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need durable/expandable mp3 flash/HD player (BIFH D-NE330)

by pianoplayer88key / March 1, 2008 12:45 AM PST

Hi guys. My Sony MP3 CD Player (D-NE330) bit the dust, after dying a slow death. It was nearly always skipping even when stationary (and the disc wasn't spinning), and rarely skipping in the exact same place twice, and the navigation almost never worked right. I bought a D-NF430 this past Tuesday, but this week I plan to take it back to the store because it has the same problems. (thus, saying BIFH instead of RIP. B = Burn, and you can guess what F and H represent)

So I desperately need an mp3 player, like SOON! I've ruled out CD/DVD based MP3 players because none of them have the combination of features, portability, durability, build quality, etc, that I'm looking for. But.. should I get a HDD or Flash player?

In a nutshell, I'm considering the Archos 504 (older firmware), Vosonic VP8360 (has replaceable hard drive; Wolverine ESP, stateside "equivalent?", seems to not), Cowon D2 (flash with SD slot), Creative Zen (flash with SD slot), Archos 405 (SD slot, but only 2GB onboard), or Archos 605 WiFi 4GB (w/SD slot). Read further for more details... (Max budget is as low as possible... I'm thinking like $200 or so, but I gotta figure out a few things.)

In either case, the storage should be replaceable / upgradeable. For a HDD player, that means the HDD should be user-replaceable, and for a flash player, it must have an expansion slot (CF or SD (and NOT mini or micro SD)).
Also, UMS support is required, meaning it's recognized as a removable hard drive by Windows (I'm using XP), and does NOT require 3rd-party software for file transfer.

Possible flash players (I'd like at least 8 or 16GB onboard):
Archos 405 (has SD slot, but only 2GB onboard)
Archos 605 WiFi (SD slot, but only 4GB onboard. Also, if I get a player that's as large as a HDD-based player (that uses a 2.5" (not 1.8") HDD), then I either want a HD included or a place to put one.)
Cowon D2 (SD slot & touchscreen, but manual says it only supports 5000 files)
Creative Zen (SD slot, but can't transfer files from internal flash to SD card, and I think there was something else I didn't quite like about it but I don't remember exactly what.)

Possible HDD players:
Archos 504 (with older firmware - newer ones break the ability to swap out hard drives)
Vosonic VP8360 (the manual for this one actually gives hard drive replacement instructions)
I'd also consider the Wolverine ESP, but I believe it's more expensive, and I don't know if the hard drive is replaceable. (It otherwise seems to be identical to the Vosonic unit.)

One possiblity I'm looking into for a HDD-based unit, is getting a flash card to 44-pin 2.5" IDE adapter. I know of some units that have 2 CF slots on them, and I saw one online that had 4 SD slots (but unfortunately didn't support SDHC).

A couple things... the requirement to be able to upgrade memory is partially so I can accomodate my sub-$200 budget. I'm willing to settle for 4GB (preferably 8GB) of built-in flash, or a 20GB HDD, so I can stay within my initial budget. (Later when I could afford it, I'd plan to buy more memory, for example a 16GB flash card, a 250+GB HDD, a IDE to CF (or SD) adapter and a card, etc.)
(Also, for a HDD unit, it would be so I don't have an expensive brick if the HDD should fail (although I hope the player is sturdy / shockproof enough to prevent the HDD from failing, in spite of being repeatedly baseball-like-pitched at the floor while it's operating.))

I know I said I had ruled out CD / DVD players, but that's because in my extensive research I couldn't find anything. However, if you guys can find me one that's as skip-free as a flash-based unit, built as tough as the Sony D-NS921F (one I had previously that was built like a tank and I only no longer have because it was stolen), reads mp3 files off of data DVD-R's (or + or RW or DL), is a portable/walkman CD player form factor (not the laptop type with the flip-up 7" screen that most DVD players have), and doesn't have some ridiculously low 999-track limit (on a CD player), and is under $140 shipped before rebates, please let me know.

I'm getting quite desperate here. Right now I don't have anything that works, but I don't want to make an unwise purchase. I really want to get a durable one, for example durable enough to outlast my Panasonic Shockwave radio/cassette player (which I suspect was manufactured probably around 1992 to 1994 or so), in spite of the likelihood that it'll get dropped from shoulder height onto hard surfaces several times a week or more, occasionally at speeds almost comparable to that of a baseball leaving an MLB pitcher's hand.
(Speaking of longevity, I have a portable radio or two from the 1980s or earlier that's still working fine. Also my family has some older home audio units (tape, phonograph, reel-to-reel, radio, etc) from as far back as probably the 1940s to 1960s or so, and as far as I know they're still pretty much functional. What's wrong with current electronics manufacturers these days that they can't design units as durable as these older gems? I can understand obsolescence, but I want to replace my player because something much better is available (for example jumping up to Blu-Ray from 1920s silent black-and-white movies), not because my "current" one broke!)

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