DMC800 Digital Music Player Review

Product Requirements:
Device:
Windows 98, 98SE, ME, 2000, XP & MAC

I recently reviewed the DMC Xclef 500 digital music player, which had quite a few features going for it that I liked, along with some aspects that I wished were different. Regardless, I didn’t have a problem recommending this player to budget conscience consumers.

That was almost 2 months ago and now I’m happy to report that Digital Mind Corporation have a new addition to their product line with the DMC800.

How does this new player compare to the Xcelf? Read on…

Hardware Specs:

Hard Disk Type : 1.8 ", Low Power HDD, ATA I/F
Capability : 20 GB
File System : FAT 32
Buffer Memory : Max. 12MB
USB2.0 supported as well as USB1.1
Digital Audio Format : MPEG 1,2,2.5 Layer3 (8-320Kbps.Vbr), WMA (32-192Kbps), ASF, WAV and Ogg Vorbis
Sampling Frequency : 8 – 48KHz
MP3 Encoding (32kbps – 320kbps)
S/N Ratio : > 90.3 dB
THD : < 0.01%
ID3 Tag : Ver 1.0/1.1/2.0 supported
FM Tuner & FM recording – 20 presets
Voice Recording (32Kbps – 320Kbps)
Display : 160*105, W/B LCD, EL Back light
Battery 3.7V, 2000mAh, Lithium-Ion Rechargeable, AC
Adapter: 100 – 240 AC to 5V DC
Playback Time: Up to 12hours
Earphone Out : 12mW + 12mW
Digital Input : S/PDIF(IEC958)
Dimension : 2.6" x 3.9" x 0.86"
Weight : 6.3 oz

Included In Box:

Ear bud earphones
LCD wired remote
Non-LCD wired remote

USB Cable
CD for Win 98SE Driver
AC Adapter
User Manual
Carrying case with belt clip
Line-in Cable

When I first removed the DMC800 from the packaging, I couldn’t help but think "hey, where’s the rest of it…?" Right away this is new player addressed one of my main gripes about the previous model: bulk.


Papa bear and Baby bear

While it’s not as thin as my 4th generation iPod, the rest of the dimensions are the similar or even a little smaller.


DMC800 compared to 4th generation iPod

This big difference in size can be attributed to the fact that this new player now uses a 1.8" hard drive instead of the 2.5" size used in the Xclef.

In hand, this model feels much better than the previous one. It’s comfortable to hold and has a nice heft to it that I like. Even though the DMC800’s casing is made of plastic, it feels solid and passes the creak test with flying colors.

The front of the player has a mirror like finish that surrounds the LCD and large multi button. This finish is a magnet for fingerprints, so be prepared for constant polishing. The LCD on this unit is smaller than the one used by the Xclef, but it has the same clarity and blue back light. I still prefer the display on my iPod for overall ease of visibility in any lighting condition though.

The large multi button has the Play/Pause, Next Track, Prev Track, and Stop features. It can be pressed up, down, left or right. Holding the Play/Pause button down for several seconds also powers the unit up when it is turned off, while pressing and holding the Stop button turns the player off.

On the left side of the player is the USB connector and power connector. The USB connector is the small format type, and is protected by a rubber cover.

The right side of the player has a Jog dial, Function buttons and Hold switch. The Jog dial on this unit functions exactly like it did on the previous model. It allows you to scroll through folders and files when pushed up or down. When you press it in, it will select an option or play that song. The four buttons on the side are as follows: Menu, Volume +, Volume -, and Rec/A-B. These buttons light up blue when you press them or any of the other buttons. They will also blink 3 times when you press any of the four of them. They also function as a battery status indicator. Depending on how many of the buttons are lit at any time, it will correspond with the current battery level. The buttons themselves are hard and have good tactile feedback. The buttons are stiff enough that it is hard to accidentally activate them when you pick up the player by the sides.

The buttons along the right side feel pretty natural as my thumb can easily press them when I hold the unit in my right hand.

