The vibez also packs lots of useful features in. It allows you to create playlists on the fly, something you can’t do on a nano or most other flash-based players. It has a line-in – the headphone socket doubles as an input – and an integrated microphone for turning the player into an impromptu dictaphone. There are two soft keys you can customise to access functions you use frequently and there’s a dedicated photo-viewer with surprisingly powerful features. You can use this to browse by camera make, model, description and even date taken, as well as simply by folder and thumbnail. However, eschewing the PMP (personal media player) approach of an increasing number of small MP3 players, it can’t playback video.
Battery life is on a par with the iPod video with up to 20 hours of playback available, though this will drop if you insist on listening to high bit rate files at loud volume levels. A bonus here is that it’s user replaceable – just pop the back off by pressing a bent open paper clip against the release mechanism located at the top of the back cover.
File format support is excellent. Like the iAudio7, the vibez not only supports the usual WMA (32-320kbit/s) and MP3 (32-320kbit/s CBR and VBR) files, but also WMA-DRM9 and WMA-DRM10, OGG Vorbis up to Q10 (500kbit/s), WAV and lossless FLAC files. The big advantage it has over the iAudio is that it has a whopping 8GB more storage space, so you can realistically encode all your music in OGG 10 and still fit around 60 albums or so on the player.
File transfer is as easy as you want to make it. You can drag files straight to the device’s music folder using Windows Explorer, use your choice of media player or use the bundled Magix MP3 Maker SE software.
Sound quality is better than the iAudio7, too, and OGG Q10, FLAC and MP3 files encoded at a decent bit rate sound absolutely cracking, with a balanced and neutral feel to them. For really thumping bass, you do have to fiddle with the equaliser settings a bit, but otherwise it’s up there with the best mobile players I’ve heard from the likes of Sony and iRiver.
I initiated the all-important listening tests with Stacey Kent’s wonderfully well-recorded album, The Lyric, and was immediately impressed. Jim Tomlinson’s mellow saxophone sounds so real that you can hear the graininess of the reed as he takes centre stage in Manha de Carnival. You can quite clearly make out the random ‘ticking’ of the drummer in the background on this track, and Miss Kent’s vocals are rich and buttery smooth elsewhere.