Cirago WeWa Stanchion WMP-6606FM
Cirago and WeWa continue their collaboration in the MP3 player market with the 256MB Stanchion WMP-6606FM. The player ($170) packs plenty of features into its lipsticklike case, but it's uninspiring overall. You're better off checking out the instead.
The Stanchion's silver casing isn't eye-popping, and the futuristic tube-shaped design makes it a little thick around the middle, but it's small and light enough (0.94 inches by 2.76 inches and 0.92 ounce) to slip into a shirt pocket. One thing that's striking is how few buttons there are on the unit. You get keys for EQ/Rec and the menu, as well as a four-way joystick that controls playback, volume, and menu functions. For some puzzling reason, you press the EQ/Rec button to turn on the unit and the Play button on the joystick to turn it off. The other two keys feel sturdy enough, but the joystick is tiny and rather flimsy.
While we're all for streamlined design, the limited number of controls makes for some confusing menu options. In Stop mode, you press and hold the EQ/Rec button to move through the different EQ settings. An equalizer icon graphically displayed the choices, but we had no idea which icon translated to Normal, Jazz, Classical, and so forth. Also, it doesn't do much good to make EQ selections in Stop mode since you can't hear what they sound like. It's best to make your EQ selections manually through the menu so that you can hear the changes on the fly. You won't find a dedicated Hold button on the Stanchion either. Instead, you have to press the EQ/Rec and Menu buttons simultaneously to activate this feature. Annoying as this is, you'll want to set the device to Hold often, given the ease with which you can inadvertently hit the joystick during playback.
Fortunately, the WeWa Stanchion's confusing functions don't apply to file transfers. MP3 and unprotected WMA files are transferred simply through Windows Explorer. (Windows 98 users will need to install drivers from the included CD-ROM; sorry, there's no Mac support here.) Another plus is the Stanchion's chameleon-like LCD backlight, which can be changed to one of seven visually appealing colors--a nice extra for those who find it difficult to read displays.
The FM tuner includes 32 presets. The autosearch function automatically scans the dial and saves stations in the presets for you. This feature does a decent job, although it missed a couple of popular stations in the Chicago area. While in FM mode, press the EQ/Rec button once to begin recording from the radio. You can also connect various audio sources to the headphone jack to create line-in recordings. The Stanchion records all files in WAV format rather than MP3, which isn't ideal for a device with only 256MB of memory.
Music sounded decent with the Cirago WeWa Stanchion's supplied earphones. However, hiss was more noticeable with a pair of full-size Koss UR-40 headphones, thanks to the Stanchion's low signal-to-noise ratio of 80dB. The volume was sufficiently loud with the large headphones, although with an output of 5mW per channel, it was not earsplitting. In our lab tests, we reached transfer speeds of 0.67MB per second, which is decent for a USB 1.1 connection. We also coaxed 14 hours of continuous playback from a single AAA battery, a bit better than the rated 12 hours.