On the top of the player is the Line-in jack, Microphone and Headphone/Remote jack. Using the included Line-in cable, you can actually use the DMC800 to record audio in MP3 format from other devices like CD players. The Microphone allows you to use this device as a voice recorder. While this is a nice feature, don’t expect to be able to quickly capture your thoughts in a voice memo. You have to first turn the unit on. Wait for it to boot up. Then hold down the Rec button on the right side of the player, in order to start the recording. This can sometimes take 10-30 seconds depending on how long it takes the player to boot up. More about the start up time in a minute.

Although the headphone jack looks strange, it will accommodate typical headphones and ear buds. Speaking of which, the DMC800 comes with a set of ear buds that you’ll want to promptly throw away. Seriously, they not comfortable AT ALL. So switch them out with your favorite pair and never look back. The reason why the headphone jack looks different than most, is because it can accommodate a wired remote. Two different ones were included with my review unit. One with an LCD screen, and one without. The remote plugs into the player and then your ear buds. plug into the earphone jack on the remote.

The LCD remote is pretty cool because it displays most of the same info as the full-sized LCD on the player, and it has a blue back light just like the player. Along the outside of the remote are two spring loaded jog dials, two small buttons and a slide switch. One jog dial functions as the Next, Previous, Play/Pause button, while the other allows you to control the volume level and stop playback. The two small buttons have the Record and Menu features assigned to them. On the back is a pinch clip, so you can attach the remote to the outside of your jacket or belt.

The non-LCD remote gives you all the same features except that it lacks the LCD display, and the Record and Menu buttons. It also has a pinch clip on the back. Although I’m not much for using remotes, I can see how this would come in handy if you use the player while exercising.

Both remotes allow you to power the player on and off by holding down either the Play/Pause button or Stop button.

Like the Xclef, the DMC800 comes with no software (except for the Win98SE driver CD). This player is totally plug and play. That’s one of the features I really love about it. It works perfect with both PCs and Macs. Just plug in the USB cable and it shows up as a hard drive. All you have to do is just drag and drop your music files / folders and you’re good to go. You’re not limited to just putting music files on the player however. You can copy anything you want on to it. It works great as a portable hard drive. Since it uses USB 2.0, it’s fast too!

Before you can start listening to music on the DMC800, you’ll have to charge it. One of my other gripes about the Xclef was the fact that you had to power the unit on in order to charge it. Unfortunately, they didn’t change this in the new version. I would have been happy if they would have added a feature to at least automatically power the device off when charging is complete. But alas, they didn’t.

My 2nd biggest gripe about the previous version was that it took way too long to boot up when you turned it on. Again, this annoyance remains. I asked the folks at Digital Mine Corporation to explain why this happens, and I was told that:

"The start up time varies depending on if you have just downloaded files
and the number of files downloaded. Since both the 500 and 800 models
don’t require special software to transfer and organize files, all of the
organization and directory structures are done by the player and its mobile
audio processor. If you are just turning it on to use it and have not done any
downloads, startup is fairly quick. However, I transferred 75GB to one of our
500 models and it took almost six minutes to process all of the files on the first
start up after the download. Subsequent start ups were normally about 10
seconds.
"

My review device would typically take 10-15 seconds from powering on, to the point where I could play a song. Waiting for it to be ready can get really annoying.

Once the player is up and running, there are only minor changes with the user interface as compared to the Xcelf. The menus look the same, the directory structure looks the same, operation is the same, searching features are the same, FM radio features are the same, etc. If you want to see many more screen captures, take a look at the Xclef review.

The only real change that I noticed was in the song playback display. While the Xclef showed both the previous and next tracks to be played at the bottom of the display, the DMC800 shows just the next track. This frees up room at the top of the display to include the name of the currently playing album. I like this new layout much better.

You also might notice the new graphics at the bottom of the display. They are little speakers that show pulses as the music plays. Cute :o)

I really wish DMC would have added a few more changes to the interface. There really needs to be a way to play all the songs by a specific artist if you have multiple albums by that artist. As it is, you have to go into each album folder individually to play the songs.

