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Caprice Bourret


Creative Labs D.A.P Jukebox Portable MP3 player


Using the D.A.P Jukebox is indeed very straightforward and easy. There are almost endless usage areas for it and I've been taking it to the streets with me for a week now. The batteries will last roughly 4 hours (contineous playback) and around 3 hours if you also fiddle with the controls. Of course I never got to listen through all the songs I had put on there, that would take more than 4 hours, but I created a playlist of my favourite songs and that I got to listen through.

One small thing that constantly annoys me is the start-up time of the player; when booting it will load up a Jukebox and EAX screens and then a 'preparing libraries' screen. Sometimes the 'preparing libraries' part will pass quite quickly but there are times when it will load for several seconds, this may not sound very serious but to me, when wanting to listen to songs, it is annoying to wait ~15 seconds (when it takes more time) to just get access to the D.A.P Jukebox. I have heard rumours that Creative Labs might add a defregmentation program (upgradeable through drivers) to the D.A.P Jukebox that would speed up access times. Furthermore, when playing a song everything else slows down (more CPU usage obviously) and during the load state (when the it loads the track to the buffer) everything is really slow and the menu-system will lag a few seconds.

While I'm very satisfied with how Creative Labs have designed the menu/control system there are a few parts I'm not very happy about: When accessing the 'details' option (details for a song) it will only show the details of the song currently playing, not the one you choose in the menu. The 'details' option does not tell what bitrate or format the song is encoded in. If a song title is too long to fit on the screen the rest is cut off (there's no way to see the rest of the title). Remember that the unit I have received is a "beta" unit with beta drivers (the menu, playback issues, etc) and a lot of these problems might be fixed when the player is released here in Europe.


The D.A.P Jukebox has 8MB of buffer memory which will prevent skips in songs, when the buffer is emptied the harddrive will fill it up with the next track (or the remaining of the current track, if it is larger than 8MB). This buffer also acts as a pre-cache system; when the current track is almost played through the harddrive will read the next track on the list to the buffer, shortening the track change loading times. Does this work?

Sometimes, sometimes not. I have no explanation on why really. It works when dealing with tracks longer than 8MB as there will be no skips in playback but it does not pre-cache the next track all the time. The harddrive is pretty fast and even if it has to load the new track after the current track has ended it will only take a second or two, making it no different to a CD player. Yet again, sometimes it can take several seconds (does happen but rarely).

After the harddrive has read everything to the buffer it will put itself in 'lock-mode' and this actually makes the read-head touch the platter, effectively locking the reading mechanism. At this state the harddrive can withstand quite a lot of beating and moving it around won't affect playback at all (not even when the harddrive is working). Running with the D.A.P Jukebox won't affect playback but it is quite heavy to run with, so that is not so much of an option (if you run with a bag or a pouch then why not).

Sound Quality

The headphones aren't the greatest but you can of course use your own or buy a pair of good headphones if the wish. Sound quality of the D.A.P Jukebox is quite nice and definitely more than acceptible for such a product and the there's very little hiss at moderate to high listening levels. The harddrive sounds quite good too, humming away when reading tracks, but occasionally it can emit a very high frequency noise that I am most sensitive towards, some TVs can also emit this noise (most people I know can't hear this).


With the D.A.P Jukebox comes also 3GB of pre-loaded music, all royalty free so you won't get sued by RIAA. The list of included artists is long and there are famous ones and then there are those less famous ones, such as Essa 3 with Coalesce or Satanic Panic with Neckdraft. Yet, considering that you get 3GB of absolutely free music all makes the $499 more worthwhile.

All in all the D.A.P Jukebox is a superb portable player, not because it is the most portable or the cheapest, but because it combines massive storage with great features that makes the D.A.P Jukebox the one to beat. At $499 (European list price) it is not something for everyone but consider that you also get 6Gb of mobile storage space (a driver upgrade that enables ordinary file transfer will be made available after the player has been released). To further add to the value Creative Labs will also release a remote control for the D.A.P Jukebox which will be available in the beginning of 2001 - free of charge for all D.A.P Jukebox owners (how swell). The D.A.P Jukebox is definitely something that will last much thanks to its programmable nature, new formats will be supported and new features can be added. With the arrival of AAC and MP4 it is comforting to know that the D.A.P Jukebox will be able to handle future formats so you don't end up stuck with MP3 while all the rest do MP4. This is why the D.A.P Jukebox is a great product!


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