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iRiver Volcano T7 review: iRiver Volcano T7

Low-cost, no-nonsense MP3 players enjoy a lot of attention, especially from gym goers needing something light and low cost. In 1GB, 2GB and 4GB capacities, the iRiver Volcano T7 is the latest in this category, providing a cable-free listening experience that's great for the treadmill

Nate Lanxon

Special to CNET News

See full bio
3 min read

From the iPod shuffle and Sony E Series to the SanDisk Sansa Express and Creative Zen Stone Plus, low-cost, easy-to-use MP3 players enjoy a lot of attention, often as gym-friendly secondary players.

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5.5

iRiver Volcano T7

The Good

Lightweight; integrated USB; acceptable sound quality.

The Bad

Buttons and interface; music lacks warmth and deep bass.

The Bottom Line

The iRiver Volcano T7 is a distinctly average performer in numerous respects, with competing players offering notable advantages in each. But if you like its design and don't require anything more than MP3 playback, it'll probably please

The iRiver Volcano T7 is iRiver's latest entrant into this field, coming in 1GB, 2GB and 4GB capacities. As the 4GB version can be found for just £49, you're justified in being curious.

Design
Like the original iPod shuffle, the T7 has an integrated USB plug so you can plug the player directly into a PC without wires. While this is convenient, some laptops have slightly recessed USB sockets as a result of the chassis design, meaning an included USB extension cable is required when connecting the player.

The player itself is lightweight but feels rugged. A decent, if small, blue dot matrix screen displays loads of info, but it doesn't feel cluttered. Anyone with less capable eyesight may struggle, though.

Our least favourite aspect of the T7 is its button design. Most controls reside on the face of the player beside the screen. In some body colours, they're very hard to see and there's no way to use them without pulling the player out of a pocket -- not good if you're on a treadmill.

Features
Supported formats include MP3, protected and unprotected WMA, OGG and ASF. Notably absent is WAV, AAC and particularly FLAC, which even the box claims the player supports. We can confirm, however, that it does not, at least as of version 1.4 of the firmware. There's no support for Audible audiobooks or gapless playback either, so expect a slight pause between tracks on live albums.

There's an FM radio with a recording function though, and podcasts can be automatically downloaded and synced using T7-compatible software from Podcast Ready. All your other media can be either dragged and dropped within a desktop environment or synced with Windows Media Player. That's pretty much it. This isn't a ground-breaking player, nor is it particularly feature packed -- but it does cost under £50.

Performance
Now, you're never going to get hi-fi sound quality from a player this size, particularly if you don't upgrade the bundled earphones to a decent pair. Accordingly, the T7 offers a generally bright sound, although with weaker bass compared to some other players in this category. But it's a reasonably clean sound, particularly good for listening to spoken word.

In comparison, Creative's Zen Stone Plus offers a deeper, warmer sound quality that was preferred by numerous people in the office. Adding some custom EQ within the T7 to emphasise the low end of the spectrum helped, but overall, we feel it was still sonically the inferior performer.


Still, an integrated microphone enables you to record voice in WMA format, at a range of bit rates. The highest quality -- 128Kbps -- gives decent results, and the microphone seemed pretty sensitive. As long as you're not more than a couple of metres away from the voice you're capturing, taking notes from the recording, for example, shouldn't be a problem.

Throughout all this testing we never developed a fondness for using the T7. It's a clunky player: the buttons are tough to press, the menus are sluggish at times and skipping from track to track takes a needless couple of seconds.

The main music menu gives no browsing control over to you -- it simply plays songs sequentially, sorted by artist in alphabetical order (ABBA albums play entirely, followed by Zebrahead albums), though you can browse music in a more traditional folder view in a separate menu. Alternatively, you could create one large playlist within Windows Media Player and the T7 will obey its track listing and song order.

Conclusion
The iRiver Volcano T7 isn't impressive, but nor does it overly disappoint. It's just an okay MP3 player with okay features and okay performance. The best reason to choose it is for the cable-free design and its above average screen within a low-cost category.

If you want a more simple player to use, go for the SanDisk Sansa Clip. If you want a better sounding player and Audible support, go for the Creative Zen Stone Plus. If you need something even simpler, go for the iPod Shuffle.

The T7 is available now from Advanced MP3 Players.

Edited by Shannon Doubleday

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