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Rio Karma 20GB Reviewed 355

Posted by timothy
from the it-plays-ogg dept.
asv108 writes "The Rio Karma has been out on the market for over a month now with very little mainstream press. Slashdot covered the product announcement back in August for one of the first mainstream devices that supports OGG and FLAC playback. I've posted a little review of the 20 GB Rio Karma, which, besides OGG/FLAC/MP3/WMA playback, has a great little dock that syncs the player via ethernet. One little known gem is that this player comes with java-based software that allows users to download the software directly from the player via any browser and sync the Karma with Linux, Mac OS X, and any other OS that Java runs on."
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Rio Karma 20GB Reviewed

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  • why no AAC? (Score:2, Interesting)

    is there some reason that players are not supporting the New MPEG audio format?
    • Re:why no AAC? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Patents and royalties.
    • Re:why no AAC? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by HebrewToYou (644998)
      Umm, because they've no real incentive to support AAC. They *ought* to support MPEG 4, which is the codec, and not AAC specifically, which is DRM encoding. Market forces are not pushing for the adoption of Apple's standards, so Apple must rely on sales of its own product to push said standards. The interesting thing about this is that even this new Rio isn't that much of a contender versus the iPod. The prices are nearly identical and the form factor almost in favor of the iPod. NTM the ridiculous "hype"
      • Re:why no AAC? (Score:5, Informative)

        by kannibal_klown (531544) on Monday November 24, 2003 @10:45PM (#7554127)
        The Karma can be purchased for $290 on amazon.com, with another $20 off with a rebate. That's $270 versus $400.

        I bought one last week, and my roomate has the recent 20GB iPod. While I think his iPod is slightly nicer (in design), I don't think it's $130 nicer. But, to each his own.
      • Re:why no AAC? (Score:3, Interesting)

        Noooo..AAC is the audio coded for MPEG 4.

        just becasue Apple DRMs AAC does not mean that AAC is DRMed. hell, you can DRM an MP3 if you like, all you need to do is encript it which is what Apple does. you can DRM an OGG or a FLAC file too.
      • Actually you are wrong. AAC is an open codec. What apple uses is AAC wrapped in a quicktime thing to add the DRM.
      • They *ought* to support MPEG 4, which is the codec, and not AAC specifically

        MPEG is not a codec, it's a file format, just like AVI is a file format and divx is a codec.
      • Re:why no AAC? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Pheersum (243554) on Monday November 24, 2003 @11:01PM (#7554279) Homepage
        You're wrong. AAC is the generic term for the codec of MPEG-4 audio. Apple's iTunes is AAC encoded with drm. An MPEG-4 file is a QuickTime file... did you know that? MPEG-4 video, AAC audio, with the wrapper being QuickTime... of course, things like DivX are MPEG-4 video in AVI.
        • Re:why no AAC? (Score:5, Informative)

          by Golias (176380) on Tuesday November 25, 2003 @01:24AM (#7555234)
          You are also wrong. Apple's iTunes does not encode DRM when you rip your CD's to AAC. You can copy them as freely as any MP3 or OGG file.

          Only songs from the iTunes Music Store are encoded with DRM.

          So, to summarize:
          AAC does not mean DRM.
          iTunes AAC encodings do not mean DRM.
          Songs purchased from the iTMS, which come in the AAC format, include DRM, but permit copying for fair use, so long as you don't have it loaded on more than a few computers at the same time.

          Any questions, class?

      • Re:why no AAC? (Score:5, Informative)

        by ultrapenguin (2643) on Tuesday November 25, 2003 @12:04AM (#7554737)
        AAC has nothing to do with DRM. You are saying just because it supports DRM, it should not be used? Like it or not, within next few years you won't be able to pickup a player which DOESN'T support DRM.
        And no, your "current players" won't be able to interface with newer stuff, exactly because of DRM. So badmouthing AAC, (which is by the way a fine audio codec, which scales well from low bitrate to high bitrate professional broadcasting) just because of DRM is pretty stupid.

        And MPEG4 is not a "codec", its a collection of intellectual property which covers advanced audio and video compression/encoding techniques.
  • I guess it's cool (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dancin_Santa (265275) <DancinSanta@gmail.com> on Monday November 24, 2003 @10:39PM (#7554071) Journal
    But can't they make it less ugly?

    I know everyone is trying to make these as small and unobtrusive as possible, but this little guy is a little too small and too oddly-shaped (a square???) to be comfortably used.

    What would be nice would be a set of bluetooth headphones so that a wire from my pocket to my ear wasn't necessary.
  • my god. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Valar (167606) on Monday November 24, 2003 @10:39PM (#7554072)
    What will we complain about now?
    It plays ogg.
    It sync via ethernet.

