The Jukebox Zen 60GB Nomad Jukebox is a portable MP3 player made by Creative.
Creative are renowned for their computer soundcards and the SoundBlaster range of soundcards set a standard in computer audio. It was this knowledge, and the MP3 players impressive storage capacity (well it was when it was released, less so now) that made me purchase this player.
On first examination you will notice that the player is quite large. To get a feel for its size I would say that it is similar e to a folded up Nintendo DS, though a bit deeper. The player can just about fit into a men's shirt pocket though it can be a tight squeeze (and it does protrude a little too!)
The unit has an anodised brushed aluminium front that houses a large deep blue LCD display panel, which is bright and pleasant on the eye. The back is also made of anodised brushed aluminium. The front of the unit is removable, by flicking a catch at the base of the unit, and provides access to the battery compartment. The edges of the unit are made of a tough white plastic.
The top of the unit has three sockets - The power socket, a USB socket and a headphone jack socket.
The power socket has two purposes as it allows you to use the player via the mains and also is used to charge the internal rechargeable battery. The unit uses a 5 volt charger that is supplied, though I plugged in my PSP charger by accident once and that seemed to charge the unit as well; please note I do not recommend this! The unit takes about 3 hours to charge from empty, though this can change depending on the condition of your battery. A small charging icon displays on the top corner of the blue display panel and shows you when the unit is fully charged. The battery is removable, though bespoke. A replacement battery is widely available from online dealers or via auction sites such as eBay. Battery life is good and you can get around 4-5 hours on a good charge; this varies on temperature and overall battery condition.
The USB socket is a USB 2.0 socket so it facilitates quicker file transfer speed to and from the unit. The player is supplied with software that integrates with your PC file explorer software and via this you can browse and arrange your musical collection. The player can also double up as a portable storage device and you can drag and drop your files to and fro the unit. On average to transfer an album of 12 songs at around 3mb per file takes about 9 seconds in total. There is a slight delay as the drive spins up to speed but after that it is really quick.
The headphone jack socket is a standard 3.5mm size. The supplied headphones were adequate though a little quiet and unresponsive. Plugging in a more expensive set of headphones can improve the sound tenfold. To help improve the sound further there are several preset equalisation settings in the unit (called EAX) - Acoustic, Classical, Disco, jazz, Pop, New age, Pop, Rock and Vocal. I found that that most of the time that the Rock setting was sufficient and provided sturdy and deep bottom end frequencies and sparkling trebles. However, if none of the equalisations meet your required sound there is an option to save a preset of your own, though the unit only supports a 4 band equaliser.
The left hand side of the unit has three buttons - Power, Back & volume.
The power button is self explanatory, holding it in for a second powers the unit up and holding it in for a couple of seconds cause the unit to shut down.
There is a noticeable delay when starting the unit up as the drive is checked for errors. There is also quite a bit of clattering and whirring too. If the drive has become corrupted, due to an accidental knock or magnetic interference then the unit will go into repair mode and attempt to rebuild your song library and fix any problems. Regrettably, if you have a player that is almost full then this came take anything from 5 minutes to an hour!
The back button is used in collaboration with the scroll wheel (detailed later) and is used to step back through the layers of the players menus.
The volume button is a rocker switch which allows you alter the volume of playback. Volume is represented onscreen by a volume bar and ranges from 0 (quiet) to 25 (loud). As I mentioned earlier, the supplied headphones were rather quiet and if you like your music loud then it is definitely worth investing in a better set.
Also on the bottom right hand side of the unit is a very small pinhole which is a reset hole. Unfortunately, sometimes things can go wrong with the player and the whole unit locks up and does not respond to button pushing. In this extreme case you need to remove the battery, put a pin in the hole and press hard, replace the battery and power up. This hopefully resets the unit to factory default settings and allows you to boot up the player once more. I've had this happen several times when I owned the unit, though was never sure what the cause of the problem was. More than likely the issues were down to file corruption on the hard drive due to impact.
The right hand side of the unit has three buttons and a scroll wheel - Menu, play/pause and track selector switch.
