The 5GB RCA Lyra RD2765 comes close to rating as a stellar microdrive MP3 player. It has a slick, minimalist design and a gorgeous color display; additionally, it supports DRM-protected WMA files, so you can play your legally purchased music downloads. On the other hand, transfer speeds are on the sluggish side, it's missing a couple of features we've come to take for granted, and audio quality is sometimes disappointing, even with good headphones. The RCA Lyra RD2765 is certainly eye-catching. At 3.3 by 2.0 by 0.5 inches and weighing a svelte 3 ounces, it's thin and light, and the mirror-finish silver casing and clutter-free design lend it a sleek appearance. But the finish is prone to some serious smudging, so keep a soft, clean cloth handy.
Aside from being attractive, the Lyra's design is wonderfully uncluttered. The power button rests on the right spine, while the face features a menu button and a small control joystick that sits in the middle of a thumb scroll. You can use the scroll for volume control during playback and for navigating menus and playlists. The joystick controls playback and lets you move in and out of submenus. The color screen is vibrant--we had no problem reading track information outdoors in bright sunlight. Best of all, navigating through the menus is a breeze thanks to the thumb scroll, and you can browse content by album, artist, genre, year, title, or playlist.
The Lyra RD2765's package isn't too loaded--along with the player, you get a simple case with a belt clip, a USB cable, and an install disc.Compared with similar players, the RCA Lyra RD2765 is a bit skimpy on features. On the plus side, it supports DRM-protected WMA files and MP3s. Windows Explorer handles transfer for all unprotected music files, so it's a snap transferring this content to the device. For songs purchased from online music stores, however, you have to use a jukebox application. The Lyra is compatible with Windows Media Player (WMP) and Musicmatch Jukebox (MMJB).
What we miss with this unit are such niceties as line-in and voice recording, as well as an FM radio. You do get a JPEG viewer, though, and if your music files are tagged with album art, you can view them for up to 20 seconds during playback. Unfortunately, these are the only images you'll be viewing while listening to your tunes; the Lyra, even though it has a slide-show function, won't let you look at your personal photos and listen to music at the same time.
The Lyra RD2765 features five preset DSP, or EQ, modes (Flat, Bass, Rock, Pop, Jazz), as well as a customizable five-band EQ. Note that in the DSP menu, the user-defined EQ is labeled Graphic, as in graphic EQ.If the RCA Lyra RD2765 were in school, performance would be its worst subject. For file transfers through Windows Explorer, the player exhibits no serious issues, although it's rather sluggish at 0.8MB per second over a USB 2.0 connection.
At first, we encountered several problems when connecting the Lyra to the jukebox applications. We had to install the latest firmware upgrade twice before connections were smooth. Even so, sometimes MMJB recognized the player, sometimes not; however, this may be an issue with MMJB rather than the Lyra.
Playlist navigation is also slower than average. It takes a couple of seconds to cue up lists of artists, albums, and so forth. The firmware, which is designed to improve navigation, did help a little, but it's still slower than we're accustomed to.
Sound quality was decent, although some defects become exposed when using better-quality headsets. We could sometimes detect slight but noticeable distortion on all DSP modes--including the Flat setting--when listening to music through Koss UR 40 full-size headphones and Shure E2c earbuds. Making any type of adjustment with the five-band EQ only exacerbated the problem.
As for battery life, the player's rechargeable battery scored an average of 14.3 hours of continuous playback in CNET Labs' tests. This is about middle of the road for a microdrive player, but it far exceeds RCA's own rating of 8 hours.