    We're going to have to find a new gold standard, and fast!
    • Re:my god. (Score:5, Funny)

      by rampant mac (561036) on Monday November 24, 2003 @10:48PM (#7554147)
      "We're going to have to find a new gold standard, and fast!"

      It only holds 5000 128kbps mp3 songs you insensitive clod! True /. nerds rip everything in 320kbps blade-enc with lib-froffer.0.024-alpha!

      Sheesh!

      • Unfortunately the embedded market is run by proprietary monopolizing OSs.

        The RIO unfortunatly comes with proprietary firmware. I strongly reccomend the birth of GNU/Karma.

        (You thought we couldn't find anything to complain about!!)
    • Re:my god. (Score:5, Funny)

      by glwtta (532858) on Monday November 24, 2003 @10:51PM (#7554177) Homepage
      Well...
      • first off we'll whine about how this isn't a "story," but rather an "advertisement"
      • then I think we'll come up with some obscure codec that it doesn't play
      • then we'll bitch about the price-tag for a bit
      • then someone will declare that portable music players are balls to begin with, and that portable video players are where the future is (this will be presented in a very authoritative tone)
      • then someone will come up with a list of all the idiotic things that have been said so far

      did I miss anything?

    • by MikeXpop (614167) <mike@redcrFREEBSDowbar.com minus bsd> on Monday November 24, 2003 @10:51PM (#7554181) Journal
      won't buy one until it supports...

      um... I mean until it syncs via...

      until it runs... YEAH! Still doesn't run linux. Therefore I won't buy one.

      Phew. For a minute there I thought I was going to have to buy it.
    • Re:my god. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Tuesday November 25, 2003 @12:02AM (#7554730) Homepage Journal
      The 90 day warranty is doubleplusungood. Sadly, that is the state of most consumer electronics. I'll pay more for a product good enough to merit a 1 year or more of standard warranty.

      I'm not going to spend money on a service plan, I want the original company backing up this thing. I realize that is somewhat difficult in the age of rebadges but the principle still holds, IMO.

    • by JDWTopGuy (209256)
      Compatibility with OpenVMS and OS/2. Now that Linux is mainstream, we must needs move to more obscure operating systems. Join me, free your mind!

      We will not rest until every operating system has drivers for every USB device in existence!
    • Re:my god. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jon-o (17981)
      Here's what keeps me from buying it:

      THe biggest thing is the transfers: it needs a special program. While this wouldn't be SO bad at home, it means it's not nearly as useful if I want to transfer something from someone else's machine. They probably wouldn't want me installing the software.

      As well, I believe that the USB only works in the windows client. The java version is restricted to just using the ethernet, which is rather more annoying to use for this sort of thing.

      What I'd like to see is a machine
  • OGG (Score:4, Interesting)

    by typobox43 (677545) <typobox43@gmail.com> on Monday November 24, 2003 @10:39PM (#7554073) Homepage
    It's nice to see that some mainstream players are finally starting to add OGG support to their products. It's about time for a change.
  • Cheaper price (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 24, 2003 @10:40PM (#7554075)
    A cheaper place to find this item is www.newegg.com. Last I checked it was 295 w/ free shipping. They are a fairly reputable dealer.
    • Heck, just a quick search on shopper.cnet.com [cnet.com] shows it as low as $269 (after $20 rebate/free shipping).
    • by uradu (10768) on Monday November 24, 2003 @11:30PM (#7554496)
      > www.newegg.com [...] They are a fairly reputable dealer.

      OH MY GOD! A heretic! Someones pass me the noose! Dude, calling The Egg "fairly reputable" amongst geeks is like drinking your gruel with extended pinky on a Viking longboat.
    • Calling Newegg "fairly reputable" is like calling Hitler "fairly intolerant".
    • Re:Cheaper price (Score:3, Informative)

      by Digital11 (152445)
      The Neuros 128MB/20GB combo is only $229 [neurosaudio.com] right now... Heck, they dropped the 128MB stand-alone (which is upgradeable via the backpack system) to $99.
    • Re:Cheaper price (Score:3, Informative)

      They are a fairly reputable dealer

      FYI, a very useful place to go before ordering from a mail order or internet place is Reseller Ratings [resellerratings.com]. Newegg is one of the highest rated general computer components places, and it is based on thousands of reviews, so is a pretty reliable rating.