Pressing the Menu button brings up the main menu of the unit. From the main menu you can do all of the things that you would expect from an MP3 player. From this menu you can sort your music by Artist or album title, access the EQ settings, create a play list of your favourite songs, play a track by genre, set time and date and also reformat the hard drive. The menus are layered in a hierarchal order and are navigated using a combination of the plastic scroll wheel and the back button.
The play/pause button does actually what you'd expect and pauses and resumes a track that you are playing. Likewise the track selector button allows you to skip forward and back through selected songs.
The display is clear and easy to read. Its about 2 inches wide an 1 and a half inches deep and has a black display on a soothing blue background. The contrast and brightness of the display are adjustable via the main menu. The display shows you artist name, CD track and genre although you cannot display an image of the cover art due to the nature of the display.
So what does it sound like?
There are a few things to consider here. The first thing to mention is that it is an MP3 player so the tracks have already had a great deal of compression applied to them before getting onto the player. The second is that the quality of your headphones is tantamount to getting the most pleasure out of this machine. Finally, selecting an EQ setting to match the music you are listening to is recommended.
I tried a few genres to test the unit.
Classical music without any EQ and sampled at a high bit rate (192 kHz) sounded a little flat and lifeless. Applying a custom EQ by raising the higher frequencies and the whole sound became much more enjoyable.
Playing a heavy rock track, again at a high sample rate and using the Rock EQ was actually rather good. There was a compactness and clarity to the sound and I was very impressed.
As for pop music and disco I felt that the preset EQ made the tracks sound a little dull and the rock EQ was a better choice.
In fact the Rock EQ, whether down to my personal preference, made all of the genres sound fuller, sharper and more enjoyable.
Overall I was impressed with the players sound.
This was one of my first MP3 players, and at the time was ahead of its time in features and storage capacity.
It was a great player of its time, and still remains a great player; however technology has now moved on. Modern MP3 players have become smaller, sleeker, much more entertaining display panels and have increased storage capacity. The thought of MP3 players combined with phones was unheard of when this unit was originally released.
There are a few problems I encountered. The biggest problem is the way that the unit handles filenames and files with duplicate names are not allowed. This proved a problem if two albums by an artist have the same track on. The other problem was with the random locking of the unit and the inconvenience of having to re-index your music library.
Reliability is a key factor here, and despite its odd hangup and the fragility of the plastic scroll wheel, the unit has served me well and still works well today.
Overall, the player does as it says on the tin and is a good music player, albeit old!
Pricing and availability
The unit can be found in used condition on online auction sites for around £40 at the date of writing (21st August 2008).
Copyright M Jones (Otalgia) 2008-08-21
I've had my Creative Jukebox Zen Xtra 60GB for about 9 months now. It has done me well. I've managed to fill it pretty much to the brim with tracks and it still operates nicely.
Easy to use, easy to follow menus. Nice back-lit blue screen. Also can store data - this is very handy, particularly as I have been travelling and it has allowed me to store all the photos I have been taking and free up my camera memory to take more photos!
Main disappointment is the sound quality. Absolute crappy preset sound settings. I have tried and tried, but cannot find one I am happy with. Only way I can get it to sound OK is by setting the EQ levels myself. Can get it to sound OK that way, but still not anywhere near as good as the sound quality of my mate's Ipod. (Note: I do know what I am on about with the sound. I have played music for years, as well as being a DJ, so I have a good ear for these things).
Other disappointment is that for a period of about 1 month not long after I bought it, something wack happened with the headphone jack in which the left channel ceased to work. I was well upset by this at the time, as I read other user reviews on the internet about this happening to other owners of this product. I managed to get it to work every now and then by jiggling the headphone jack in the socket. But it kept stuffing up all the time still - always the left channel. Then one day, long after I had given up on it, I decided to give it one last shot. Low & behold, it worked! And has done so since! So... no idea what the problem was, but it seems to have fixed itself.
So yeah, all aside, I am happy with this little unit.
Creative are a worldwide company pushing innovation to the limits. Originally famed for the excellent Soundblaster sound cards, the company has been expanding its product range over the past couple of years, and developing high quality speakers, webcams, mice, modems... and mp3 players.
