Rio Volt MP3/CD Player

I just bought one of these bad boys at a cool $149.99 at my local Best Buy. A $20.00 rebate was included, but I've yet to turn it in. Here's the skinny on this phat toy. (I've taken sections of the information straight from the 'Getting Started' pamphlet included in the box.)

Package Contents

  • RioVolt - (yes, the unit is included in the package, imagine that...)
  • 8 Function remote - This remote is VERY useful. It's a little hard to hold and get used to, but it's a great idea. It has a small (cheap) plastic clip to clip onto anything, like clothes and such. I use it on my backpack and I leave the player in the bag.
  • RioVolt Carrying Case - It's a leather case with a soft material on the inside to protect from scratches. There is also a side port to plug your headphones or adapter into the player while still in the pouch.
  • Headphones - A nice pair of 'in-the-ear' headphones. I prefer the behind-the-head pair from Koss I already own. Only $9.99 at your local K-Mart, while supplies last :)
  • AC Adapter - Your basic wall power adapter.
  • 2 AA Alkaline Batteries - I forget the brand, but i was amazed that such a sweet piece of technological genius could run on 2 AA batteries.
  • Getting Started Poster - Ok, so it's not called a pamphlet, but who cares.
  • RioVolt Installation CD, Software Included: Real Jukebox, SoundJam, and Adobe Acrobat - I didn't bother with this CD, I've already got this type of software installed.
  • Adaptec Easy CD Creator from Roxio - Only version 4, IIRC. Still, pretty nice that it's included. Even though I prefer NeroIf you haven't caught on, it's there to burn CDs with MP3s...the entire point of the player in the first place...

Moving along. There are system requirements listed, but they are for the software, obviously. Now on to the features.

Summary of features (in paragraph form...):
There are four option buttons on the left side of the display area. These buttons (from top to bottom) are for Program (haven't played with this one much), +10 (to skip 10 songs ahead instead of 1 song at a time...nice feature), Mode (these are your various play modes such as Intro, Shuffle, or Repeat...), and EQ (there are four included presets...you can't manually input your own settings, unfortunately...). There are buttons for Volume and Navigation under the display box. The Navigation button allows you to search through any directories you may have on your CD. You pick exactly what song you want to listen to instead of searching back and forth. Next, there is a 4 directional joy pad with the Play/Stop/Next/Prev buttons on it. It is used in the Navigational menu to move around. If you hold down the stop button, the player is shut off. If you hold the play button, the player turns itself on. The Display Area is pretty complete. It shows what number the song is on the CD, including elapsed time and Song Title. Yes, you heard me right...The player can actually read the title of the mp3 on the CD instead of just assigning it a number. No more guessing if you have the right song or not.

That's about all i can think of right now. If you have any questions about the player, feel free to /msg me. If there are any errors in this writeup, let me know. This is my first writeup in a VERY long time. I'd appreciate the feedback. If you plan on buying one of these players later, I HIGHLY recommend it if you've got the cash money. Very good deal.
Pays for itself, if you ask me.

The best bang-for-your-buck CD/MP3 Player on the market today is the RioVolt SP-90. The SP-90 is the second to lowest (used to be the lowest until the RioVolt SP-50) end model. Its feature set is crippled (but not so far as to make it annoying to use), it lacks the SP-100's backlight, it ships without a remote or carrying case, it is colored blue instead of silver, and its firmware cannot be flashed. Because of these ommissions, SonicBlue feels secure in selling it for $20 less than the list price of the SP-100.

The error in this is that the SP-90 is, in fact, a blue SP-100 with the backlight circuit removed. The only other changes are the absence of bundled goodies and the limited software. SonicBlue would like you to believe that the latter is a big deal; a big enough deal to spend extra money on an SP-100 or SP-250. This is bullshit for two reasons. The first is that since SonicBlue spent most of 2001 flooding the market in blister-packed SP-90 to sell everywhere that portable electronics are sold, a new SP-90 can be found for as little as $50 in online stores, and as little as $19.95 on eBay. The second is that despite SonicBlue's marketing claims, the SP-90 CAN have its firmware flashed.

Most of the RioVolt line is a rebadged version of the iRiver IMP series of CD/MP3 players. The SP-100 and the IMP-100 are the exact same device. The SP-250 and IMP-250 are also the same. There is, however, no IMP-90 to equivocate with the SP-90. The reasoning behind this: the SP-90 is the same as the SP-100. The SP-100 is the same as the IMP-100. Which means the SP-90 should take IMP-100 firmware, right? Sorta...

When the SP-90 boots, it looks for a CD containing a file SP-90.HEX. If it finds it, it overwrites its flash rom with the contents of this file. However, if you just rename an SP-100 or IMP-100 firmware dump to SP-90, it won't take it because the headers don't match. Fortunately, the header is obscenely easy to modify: just open an SP-100.HEX or IMP-100.HEX firmware file (obtained at riovolt.com or iriver.com) in any hex editor, and you will see the first 7 characters spelling out IMP-100. Change it to SP-90 with a couple of null characters to pad it out to 7 characters, save it, burn it to a CD, and start the SP-90 with the CD in the drive.

The SP-90 will boot, display "up grade..." for a few minutes, and turn off. Take out the CD, and when you turn it back on, it should show the new firmware revision. You now own a blue SP-100 without a backlight.

Merry Christmas.


APPENDIX:
The RioVolt firmware revisions are numbered differently from the iRiver ones. The RioVolt SP-100 firmware v.2.10 is about equal to iRiver 1.83 firmware, and the current firmware revision on the iRiver side as of this writing is 2.10, which is unequaled by SonicBlue's offerings.

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