Thomson MP3 Player Reviews
Thomson Lyra PDP2860 20 GB
Introduction : While everybody's getting excited about iPod and other hard disk MP3 players, the Lyra gives a few more options for a similar price. It may not have the initial street cred of a shiny white iPod, but when you sit on the train and start watching a movie, suddenly the tables are turned. The Lyra, by ... Thomson (marketed by RCA in the USA) has a 20Gb hard drive and a 3.5" colour screen, which displays at a prefectly respectable 360 x 240 resolution. Not only does it play MP3s and videos, it also records video (subject to copyright restrictions of course) and stores still colour photos.
It's a 'pocket' photo album, video recorder and mp3 player.
Size and Weight :
The Lyra isn't as small as some of the audio only hard disk units on the market, (about 7" x 2" x 0.75"). It fits in a jacket pocket rather than a shirt pocket, but then you do get a 3" colour screen and the landscape format is comfortable for viewing on a journey, there's even a nifty little easel style leg which allows the unit to stand on a desk or british rail train table.
Battery Life :
Realistically, battery life when watching video is about 3.5hours which is enough for a movie, audio is a little better at 4.5 hours, but this is compromised because the video screen wakes up at the start of each track. I have read that battery life of up to ten hours is possible when connected to an external TV screen.
Formats supported :
MPEG-4 (DIVX Video) / MPEG-1 / JPEG / mp3 / mp3PRO/ WMA Playback
In theory, DIVX means that the hard disk has something like 80 hours video capacity, but you either have to record directly in real time into the machine, or do some very nifty translation to get from DVD into the necessary DIVX format.
The Lyra's controls are not exactly intuitive, with a variety of buttons and 'joysticks' ne eded to navigate the menus, but once you get the hang of it, it works pretty well. Something more windows look and feel would have been better. The audio player supports playlists and has a number of preconfigured graphic equalisers.
If the Lyra's impressive 20Gig hard drive still leaves you wanting more, then there is a Compact Flash (Type 1) Slot. This is, I understand, useful for downloading pictures from digital cameras, but I haven't tried.
I've also read about geeks in the US who have already upgraded their hard drives!
To be fair, the Lyra comes equipped with all the accessories you could resonably expect, which is more than can be said for some more 'trendy' competitors. You get :
- reasonably comfortable 'bud' type headphones
- a cassette audio output device for connecting to car stereos
- a car 'cigar lighter' power lead
- Video input and ouput leads - play through a TV or record from Video or DVD (subject to copyright).
- USB 2.0 lead
- leather effect wallet with a clear window to watch the screen
The Lyra comes with all the software needed to interface with PCs, including 100 free downloads from eTunes, and a branded copy of MusicMatch Jukebox. The model I bought had out of date firmware which was easily upgraded by downloading from the appropriate site.
Summary - Is it any good?
Yes... it is good, but maybe not great. That it does so much is probably the reason it doesn't to too much partcularly well, the technology is on the leading edge and the lyra is likely to be overtaken in terms of functionality by the Archos products. This means the Lyra could well come down in price and so become more desirable.
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I had been considering the purchase of an mp3 player for quite some time, so I wanted the choice I made to be a good one. All in all, I can say that I wasn't disappointed with Thomson's Lyra player. After all, £170 is a lot of money when you're a student, but fortunately I managed to get the price down to £155! The ... player came with all the usual features you would expect - pause, previous track, next track, as well as skipping forward and backwards during a track. It also came with a good graphic equalizer, with a few presets (such as rock, jazz or bass), which I was pleased with for such a small player. The player is quite small when compared with a CD player or even a cassette player, and even with batteries it is reasonably light. The headphones supplied were a bit of a disappointment, being the over-the-head type, but I had looked in the box before I had bought it, so it didn't put me off. However, they do give better sound quality than in-earphones, which I prefer as they're more discreet. The display on the player is good in comparison to others on the market, about as big as your average mobile phone screen. This gives it the right amount of space to know each of the tracks on the list it displays when it's not playing anything. A clever function is the idea of placing track names on the screen, rather than artist names. I can't imagine you'd find which track you'd want if you put the whole Manic Street Preachers album on there if it displayed artist names first.
When a track is played, the artist and track name are placed on seperate lines, useful but not essential. The graphic equalizer is easy to set once you get the hang of it, but I usually stick to the presets provided, which are good, but the lack of bass is sometimes shown by the earphones. The sound quality is unrivalled - you can't say anything against it. The volume control is placed on the side of the player, separate to everyt hing else, which makes it easy to alter if it is in a pocket or bag. The screen also has a very useful light, which stays on whilst you're pressing buttons, and then turns off when you've finished.
