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Palm OS Audio Player Review: RealOne, AeroPlayer, Pocket Tunes Deluxe
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posted Dec. 2003 by Tanker Bob

AeroPlayer R2.10.4 by AeroDrome Software

AeroPlayer possesses an interesting motif--airplanes. You could kinda guess that from the name. The motif fits well, because AeroDrome put that level of attention to detail into AeroPlayer. The use of plug-in codecs provides a nice level of flexibility and extensibility. You only have to load the codecs that you use, saving space on your PDA. I used the AeroDrome MP3 and Ogg Vorbis codecs for this review. The codecs may be stored on the card as well as in RAM, and there’s an option available to set AeroPlayer to look on the card for them. By deselecting that, you can save loading time if you keep the codecs in RAM.

AeroPlayer can be skinned, so any discussion of the screen must take into account the skin being used. I pictured it here with one of the AeroDrome supplied skins: Aerofighter. You can find a host of skins on their website. At this time, AeroPlayer doesn’t support the new Palm OS DIA, although AeroDrome says that will be in the forthcoming version 3.0 upgrade. Most skins put the same controls on the display, although a few add one or two above the standard.

All the basic controls occupy the AeroPlayer display, including sliders when appropriate for things like volume and balance. The main screen displays the file list, making it easy to quickly pick up a song upon opening. In addition to the usual controls, AeroPlayer also displays the elapsed time in the current song and the total playing time of all the music on the card. The Mode control changes the music list display to various formats--the file/path name, song name and play time, just the song names, and just the file names--by tapping to cycle through the formats. The display also shows the bit rate of the current song, or current portion of the file if using variable-rate encoding.

AeroPod gives the user access to the player’s basic functions from any program. While AeroPlayer plays in the background, a command stroke provides instant pause and next song buttons, plus a button to bring up AeroPod. From AeroPod, the user can play/pause, goto next/last song, and adjust the volume. Very nice implementation that doesn’t interfere with all my other shortcuts assigned to the silk screen and hard buttons.

AeroPlayer provides a good selection of options. These include background play, play on startup, when to turn off the screen, how to sort and when to cache track information, where to look on the card for the music, and how to repeat or play songs and lists. I think the L/R balance setting is one of the handiest features as ear buds rarely fit into both ears exactly the same. AeroPlayer also supports play lists to tailor your listening choices. Background play proved seamless for all but the most demanding card usage.

One unique feature to AeroPlayer proved most endearing. AeroPlayer can be set so that turning off the power--either with the power button or using the slider on the T3--will simply turn off the screen. Cool! I found myself closing the slider without thinking in RealOne and Pocket Tunes, terminating the music session unintentionally. You can set AeroPlayer so that doesn’t happen. The T3’s LED will flash when the player turns off the screen so you don’t forget and let the battery drain. I became addicted to this nifty capability.

Perhaps AeroPlayer’s strongest feature comes in its equalizer/boost system. MP3 encoding apparently builds in some capability for frequency boosting. While this makes it easy to get some bass boost, it’s limited to MP3 files and can introduce significant distortion and clipping. AeroDrome does not use this system, but rather created their own coding which provides outstanding boost/equalization without introducing distortion. There are four choices: Off; Bass Boost; 5-band Equalizer; and Bass Boost 2. AeroPlayer sounds fine with the equalizer off, but you know we won’t stop there! Bass Boost sounds like a Dolby-type processing where then the low end is boosted a little and the high end is muted a bit. IMO, Bass Boost 2 provides a richer sound with greater separation, something like the old DBX encoding/decoding. AeroDrome also says that Bass Boost 2 uses less CPU resources. The 5-band allows greater tailoring, and I was able to almost duplicate the Bass Boost 2 response with the 5-band. AeroDrome says that 5-bands provides the optimum equalizer response for most folks, and I fully agree. I could hear no distortion up to the maximum boost of +16dB at full volume. Best of all, because of this system’s independence from the music file encoding, it works for all file types, not just MP3s. AeroPlayer’s boost performance set it apart from the rest of the pack.

Current codecs for AeroPlayer support Ogg Vorbis and MP3. I’ve heard some on the net vehemently defend Ogg’s superiority to MP3. I didn’t find that to be the case when both were encoded at the same bit rate. File sizes under those conditions proved comparable, even though I used variable-bit rate compression for the Ogg files. I’m sure that if I used the recommended 160 kbps for Ogg against MP3’s 128 kbps, Ogg would sound better, but that would hardly be fair. Obviously, the codec qualities affect the outcome, but on AeroPlayer they sounded pretty much the same to me.

At $14.95 as shareware for one year of free updates ($29.95 for lifetime registration), I found AeroPlayer to be an excellent music player with wide skin support. AeroDrome’s boost system set the bar for Palm OS players, and I don’t have to worry about turning the music off accidentally by closing my slider. AeroPlayer impressed Sony enough to make a reduced version of it the built-in audio player for its TJ35.

Pros:
Standard-setting bass boost/equalizer for all file types
Excellent handling of the PDA power-off functions
Ogg Vorbis and MP3 support through plug-in codecs
Nice AeroPod pop-up control

Cons:
Doesn’t support Palm OS DIA

 

 

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