The desktop software, called m:trip, has one very annoying feature. You can’t simply drag and drop tunes from your hard drive to the player. You have to step through them and make sure there is a tick in a box by the track name if you want it on the player, no tick if you don’t, then perform a mass synchronisation. It’s all really tedious. Insult is added to injury by the fact that using m:trip is the only way to communicate with the player. Still, at least you can create playlists, rip CDs (to WMA format) and use the CDDB database for track info, manually edit ID3 tags and directly play tunes through m:trip, which is some compensation.
A potentially useful tool is the lyrics manager. You can attach lyrics to particular tunes by choosing a file’s properties and then cut and pasting from another source or type the in directly. The lyrics are then carried across to the player and can be shown while you are listening. Karaoke moments on the bus looks like a distinct possibility.
There is good and bad when it comes to the on-device software too. Sound output is pretty good quality and there are several equaliser settings that make a noticeable difference (bass boost, bass cut, mid boost, mid cut, hi boost, hi cut, vocal boost, spoken word, on a train, classical, electronica, hip hop, jazz, pop, rock, , and R&B.). There’s no way to save custom settings, though, and the maximum volume will be too low for some users.
I also like the timer which turns the player off after a set period, but the settings are fixed at 30, 60, 90 or 120 minutes: I want to be able to configure my own time intervals. And as a fan of classical music I love the ability to browse by composer as well as the more usual artist, album and genre. The Composer tag is rarely used on players or desktop software, and having it here could be a real boon. But you can’t create playlists on the player itself, which is annoying, and sound files supported are strictly limited to WMA and MP3.
It is a real pity that the m:robe MR-100 is such a mixed bag. In terms of looks, handling and sound quality the player is a hit. But there are plenty of misses, from the poor headphones through the irritating file transfer system. Olympus needs to work on its weaknesses – by doing so it could come up with a real winner next time round.