The batteries supplied last for around 20 hours, which matches what is said in the blurb on the inside cover. This would make one set of batteries fine for a long train journey (and back) or even a flight. In my experience of listening walking to and from lectures (about 25 mins a day, 5 days a week at the least), they lasted about a month. It also has an option to plug in an external supply from the mains, but if you needed to do that it would kind of defeat the object of it being portable.
The memory card supplied is 64MB, which equates to about 18 tracks, or just over an hour at 128kb per second mp3's. The can be compressed to decrease the quality so more tracks can be put on, but one hour is only what you would get from one CD anyway. I was told more memory cards would be available soon, but none have yet appeared. However, mp3's are the future of music, and it will only be a matter of time before more memory cards appear and the price of them drops.
I was apprehensive about the process of transferring files from my machine to the player to say the least. The supplied software is Real Jukebox 8, not an astounding choice, but one that in the end, does the job. I deal only with mp3's, but the player can also deal with wma I believe. Once a "playlist" has been created by the Jukebox (which I made my entire collection), it is fairly easy to transfer files from the machine to the player. However, I did encounter a few problems with the Jukebox software, when I had selected all the tracks that would fill the memory card, I clicked on "Transfer", and I got the "illegal operation" message and my carefully-selected song list was down the drain. As this appeared to happen repeatedly, I now only transfer three songs at a time, which isn't too bad. I had no problems with transferring files that I downloaded from the WWW or ones that I had ripped from CD's myself.
The actual transfer is done via the parallel port at the back of your PC, which has an adapter which allows you to plug in the device (which may have been there before) at the same time. It also requires a plug into the keyboard port (and again supplies an adapter top have the keyboard in at the same time), for some bizarre reason. It takes less than 2 minutes to transfer one track from my PC to the player, bearing in mind that I have a fast PC. This is acceptable, but there is a unit available that allows transfer by USB, but I don't think I'll bother as it normally takes 30 minutes to do the entire memory card, which is fine by me. The unit which the Flash memory card is plugged into normally sits at the back of my desk, as there is no reason not to keep it plugged in all the time. The main thing is, once a lot of the setup is done, it will not need to be done again. The instructions were useful enough to allow me to set the whole thing up in less than an hour, without calling on my Computer Science degree knowledge! However, whenever I turn on my PC now, after it has finished loading Windows, there is a rather alarming internal-speaker noise that lets me know the adapter is still connected. Thanks.
Overall, the player is as good as you will find for £170, although it can be bought for as little as £140 on the WWW now I believe. The functions of the player are very good, without being excessive or as bulky. If you are looking for a good mp3 player without jumping to the price level of the Creative Labs player, then I would reccomend it. As always to judge whether or not it was a good purchase, I ask myself if I were to go back in time, would I buy it again? Yes, most definetely.
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The Thomson Lyra was one of the first MP3 players to go on general sale in Europe. Since then the market for portable digital audio has expanded dramatically, so how does this pioneer measure up against the competition in 2001? "Quite well" is the answer, but this doesn't mean the Lyra is the perfect MP3 player. ... It just implies that other manufacturers have failed to come up with anything much better so far. The industry is still a young one and there are surely more players to come.
And let's get one thing straight: good MP3 players like the Lyra don't come cheap, so think carefully about whether digital audio would meet your needs. If you're happy with your portable cassette or CD player, it's unlikely you'll be able to justify the £200 cost of the Lyra.
A fine example of where portable MP3 comes into its own is in a gym, where I never go without my Lyra. CDs and tapes don't perform well when you're bouncing around, and MP3 solves this problem forever. The music never skips or jumps, and placed inside a pocket or tied to jogging pants the Lyra is so light you can forget it's there.
Open the Lyra packaging and you'll find the tiny player itself, good quality "over-ear" headphones, a Compact Flash card reader to connect to a PC, one 64Mb memory card, a CD with the Real Jukebox software, and a number of manuals, mostly in foreign languages! Once you find the English version though, you'll discover it's clear and concise.
The card-reader is a parallel device connected in-line with your PC printer using the cables supplied. It doesn't appear to upset printing in any way, and the use of the parallel port makes downloading music onto the card quite fast. A USB connection would have been faster still, though. Next you install the reader driver software and Real Jukebox off the CD, and you're ready to go.