      Reseller Ratings is particularly useful when considering ordering from a place listed at Pricewatch [pricewatch.com]. The vendors listed at pricewatch range from great to total sleazebags that I would not order from even if their price was ha

  • Rio Riot (Score:4, Informative)

    by DanThe1Man (46872) on Monday November 24, 2003 @10:40PM (#7554082)
    Though it dosn't support .ogg, Rio made a similar 20 gig player a year or two ago that is really cheap now. You can get one on ebay for around $120. [slashdot.org]
  • Yeah, right (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    and any other OS that Java runs on.

    Isn't there some law against using the words Java and runs in the same sentence?

  • You can't go wrong with them. Plays Mp3's oggs's. Works with linux. Supports the community what more do you need. http://www.neurosaudio.com/
    • The Neuros seems to be toast. The "official" beta firmware plays vorbis, but only those encoded at low quality (5 or under). Otherwise you'll get nasty skipping. Better firmware available at open.neurosaudio.com hasn't been updated since late August. It plays high quality vorbis with barely perceptable "scratchy" sounds (very slight skipping, I guess), but it's billed as being "very beta" - though I haven't experienced problems.

      Neuros owners were promised a USB 2.0 update to their existing units in Au

      • The Neuros as we know it is indeed toast. They laid off all of the engineers on the project just a couple of weeks before the new player was finished. It has USB 2.0 and a couple other improvements, but unless some benefactor comes along and buys all that IP, it will never be built.
        • After bouncing around their site for a bit, i don't really agree with you. They seem to be pretty alive and well, and there is recently released software. *shrug*
  • times a thousand avid link-clickers equals no review.

    I hope its favorable though, looks like a nice little player, little bigger than an iPod but it actually has more features (absent iPhoto dock, etc). If this gets popular enough to get the price on this and the iPod to drop a hundred then I could afford to get myself one for Xmas.
  • by lplatypus (50962) on Monday November 24, 2003 @10:47PM (#7554141)
    How can I use this Rio Karma device to get a +1 bonus for my slashdot posts?
  • by danaris (525051) <danarisNO@SPAMmac.com> on Monday November 24, 2003 @10:49PM (#7554159) Homepage

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't FLAC fall inside the Ogg container? I know that most people think of Vorbis as just "Ogg," but it's just one of the parts of Ogg [xiph.org], another of which, if this page says what I think it does, is FLAC.

    Regardless, it doesn't hurt to be accurate. It's great that it plays Ogg Vorbis and Ogg FLAC files, and has lots of other cool features; however, I'll not give up my iPod till you pry it from my cold, dead fingers.

    Dan Aris

    • FLAC != Ogg (Score:3, Informative)

      by Gothmolly (148874)
      FLAC is a lossless compression algorithm, Ogg is not. Other than that, they're identical. Well, except for the fact that Ogg offers streaming and 'bitrate peeling' functionality, where a server can prune out data and preserve (some semblance of) the original tune.
      • Re:FLAC != Ogg (Score:4, Informative)

        by binarytoaster (174681) on Monday November 24, 2003 @11:43PM (#7554592)
        Two things:

        As the original poster pointed out, Ogg is a container. It can contain Vorbis or FLAC equally well. We just call Vorbis "ogg" for the same reason we refer to Sorenson as "QuickTime" - certainly there are other things that can be stored in the container but it's a bit like a Kleenex type convention.

        And, yes, Vorbis "supports" bitrate peeling, but no one has yet written the program that will peel it, in fact several of the developers have stated that the current way the Vorbis stream is (dis)organized, it's impossible to write such a program.
    • Why support FLAC? Granted, I love a free, lossless codec. It's great for listening on your computer ... but you listen to your portable MP3 player with headphones. You're probably not going to notice the difference between lossless and lossy compression. Let's also not forget that playing lossless audio will suck up battery power because it'll take more of the player's RAM for the same amount of skip protection as compared to MP3, Vorbis or AAC. Portable players just aren't the market for supporting lossles
      • headphone quality (Score:5, Insightful)

        by David Jao (2759) * <djao@dominia.org> on Monday November 24, 2003 @11:47PM (#7554630) Homepage
        Why support FLAC? Granted, I love a free, lossless codec. It's great for listening on your computer ... but you listen to your portable MP3 player with headphones. You're probably not going to notice the difference between lossless and lossy compression.

        Believe me there are headphones where you can tell the difference. The $300 Etymotic ER-4P [headphone.com] headphones are more than portable enough for a portable player and produce better sound than all but maybe a half dozen (no exaggeration) full size headphone models. In fact for regular stereo audio (i.e. not surround sound), a good pair of headphones is almost guaranteed to sound better than the same amount of money spent on speakers, because speakers have to contend with reflection noise off your walls.

