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
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.
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
Doesn’t support Palm OS DIA