iRiver iMP review: iRiver iMP

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The iMP-550 further improves upon the iMP-400 with a new digital optical output, which forges a cleaner connection to your home stereo than can be made via an analog connection. And like its predecessor, the iMP-550 has an FM radio tuner that remembers up to 20 presets.

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This module holds two AA batteries, which add significantly to playback time.

The SlimX iMP-550 played every disc we created without incident. It takes a few seconds to load a disc, but that's the case with most MP3 CD players, which must index folders containing potentially hundreds of songs in multiple formats before playing them.

Music sounds clear and warm through this player, thanks in part to a largely hiss-free signal-to-noise ratio of 90dB. With a decent output level (12mW per channel at 16 ohms), it powered the included earbuds to earsplitting levels but was still loud enough for most users, with a set of larger Koss headphones (8mW per channel at 32 ohms).

With 32 minutes of skip protection, we encountered no glitches while playing the unit over a car stereo using the included car adapter. Considering that the skip-testing took place while driving the not always smooth roads of Chicago, we were particularly impressed.

The company rates the maximum continuous playback time at 55 hours, but that's only when using both the gum-stick-style rechargeables with the double AA external pack--something you're not likely to do when walking with the unit. We got less than 12 hours of use with the internal batteries only. It also took more than 6 hours to recharge the batteries, longer than the 4 to 5 hours rated by iRiver. On the plus side, we like how the external battery solution lets you power the player with two AAs when you don't have the time or an outlet to recharge the device.

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