The mp3 player market has soared recently, following the huge success of Apple's iPod. With virtually every well known electronics manufacturer trying to grab a slice of the market, (and many more unknown ones from Asia !), competition is fierce, where only the best will survive.
There is a huge range in storage capacity and quality on mp3 players, from tiny 64mb ones that only hold up to 30 tracks, to a huge 60GB which can hold up to 15000 songs !!
~ THE CREATIVE NOMAD JUKEBOX ZEN XTRA ~
The Creative Nomad Jukebox Zen Xtra is at the higher end of this range, with a very impressive 40GB hard drive. Now, I'm no techno-junkie, so I won't even try to explain how much this actually is, other than it can store up to 11000 songs, or up to 600 hours of music !!
Considering that I have already added my entire music collection, which adds up to a paltry 1044 songs, the storage capacity should last me for years to come.
Upon powering on the Zen, you are presented my a clear, simple menu, effectively lit by a blue neon backlight. The menu has the following options...
As you may expect, this contains all the music stored on your MP3 player. It is sorted into different catergories - albums, artists, genres, all tracks and Playlists.
From here, you can select the track or tracks you wish to listen to or, if you can't find it, there is a search function too.
If you want a surprise, you can select a function called "Play Any Track" and it will select tracks from your entire libary at random !
The beauty of this device is that you can create a list of songs you wish to play. This can be done prior to downloading the songs in the form of a playlist. However, if you are out, and wish to select a number of different tracks this can be done just as easily. You simply go into the music libary and select the first song, then choose additional songs and "add to play".
The Selected Music menu lists all the songs you've selected to play so far.
This shows the current track playing, along with other details such as the artist, the album, the genre and duration of the track. This will be updated as the song changes.
EAX Audio is an innovation that does to the mp3 player what the graphic equallizer did to the stereo. EAX digitally adjusts the sound on tracks with a number of possible outcomes. For example, if you are listening to music as you drift of to sleep, you may not want dramatic volume changes in the music. The EAX can adjust the music to prevent this happening. Simarily, if you want to listen to particular lyrics, it can slow down the playback speed to give you more time to hear them.
Another use would be if you were in a car - the EAX can increase the volume of sounds that would normally be droned out by the sound of the engine !
You can select how your tracks are played back in this menu. The standard playback mode is "Normal", but you can choose to repeat a track or playlist, or play songs at random from the selected tracks.
From here, you can adjust the software settings on the device - for example the date and time and the profile settings.
Quite simply, the Button Lock prevents any action being taken from touching any button, and puts the screen into the "Now Playing" state. To unlock, you need to press the scroller button, and select "unlock" from the window that appears.
You navigate the menu by using a scroll wheel - similar to that on many PC Mice. You move it up and down to scroll through the menus, and press it in to select an option.
It is located on the side of the device, but is easy to navigate using one hand.
The other buttons are the fairly standard volume (up and down), track skip / scan (up and down), play and pause, back, menu and the power button.
These are basic, but have a reassuring "click" as you press them.
~ SOFTWARE ~
There are three pieces of software that come with the device, and these are supplied on a CDRom format.
The first is an electronic registration form. This is completed when you first install the software, and it sends your details via the web to Creative. Whilst some may find this intrusive, it actually allows the company to keep you informed of software updates, and important information about the product.
The second is an electronic manual for the product. Over time, paper instructions will get lost or destroyed, but online ones can sit on your computer (or on the CDRom) until such a time you require them. These instructions are in PDF format, and can be viewed by using Adobe Acrobat Reader which can be downloaded from the internet free of charge.
The instructions themselves are clear, well written and easy to understand. They are divided up into different chapters, so you can quickly and easily find the section that you are looking for.
The final piece of software is the all important Creative Mediasource Organizer.
The Mediasource Organizer is much like other programs, such as iTunes or Media Player. Basically, the screen is divided up into three panes. The first contains all the music stored on your PC, whilst the second shows all the tracks on a selected source - either the MP3 Player or a CD. Finally, there is a playlist, into which you can click and drag songs in the order you wish them to be played.
