back to article Hands on with SanDisk's SlotMusic SD-not-CD player

SanDisk's upcoming cassette Micro SD personal stereo, SlotMusic, will be coming to the UK and the rest of Europe early next year, Register Hardware can reveal after having a play with the gadget. The ciggie-lighter sized player is a model of simplicity: a Micro SD slot at one end, 3.5mm earphone socket and power key at the other …

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Paris Hilton

Can't see it

From what I've seen, there are 4 main groups of music buyers these days:

1. people who buy mp3s. They already have an ipod or whatever, and this would be a step backwards for them.

2. people who download mp3s illegally. They also have an mp3 player, and wouldn't pay for this.

3. people who buy CDs because they realise that buying mp3s is bad value, so they get the CD and rip it. See 1 & 2.

4. people who still buy CDs because they don't get on with mp3s. This is sandisk's real market, and it tends to be people who don't bother with the latest technology and would rather stick with the ease of use of a CD. I just can't see them going for something like this.. they won't understand it, and it won't play on their home stereo.

Besides.. microSD? I bet people will spend as much on replacing lost cards as buying new music!

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Anonymous Coward

Why?

Why would I want to buy a player that only plays 2GB max SD cards and has no display? I want one that plays 8GB or more as SD cards drop in price like a stone... Waste of space I say!

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Happy

Interesting Idea

I can see the point of buying one, but only one. Flatten the card, drop your own(ed) stuff onto it and the kids have a cheap, less breakable, player. I am hoping that the $35 =/= £35, however.

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download killer - not...

I suspect it'll have the opposite effect: people will buy their 1GB card, get it home - and realise it could hold at least 10x as many tracks. Before you know it they'll be working out how to copy more stuff on, buying blank cards, etc etc. Yes, not everyone is techy enough to do it themselves - but grannies have grandkids you know...

None of which will worry Sandisk of course, if people buy more SD cards then that's a nice revenue stream.

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title goes here

My first thoughts were - 'crap, waste of time, yawn, rubish, etc' but, for once it looks likesandisk have actually used their heads! no DRM, no extortionate costs, generic file format, fair encoding quality, open format... suddenly it makes sense... I like buying CD's nut i dont like the time it takes to rip them... drg and drop the files from the SD card and straight into Itunes is something that does apeal!

but the problem I see with this is the very user friendlyness of it all... It needs adoption from all the music types and I can see a bunch of them being a little uneasy about releasing un-DRM material into the open...

I hope it works... its a step in the right direction :)

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So wrong on so many levels

This device is so mis-conceived it almost defies belief. I do not want to carry lots of small and easily lost cards, nor do I wish to pay their equivalent weight in gold for them - £16 is jaw-droppingly expensive for what little this is. The idea then that you have to also pay out for batteries as well must make this one of the worst value for TCO ever.

I hope it dies a slow, lingering death; bleeding money and accumulating embarrasment on SanDisk and the on-LSD engineers and marketing monkeys who came up with this mutant abberation of common sense. So no, I don't like it.

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Interesting idea....

Not sure it will work though. I do like some of the ideas behind it such as being able to plug it into a variety of devices and play straight from USB for example, although you could just do this yourself with a memory card and USB adaptor.

For mobile phones, I think this would have potential, with so many of the popular music buying age groups having mobiles now, except.......the different mobile phone companies use many different kinds of memory card which is a total pain. If there was some kind of standard then this would no doubt help.

It is better in one respect than downloading, in that you have a physical media if your PC hard drive dies, but......easier to just buy the CD and copy onto your PC anyway and still have media as a backup. Another issue is that most people now have an iPod or some kind of mp3 player already and those who don't tend to follow the crowd of what their friends have anyway. Also, who fancies carrying around several SD Cards in their pockets? I can see those getting lost very quickly.

Interesting little product, we will see if there is any market out there for it......

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I quite like it...

@ Can't see it...

1. For people who already buy mp3s, this is a convient form to buy them (DRM free) and have a physical backup

2. Ok - people who download illegally still will...

3. I only buy CDs to rip & have a physical backup, then copy the mp3s to my various devices. Removing the ripping from that would be an advantage for me. I don't think I'm alone in that

4. Stereos with USB slots are becoming more common. Being able to plug a purchased album straight into that (with the bundled adapter mentioned) would mean that yes, people who don't understand these things would be able to use the format as simply as a CD.

As long as it's possible to buy these for the same price as a CD (or less) and without the player, I don't see why it shouldn't take off as a format. Who knows though - the public are fickle beasts...

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Standard SD would have been better

If it was a full-size SD card I could see it; there's more devices that support them; the packaging idea is pretty stupid though. Why would you buy a format that takes up less space to do the opposite? Better to use a cardboard sleeve with a small plastic case inside I think.

Another reason for failure is that SD card slots aren't standard on computers; optical drives are. It seems a bit to soon for this technology, frankly. A CD deck with an SD card slot that could dub CD to SD and encode for you would appear to be a better device to market as a test to see if people are ready to move to a different physical format.