Real Jukebox is worthy of a review all to it self, but suffice it to say it's an excellent product. Use this to play CDs on your PC, and record them in MP3 or RealAudio format on your hard drive. (The Lyra can handle either format, and there's not much to choose between them). You can select the level of compression at which your files are recorded up to a maximum of 128 kb/s. I tend to use 96 kb/s, at which you will store about 90 minutes of music onto the flash card. 64 kb/s is an acceptable option if you need to get a double CD onto the player. Even at this compression, a copied CD sounds a lot better than a tape cassette. Copying a CD with RealJukebox takes just a few minutes since write speeds are typically 5x or 6x. Then just select all the files you want on the flash card to move them across to the card reader, and the transfer takes just a couple of minutes. Easy!
The Lyra itself is simple to use. The flash card presses into a slot at the side, but take care to insert it the right way round by lining up the arrows. The card is ejected by means of a slider that gently forces the card from the slot. Power is provided by two AA batteries, and will play many hours of music. You can get away with using NiCAD rechargeables but they will only last around 90 minutes so make sure you're carrying a spare set. The battery cover does not detach completely from the compartment, so you'll not drop the loose cover onto the gym floor while you're rifling through your sportsbag for batteries. It would have been nice to see a charger/mains adapter included in the price rather than as an optional add-on.
MP3 players have often been criticised for rather lightweight construction, and the Lyra does indeed seem to have a "tinny" feel to it. But over a year's use I have found it actually quite robust. Since the player has no moving parts there is little inside that would warrant protection by a more substantial casing. There is a removable belt clip on the back which holds the Lyra securely in position.
The headphones supplied don't really fit the bill. If you are exercising you'll probably want to substitute them with very lightweight "in-ear" phones, which are more secure. For serious listening sat at home, good quality hi-fi headphones really do justice to the Lyra playing files recorded at 128kb/s compression.
The Lyra front panel consists of a small backlit LCD which shows the track playing, volume level etc. Dainty little silver buttons give you all the controls of a basic CD player. These are quite easy to manipulate but won't get knocked accidentally. Volume control is via a rotating knob at the side of the player, which also doubles as a selector switch in some modes.
Playing music is simplicity itself, and there are some pre-programmed tone settings you can toggle through to change the sound. It's also possible to set up a basic graphic equaliser to shape your own sound. Tracks can be programmed to play randomly, to a set program, or repeat, much as in a CD player. The software controlling this is not too intuitive, however, and it takes a while to master the art of programming the Lyra.
The player's inability to store any settings in a permanent memory is its most frustrating limitation. When the battery goes dead, or you remove the flash card, the volume returns to the default level, and you'll lose the settings on the graphic equaliser. So while it might take ten seconds to replace the batteries, it takes much longer to return the player to the settings you were using previously. The volume level is only displayed when the level is adjusted, which is also rather tiresome.
It's possible to navigate easily from track to track using the skip facility, but if you want to reach the middle of a track you'll need to shuttle-search from the beginning, which can take ages. It would be better to have a progress bar displayed on screen, which the user can drag to access any point on the track. This facility is available on the RealJukebox software, but curiously not the player itself.
There is a short pause between each track while the file loads. This is hardly noticeable when playing studio albums, but it is a bit strange to hear the audience suddenly cease their applause on live tracks, only to recommence their appreciation of the artist two or three seconds later!
A word on sound quality. This will always be a balance between the amount of music you wish to fit onto the player, and the sound quality you find acceptable. No MP3 file will carry quite the same dynamic range as its CD original, but considering these files are compressed by typically 10 times, I consider the sound quality remarkable. Few people can hear much difference between a moderately-compressed MP3 file and a CD track. Consider also that the Lyra is designed to be used on the go: in a gym, on the train etc. These are not environments where it is possible to appreciate the very highest sound quality.
So in summary, consider carefully if the very concept of portable MP3 is for you. If you're fed up with a skipping CD or fluttering cassette when on the move, the Lyra might just fit the bill. There are a few annoying design limitations, but these are not limited just to the Lyra. In the imperfect world of portable MP3, the Lyra gets my vote.
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Thomson MP3 Player
MP3 Player /
Thomson Lyra PDP2845 - Digital player / MP3 Player / radio - HDD 40 GB - WMA, MP3 - display: 2.5" - Thomson is one of the world's largest providers of technologies, systems, finished products and services to consumers and professionals of the entertainment and media industries. PRODUCT FEATURES:...
Manufacturer: Thomson / MP3 Player / Capacity Format: HDD / Capacity [MB]: 20480 / Format Supported: MP3, MP3 PRO, WMA, MPEG4 / Dimensions WxHxD [mm]: 135 x 80 x 24 / Weight [g]: 300
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