Another cool feature that I would like to see in the future would be the ability to record from the built in FM radio at a preset time / date, station.

I can live with those limitations because the audio quality of the DMC800 is great! Compared to my 4th generation iPod, I’d have to say that it may be a tiny bit better and it might have a little bit more volume. I don’t know if it’s just my imagination, but the DMC also seems to sound better than my iPod in my truck when using a cassette adapter.

When you do take this player out and about, you’ll want to keep it protected. To help you out, a vinyl belt case is included. It’s not exactly flattering, but hey, it’s free!

Just like the Xclef, the DMC800 has a lot going for it. At $299, it’s the same price as the 20GB iPod. But, the DMC800 also has an FM radio, the ability to record voice and input and OGG Vorbis support. Being able to use this device as a plug and play hard drive is great feature as well. I keep it in my gear bag just for that purpose. I think this player will appeal to someone that wants a little more out of their digital music player than the iPod currently has to offer, and doesn’t mind some of its limitations. I’m really looking forward to what DMC will come out with next.

Price: $299 (20GB)

Pros:
Functions as USB storage device
Great sound quality
Supports Ogg Vorbis format


Ability to update firmware and hardware 

Cons:
Start up time too long

Charging requires you to turn the unit on
Does not automatically turn off after charging

11 thoughts on “DMC800 Digital Music Player Review”

  1. Julie,

    You state that the DMC800 supoorts ID3 tags 1.0/1.1/2.0. Are you sure that’s all? I find it hard to believe a brand new device would have no more recent support than the ancient 2.0. 2.2 came out in Mar of 1998. 2.3 came out in Feb of 1999. And 2.4 has been out since Nov of 2000.

    jiraffe

  2. I copied the specs from Digital Mind Corporation’s website. I’ll contact them and see if they can verify the information.

  3. Here’s what they said:

    “Hi Julie,

    We have never had a request for any ID3 tag version >2.0. Winamp only gives an option for V1 or V2.

    Jim”

  4. Julie-

    Thanks for the review.

    One thing you don’t bring up. A major benefit of this device is that it is supported on most OSs without the need for some sort of jukebox software on the desktop. If the OS supports USB drives and vfat you mount the drive cp (or better yet rsync) the songs and *poof* you’re good to go. I think that’s worth the time at boot up to setup the catalog on the player.

    I mean, how many other HD MP3 players can I use with an alpha running NetBSD, my Windows machine at work and my laptop running linux?

  5. Nibbler:

    Actually, I did mention this fact in the review. Here’s a quote:

    Like the Xclef, the DMC800 comes with no software (except for the Win98SE driver CD). This player is totally plug and play. That’s one of the features I really love about it. It works perfect with both PCs and Macs. Just plug in the USB cable and it shows up as a hard drive. All you have to do is just drag and drop your music files / folders and you’re good to go. You’re not limited to just putting music files on the player however. You can copy anything you want on to it. It works great as a portable hard drive. Since it uses USB 2.0, it’s fast too!

  6. Julie,

    In the review its mentioned the price is $299 for a 40GB model !!

    Price: $299 (40GB)

    Is that a typo or is it really $299 for a 40 GB model ? I did look around and dont seem to find 800’s 40GB model out yet !!.

    – mtd

  7. Julie:

    Thank You 🙂 … placed the order for the 800’s 20GB @ $299 about 2 hours ago… ur review has definitely been one of the deciding factors 😎 Thnx..

  8. Julie,

    Did you do any testing with this device using the earphone jack as a line out? Apparently it is meant to be suitable for this sort of use but I cannot find any one who has tested it. When using direct encoding from a cd does it seperate the different tracks or does it just create one big mp3 file? Was there any clicking sounds when playing or between tracks as this seems to be a problem with the Iriver models? When recording the radio does it create static? This was written in another review that I read. I appreciate your help on this one,

    Ben

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