The RCA Lyra Micro Jukebox RD2760 uses a 1.5GB internal hard drive to offer about 20 hours of music in a relatively compact frame. Joggers will welcome the further portability provided by RCA's included Velcro armband. Though a few design and performance quirks give us pause, the player sounds good and has a list price of $249. That makes it $50 less expensive than the more pocketable Rio , which gives you the same drive in a body about half as thick as the Lyra's.
The 1-inch drive enabled RCA to make the RD2760 compact and portable. Measuring 2.3 by 2.3 by 1.1 inches and weighing 3.2 ounces, it's smaller than most hard drive-based MP3 players, although it's 0.35 inch thicker and 60 percent heavier than the ultraslim Nitrus. You can take the Lyra on the trail and to the gym by securing it to your arm with the included Velcro strap, but the carrying case obscures the buttons and the display. A remote would have remedied this design flaw.
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The bundled headphones sound great, but you might find them uncomfortable.
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We're pleased that RCA includes a carrying case, but it blocks access to the player's controls.
A large, bright blue-backlit screen displays an extremely simple menu system. It works well with the sturdy navigation jog dial and the Menu button, which sit on the unit's side. Even tech-challenged listeners will easily operate the big, dedicated, front-mounted playback controls. But they are hard to use blindly, unlike the Nitrus's multifunctional joystick. The USB port and the recessed Reset key lie on the bottom of the device, protected from debris by a rubber flap. That will probably come off eventually but without much ill effect.
Each shiny, silver earcup clips on individually. Some will cotton to this bundled headset, but others will want a more conventional replacement.
The RD2760 offers only digital-music playback, not recording, a radio, or any other extra functionality. Considering the simple design, setup can get surprisingly complicated.
Loading the player's hard drive is easy, though our unit occasionally froze when accepting music from our Mac. First, you install the drivers and a simple system-tray application that manages syncing. The RD2760 then shows up as a removable drive in Windows and Mac OS X. At this point, you can manually create folders and drag over audio as well as data files; transfer songs via the MusicMatch plug-in; or run LyraSync, which flawlessly synchronizes the folders on your PC with those on the device. We handed the Lyra 375 MP3, MP3Pro, and WMA test tunes.
After you've loaded up the RD2760, you select the Profile command either on the player or in the computer-based software. In just less than a minute, the Lyra learns what's on its hard drive. Most other models don't require action of this kind.
To make a playlist, you open a program such as Winamp. Selecting from files on the RD2760, you compile an M3U playlist and save it in the Lyrahdd Playlist folder. The Smart Tagging feature is supposed to collect songs you tag on the fly in the Favorites playlist, but our picks never appeared. RCA promises to fix the problem in a firmware upgrade. We had no trouble browsing by title, artist, album, genre, year, or filename.
The five-band graphic equalizer, replete with 20 presets, is great. The somewhat frivolous SmartEQ function reads all the ID3 tags and matches each song's genre to a preset. Playback options include shuffle, repeat, and a nearly useless preview. If you scroll to a tune when you're not listening to anything, an eight-second wait will earn you an audio clip. Just read the title on the screen.
The RD2760's audio quality really shines, despite somewhat average specs: the signal-to-noise ratio is 85dB, and the total harmonic distortion is less than 1 percent. Through both the great included headphones and our Sony MDR-V600 test set, the player output rich, full sound. Plus, the unit can blast out high volumes, thanks to a power rating of about 17mW per channel at 16 ohms.
File transfer took place at an average 0.47MB per second over USB 1.1 and a slightly slow 2.32MB per second over USB 2.0. Those rates will fill the drive in 10 minutes or just less than an hour, respectively.
Our only major performance quibble was with the stultifying nine seconds the RD2760 can take to fast-forward to the next song. The delay occurred even within a playlist, whose order the Lyra knows. When we conducted tests during physical activity, the unit skipped only very infrequently. Music loading also brought up a minor irritation: if a file's name contains a character longer than eight bits (such as a question mark, a quotation mark, or an exclamation mark), transfer will falter.
The lithium-ion rechargeable battery lasted 8 hours on a single charge. That time beats the iPod's 6 or so hours but not the Nitrus's 16.
To recharge the player, you connect its USB port to either your computer or the wall. RCA includes a USB AC adapter.