The Classic CM415 is yet another MP3 CD player. What makes it unique, or at least unique as of the time of this writeup, is that it's the first usable MP3 CD deck below $100. The features of note include an ID3 tag display, 105-second MP3 anti-skip buffer, and a 10-hour battery life. This model can be had at Circuit City for $99.95. You may have to look carefully, as it hides in the store along with all of the other cheap no-name portable CD players.

The package includes little more than just the player. You get a pair of crappy headphones, an AC adapter, and a decently written manual. The player itself is made of silver-coated plastic. For what it costs, it doesn't feel too horribly cheap. The lid is fairly solid, unlike even some Sony CD players, where a misplaced buttock can spell an end for the reading mechanism. I wouldn't say that the CM415 is an example of superb craftsmanship, but it feels more solid than most OEMed consumer electronics.

I'll spare you a complete review of the product, instead directing you to http://hardware.dmusic.com/reviews/cm415/ , where someone else has done so for me.

There is another very similar player that can be found at Target, sold under the Memorex brand, called the MPD8505CP. That player looks almost identical, save the arrangement of the buttons on the lid, works very similarly (the firmware is at the least a work-alike), and costs the same. Even the tech support 800 number in their manuals is the same. There are a couple of things that differ, though. First, the anti-skip feature on the 8505 doesn't work with MP3s, despite the documentation saying so. Second, the battery life is not even half as good. These problems seem interrelated. The CM415 uses the anti-skip buffer wisely, in that when playing MP3s it will fill the buffer, stop the CD for about 40 seconds, then start it again when the buffer is nearly empty. That trick leads to extreme power savings.

The instructions that come with the CM415 do not spell out clearly what the requirements are for building your own MP3 discs. I spent some time experimenting with the best possible ways to do this. Firstly, the MP3 bitrates that the manual mentions are a lie. I have been able to play everything from 16kbit to 320kbit files with no troubles. It will play VBR, though it skipped a little when playing these back. It will not, however, play files encoded with an output sample rate of anything that is not 44.1kHz. You may need to resample your files, as many encoders will automatically resample to 22.05kHz or 16kHz if a low bitrate is used. LAME can do this, though you need to explicitly specify the proper bitrates and sample rates. The CM415 can read discs burned in ISO9660 format, but has trouble with Joliet or Rock Ridge. It can handle long ISO9660 names (32 chars) or discs burned with 8.3 filenames. Unfortunately, it detects whether or not a file is an MP3 based on the .mp3 extension and not the magic in the file. When burning CDs, make sure that your encoder can truncate filenames without losing the extension. For those using mkisofs, try encoding the disc in 8.3 mode and not with the -l, -J, -r, or -R options. This is the only way to coax the filename parsing code to preserve extensions. You can use ID3 tags in your MP3 files, so the actual filename is somewhat irrelevant for identifying your songs. The player orders the files with inorder traversal and in alphabetical order. Files in the root directory play first, in alphabetical order, then directories get traversed in alphabetical order, playing the contents of the shallowest ones before traversing down farther.

All in all, I recommend this player. It's cheap, has lots of features, and works better than most of the other models out there. My only regrets are that it has no support for rechargeable batteries and has no button hold switch.

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