Creative Zen 4GB - Creative Zen

By Jonathan Bray


  • Recommended by TR
Creative Zen 4GB


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So how does the Zen fare when it comes to audio quality? It doesn't make a good start, with disappointingly restricted file format support. Despite the fact that the player supports non-DRM AAC on top of the usual WMA and MP3 formats, there's no support lossless codecs or OGG Vorbis.

The lack of audiophile options is a disappointment, not merely from a features point of view, but because the Zen is a good enough player in terms of its output to take full advantage of the increased quality. To test it, I hooked up my high-end Grado SR325i reference headphones - if these can't reveal the weaknesses in a source nothing will - and discovered that the Zen is a highly capable player.

The first thing to point out is that it doesn't have the loudest volume output in the world. It's fine if you listen with in-ear noise isolation headphones, but some people just don't get on with sticking things in their ears and it won't drive larger headphones to the same levels as, say, the Trekstor Vibez player I reviewed a couple of months back.

However, this was soon forgotten as I started to listen to a few sample tracks. Creative players have always been pretty good-sounding machines and the Zen continues this tradition. In back-to-back tests against the Trekstor Vibez, which I'm using as my reference player at the moment, I found the Zen to be just as good, but in different ways. Listening to a spot of dinner jazz from Swedish songstress Lisa Ekdahl, the Zen doesn't quite have the same open airiness of the Vibez. But the rest of the sound spectrum is cleaner and just a little bit smoother, with plucked double bass notes in the background more satisfying to the ear.

This strength comes to the fore when listening to something a little less civilised. Biffy Clyro's Puzzle is a current favourite of mine and the Ayrshire outfit's brand of unorthodox guitar rock comes off with an energy, vigour and punch on the Zen that many other players lack. Its dynamism and clean, tight bass is simply excellent and a notch in front of even the excellent Trekstor Vibez.

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William Murray

December 19, 2008, 11:42 pm

Does anyone know how to get the audio to sync up with the video on this player


March 16, 2009, 1:15 pm

Versus a Sony E43X series walkman which wins in terms of audio quality?


August 18, 2011, 12:41 pm

Warning - don't buy creative!! My experience with 4 different players has been awful. The creative zen products work fine for a time and then - BAM! they crash and you can never get them working again and have to replace them. I have owned 4 creative players in 2 years and all of them have crashed and i've lost my entire music library. Thankfully the stores know about the problem and issue you immediately with a new on - but good customer service doesn't make up for a shoddy product. My 4th player has just crashed and I've bought an iPod - thank god - and now creative won't give me a refund..................


November 20, 2013, 12:45 am

I love this player!
Good: sound quality, easy UI, good looking screen, impressive battery life, non-proprietary file transfer, up to, i think, 32 GB SD card (I use a 16 GB one), FM radio, configurable menus, microphone.

Bad: 1. Files on the SD card can only be sorted by folder, can't be put on a playlist. 2. Files on the player memory can't be sorted by folder. 3. Clock goes out of sync quickly. 4. Need to convert video files. 5. No flac support. 6. Limit on the number of playlists (no limit if they are created thought the PC).

Other: Had the player for 5 years and it's great. The signs of wear are screen and case scratches, the player freezing up or not turning on - have to stick a pin into the reset hole to fix that, the down button sometimes (very rarely) triggers the back button.

Another interesting feature is that pictures can be hidden by a password.
If you are in Europe, you can download the latest firmware from the creative site by using a US proxy, because the EU firmware has a volume limit.
Video conversion though other software is much faster, I use FormatFactory with these settings (avi): MPEG4(Xvid), 320x240, bitrate 768, FPS same a source, Aspect Ratio Automatic. Audio: mp3, Sample Rate same a source, bitrate 128. wmv format has slightly smaller file size but the video quality is poorer and conversion takes longer.

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