nice feature that adds to the battery life, which is rated at about 15 hours.
The slotPlayer runs on one AAA battery, which can be accessed by sliding off the taco-shaped plastic cover, as shown in Figure 6.
The side of the slotPlayer has the opening where you slide in the microSD card, shown in Figure 7. Like most slots of this type you simply push in the card. When you are ready to remove it, you press down on the card and it pops up.
The other side of the player, shown in Figure 8, has a simple up/down volume control and a standard headphone jack. You may be using the volume controls of this device more than you hoped for since the player always starts at the middle of the volume control. We found ourselves having to turn down the volume every time we started the music. It would be nicer if the device would remember the last volume setting and start at that level.
The minimal controls make the slotPlayer very easy to use. It is the perfect player to ease someone into the world of digital music. Another plus is that because it is thicker than some of the music players that subscribe to the “thin is in” device design, the slotPlayer won’t be as easily lost in a pile of papers. And if you do lose it, you won’t cry too much because at $20, it can be more easily replaced than expensive players.
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Although playing music on the slotPlayer is similar to playing music on other digital music players, the way you purchase music can be very different. SanDisk is working with all four major music labels to release their music on a new medium call slotMusic. EMI, Sony BMG, Universal, and Warner are all producing slotMusic, so several different artists are available. Right now you can get a good variety of artists, including Abba, Akon, Robin Thicke, and even Elvis. However, many artists and even several genres and not yet represented. For the slotMusic format to really work, the selection of music will have to grow in the future.
When you purchase a slotMusic card, you get a 1 GB microSD card with an album from your favorite artist. Most albums in slotMusic format retail for USD 14.99 which is roughly the same price as a CD. There are some bundles available which give you an album by your favorite artist, a slotPlayer cover with his or her image, and the slot player itself. These generally retail for USD 34.99.
While we felt the slotPlayer itself at USD 19.99 is a bargain, we would like to see the slotMusic at a lesser price.
While USD 14.99 might be okay for those who don’t have a computer or don’t want to play around with the music, computer owners would be able to buy the CD and rip the music to a SD card. This would give them two copies, with the CD being higher quality, without having to pay too much extra.
The slotMusic card usually has the music in DRM-Free MP3s at 320 Kbps. At the discretion of the artists and record labels the slotMusic card may also contain other digital formats, liner notes, music videos, album art, or even master copies for remixing. While you can’t access the art or videos from the slotPlayer, you can use the slotPlayer adapter or any other microSD adapter to copy and/or move the music and other extras to your computer.
slotMusic cards come in a cardboard wrapper which, as shown in Figure 9, resembles a CD package in size, shape, and design. Inside the package you get an SD card with the music and a small plastic storage case which has the name and cover design of the album.
Although you probably won’t lose the slotPlayer itself, these microSD cards are very small, as shown in Figure 10, and can be easily misplaced or lost. Each slotMusic card has a slotMusic logo indicating that it was purchased with music on it. However, due to a lack of space, the name of the album is not on the card. So if you start to invest in slotMusic, you will want to keep the cards in their small plastic cases and may even want to purchase a slotMusic case from SanDisk to hold the plastic cases.
You don’t need a computer to play slotMusic on your slotPlayer. You simply insert the SD card and you are good to go. However, you can also use the included USB adapter to move music to and from the SD card and to view any additional material on the slotMusic card. Most slotMusic cards have plenty of extra space, so you can add music to play along with the album that you purchased.
If you transfer your own music to a microSD card, you can also play it on your slotPlayer. The player supports MP3 (up to 320 kbps) and WMA (up to 192kbps without digital rights management).The slotPlayer can accommodate micro SDHC cards as well as regular microSD cards. It will recognize cards up to 16GB, but without a screen or a way to choose what you want to play, most people probably won’t need to be using such a high capacity card in this player.
You can also use your slotMusic card in any device that plays music from microSD cards. There are millions of mobile phones already on the market can play slotMusic cards. We used the slotMusic card in one of our phones and it worked perfectly.
One nice thing about the slotPlayer is that it remembers where you left off and when you restart the player it will pick up at exactly the same part of the song where you left it. We were surprised that after we tried the slotMusic card in our phone and played several songs, when we returned the card to the slotPlayer, it remembered exactly where we were when we last played the card in the slotPlayer.
Unfortunately, there is no shuffle mode in the slotPlayer. The songs play in album order, and you can fast forward and rewind, but after using it for a few weeks, we longed for a shuffle mode.
The SanDisk slotMusic Player uses the same audio chip as the SanDisk Sansa Fuze and we found the music quality to be very good, just as it is in the Fuze. Although there is no equalizer or sound settings, we found that the slotPlayer provided better sound quality than we expected from a USD 20 device. As usual, we hated the hard ear buds and immediately replaced them with softer ones that fit our ears better.
Although we found the slotPlayer easy to use, the first time it emitted three beeps and shut down, we were not quite sure what that meant, so we surfed over to the SanDisk Sansa website to see if we could find a user’s manual. We really had trouble finding it until we discovered the Sansa community page. It not only gave us the manual, but also included really great blogs, forums, videos, and articles on the various Sansa products.
BTW, the manual didn’t mention anything about the three beeps, but we quite quickly determined that this was a low battery signal. We put in a new battery and were good to go.
SanDisk Sansa slotMusic player main features are:
- Product Dimensions: 2.84" x 1.45" x .60" (72.1 x 36.8 x 15.2 mm)
- Product Weight: 1.7 oz (48 g)
- File Support: DRM-free MP3 or WMA files
- No PC or Internet connectivity required
- Colors: Black, designer covers available
- Expansion Slot: microSDHC
- Battery: replaceable AAA with up to 15 hours of playback
- Headphone Jacks: 1
- Speaker: N/A
- Radio: N/A
- Recorder: N/A
- Music Subscriptions: N/A
- Internet Radio: N/A
- Audio Books: N/A
- More information: https://www.sansa.com
- MSRP: USD 19.99
There is no doubt that the slotMusic player is a good device for the price. The lack of a screen, shuffle, and audio options may turn off sophisticated digital music aficionados, but this may be a good entry to digital music for newbies or those who don’t want to have to use a computer to listen to digital music.
This player is easy to use, delivers good sound quality, and is ultimately sturdy. Even sophisticated users may turn to it for use while exercising at the gym or hiking in the woods.
With slotMusic having the backing of the four major music labels, there should be plenty of music available. It is the only music player we know that you can buy and use it immediately. So you can listen to your favorite music on the way home. We fear that the music that is currently available in the slotMusic format may not be popular with the newbie users who may be attracted to the slotPlayer. However, the slotMusic industry may just need a chance to fill out there offerings to include a larger variety of music. Only time will tell.
- Simple to Use
- Removable Shells
- No computer required
- Uses replaceable AA battery
- Removing the headphones turns off the player
- The player automatically powers down when in hold for too long
- The player starts exactly where you left off
- Uses DRM-free slotMusic cards
- No advanced features
- Player always reverts to the mid-range volume
- No shuffle mode
- Limited selection of slotMusic