Formerly known as the Advanced MP3 Players Pebble, the Datasafe oomi is the pithily renamed and upgraded edition. The oomi (pronouced "oh my!" apparently, although we prefer "oo me") uses essentially the same chassis design as the original, but now includes support for DRM (digital rights management)-protected WMA files -- someone's clearly stumped up those licensing fees. The oomi comes in capacities of 1GB and 2GB, whereas the Pebble was just 1GB.
The oomi battles hard for the title of the smallest MP3 player in the world, but is narrowly edged out by the new clip-on iPod Shuffle. Nonetheless, the oomi offers a small LCD screen, which the Shuffle does not. Illegible though the oomi's screen may be to anyone without 20:20 vision, it at least gives some indication of the track that's currently playing.
If you value discreet styling above all else, the oomi seems a tempting proposition. But can an MP3 player of this size hope to match the DAC (digital to analogue) audio quality of its bulkier rivals?
Pebble, the original moniker, was a far more accurate description of the oomi. The player would look right at home on Brighton beach among its fellow stones. The unit's contoured case and iridescent sheen should appeal to the magpie-eyed city banker or car dealer. It didn't scratch too easily in our cursory tests, but it would be a good idea to consider the vulnerability of the plastic when tossing it into a pocket with keys or change.
In contrast to the front, the rear of the player is jet-black plastic. It's an attractive enough combination, but we would have preferred a more contiguous, seamless look to the chassis. Buttons on the oomi are easily pressed, and there's satisfying feedback. The innate problems with a miniaturised interface are present here -- you'll find yourself pressing the wrong button by accident unless you take the time to carefully study the pad and push your podgy digits down with the utmost care.
The bundled headphones are reasonably attractive, but fashionistas will want to look elsewhere for their sartorial kicks. Perhaps the biggest reason to recommend this player, from the perspective of style, is that it's so small it won't ruin the line of a suit or dress. If you're no fan of consumer electronic fashion in general, the oomi is discreet enough to disappear into a fold of fabric.
The player weighs 20g, making it well suited to physical activities such as running or climbing. The oomi is bundled with a lanyard headphone adaptor that lets the player rest around your neck. The 3.5mm headphone jack doubles as the USB 2.0 port. Although this saves space, it means that you can't listen to music while simultaneously charging the device.
The screen is small, but there are no alternatives, given the size of the player. The screen's bright blue text on a black background is at least viewable in either sunlight or at night. The display auto powers off after a few seconds if you haven't pressed any buttons. Even when dimmed, the operational blue LEDs that circle the navigation button on the front of the unit are illuminated to let you know that the unit is switched on and playing music.
Output on the oomi is 20mW per channel (40mW stereo sound output). On paper, this matches the output from many hard-drive based MP3 players. There are built-in equaliser modes, which are customisable, and DBB and 3D sound functions. We remain sceptical of these kinds of bass-boosting technologies, because they tend to temporarily create an artificial impression of improved audio quality.
Equalisers offer a way of compensating for the inability of something in your audio chain to properly render the music as it was recorded by studio engineers. Unwanted colouration might be caused by an overly bassy amplifier, or an awkward room shape or speaker placement. A good MP3 player used with good headphones, listening to properly encoded audio files, should not need an equaliser.
The oomi supports the MP3, WMA and ASF codecs, and there's a voice recorder, FM tuner and FM recorder, but reception is typically flakey because the player uses the volatile headphone lead to receive transmissions.
Multi-function control buttons on the front of the oomi make navigation fairly self-explanatory, and two 'control orbs' on either side of the player summon sub-menus. There's a built-in lithium-polymer rechargeable battery that Datasafe rates at 12 hours -- an estimation born out in our test.
The Datasafe oomi worked with both our test PC and Mac. There's multi-language support, simple folder navigation and a built-in sleep timer and stopwatch The 1GB model will hold around 500 songs, and the 2GB holds around 1,000, depending on the encoding rate.
Sound quality on the oomi was competent if unremarkable. Listening to Nirvana's Lithium produced a performance we'd expect from an MP3 player in this price range. Tonal balance seemed about right, although some of the heavier sections lacked a little definition. Adding a good pair of headphones will improve the listening experience over the stock issue.
Plugging the oomi into our flat-response studio amp revealed a slightly bassy colouration to the music, but nothing that undermined our enjoyment. As a small, lightweight player with a decent DAC stage, the oomi is worth comparing to other players before you make a final decision.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide