Saturday, March 26, 2005

Two weeks with the Karma

It's been a while now that I've had the Karma, and I have used it in some capacity every day. So what do I think of it?

In terms of a balance of usability, functions as a music player and attention to detail of the user interface, I would rank the Karma among the very best I've had to date. A couple of issues prevent me from saying it is the best... but it's pretty close.

Sound quality wise, the jury is still out on it being 'the best' but it is certainly not bad in any way. The adjustability of the sound is unprecedented for a portable. The frequency bands affected by the EQ are extensively adjustable, as is the range of adjacent frequencies impacted.

This was the big surprise. During the time I've spent with the Karma, I've not missed the iPod... at all. While the superiority of the iPod's click wheel as a control interface is undisputed, the Karma's combination of a relatively well-geared thumbwheel and a logical, well laid out menu system means that it's not actually giving away a lot to the Apple player.

Once again, a surprise in how good this turned out to be. The Karma offers advanced onboard playlist and bookmark management, which means that creating and saving multiple playlists while on the go is possible. The iPod has an edge in the way of computer-aided playlisting (the extremely useful Smartlists) but as a stand-alone player, the Karma is definitely better featured. Battery life is probably about 12 hours in reality with general usage, which is not too bad at all. Incidentally I loved the analog VU visualisation... totally useless, but very cool for audio geeks.

The dock is well made, features RCA outputs for Line Out and it's Ethernet capability is an interesting possibility. Unfortunately the network capabilities of the Karma are not fully realised, as the Karma / Rio Music Manager inevitably crashes when doing things over the network. The player itself has DC and standard mini-USB connector onboard, so cables are easy to source and the power supply can be plugged into both the player and the dock. Unfortunately it is not a UMS (USB Mass Storage) device, which means that you need to carry around drivers for the player as well as Rio Music Manager and Rio Taxi (the data mover) with you if you plan to move between PC's.

The player is nicely shaped despite it's considerable thickness which creates a noticeable bulge in clothing, so the best place to pocket this might be a deep trouser front pocket ;) In terms of weight, the Karma is somewhat fat-laden as it's somewhere near the 40Gb iPod. The look of the hardware design is rather toy-like, however ergonomically the Karma is pretty well thought out: The player nestles nearly perfectly in a medium-sized hand and for the most part, fingers fall into place just beside key controls. DNNA is a US company, but I'm almost positive that the design of the Karma was carried out in the UK... It has aspects of a UK-trained industrial designer's touches all over it.

The Rio Music Manager is somewhat crash-prone and rather slow in operation at times, but it is usable and pretty intuitive. One of the things that makes it slow is actually a good feature... if only it were a bit faster. RMM constantly scans your music folders for changes, so if you work with other music management programs, this saves you having to do a manual scan or a complete re-import like other applications. The music management features are very basic, but everything more or less works. The software rips to WMA, Ogg, FLAC and MP3 which is very handy.

Overall, I like it. Apart from the size and some minor issues, I'd have to say this is my joint favourite player so far.

1 comment:

boogie_doggie said...

The Karma's the best DAP I've ever owned, I'm still waiting eagerly for the Karma 2/Chroma... though it seems that's really going to take a while. It's down to this: whichever gets released first, the Rio or the 60GB X5, I'm going with that. Great blog BTW.