The first two windows display a range of information, that can be changed to the users own preference. Generally, the track name, artist, album title, track length and user rating are displayed.
Adding music to your Zen MP3 player is easy, and can be done in a number of different ways.
If you wish to import a CD, you simply insert the CD into the CDRom Drive. The software detects that a CD has been inserted, and after a click of a mouse button, it will gather the track details from an online source. (You will need to be connected to the internet for this feature to work !).
You then simply click on "Rip Now", and the tracks - along with the info - will be stored on your hard drive.
The transfer time from the CD to the PC averages around 9 seconds per track - although this will vary depending on factors such as your PC specification and track length.
It is then simply a matter of plugging the player in, via the USB cable provided, and clicking on "Sync" to transfer files between the PC and the MP3 player. This takes between just one and two seconds per track.
If you already have tracks stored on your hard drive, the program has a nifty tool called "Media Sniffer". This will scan your hard drive, and monitor any additions or changes to mp3 files in order that you do not get broken links to the tracks.
Another tool in the software is called "Music Analyser". The Nomad Jukebox Zen Xtra has a great feature called "Smart Playlist". Basically, you can select music to suit your mood, based upon volume or beats. You may want to chill out, for example, after a stressful day and the player will select tracks from it's playlist that would be more relaxing. The Music Analyser scans all the music on your PC to catergorise different types of music and produce these playlists.
Finally, there is the "Player" feature. If you want to listen to music from your hard drive whilst doing other things on your PC, you can select the player. This appears as a small "remote control" on your desktop, from which you can select music, increase or decrease volume and skip or rewind tracks. There are a few different skins available, but I am sure that there are more available to download.
~ ALSO COMES WITH... ~
The device comes with quite a few extras included in the price.
Obviously, the device would be useless without a battery, and a rechargable one is provided with the player. Similar in shape and size to mobile phone batteries, this holds (according to the documentation) up to 14 hours worth of playback time. Again, this will vary on a number of factors, but I found this figure to be a bit high. The battery does drain fairly quick whilst you upload tracks to the device, so it is recommended that you leave the charger plugged in whilst you do this. Overall, I'd expect to get between 11 and 13 hours of playback on normal usage.
The Nomad also comes complete with a charger, to recharge the battery. I purchased a US Model, and it is important to remember if you choose to buy an overseas model, that you get an adaptor with it !!
As before, the device would be totally unusable without headphones, so these are also supplied. These are the "in-ear" type headphones.
Overall, the sound quality from these is excellent - although I know that some people cannot get on with this type and prefer the headphones that you wear on your head. These can be purchased, however, from most good outlets at very reasonable prices.
Also supplied is a very good quality leather and vinyl case. This thick, black cover helps to protect the device, and also has a belt clip on so you can wear it whilst walking or jogging.
~ SUMMARY AND OVERALL OPINION ~
The first priority of an MP3 player should be the quality of the sound. The player comes with a number of classical tracks on it, performed by the Bejing Philarmonic Orchestra, and inevitably this will probably be your first experience of the device. Forunately, the tracks selected really do knock you back with the sound quality. The sound is crisp, and you can hear almost every individual instrument and note played. The first time I actually listened to it, I got goosebumps, and excited with the prospect of using the product !!
There is also a playlist, demonstrating the effects of the EAX Audio. This is part spoken word, and part music showing the different effects, but again is worth listenening to when you first use the product.
Next, you have to consider the hardware - the look, feel and features of the device.
The product looks similar in size to a Walkman, measuring 3" x 4.4" x 0.86". However, weighing in at just 7.9oz, it is quite light which compensates for this.
The casing is a mixture of brushed aluminium and sturdy white plastic, which looks stylish and modern, and when the back light is on it looks really great.
The battery is easily removed, so in the event that over time it may lose it's charge, it can be easily replaced - (unlike some competitors !).
The storage capacity is a staggering 40GB - which as I explained above means that you can store up to 600 hours of music on here ! As this is stored on an internal hard drive, which has moving parts, there is a chance that music may skip if the product is shaken. Fortunately I do not go out jogging, so haven't experienced any problem, but even shaking it gently has very little effect.
