Palm OS Audio Player Review: RealOne, AeroPlayer,
Pocket Tunes Deluxe posted Dec. 2003 by Tanker Bob
My first MP3 player was my Sony T665C. I liked
that capability enough to want MP3 capability in its replacement.
Although the Palm Tungsten series has had their audio system problems,
Palm seems to have overcome them nicely with the T3. The delay in
Real’s release of the RealOne Player for the earlier Tungstens
opened up a market opportunity to third-party apps. Two apps in particular
answered that call, and I’ll look at both of them in this review.
I conducted this review using a Palm Tungsten T3
with Sony ear buds. I ripped the music from CDs using dBPowerAmp
Music Converter using their Lame MP3 and Ogg Vorbis Codecs. I
picked three music pieces for specific reasons. I used Los Pecces
en el Rio as performed by Chip Davis’ Mannheim Steamroller
on their Christmas in the Aire CD. Davis has produced work legendary
for its extremely high audio quality. His music possesses great realism
and outstanding dynamic range, which challenges the best players
and equalizers. Next, Santana’s Europa off the Best of Santana,
Volume 2 CD provided some excellent tonality at both ends of the
audio frequency spectrum. I also used Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Free
Bird off of their Lynyrd Skynyrd CD, mainly because I like it so
much, but also because it has vocals and a frequency content/distribution
typical of good Rock & Roll. I ripped them all at 128kbps in
both formats, although I used variable encoding for Ogg Vorbis to
keep the file sizes down. However, I also compared the 128kbps encoding
to 96 kbps for the MP3s, partly to evaluate the quality of the equalizers.
Each player was evaluated with the exact same music files back-to-back
for the greatest fidelity of comparison.
The user can transfer music files to the card any
number of ways. I transferred the music files, like almost everything
else I transfer to my T3, using Card
Export 1.11 by Softick. It simply makes your card another drive
on your PC, enabling you to copy/move stuff using your favorite desktop
file manager. If you have a card reader, that would be even faster.
Be forewarned: You could reach retirement age by the time Hotsync
transfers large music files to your PDA’s card.
The most popular third-party players in the
Palm OS world seem to be AeroPlayer and Pocket Tunes. Since RealOne
Player comes with the T3, I used it as a baseline comparison. With
apologies to my Sony friends, I no longer have my T665C and Sony’s
AudioPlayer only works on Sony devices. I’ll cover RealPlayer
first since it provided the baseline.
RealNetworks has been a mainstay
in the desktop music player arena. Their basic version being
free hasn’t hurt their popularity any, and the desktop
player provides a high quality audio experience. They carry
a bit of controversy as baggage, though. Their desktop player
automatically sets itself up to access the Internet seeking
marketing opportunities disguised as “news” updates.
Even the Palm OS version accesses the desktop if in the PDA
is connected to the desktop through a cradle or cable.
The Palm OS version plays Real’s
proprietary .RM files as well as MP3s. Its features are pretty
basic. The usual controls occupy the main screen, including
play, stop, last/next song, volume, shuffle, and repeat.
The main window only displays the current song with time
elapsed and total time. Tapping on the volume button brings
up a volume slider. The play button becomes the pause button
when playing a song.
Two buttons at the bottom of the screen
bring up play lists or the song list. Like all the players
here, RealOne stores play lists on the card so your available
lists always match the music available. RealOne does not
support Palm’s Dynamic Input Area (DIA), so even the
song lists won’t expand to 320x480.
The only real options (no pun intended)
available set the time until screen turn-off and enable/disable
background play. RealOne doesn’t have a bass boost
or equalizer, or any of the many other features possessed
by the other two programs reviewed here.
RealOne plays MP3s with excellent sound
quality. When you compare all the players without any boosting
activated, RealOne sounds the best. However, when the other
players’ boost or equalizers are active, RealOne starts
to sound a bit flat by comparison.
If you don’t want to spend the bucks
for a third-party solution, RealOne will serve you well as
a basic MP3 player solution.