        So I'd say you have it backwards -- computer listening doesn't really benefit much from lossless audio, but headphone listening sure can.

        Even if you don't feel like spending $300 on headphones, there are still many lesser headphones for which FLAC is worthwhile. Don't judge headphone quality based on the cheap headphones included with the player.

    • by MrHanky (141717) on Monday November 24, 2003 @11:11PM (#7554347) Homepage Journal
      Not necessarily. I thought FLAC used the Ogg container, and just renamed some .flac-files to .ogg: xmms refused to play them. It turns out that FLAC by default uses its own container, but, according to Debian's man page for flac (1), you can also encode with the --ogg option:
      When encoding, generate Ogg-FLAC output instead of native-FLAC. Ogg-FLAC streams are FLAC streams wrapped in an Ogg transport layer. The resulting file should have an '.ogg' extension and will still be decodable by flac.
  • by olddoc (152678) on Monday November 24, 2003 @10:52PM (#7554191)
    Look at the site and click on the system requirements and you'll see RIO states it needs Windows.
    The least they could do is say GNU/Linux can be used but there will be no telephone tech support.

  • this player comes with java-based software

    Great, I bet you can put a casserole on it and boil eggs while you listen to music ...
  • tres cool (Score:5, Informative)

    by byrd77 (171150) on Monday November 24, 2003 @10:56PM (#7554229) Homepage
    Have had mine for three days now. Loving it.

    Only problem is you have to use USB to upgrade the firmware and it's proprietary driver is Windows only. Once you've upgraded the firmware though, the java client works great. Be sure to dl the latest version though. The developer himself has a site, check out www.riovolution.com's forums for details.

    I have mine hooked to my stereo in my living room with a wireless bridge connecting to my network. Files sync faster than USB2 over 100mb ethernet, slower over my 11b link.

    Plays ogg like a charm. The UI is slick and the quickest and most responsive I've seen on an mp3 player (including ipod).

    Well worth the ~$300 I paid. Pick one up today!

    And yell at them to make the firmware upgradable under Linux.
    • by David Jao (2759)
      Hey, I hope you don't mind me fishing for responses, but I have a few things I'd like to ask you about the Rio Karma. I have not seen these things discussed in any online reviews so far.

      Does the Karma support dynamic playlist building? That is, can you program a playlist on the device while it is playing music?

      Does the Karma support gapless playback? I've heard about the crossfade feature, but I'm much more interested in gapless transitions between tracks.

      Does it display non-western charsets in the so

      • by byrd77 (171150) on Tuesday November 25, 2003 @12:16AM (#7554825) Homepage
        Yup, you can create and edit playlist while music is playing.

        I have a friend who has played back ogg files at 400+ kbps on his karma. Not sure what he encoded them with, but he said the playback was great.

        I tried the ogg files from here:
        http://users.pandora.be/sjeng/floggy.html
        they didn't play too well, too fast, but you could almost make out the song. Don't know about intermediate rates, all my stuff is 160.

        Don't know about the charsets either.

        I suggest you check out the forums [riovolution.com] on riovolution.com. I know there have been several threads about the gapless issue - apparently that's something slated to be added in an upcomming firmware releast. I have the crossfader turned on, just a preferrence. You can probably find out about the charsets here too. Several of the Rio developers hang out on the forums regularly.

    • Re:tres cool (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drinkypoo (153816)
      More to the point, the firmware updater ought to be a java app like the sync tool. No reason to add linux support, when you can add platform-agnostic support.
  • by woogli (602307) on Monday November 24, 2003 @10:59PM (#7554262)
    It's obviously 'designed' for right-handed people. Interestingly, the iPod doesn't appear to favour one hand over the other.

    Just a thought. -- and I'm not even left-handed. :) Granted, that's the larger majority of the population...
  • 20GB is not enough! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by El (94934) on Monday November 24, 2003 @11:06PM (#7554316)
    I've already ripped 30GB of MP3s off my CD collection; best estimate is that the whole collection will take ~50GB. Good thing I'm putting it on a Creative Nomad Zen Xtra 60GB, instead of one of those wimpy Rios! (The Archos looks like it might be a good alternative to the Rio too, once they add a larger drive.)
    • (The Archos looks like it might be a good alternative to the Rio too, once they add a larger drive.)

      That's why you buy a 6 gig Archos on eBay and put in a bigger drive. A trained monkey could do it. Hell, even I did it.
  • About a month ago this player came up on Dell.com for 70 dollars PLUS a 20 dollar rebate. I bought it and 3 days later got an email saying it was a mistake. I figured it was but I took a chance. Apparently it happened to lots of other people too...

