RCA's latest MP3 jukebox is big on storage--and just plain big. We won't be toting the Lyra RD2840 in our back pocket, but we were impressed by the player's 40GB capacity, its good looks, and its excellent sound. And while you won't find many extra features under the hood, the affordable $300 Lyra gives you plenty of bang for your buck.
The sturdy Lyra is a handsome device: its silver case is adorned by a shallow, circular inset with a decent-size five-line LCD in its center. Weighing 11 ounces and measuring 4.5 by 3.1 by 1 inches, the player is relatively bulky, so people will most likely use it in cars, homes, and airplanes. The four rubber feet on the back panel will be handy in those environments, keeping the Lyra from slipping on hard and smooth surfaces.
Just below the LCD sits a pair of soft, depressable four-way joysticks: one for menu navigation and the other for playback control and preference tagging. The Like and Dislike tags, which you assign while you're listening to songs, affect how often they come up in SmartShuffle mode. Having two nearly identical front-panel joysticks was confusing at first. We'd rather trade in the second one for an iPod-style scrollwheel, which does a better job of quickly getting you through thousands of tracks.
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The included padded case protects the unit and attaches to your belt with either its clip or its loop.
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RCA thoughtfully provides a two-adapter car kit.
Also on the face is the Menu/Lock button. Pressing it quickly calls up the menu; holding it down freezes all controls to prevent accidental activation. We'd prefer a dedicated Hold slider on the side, where you find instead just the small, hard-to-press power and volume-up/down keys.
Along the top of the player are the DC power input, the headphone output, the USB 1.1/2.0 port (protected by a sturdy, rubber flap), and the line-out jack. A pair of clip-on headphones and cables for the last two of those hookups come in the package. The line-out cord attaches to the player with a small, proprietary plug and to the receiving device with a 1/8-inch connector. We'd rather have dual RCAs, which would work with home stereos, but cable combinations available at Radio Shack and other electronics stores can remedy this situation for a few bucks.
Two more accessories ship with the Lyra. The car kit has power adapters for a cigarette lighter and a cassette deck. The padded carrying case is sturdy and hangs on your belt with its clip or its loop. The player feels a bit bulky on the hip but not enough to make the belt attachments senseless.
Setup is relatively simple: you install the included software, then connect the Lyra to your PC's USB port. Your system will recognize the player as a removable drive, onto which you can copy a whopping 40GB of tunes. The bundled Musicmatch Jukebox program will transfer songs and playlists; Windows Explorer will let you drag and drop MP3 and WMA tracks but not playlists. Musicmatch can also rip a CD's contents to MP3, WMA, or MP3Pro. The Lyra supports all three formats but not secure WMA files from paid music services such as Napster.
The Lyra will acknowledge songs loaded via the drag-and-drop method only if you first profile them with one of two tools. The fastest is the Lyra's simple desktop application, but since that (as well as the included version of Musicmatch) is PC-only, Mac users have to rely on the poky, battery-sapping onboard profiler, which can handle a maximum of just 3,500 files.