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Anonymous Coward

Literally can't see it

So, you can store all your albums on media the size of your thumb-nail. Well great, except for the fact that I'm only 25 and already suffer from "putting-your-keys-down-in-an-empty-room-then-not-remembering-where-they-are" syndrome.

I garuntee if I were to buy one of these, each card would only be listened to once before being lost. That, for me, is the biggest advantage of MP3's. My computer is big enough not to be lost, as is my external back-up drive. They dont scratch like CD's do and they don't degrade like cassette tapes. And they can't be lost down the back of the sofa / up the hoover / in an inquisitive pet or child like these micro cards invariably will be.

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Paris Hilton

Can't see it either

$15 (MORE in Euroland) for MP3? 320kbps with no DRM is very welcome, yet one does wonder why the tracks do not come in AIFF/WAV. There certainly would be enough room and the blatant difference in value for money compared to CD would be eliminated, leaving behind only the blatant difference in convenience. Micro SD as a medium is fiddly and unsatisfying, they are just too small. Especially for a demographic too unfamiliar with computers to rip their own CDs. Drop one in public and they are practically gone. "He actually sat down and made me a micro SD" also has very little romantic appeal. I guess these low quality players would have a place as promotional items but nothing more. The whole thing seems pointless and wasteful, somehow.

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Giveaways...

If they can get the likes of the Daily Fail, Sun, etc to give them away instead of the free CD's they've all been doing, that could help them get a foothold

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What?

"The company's not daft..."

I beg to differ. This is the silliest idea I've seen in a long time, and even the low price of the player won't save it. I guess if they dropped the price of an album to something a little more sensible (say a fiver?) they might get some impulse purchases, but even then I can't see it catching on.

"it's certainly the case that CD sales... still outweigh downloads"

That sounds vastly unlikely to me... unless you meant paid-for downloads, of course?

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Is it a standard micro SD

If it is and if you can copy mp3 files to it willy (and indeed, nilly)

doesn't that make this a memory-less mp3 player for twenty of your english quids ?

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DJ
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1 AA?

Non rechargabe mp3 player, thats a big no no to start with, and micro sd's are more expensive than thier SD equivelents and much much easier to loose.

I fit into category 3 of Mr Chris' list, so I'll still be buying CD's and listening to them on my phone.

Dave

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Neither can I.

It's a portable gadget, and who wants to have to change a fiddly little memory card out of doors every time you want to listen to another album?

A typical album is about 50MB, leaving the card 95% empty. Filling one up with your own music with no display to show the contents doesn't seem practical. The sleeve is surely too small for the names of 1GB of tracks, even if you felt like writing them all down.

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Interesting.

1 Gigabyte, and it's got Mp3s on it? I would actually think it wasn't a bad idea if each card came with an uncompressed version of the album as well as a 320kbs Mp3 version on the card for convenience, which would fit nicely on a 1GB card. Better yet, give us a 96khz/24-bit uncompressed version or a 5.1 channel version on a larger card, and this would be pretty slick actually (not the player, the albums themselves).

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a memory-less mp3 player for twenty of your english quids ?

@Paul: which isn't so impressive if you know scan sells one for less than a tenner and regularly discounts it - I paid £3.75 for mine. And it has a usable file navigator on it ;)

Its nice to see the drift towards DRM free, disappointing they decided against loss free coding given the amount of space - could fit MP3 and WAV or ogg copies quite easily. So still not getting the same quality as a CD.

But really this is the record companies last ditch effort to maintain album sales, they're so damn frightened of individual track downloads we get this concession. For a lot of people being ripped off 99p a track will still work out better value.

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Anonymous Coward

I'm trying to imagine it on Dragons Den

Punter: "It's a revolutionary new type of MP3 player. Ramble ramble."

Dragon: So it has no display?"

Punter: "No."

Dragon: "No USB connection and no rechargeable battery?"

Punter: "Er, no."

Dragon: "No internal memory, and it uses very small, easily lost memory cards?"

Punter: "Er, no, yes."

Dragon 1: "I'm out."

Dragon 2: "I'm out."

Dragon 3: "I'm out."

Dragon 4: "I'm out."

Dragon 5: "I'm out."

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iPod Shuffle, anyone?

A few weeks ago I'd have agreed with Anonymous John about how impractical it would be to work through 1Gb of tracks with no display. Then I was given an iPod Shuffle, and I'm fine with it. You just have to give up on the idea of listening to a particular track you're after, and go with the (either random, or carefully constructed) flow. 'Next' works for skipping anything you decide you don't want at that moment.

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Target Audience?

Well no, *I* wouldn't particularly want one ... but it looks like a brilliant gift for my 12 year old niece! I'm sure she'd fancy one with the latest Jonas Brothers album and stickers on it.

That's your target, and at this price, it's golden.

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SlotMusic - think beyond this player and the USB reader

A lot of comment about the SlotMusic has forgotten about the fact that SlotMusic cards can work with devices that have standard SD-card slots. All you need to have for this to work is an SD card adaptor "condom" which accepts a MicroSD card and goes in to the regular SD card slot.

This means that the SlotMusic can work with devices like those SD-based MP3 players that have been cropping up over time, home music systems that have an SD card slot as their "cassette deck" like the Bang & Olufsen Beosound 4 or one of Panasonic's bookshelf music systems or car stereos that have an SD slot like the Parrot RK8200 Bluetooth car stereo.