    • They actually are required to abide by that, by the law (and if you said this, they probably wouldn't argue, since the legal fees are hardly worth it).

      In order for a contract to be binding, you must have proper consideration (i.e., both sides must do or pay something) and `offer and acceptance.' In the case of a retailer, the offer and acceptance is really just the offer; it is taken as a given that the retailer accepts your offer to buy something for a stated price, if that price is listed. In other wor

  • Battery? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by WormholeFiend (674934)
    is the Li Ion internal battery replaceable?
  • cmon folks the iRiver iHP-120 is one of the best players out there and is constantly invloved in the best HD-DAP debate against the iPod and the Karma. search the internet, check out head-fi.org, check for reviews on the internet and you'll find that the iHP-120 is no little player... all iRiver needs is more publicity... shame shame
  • iRiver ihp-120 (Score:5, Informative)

    by drivelikejehu (601752) on Monday November 24, 2003 @11:27PM (#7554470)
    I came awfully close to getting the 20gb rio karma, then considered getting an ipod, until i found out about the iRiver iHP-120 [iriveramerica.com]. I chose this because it has the features I really wanted out of an portable mp3 player. First, it's the same size as an ipod 20gb (a few milimeters bigger, but that's nothin), and while the joystick/button design for navigation isn't quite as intuitive (or cool) as the ipod's, it's definitely usable, and from what I've seen from the Rio, probably alot better. It's also black, which I prefer to the ipod's white.

    Now, moving on from usability issues and looks, it has some other features that I just couldn't pass up. First, it has an internal mic that can make voice recordings. Secondly, it also has line in and line out ports, that work as optical OR analog. For recording via the input, you can choose to record via an external mic, line in, or optical in. The external mic is a hell of alot hotter than line in, by the way. For all this recording, you can record to wav (optical does 48khz while the rest do 44), or to mp3 that is encoded on the fly, at bitrates ranging from 40kpbs to 320. This sold it for me, as I am an avid show taper (with a pair of clip on mic's and a sony DAT), and this will be fun to play with - I plan to do a double recording sometime to do a comparison of quality between the DAT and iHP-120, but I've already done a test recording at a show and it didnt sound bad at all. My only gripe would have to be that there doesn't appear to be a way to control the level of the line-in, but you CAN adjust the level of the external mic, just not while you are recording. Also, it doesnt show levels so you won't know if it's redlining until you actually listen to it. I'm hoping they might fix this in a firmware update but I'm not very hopeful, although from what my test showed, it might not even be needed.

    Anyways, just wanted to chime in, I too think the karma is rather ugly, and the slightly bigger size of the iHP-120 is not a deterrant at all. I guess the only one would be the price - it's around $355 or so, a bit more than the karma but with the extra features, I think it's worth it. It does play OGG's, by the way, and transferring files is painless with USB as the unit shows up as another hard drive connected to your system - you can easily use it as a portable hard drive if you want. There's more reviews around the net if you look, for more indepth information.

    • Re:iRiver ihp-120 (Score:3, Informative)

      by _|()|\| (159991)
      while the joystick/button design for navigation isn't quite as intuitive (or cool) as the ipod's, it's definitely usable

      I bought an iRiver iHP-120 for my wife. We both hated the joystick, so we returned it and got an iPod (with free shipping, free personalization, and a $25 coupon). I really wanted to like the iRiver, because of the features and battery life. Besides the joystick, I was disappointed that the DB feature didn't support Ogg out of the box, effectively making it a second-class format. (Check

  • mirror (Score:5, Informative)

    by asv108 (141455) * <{alex} {at} {phataudio.org}> on Monday November 24, 2003 @11:38PM (#7554556) Homepage Journal
    I set up a mirror [128.118.59.139] since the last time /. linked to my site it died within 10mins due to my host provider putting a ridiculous amount of sites on one ancient sparc machine.
  • Joystick? MAME? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jfisherwa (323744) <jason.fisher@gm a i l . c om> on Monday November 24, 2003 @11:59PM (#7554710) Homepage
    Since it has a joystick and a decently sized display, who wants to take a stab at porting MAME to it?

    I want to play Space Invaders while I rock out to 70's supergroup Foreigner.
  • Battery life (Score:2, Insightful)

    by NetCAM (40537)
    So, what happens when the batterys in these things crap out? As far as I've seen you cant buy replacement batteries for any of the large (10gig+) portable players like the iPod or even the Dell clone. Thats one of the main concerns I have when they want me to drop $200-300+ for a decent portable mp3 player. When I buy one of these players I want to know that if the battery craps out I can swap it out with a new one instead of having to buy another $200-300 player or swap in a fresh battery if I'm on the
  • Had some ugly flaws (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SendBot (29932) on Tuesday November 25, 2003 @12:22AM (#7554866) Homepage Journal
    I got one of these a month ago, and after trying so hard over a couple days to want to keep it, I had to take it back in exchange for an ipod.

