Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Some ideas are so obvious, you just want to smack yourself for not thinking of them first. Witness TDK's innovatively designed 128MB Mojo 1 ($200), which packs an MP3/WMA player and an FM radio/recorder into a pair of neckband-style headphones. Although we've seen this design in an earlier player that wasn't good enough to merit a review, this model from TDK is a near-perfect accessory for walking, running, aerobics, and other athletic endeavors, as it vanquishes the cord that usually gets in the way. If you're constantly on the go, you'll appreciate the freedom of movement made possible by this 128MB player.
The Mojo 1 packs a surprising number of features and controls into its two earpieces. It has play, stop, fast-forward/rewind, and volume buttons on one side, along with a Hold switch and a AAA battery compartment. There's also a DC jack for use with an optional adapter (not included) and even an audio-out jack for connecting the Mojo 1 to speakers, a stereo, or another pair of headphones--now there's a strange image: using headphones to listen to your headphones. On the other earpiece, you'll find a mode switch for choosing between normal, repeat-all, repeat-once, and random playback; an equalizer switch with four settings (Normal, Rock, Jazz, and Classical); and a USB connector. In an understandable concession, TDK sacrifices an LCD since the player is usually worn where you wouldn't be able to see a screen anyway. But the Mojo 1 includes four LEDs for internal memory, FM, low battery, and external memory. The player even packs in a slot for Secure Digital/MMC memory expansion.
Because there's no display on the player, you can't tell what song you're queuing up until it starts playing. Same for selecting radio stations--all you can do is cycle through them until you find something you like. But for working out with a couple of hours of tunes, that issue is small potatoes.
The Mojo 1 comes with a trial version of the MoodLogic music organizer, a Musicmatch Jukebox plug-in, and a simple utility for setting FM station presets. The last of those is quite clever, allowing you to manually add up to 20 stations while leaving five spots open for presets you can set on the fly. This would come in handy for travelers who wanted to add a few new stations without messing up their favorites.
The Mojo 1 provided acceptable results in our tests. Its battery life of about nine hours was decent for a player with a single AAA battery. Songs transferred at a rate of 0.45MB per second, which is slightly above average for a USB 1.1 connection.
Two flaws mar the Mojo 1. First, it's expensive. Its $200 price is high for a 128MB player, even an innovative one with expandable memory. Second, it's too tight--probably so that you can jog without having the headphones fall off. We found the neckband almost painful to wear when we had glasses on and uncomfortably snug without them. The good news is that the player produces excellent sound, despite its average 85dB signal-to-noise ratio, and the tight fit helps keep out ambient noise.