Cirago WeWa Blastoff WMP-132+
Cirago is no stranger to the portable audio market, so we're surprised by the obvious shortcomings of the company's recently released WeWa Blastoff WMP-132+. This plug-in MP3 player, available in 128MB ($99) and 256MB ($160) capacities, is the type of unit that would be easy to recommend if not for some annoying glitches and limitations.
Overall, the Blastoff offers a winning design. It's small and light (3.14 by 1.1 by 0.9 inches and 1.72 ounces), and the USB plug is retractable via a switch on the back of the unit. You also get a USB extension cord, which comes in handy since it's difficult to use the adjacent USB port when the player is plugged in. The unit has a solid feel, and despite its compact dimensions, its buttons are large and give a responsive click. Our one gripe: you can recharge the player's battery only when it's connected to your computer's USB port. If you run out of juice when you don't have access to a PC, you're out of luck. A power adapter would be nice for just this reason. On the upside, it's easy to browse through the menu options: click the Menu button, use the Prev and Next buttons to move through the choices, then click Menu again to make a selection. We also appreciate that the Blastoff's small but readable display lets you choose from seven backlight colors (red, green, yellow, blue, light blue, violet, and white) or a random mode that morphs through all the colors chameleon style.
The Blastoff plays MP3 and unprotected WMA files--online music store frequenters are out of luck. You get the usual random and repeat modes as well as five preset EQ selections (Normal, Jazz, Pop, Rock, and Classical). The FM radio features a preset scan mode in which the player automatically detects FM stations and stores them in the 20 memory presets. Reception was a little iffy at times, so the player occasionally missed one or two popular stations in the Chicago area. Moving to a different part of the room or stretching out the headphone wire, which acts as an antenna, solved the problem. The FM recorder encodes files in frequencies from 8KHz to 48KHz in WAV format only, not MP3. In addition, the player's firmware is upgradable, and the included CD-ROM includes software for performing this task. This unit is also designed to integrate seamlessly with Cirago's portable stereo speakers, so you can turn the Blastoff into a mini boombox.
Considering that the Blastoff's signal-to-noise ratio is only 80dB, whereas 90dB has become the de facto standard, sound quality was surprisingly decent. We noticed some background hiss, though it wasn't terribly distracting with the included earbuds (the flaws were more obvious on a pair of full-size Koss UR-40 headphones). Music is loud with the supplied earbuds, which are rather uncomfortable.
We don't know how WeWa chose the name Blastoff for this product, but it certainly doesn't stem from explosive performance. In our CNET Labs testing, we reached just 6.2 hours of continuous playback from the rechargeable, gum stick-style nickel-metal-hydride battery. Transfer speeds of 0.66MB per second, however, were decent for a USB 1.1 player.