If you haven’t yet succumbed to the Apple iPod shuffle, then you might be interested in taking a look at another flash-based MP3 player that not only costs less, it can be configured to carry significantly more music for the same amount of money. I’m talking about the Brando USB MP3 Player + SD/MMC Card Reader, a device which shares one major trait with the shuffle – no LCD screen.
No, the Brando version doesn’t have a stylish aluminum skin, and it doesn’t come with a cute Lilliputian dock, but the it does have a slot which can accept SD or MMC cards, and it can plug directly into a USB port to serve as a portable hard drive.?
Considering that a 2GB SD card can be purchased for under , and 4GB SD cards are available for a little more than , adding the $15 this device costs to the total means that you could easily tote around 4 times the amount of tunes the shuffle can carry without spending a penny more. Interested? Well let’s take a look and see if the Brando truly is an attractive alternative…
Available in translucent blue or translucent black plastic, the player measures approximately 3.25″ long x 1.25″ wide x 1″ thick; with a battery and memory card installed it weighs 1.1 ounces.
This picture should make it obvious that the 1″ thick measurement is mainly because of the battery hump which travels the length of the player’s body.
Included in the package are the MP3 Card Reader and a set of rather cheaply made, necklace-style detachable headphones; the user must provide their own AAA battery and memory card.
Power – one AAA battery = 10 hours
Playing Format – MPEG Layer III
Interface – USB 2.0
Output to Earphone – 16mW + 16mW
Frequency Response – 20Hz – 20KHz
Signal Noise Ratio – 88dB
Distortion – 0.02%
Memory Card – SD or MMC
System – Supports Windows 98SE/2000/ME/XP/Mac OS 8.6 or above
Setup is pretty basic: Slide off the rear end cap to reveal the SD / MMC slot…
…and expose the battery compartment. Once both have been filled, the end cap slides back, clicking into place.
Something cool to consider is that since so many of the newer mobile devices are taking miniSD and microSD cards, a player such as this could give a second life to a memory card that might otherwise just be put away “in storage”.
On the bottom of the case is a 3.5mm headphone jack which will most popular aftermarket headsets. The small square hole to the left of the jack is for the neck lanyard that is built into the headphones.
The top side of the player features a pressable toggle switch that allows the user to forward and reverse among songs with a quick press, as well as adjust the volume by using a long press in either direction. The player is turned on or off by pressing and holding the toggle for approximately three seconds.
The opposite end cap removes to allow direct plug and play into a USB port.
When the Brando MP3 Card Reader is plugged in, it is immediately recognized as a “device with removable storage.” Files can be moved directly to the player while being kept in their current folder hierarchy. Once on the device they will play in order from song to song, and from folder to folder. If a shuffled mix is desired, the songs can be added to the player in one general folder, then “arranged” according to name or size from the computer.
Songs played over the device are typical for most flash-based players – they sound pretty good, even over the sub-par included headset. But a picky audiophile will miss the ability to choose from a list of pre-defined equalizer settings, much less the ability to adjust the bass and treble settings on their own. Adding a better set of earphones will much improve the player’s output.
If you have a younger child that has been asking for an MP3 player, this would be a very good starter system. If it’s lost, stolen or broken, then it won’t be the end of the world. People who have a collection of SD cards that are gathering dust from progressive upgrades to larger capacity SD cards or to the smaller miniSD and microSD cards will also appreciate the new life that this player can give their neglected cards.
Is it a perfect player? No.
But it is a good player and an excellent value for the money.
The Brando USB MP3 Player + SD/MMC Card Reader is available directly from the manufacturer.
MSRP: $15.00, available in translucent blue and translucent black
What I Like: Can be used as a thumb drive, a great way to use spare SD cards, inexpensive, easy to operate
What Needs Improvement: Nothing really – for the price it is a good deal