    After spending weeks deciding in the back of my mind, these are the features that sold me on the Karma:

    Small size (although I decided the thickness made a huge difference)

    Ogg support. This was a big factor in my decision.

    Cool dock with ethernet

    Nice display, 'analog' level dials were cool

    And I found the following to be critical flaws:

    Bugs! Too many inconveniences made it feel like it was rushed to market without sufficient QA. Songs would start over around 90 seconds into a track, or skip to another track altogether.

    The management software (a java version is available to run on any platform) is crappy. No progress meters, lame compared to itunes or musicmatch or even windows explorer. This is the only way to transfer music or files.

    Ethernet doesn't run at full duplex. WTF!?

    Nothing esepcially useful about ethernet connectivity like a web server, ftp server, or smb. You might as well just hook it up over usb2 to avoid shitty transfer rates.

    The physical controls on the device suck. It's awkward to use with one hand, especially if you wish to look at the screen and not your thumb/fingers. Some buttons are redundant, and it's not especiially clear at first how the scroll wheel will fuck up whatever you're listing to. It has separate volume buttons, but they're not exactly convenient.

    It's physical presence is very... present. It's thicker in real life than I wanted to believe. It's also a little heavy. Ipod rules this comparison.

    So, I just got an ipod instead. Same price and features, less annoyances, better support/accessories, iTunes isn't too bad. I like the 1394 better than usb2 for recharging it with the data cable. I'm sure there are a few other reasons to go with an ipod. I just figure it's no comparison with the karma, except that current lack of ogg support is kind of weak. I wish apple would pull their head out of their asses on this issue.

    Short version. The Karma is crap unless it can get some major annoyances resolved.

    • not true (Score:5, Informative)

      by asv108 (141455) * <{alex} {at} {phataudio.org}> on Tuesday November 25, 2003 @01:22AM (#7555222) Homepage Journal
      Bugs! Too many inconveniences made it feel like it was rushed to market without sufficient QA.

      Although you may have had a bad experience or you may just be trolling, I've not had any of the experiences you've had so far after 2 weeks of heavy use. The management software (a java version is available to run on any platform) is crappy

      The windows software seems to be refreshing to me because it doesn't take a swiss army approach, instead it focuses on sync and organization. The nice thing about rio management software is the ability to have multiple sources without any bs. The java version works but it is certainly not full featured by any means and is not designed to be, remember they don't even advertise non-windows capabilities.

      Nothing esepcially useful about ethernet connectivity The whole point of the Ethernet sync is to be able to have your player hooked up to the dock in your home theater area and being able to sync it from a computer located somewhere else.

      like a web server, ftp server, or smb.

      I can transfer music or non-music files to my Karma from anywhere, why the fuck would I need ftp or smb?

      The physical controls on the device suck. I've found them to rival the ipod, I've owned both generations of Apple's player, they may not be to your liking but they certainly don't "suck."

      It's also a little heavy. Ipod rules this comparison.

      The rio karma actually weighs less.

      So, I just got an ipod instead. Same price and features

      The 20GB karma cost $100 less than the 20GB ipod and has support for OGG, FLAC, WMA, along with ethernet sync, and better accessories.

    • by radish (98371)
      Doh! Guess you missed out, firmware 1.25 was just released which fixed all those initial bugs, and gave us lots of cool toys (like the beat matched flashing dock!). Oh well, you can keep your heavier, bigger, more expensive (if you can ell me where I can get a 20gb ipod for $250 I'll be very impressed!), mac-centric ipod.
      • by SendBot (29932)
        I was hoping those things would be fixed. It was nice, but the flaws I experienced were too much to bear. When I got mine, new Rio devices were showing up in stores, but only a handful of stores in the nation were actually stocking the karma. I had to order it to be shipped. I found out why they weren't in stores yet.

        They were also priced differently at the time, and I'm glad to see that this has changed. I was confused when I said the karma was heavier. It's actually .2 oz lighter. I was thinking it had a
  • Very, very buggy. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mr_Icon (124425) on Tuesday November 25, 2003 @12:46AM (#7555001) Homepage
    I have one -- and boy I wish I held on to my money.