Finally, you need to consider the price. This obviously varies on how and where you purchase the Zen Xtra, but UK prices are typically around £230 for the 40GB model. I chose to purchase mine on eBay from a U.S. supplier at a cost of £170 - around £60 cheaper. Be warned, though, that you may find you have to pay duty when it is imported into the country, and this can add up to £20 on the price !!!
Of course, people will automatically compare this to the iPod - something I have tried not to do in this review, as this is an excellent product in it's own right. However my choice to go with the "Creative Nomad Jukebox Zen Xtra" was swung by two interlinking factors - for less money than an iPod, you get more storage capacity !!
If you are thinking about purchasing an mp3 player, I would strongly urge you to consider the Creative Nomad Jukebox Zen Xtra... you won't be disappointed !!!
Disclaimer - I originally wrote and published this review on Ciao.co.uk under the same username, but have decided to transfer my reviews to this site.
I have had this mp3 player for about 6 months now, Its amazing! The hard drive is more than youll need with a total of 16,000 songs (60 GIG) This is an amazing amount of songs.
.You can choose the AudioSync to synchronize your music on your player with your PC at work, school and home or on the road.
.You can make playlists up on your PC to listen to
.To chose the track you want you can either choose from Artist, Track, Genre or album or you can put it on random play.
. The mp3 player comes with USB lead, headphones soft ware for installation on pc containing manual creative registration and mp3 organiser.
. The software can down load as fast as 1 song per second.
I am so glad i bought this item it is brilliant Rating is 5 stars
The Creative Jukebox Zen Xtra 60GB may suffer from having one of the longest product names in history, but the product, which has been part of the Creative Zen range of MP3 players for over two years now has much to recommend it, not least its capacity. The Xtra 60GB has been superseded by the Zen Touch and recently by the gorgeous Zen Sleek, but it remains Creatives largest jukebox in terms of capacity and remains the best choice with those who have a music collection thats two large for their own good. After two years of ownership, here is what its like to live with the product.
Getting everything installed is not simply a case of plug and play, which will come as a disappointment to many. The player comes with MediaSource, Creatives replacement for the much maligned Media Center software. The software is perhaps a little over-elaborate for the less computer-literate music fan who simply wants their music on the player and to be done with it. However, CD ripping seem is quicker than on Winamp and on a par with iTunes. The Xtra lacks a Firewire support but mercifully comes with a USB2 socket and cable meaning that downloading music to the player isnt the chore it once was on earlier Creative players.
Style & Functionality
Finished in silver and white, with chrome buttons on the side, the Xtra is not unattractive, but it cannot compete with the ubiquitous iPod for style. The biggest problem with the buttons is that they mirror each other on either side so that even after two years of use Im still pressing Skip Track when I want to up the volume. The Zen Touch was probably admittance that the scroll button on the Xtra is no where near as user-friendly as the iPod scroll wheel, although recent firmware upgrades seem to have improved its accuracy considerably. The screen is at least attractively backlit in blue and the menus are easy to use and navigate.
Living With The Zen Xtra
The Xtra is not exactly a tough nut for active use, but it comes in a bespoke black casing that protects it from dust and scratches. Youd hardly know my player was two years old as a result. Even upon its release it wasnt the smallest player on the market, but it is small and light enough to fit in the pocket of your jeans or to clip onto your belt without really noticing its there. Like most MP3 players, the included earphones arent the greatest, although they werent bad. Using Sennheiser headphones or plugged into a stereo the brilliance of the Xtras sound quality makes listening a joy. Battery life never seems to dip below ten hours, even now and with a lithium ion battery it can be charged in about an hour and a half. With 60GBs of space to play around with, I only really connect the player for regular driver and firmware updates, easily accessed from the Creative website. Their forum and customer support team are said to be excellent as you would expect from such a big name, although Ive thankfully not needed to contact them yet.
For what it lacks in style and functionality, the Zen Xtra makes up for in sound quality, reliability and value for money. It can be bought for as little as £180 new on Ebay making it the perfect choice for those with a little xtra in their music collection.