However, the Stone Plus loses out to the SanDisk’s Sansa Clip on sheer power and bass. Leaving the EQ settings alone on each player, a quick blast of Chicane’s ”Halycon” pounded out with a much richer and juicier bottom line on the thinner, lighter Clip. But the depth, warmth and subtlety of the Creative shone through, and a slightly superior punch made up for the lack of really low notes. The supplied earbuds aren’t up to the quality of this output: they sound muffled and boxy, but there is at least a half-decent amount of bass on offer.
The big bugbear with this Creative player, however – the thing that makes me want to throw it on the floor and grind it into oblivion more than anything else – is its awful interface. Though it has a screen, this is largely redundant. It’s handy for changing settings and seeing which track is playing, but browsing the tracks on the player is still as much of a joke as it was with the previous version. You simply can’t do it while listening to another track: instead the Plus automatically begins to play tracks from each and every folder as you browse to it. As a result, the Plus is best viewed as a slightly enhanced version of the Zen Stone or iPod Shuffle, rather than a full-blown MP3 player. This is an area where SanDisk’s Clip simply blows it away.
The Plus isn’t a bad portable player. In fact if you absolutely have to have speaker output, there’s no competition (literally). Samsung’s speaker-equipped S5 is much more expensive and bigger too.
Build and accessories have improved over the previous version, sound quality – as ever – is very good, and there’s a decent selection of features. It’s also reasonably priced at £37 for the 2GB Plus. But the Zen Stone Plus has been outstripped so completely in the area of usability and price by SanDisk’s Sansa Clip (around £7 cheaper for the same capacity) that all this still isn’t enough.
Perhaps if Creative had invested the time and money in addressing the Plus’ appallingly bad interface and navigation issues it would have had a chance. As it is, it remains a fun, but strictly niche, curiosity of an MP3 player.
Score in detail
Sound Quality 8