I finally bought an MP3 player 8 days ago. I've listened to about 30 hours of sermons on it since then (you'd be surprised how much time you spend in the car, in the grocery store, washing dishes, mowing grass, etc.) I've also recorded a few messages with the unit sitting on the speaker's lectern. Recording quality is quite satisfactory despite a small mic. I have a car/cassette adapter for $50 from future shop as well making for easy listening on the road. I spent a LOT of time researching and comparing different models, so I hope you will benefit from my first-hand review.
Before buying I made a feature comparison of some 256MB MP3 player/recorders from http://canadacomputers.com:
Download Models-Feature Comparison (Microsoft Excel)
NEW: Models introduced since my initial review
New: Oct 2004 Reviews of recent models:
SAVA M620F 256MB MP3 Player/Voice Recorder $209 Canadian
made in Korea, new to market April 2004
Vendor Specs: http://www.safa.co.kr/product/edvr_SR_600F.htm
- Built-in USB 1.1 (no need to carry USB cable to copy files from any computer)
- AAA battery (light, but less capacity than AA)
- built-in recharger via USB (for special battery only)
- 3.5mm line-in, telephone recording kit
- integrated necklace holder/earbuds (fewer wires to tangle during use)
- built-in speaker
- detachable clip-on feature (can clip the whole player on lapel to record a talk)
- good quality recording at 32-Kbit (encodes to MP3 directly)
- battery level indicator
- backlit display
- accelerating fast forward within a track - very effective
- resumes were you stopped or shutdown in a long track. it even remembers your place in multiple tracks, so you can stop LectureA, play LectureB then resume LectureA where you left off.
- easy to use joystick control
- FM tuner (can record from radio),
- Only 9 hours playtime on one AAA - some AA models such as IRiver 790T claim over 40 hours playback.
- Comes with necklace only. No protective case or armband holder. Could be subject to damage due to spill or rain.
- Line input does not have a plug to keep moisture/dust/dirt out when not in use.
- Sometimes the pause/Stop function doesn’t seem to be responsive.
- Sometimes the buttons get hit during activity while unit dangles from neck (there keylock button to prevent this). The lapel clip helps steady the swinging unit, but an armband/carry case would be ideal especially for jogging or other sports. Tucking the unit inside your shirt, and clipping it prevents most swinging around during jogging or cycling.
- USB 1.1 is much slower than 2.0, but not a big deal since the drive is only 256MB anyway.
- Does not include lapel mic (lower model SAFA M290F does) see http://www.safa.co.kr/product/edvr_sr280.htm
- MP3 encoding not supported at 16Khz which is the sweet spot for voice quality and download size for sermon lectures. 8Khz is poor quality, and 32Khz is too big - about 15MB for a one hour recording.
- Recorded Files are dated Dec 28, 2002 regardless of when recorded.
- Unit takes ~8 seconds to start-up
- mp3 files are listed apparently in random order - it would be preferable if they were sorted alphabetically, or at least by date.
- The battery meter is not calibrated correctly. It sometimes shows 2 of 3 bars on startup, then goes down to zero and dies within an hour. I've lost the end of a couple of lectures because the battery died part way through recording although it started with 2 bars (presumably 2 bars is six hours -- 66% of the 9 hours battery life).
- Once the unit showed lights on start-up, but did not display any text. So I restarted and it has been fine ever since.
Firmware upgrade instructions: http://www.safa.com.hk/firmware_upgrade.html