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2009-11-15My review: Goodmans CD1504USB MP3 CD player w/ multiple inputs

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What you get in a CD player has changed dramatically since the first one our family got. In the 90s, a hundred quid in-store (I think it was from Goodmans as well) got you a hulking great midi-size unit with a couple of tapedecks, CD player that didn't recognise CD-Rs, turntable on top, and a remote that did nothing more than control power and change the volume. It may have had a radio as well, but I forget. Fifteen years later, fifty quid to Comet gets you a svelte box (delivered) with a quite fully-featured remote and that only incidentally has an analogue radio tuner, which handles MP3 from CD, USB stick or SD card, and has an auxillary line-in socket as well. A line-in used to be particularly rare on entry-level stereos... actually, as far as I can see they're far from always guaranteed to be present even now.

As I've long since transferred my CDs into big book-type folders, it's the MP3 functionality that appeals the most — aside from when getting new albums, it's as quick to stick a few directories worth of files onto a stick as it is to find a disc.

Sound quality is perfectly acceptable, which is a good job since there doesn't seem to be any bass/treble/tone control or presets apart from an extra-bass button (listings that mention "64 preset sound settings" look like they're lying, ditto those that mention CD-Text support.) The speakers are wire-clip type and have removeable fronts, which in black-painted wood looks quite funky and I've got them turned sideways and stacked next to the base unit. Looking around online for the model number CD1504USB it appears that in other parts of Europe they're sold under the Proline monicker with a light-coloured wood finish, but you'd probably struggle to find that release over here.

Also included in the basic functionality is an clock and alarm function, although since even with the player on standby there's still a bit of electrical hum you'd probably only want to do that if it isn't positioned near the bed. This tends to be a general problem with anything drawing mains power, and the fact it isn't more noticeable suggests that the parts used aren't the absolute cheapest that could be sourced for manufacture.

The only evidence of cost-cutting is no track title display and a lack of controls for some features on the base unit and remote respectively. The base unit has a physical slider to choose between CD/MP3, radio & auxillary input. When it's in CD/MP3 mode, the 'source' remote or unit button switches between CD, USB port and card slot. The radio and aux input are only usable through the base unit, although volume control obviously still works from the remote. The base unit doesn't let you skip folders when playing from media with MP3s, so lose the remote and you're stuffed.

Since the card and USB slots are on the top, I'd suggest having things plugged into them even if they won't be used much, to prevent dust collecting. Despite the manual warning only 2Gb devices are supported, at the moment I've tried the USB port with drives I've got (256Mb-16Gb) and only had problems with one due to it being a slider type rather than having a cap. (If you're looking for a stubby drive with a regular-size USB socket, Kingston do "Mini Fun" ones in 1Gb and 2Gb sizes that are fine for sticking a few playlists on. You can also get very tiny micro-SD card readers these days, or cut the metal device bit out of those silly wrist band type flash drives, which is my preferred way of doing things as I got a few of them cheap a while back.) The SD slot is fine with true SD cards, such as the 2Gb I tested it with, and also reads SDHC cards (an 8Gb in this case) but be aware it'll max out at 999 tracks (and apparently at 200 directories) and not see any files or directories past this limit. On that basis, 4Gb of storage is probably optimal.

As far as I can tell MP3s are sorted within directories by filing system ID, i.e. folders copied on first get played first, and within each folder files copied first get played first. You can get around this by making sure copies take place in order, using a copy handler such as TeraCopy or SuperCopier, or something like the gen_yar plugin with Winamp. It shouldn't be a problem with burnt CDs. All of my MP3s are LAME-encoded variable bitrate, and I haven't found any it has problems with yet. Apparently it also plays WMA files, which I haven't tested.

I made the mistake of buying from eBay first and got sent a catalogue return that'd obviously been sent back due to lens/buffer problems. This suggests the lens assemblies in these things aren't fantastic; a saving grace is that a portable MP3/CD player could be plugged into the line-in socket if it fails outside of warranty. It wasn't worth the twenty quid saving to get something allegedly "fully re-tested" by the manufacturer — working right, the retail price is fair and gives you the option of a counter return if it turns out to be needed.


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