Damaged Gears

Evolve your Gears

Really Retro Damage: MZ-NE410

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So, for your viewing pleasure (and maybe a more of a chuckle or three), here’s a really old review I’ve done for the MZ-NE410. Compared to the units available now, it’s utter trash, or at least, still stuck in the mid-90s as far as technology involved. But, as they say, you need an entry drug to get to the more hardcore shit.

And the MZ-NE410 is that Entry/Gateway drug that doomed me to this path of me wanting more and more. The review comes after the jump, and since I no longer have the unit in possession, you’ll have to do sans pictures.

Now, the review:
The NE-410 is a entry level NetMD player, probably designed to compete with flash-memory enabled MP3 players. As it stands, it does that quite well with good sound quality and very cheap ($2 for 130 MB/74 minutes vs. $50 for 128MB of actual flash, such as MemorySticks) memory media. Even the display set on Target, where I purchased mine (they also had the 610, but no 510CK ) clearly puts them at a MP3 player rather than a complete MD solution.

Why: I wanted the 510 at the miminum, since it has NetMD and recording capabilities, but they had zero in stock. Feeling defeated, and not wanting to flush $200 down the drain on a product I may not like, I toked the 410 as a test trial of sorts for the MD family. Here’s what I found after I took the purple pill and freed my mind, sort of.

Initial Quality: Small size is intriguing, and is similar to other Flash MP3 players. It’s thicker than my Clie PDA (NR-70), but the Clie is longer. I like the size of the Clie as a combination of MP3 and PDA. The size doesn’t bother me that much, but it’s thicker than my CD Walkman, which doesn’t bode well. I think if it were just a tad slimmer, then I might’ve been happier.

The feel is just average. It feels solid enough, but also delicate enough that I will hesistate slightly.

Overall look is simple and clean, almost elegant if it weren’t for the cheap black plastic.

The ergonomics: Very simple. Most, if not all of the work is done with the big play/fwd/rwd/stop button in the right side of the player. While it does feel cheap, the navigation can be done with one hand, blindfolded. Easy. The volume controls are on the bottom, not on the side… Not too smart IMO, but there you go. Setting the the sound settings, displays, etc. are done somewhat anti-intuitively, as you have to go into the menu set it up. Cheap move on Sony’s part, as one or two additional buttons for sound settings would’ve cost them jack and crap. Overall, very easy to play around with, unless you need advanced settings. Screams entry level.

Speaking of fiddling around, the access time (after a short boot time that’s faster than any of my CD MP3 players) is nigh instantenous, almost like the Clie’s built in ATRAC3/MP3 player (in MP3 mode anywhoo, I could never find any 128MB MG MemoryStick). I didn’t expect that in a non-flash format. Props to Sony.

No remote, or remote jack for that matter in the unit. But then again, not a lot of flash MP3 players have one either so it’s not a matter of issue to me.

The LCD has some funky purple reflective screen, so you can see the data on low light levels. Would’ve liked to be backlit as well, but I’ll take any LCD where I can get them (some MP3s even lack an LCD, or has craptastic display). Scrolls title, artist, and other vital information. It could’ve been bigger, but you won’t go blind from reading it.

Sound Quality: Sounds just as good as source MP3s in 103kbps mode (33 songs 144 minutes on a 74 minute Disc). The ATRAC decoder is competent, probably similar decoder used on their CD walkman models, as they sound very much alike to my tone deaf ears on my TDK MP100 (best. $20. headphones. ever.) and NP100. I suspect that DSP on either model is the same, or shares the same logic designs, thus the sound quality being pretty damn close. On that end, I have no problems with it.

You can adjust treble and bass up or down three levels. I didn’t expect that from a low end model, and is a pleasant surprise for me. The bass settings sounds like Digital MegaBass, in that small MegaBass is fine, but anything else screws up the midtones to a level that it becomes crap. The treble settings helps to defray that somewhat, and makes the MegaMegaBassBass sound a lot better than it probably is. Gets quite loud if you crank both treble and bass. Too bad there’s only two settings you can save and no “EQ” presets. That I think would’ve been better.

As is, I’m very happy with the SQ. It rivals/equals the ATRAC3 CD player that Sony recently put out, and has better adjustable sound settings.

Accessories: None, nada, zilch, unless you include a free MD disc. Better than nothing, but they could’ve at least included a cheapie holding bag or something.

NetMD: Bah. Crash happy Sonic Stage gets on my nerves. The RealOne player isn’t probably better, but at least it won’t crash when I look at it funny. And is fairly simple enough.

Overall: Very competent “mp3” player overall vs. RIOs or Kazoos or other low end flash MP3s, and stacks up just as well. It won’t compete with the higher end models, such as ones from iRiver, but it does have its place. I’d say 7.5 as an MP3 player, 5 as a MD player (lacking any sort of input other than USB hurts it).

As for me, I think I’ll replace this with either the 510 or the 610 next week. I will want that optical in capabilites to test out the SP recording, but I’m slowly being converted into ATRAC/MD freak.

As a side note, I’ve ended up trading it for MZ-N510CK, then trading that to MZ-NF610. The MZ-N510 was probably the best MD when properly applied with a bit of a firmware hack, a very competent entry unit that outperformed nearly all other units at the time, save the iPods and other HD units.

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Written by Damage

02/12/06 at 3:06 am

Posted in DAP, Soapbox

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