If you have the player for the long haul, the iBead is firmware upgradable. According to the company, forthcoming upgrades will add playlist support and allow you to scroll lyrics associated with a track.Audio quality is the one area in which the iBead 1000 truly shines. The 90dB signal-to-noise ratio delivers a clean sound with good high and low response. With an output of 18mW per channel at 160 ohms, its sound is sufficiently loud with a pair of full-size Koss UR-40 headphones; the included earbuds are uncomfortable, but they deliver decent sound. Along with five preset EQ modes and one user-defined five-band EQ, the iBead includes SRS, WOW, and TruBass effects. You can also adjust the SRS effects for intended output: earphone, headphone, small speaker, midsize speaker, or big speaker.
If only the device itself were consistently up to the task. Operation tended to be sluggish--simply skipping ahead to the next track often takes longer than necessary, even for a hard drive player--and the disk locked up a couple of times during our tests. In fact, the player froze on us while scanning the FM radio, which isn't exactly a labor-intensive hard disk function.
Line-in recordings made from a portable CD player were plagued with heavy distortion at various bit rates. Regardless of whether we were at the high or low end of the quality spectrum, the recordings sounded offensive just the same.
The iBead's transfer rate of 3.38MB per second over a USB 2.0 connection is better than average. The 7.1 hours of battery life the player scored in CNET Labs' tests falls short of the company's 8-hour rating and well below what we've come to expect from a modern hard drive-based player.