In what is the well-trod and mostly-exhausted world of the now ubiquitous MP3 player, it seems strange for a company to release yet another version.
Most of the possible variations and permutations covering MP3 players have already been gone over and done, from simple shuffle-only, no graphics, no frills kind to over-the-top video-enhanced, multimedia-capable, impossibly elaborate and positively garish players. Started essentially by Apple more than a decade ago with the cigarette pack-sized, music-only iPod, it had become an big billion-dollar industry that has seen its best days and is rapidly devolving into an all-in-one media player like the iPod touch.
So why is Philips coming out with another MP3 player this late in the game? Damned if I know.
GOING BACK TO THE BASICS
Granted, the Philips GoGear Action MP3 Player goes back to the basics and stays there.
It only plays audio content and has no menus or screens or anything like that. It’s basically an MP3-playing headset that just shuffles tracks or plays them in order, with the MP3 circuity and storage built into the headset itself. It has no removable batteries, and charges by a micro-USB port that doubles as a syncing cord on the left side of the unit. I don’t know if it comes with other storage options, but my unit holds 4 gigs of tracks. When you hook it up to your computer (there’s a short USB cable that comes in the package), it produces a removable drive folder icon to which you simply drag and drop your music. There is a little pouch included to carry the player in, as well as well as some documentation.
The GoGEAR consists of two reasonable-sized in-ear modules (orange-accented, in my sample unit) joined together by a stiff cord that goes around the back of your head. It’s made of good quality plastic and comes off with a sturdy and solidly-built vibe. There are two extra pairs of in-ear plugs included, one big pair and one small pair depending on your particular ear size. (The medium ones are already attached, and generally fits most ears, as it did mine.) It’s nice to not have a little gadget attached to your headset for playing music and all those cords getting tangled and everything—it’s all there, built in.
The controls are on the edges of the two monitors, a power button and up and down track selection buttons on the left, and volume controls and a remaining-power indicator button on the right. Owing to the lack of a menu screen to tell you, among other things, how much power is left, there is a female voice with a veddy British accent that tells you what controls you’re accessing and how much longer the batteries are going to last (about 10 to 12 hours of continuous playing, fully charged) not unlike the voice prompts of the iPod shuffle. The software allows you to play the songs in order or on random mode, and instructs you to use Philips Songbird, a website that tries to mimic iTunes in fuctionality.
How does it sound? Well, to be charitable about it, not really very good.
Maybe I’ve just been conditioned to look for more exacting characteristics, reviewing many many headsets and headphones in my time here in Technoodling, and I guess my tastes have evolved and become more honed, plus my years as an FM radio DJ have made my listening habits very particular.
The audio reproduction is barely passable for me, sounding very tinny and treblish to my ears, like they were reproduced on a cheap home speaker set bought in Raon or something. Bass is barely there, and bass-heads will find this pair woefully unacceptable. I’m looking for a bit of warmth in the sound that just isn’t there.
Also, the maximum volume the headset can attain isn’t very high, and I kept trying to push it up to more comfortable levels (for me anyways; I’m sure other people might find the max levels perfectly fine). It may be adequate for a quiet environment like a bedroom, but I find that moderately loud areas like the normal buzz of a cafe overpowers the headset and makes it hard to hear the tracks.
I’m sure Philips had their reasons for coming up with the GoGEAR Action, and in a world where we don’t have great multimedia players like the iPod touch I’m sure this shuffle-based headset would be wonderful. For its price, it’s passable as a simple MP3 player you just throw on without caring much for the audio. Inexpensive, but you get what you pay for. If you care even a smidgeon for the sound quality of your music, I’d say you’re better off passing on this one.
AVAILABILITY Coming soon
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