Jens of Sweden came out of nowhere last year and outclassed some of its big-name competitors with its line of feature-heavy plug-in MP3 players. The company continues its hot streak with the MP-300, a 256MB unit that borrows design cues from the iPod and adds an FM transmitter and line-in recording to the already impressive feature set found in the MP-100 series. It's hard to ask for more features in such a compact unit, although we have complaints about a couple of minor items. Measuring 3.3 by 1.4 by 0.67 inches and weighing a little more than 2.5 ounces, the Jens of Sweden MP-300 is a shade larger and heavier than the MP-110, but considering all its features, its small size represents something of an engineering feat. And we really like the way it looks: reminiscent of the white iPod, with its translucent plastic-covered white front and silver back. The blue-backlit display, however, is a rather tight 1.65 by 0.47 inches. We wish the company had provided a bigger screen, considering the ample room on the player's body and the complexity of its menus. However, we love the retractable USB plug, which extends when you push a slider on the bottom of the device and locks into place for easy connection. (An extension wire is included for those with difficult-to-access USB ports.)
While we found the unit fairly well constructed for the most part, the jog dial was sometimes hard to push in. We also took issue with the slider on the right side of the device, which toggles between the Music, Hold, and FM settings. It's easy to accidentally push the slider to FM when you want Hold. One final interface quibble: After activating an item in a menu, you have to hit the back button (labeled A<->B/SPD) to navigate up a level. Choosing an option should automatically return you to the next higher menu level.
While the MP-110 employs a rechargeable lithium-ion polymer battery, the MP-300 uses a single AA alkaline battery. Swapping it out requires opening a battery door, which feels as if it could snap off fairly easily.
Along with the player, Jens of Sweden throws in the USB extension cord mentioned earlier, a line-in cable, and earbud headphones attached to a neck strap. Unless you like to walk around with your MP3 player jangling all over your chest, we recommend discarding the headphone/necklace accessory, buying replacement headphones, and carrying the player in your pocket instead. You can also purchase optional accessories. One is an armband with a carrying case ($30); another is a somewhat large, clip-on in-line remote ($30) that, while lacking a display, provides controls for all playback and menu functions. The Jens of Sweden MP-300 plays MP3s and unprotected WMA files. It can hold files in other formats as well, so it doubles as a data wallet. If you're running a pre-2000 OS, you'll have to install the drivers, which are conveniently stored on the device itself. Otherwise, just plug the player into a USB port and move files via Windows Explorer or Mac Finder.
The player does not come with file-transfer software, but once you have moved music to the device, you can create playlists using a digital audio player such as Winamp and save the playlists onto the MP-300 in M3U format. At first, we couldn't find the Shuffle function, but the player does have one, as well as Repeat and Bookmark.
Surprisingly, the MP-300 has no support for ID3 tags, which means you can't browse by title, artist, album, or genre--just filename. Fortunately, the MP-300 makes up for this omission in other areas. For instance, a built-in FM transmitter lets you broadcast tunes wirelessly on a home or car stereo on any unused frequency between 87.5 and 95.0. Additionally, you can use the Auto Preset feature to scan for an unused frequency. Like most transmitters, it works best when placed as close as possible to your stereo's FM antenna. But even then we encountered frequent static, so we recommend using a wired adapter for high-fidelity listening. The FM radio, however, had little trouble with static and picked up all local stations. The tuner has 15 presets and includes an Auto Preset option that finds the clearest channels and saves them as presets. You can also record FM radio, should a song come on that you wish to save as an MP3.
Along with an MP3 voice recorder (internal mike included), the MP-300 includes line-in recording capabilities so that the device can directly convert CDs and other physical formats to MP3s. You can set line-in and FM recordings to encode MP3s at bit rates between 32Kbps and 224Kbps.
Furthermore, the MP-300 has five EQ presets (Normal, Jazz, Rock, Pop, and Classical); a five-band, user-defined EQ; 3D sound effects; and a five-setting bass-boost effect called Bass Sense. You can also set playback to 1/2 or 1/3 of normal speed, or 1/6 times faster than normal. (This feature is more useful for spoken-word recordings than for music.) Additionally, the player offers a sleep timer, and you can set the display to scroll a song's lyrics if they've been encoded with your MP3 files. You can also download firmware upgrades from Jens of Sweden's &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Ejensofsweden%2Ecom">Web site.
If you're looking to buy music online from a store such as or , you're out of luck--the MP-300 doesn't support secure music files. Even without all the equalization and 3D sound effects, music sounds stellar on the Jens of Sweden MP-300, thanks to a crystal-clear 98dB signal-to-noise ratio and relatively loud 12mW-per-channel output.
Transfer speeds over USB 1.1 aren't exactly eye-popping; our lab test revealed that music loads onto the player at a low but acceptable 0.26MB per second.
Jens claims a marathonesque 26 hours of play time; our testing revealed an average time of 23.8 hours--not quite up to the company's claim but impressive nonetheless.
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