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MP3 Players

PopCatcher MusicDock MD-601: Goodbye adverts

PopCatcher rips the music from your favourite radio stations, leaving DJ chatter and adverts on the cutting room floor. But is it any good at its job?

Music for free, without ads or DJ blather? It can only be the work of those crazy DRM-hating Swedes. PopCatcher is the latest in Scandinavian copyright rebellion -- it craftily isolates songs played on any FM, AM or Internet radio station, rips them into the friendly MP3 format and syncs them up to the docked MP3 player. If you're a radio junkie then this may sound too good to be true. Advertisers, on the other hand, should begin screaming now.

Crave played with the PopCatcher MusicDock MD-601 over the weekend and we've had mixed results. The bottom line is that music is isolated and we haven't heard a single word from a DJ or the tail-end of an advertisement. What we have heard, however, is the same few songs over and over again.

It's no secret that pop radio stations play the same few songs on their playlists repeatedly, but we don't normally notice over the course of a couple of hours. PopCatcher requires up to 48 hours of dedicated 'radio monitoring' in order to fill itself up with music. It turns out songs are played many, many times over a 48-hour period and this little gadget does a great job of recording the same ones repeatedly.

Aside from the repetition, we did find a number of different songs to listen to. After our 48-hour wait, the 1GB MP3 player had 106 tracks for us to sift through. Of these, 33 were unique. The sound quality was excellent and most songs were cut well, with only the first and last few seconds missing. This isn't a bad result, but we were disappointed that 48 hours of power consumption only produced 33 tracks. The MP3 player can be connected to a PC with a provided USB cable, enabling the deletion of unwanted tracks. It's also possible to drag captured songs on to your iPod, should you not be blown away by the disappointing design of the MP3 player.

Automated radio music capture is a very interesting concept and PopCapture demonstrates it can work. Some refinement is due, however, in order to compile a more varied compendium of audible treats. The PopCatcher MusicDock MD-601 is taking requests for availability notifications from the company's Web site. -NL