    The firmware is very, very buggy. Go to riovolution.com and check out the karma board. People are having problems galore. In fact, having a unit that works reliably is incredible luck. The firmware problems are:

    1. Karma spontaneously reboots during various tasks, usually song upload via the network. Anything you've uploaded in that session goes poof. I've had to do one album at a time, though the java client has a "upload this directory" feature. Going back and hunting which uploaded and which didn't kinda sucks.
    2. When it doesn't reboot, it also likes to randomly hang during song upload. Only hardware reset convinces it to go out of that state. Any song you've been uploaded when it hung gets lost, but the client doesn't know this, so you end up missing random songs from your collection.
    3. Sometimes, during song playback, it will randomly stop and go back to the beginning of the track.
    4. Higher-bitrate MP3s sometimes started skipping and pausing for me, like it was having trouble filling up the playback buffer. Then it would freeze, requiring an on/off or a reset.
    5. No gapless playback for non-mp3 tracks. Sucks to be you if you like oakenfold and ripped all your stuff to oggs. You'll have nice 2-second pauses between each track.
    6. Flac will quickly drain your battery, as Karma doesn't have a very large flash buffer, and it ends up constantly spinning up and spinning down the hard drive.

    I've had all of these problems, and I'm not alone, as the message boards show. And, to top it off, 3 weeks into usage, after I've finally sort of gotten used to all of its quirks, it completely died -- from the sound of it, the hdd went South. Rio's support is horrible: I've had a ticket open for over a week and a half, and though the customer service drone took down my serial number, order number, etc, I've not heard from anyone since, and I've sent repeated emails. I'll be calling tomorrow, and boy, am I going to be unhappy.

    So, there you have it. If I were you, I'd wait at least half a year before I would buy a Rio Karma, otherwise invest in a nice toupee -- you'll be tearing out your hair in handfuls.

    Yes, I'm a little bitter, as I've been really waiting on an ogg-compatible, linux-friendly player for a loooong time now, and ended up paying $400 for a lemon instead (there is a reason prices on it dropped so dramatically after it's been first released).

    Sigh.
  • by twifkak (177173) on Tuesday November 25, 2003 @01:46AM (#7555364) Journal
    And I'm quite happy with it. Where to start?

    UI: It's grand. I dunno, some people claim they can't use it one handed, but that doesn't make sense to me. On the iPod, the distance your thumb has to stretch to reach all the buttons is much greater than for the Karma (which is barely at all), and it sits very well in my right hand (which is quite small). The wheel is a very nice way to navigate long lists, as you can just flick it at the appropriate speed to go any distance at all (the cursor "accelerates"). Weight? Err... the iPod 20 is 5.6 oz, while the Karma 20 is 5.5 oz... It certainly feels fine, and is much smaller than it looks in most pictures. Check riovolution.com for a good set of pics.

    The menu system looks very pretty. :) While some of the UI is not immediately obvious, it becomes real intuitive real fast.

    Sound: Many people say it's good. I really wouldn't know better, but the numbers (SNR, power, all that jazz) suggest it. Not quite powerful enough for my Senn 580s, but certainly has the bass (assuming you mess with the 5-band para eq appropriately). A number of improvements have been made -- the Karma supports --nogap mp3s, and now supports playing vorbis gaplessly (something the iRiver doesn't), as well as gapless FLAC and, well, as much as WMA supports it, any way.

    Features: I don't think this has been touted enough: the Karma's "on-the-go" playlist support ROCKS. You can append an item (song/album/artist/etc.) to and insert an item into the currently playing list of tracks. You can remove tracks (or albums, etc.) from the list. You can reorder the list (a track at a time, any way). You can save the list as a playlist (and name it) for permanent storage. The RioDJ feature is not quite to the level of "smartlists" in iPod, but the devs have said that all that's missing is the UI -- the backend code is all there.

    Configurability: It's not a PC or anything, but compared to other DAPs I've seen it's quite configurable. I believe IGN has a menu breakout?

    Service: Well, the unofficial service is great. The developers visit a number of boards (empeg, rioworld, riovolution) and actually listen to ideas and take suggestions (they added one of mine!) when they're not troubleshooting, etc. This is all, of course, unofficial, but it's still really cool.