I don't think that one method of acquiring music is the only method of acquiring music and do consider SlotMusic as just another music-delivery platform that will simply exist at the same level as the pre-recorded cassettes that were common through the 70s and the 80s.

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Alert

CD's?

The main reason for me personally, and I suspect quite a few others, as to why we stick to CD's is that it's not compressed.

However you spin it, the memory stick version is still compressed using a lossy codec. So I buy a CD because I will rip it at current state of the art, and when that and capacity changes I will re-rip at a higher bitrate.

However, the SD card at 1Gb has enough capacity for them to use wavelet or MLP lossless compression. But it's not quite as well supported I suppose.

My example is that I originally ripped my library at AAC128. I now use AAC256, but as the size of the iPods go up, I may end up going back and re-ripping key albums into Lossless.

The only market I can see for this is those people who don't have / can't afford / don't want / don't understand a PC but want to have an MP3 player. With the advent of cheap 'netbooks' that run XP and therefore iTunes or even just Linux with cheap MP3 devices and an external USB CD-ROM, you could, for the equivalent cost of a 32Gb iPod Touch, have a full soup-to-nuts solution (albeit without the apple logo on it). And if you did want to spend cash with the Thin White Duke, you could get an iPod Nano to plug into your XP-running Netbook.

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Stop

@ battery naysayers

Come on, you guys can't be serious. 1AA is about as available and convenient as it gets. I always have about 4 of them in my bag, either quality disposables or charged hi-cap NiMHs, depending on whether I just want to have emergency backup or actually plan to use them. If you buy the new LSD-NiMH (eneloop) type you can have rechargeables that don't go dead as quickly while you carry them along as backup.

You cannot blame Sandisk for this. Actually, having gadgets that run on standard batteries (OR a LiIon that goes in the same compartment) is a major plus in my book. It doesn't happen enough.

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upgrade and recharge: model fitting

1)All the good bits from my 100 CDs fit as mp3 downloads on a shuffle (728 Kb).

2)Currently (2008 - 2010) I'm downloading my vinyl at about 10 per week to mp3. And cursing the big 4 distributors, who don't have an upgrade policy (Actually its a downgrade but the mp3s are okay over headphones). I'll be blowed if I'll pay full CD price for the conversion, but perhaps 10% for nuisance value and 5% for better quality, and I'd willingly take them on micro SDs, even better on a few multi-Mb SDs.

3) A question: I assume home-recorded SDs also fit? Its not clear from the article. Most PC have an SD slot, and you can get a micro SD converter.

4) I'm not going back to rechargable batteries either, that's just as fiddly as ripping mp3s.

So all in all, maybe Sandisk can tweak their product to fit my profile

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RE: CDs?

At 1GB of storage who says the music HAS to be compressed? The little chip stores more than a conventional CD. If the chip/media price continues to decline I could see this becoming a real alternative to buying CDs. Actually, I could see this replacing DVDs if the 8GB cards ever drop in price. No need to rip, it's already in digital form. If RIAA is telling the truth *cough cough* and you're paying for music, why NOT make it available in the form everyone already uses?

The SlotMusic player is still a FAIL. My SANSA View can do everything this thing does plus play movies (on a teeny tiny screen).

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Silver badge

Well

Not for nuthin', but this very "open spec" strategy is how Phillips got everyone on message for the compact cassette, and they were the only manufacturer of (very basic) players for a long time.

What? You didn't know there was a reason we had only one audio cassette format (I'm not counting those joke 8-track brix) but a bajillion video cassette formats? You thought "open" was a child of the 80s?

:o)

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Think before you type

Techies say it's not for them? Ever thought that you might not be the market they are after?

The fact that it uses regular batteries makes it obvious they they are going for the non-techie market. For teenage girls whose limit of technology is using Facebook at college, this is ideal. Looking good always comes over features for them, so something they can customise would be popular. A cheap player, with media that can be bought in the shops. It's like a tiny CD player that never skips and you don't need a PC. If it breaks, gets lost or stolen, you buy a new one for a tenner. When you look at all the other places you can use the microSD cards (many phones, in anything that accepts USB, in anything that accepts SD cards) the player actually becomes less significant than the media. If they put uncompressed wav on there too (loads of spare space, seems silly not to) then they pretty much have all the benefits of CDs but you can take anywhere in a tiny wallet, lending them without fear of them getting scratched.

If you realise you want more memory then you can buy one of the mp3 players that has a microSD slot or get a techie friend to copy them over (only has to be done once), still better than the DRM crap of itunes.

The thing that will hold this back is getting the market penetration. It looked like soemthing similar was going to happen with xD cards, but the high cost of them was too much back then. It's not something I'd ever buy for myself, but my daughter is into music a lot and I'd get her one of these cheap things over an expensive ipod anyday. If they could make the player half the size and with a radio for the same price then I might get one for myself as something that doesn't matter if I drop it in the river/mud/off a cliff. I can already use microSD in my mp3 player and my phone so it would just give me more flexibility.

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