    Cons: Until, well, the firmware just released yesterday, there were problems with crashing for a number of people. The plastic case isn't "sealed" like the iPod. When building up a playlist on the player, you have to go back through the menu each time after you add an item (be it a track or an entire album, artist, genre, etc.). No real case or remote. Well, pretty much *insert feature request here*.
  • other players (Score:4, Informative)

    by glassesmonkey (684291) * on Tuesday November 25, 2003 @04:14AM (#7555934) Homepage Journal
    I did some research and the coolest features I've found for 20GB MP3 players:
    (a) iRiver iHP-120 and Rio Karma both support Ogg
    (b) Rio Karma supports ethernet LAN charger with RCA plugs for home theatre
    (c) Samsung YP-910 has FM encoder and antenna for FM broadcast
    (d) iRiver iHP-120 allows realtime recording from and of its inputs
    (e) Almost all new players match iPod footprint

    Most players typically have:

    MP3/WAV playback

    2" backlit monochrome LCD display

    In-line remote

    USB 2.0 support

    Built-in Li-Ion rechargable battery
    (Prices are estimates from pricegrabber.com)

    iPod ($388)

    IEEE 1394a (USB 2.0 extra)

    AAC/AIFF

    Dimensions: 4.1" x 2.4" x 0.62" (5.6 oz)
    Dell Digital Jukebox 20 ($325)

    Front mounted 3-way scroll-barrel

    WMA (7,8,9 DRM)

    Built-in Voice Recorder Mic (WAV IMA ADPCM 8kHz Mono)

    Dimensions: 4.1" x 2.7" x 0.86" (7.61 oz)
    iRiver iHP-120 ($358)

    FM Tuner and digital input & output

    Backlit inline remote w/ 4-line LCD

    Realtime MP3 recording from voice, FM, optical or analog inputs

    Supports Ogg/ASF/WMA

    Dimensions: 4.1" x 2.4" x 0.7" (5.3 oz)
    Samsung YP-910GS ($315)

    FM encoder (tx) and antenna (broadcasts to FM freq)

    Built-in FM tuner

    Dimensions: 4.19" x 2.54" x 0.78" (6.0 oz)
    Rio Karma ($277)

    Ogg/FLAC support

    Base-station supports ethernet LAN with RCA jacks

    Greyscale LCD with visualizations

    Dimensions: 2.7" x 3.0" x 0.9" (5.5 oz)
    Archos Gmini 120 ($306)

    Supports CompactFlash

    Upgradable Voice Recorder/FM/PhotoWallet modules ($$)

    Dimensions: 4.45" x 3.07" x 1.02" (8.61 oz)
    Nomad Jukebox Zen ($220)

    Dimensions: 4.43" x 2.99" x 0.95" (9.5 oz)
    Nomad Jukebox Zen NX ($250)

    Dimensions: 4.4" x 3.0" x 0.86" (7.9 oz)
    Philips HDD100 15GB MP3 Player ($269)

    Dimensions: 4.19" x 2.54" x 0.78" (5.92 oz)
    RCA Lyra 20 GB Jukebox MP3 ($240)

    CompactFlash

    mp3PRO/WMA

    Dimensions: 5.2" x 3.14" x 1.0"
    Archos Jukebox Multimedia ($229)

    MPEG4

    Dimensions: 4.45" x 3.11" x 1.18 in (10.23 oz)
    RCA Lyra 40GB Jukebox RD2840 ($260)

    mp3PRO/WMA

    Dimensions: 4.5" x 3.2" x 0.9" (9.6 oz)
    RCA Lyra Audio/Video Jukebox RD2780 20GB ($389)

    3.5" color LCD QVGA 320 X 240

    MPEG1/MPEG4 video

    mp3PRO/WMA

    Dimensions: 5.37" x 3.13" x 0.95"
    Archos AV320 MP3/Video Player ($450)

    Dimensions: 2.3" x 2.1" x 1.2"

  • by MichaelCrawford (610140) on Tuesday November 25, 2003 @04:56AM (#7556084) Homepage Journal
    You don't need to spend your hard-earned cash at the iTunes store, or get into trouble with the RIAA if you read:

    It has been Google's #1 hit for the query legal music downloads [google.com] for three months, and has had 14872 hits so far this month.

    It has a Creative Commons license. You are encouraged to copy it.

    A Romanian translation will be posted soon, kindly provided by Ciprian Mihet. I am actively seeking translations to other languages.

    Here's the introduction:

    You don't need to worry about getting sued by the Recording Industry Assocation of America [riaa.org] or arrested by the FBI if you download legal music. Many independent and unsigned musicians offer downloads of their music in hopes of attracting more fans. Here's some music from my friends The Divine Maggees [divinemaggees.com], Oliver Brown [kingturtle.com] and Rick Walker's Loop.pooL [looppool.info].

    If everyone started downloading legal music instead of violating copyright with the file sharing programs, we would make short work of the RIAA, because people would start buying CDs directly from the artists and seeing their shows instead of enriching the major labels by buying CDs from the bands the labels have chosen for us to listen to. The RIAA would also have no cause to complain - these music downloads do not infringe copyright because the artists give you permission to download them.

Brain fried -- Core dumped

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