In the past I’ve reviewed a few Victorinox knives that had the added feature
of a small Swiss Memory USB flash storage module, the most recent being the
1GB SwissBit Swiss Memory USB Victorinox Knife. But today I am going to look
at a new product which takes that concept of a combination pocket knife and
memory storage device to a whole new level. The
Swiss Memory s.beat
MP3 Digital Audio Player is a fully functional Victorinox pocket knife,
voice recorder, MP3 player, FM radio receiver, FM radio recorder, and mass storage device.
Inside the package are a set of earphones with adjustable neck strap, a
remote control with plugs for both 3.5mm and 2.5mm earphones, an adjustable arm
strap for jogging, a line in cable for recording from external sources, a
built-in belt clip, a USB extension cable, a printed Quick Install guide, a
Utility CD, a multi-country USB power adapter, and the combination pocket knife
& MP3 player. We’ll look at all of the components individually throughout the
The star of this review is the SwissBit Swiss Memory s.beat MP3 Player which
is housed in an aluminum Victorinox pocket knife shell. The entire gadget
measures just 3" long x 0.9" thick x 0.8" deep and weighs 2.0 ounces. From
the side, the device just looks like a dressier Victorinox pocket knife because
of its matte silver aluminum (versus red plastic) housing.
When the knife is rotated, the MP3 player’s joystick is revealed, indicating
that there is more to this Swiss knife than a simple set of cutting implements.
The s.beat MP3 Digital Audio Player is
available in memory increments of 1 and 2GB. The s.beat is also available in
a "Flight" version which does not include any of the Victorinox tools. If you
are the forgetful type that travels a lot and won’t remember to separate the MP3
portion from the knife portion when packing, the "Flight" version might be the
better option to avoid confiscation.
MP3 Chip: STMP 3550
Decoding Format: MP3 & WMA (8 – 320 Kbps), WAV, OGG Vorbis
Encoding Voice, FM & line – IN: WAV (8 – 48 Kbps)
FM Radio: Stereo, 87.5 – 108 MHz (Japan 76 – 108 MHz)
FM Radio Presets: 15 with automatic storage
Display: 3 lines high contrast backlight reverse LCD (FSDN transmissive)
PC Interface: Standard USB 2.0 Hi-Speed
Navigation: four way + input
Headphone Output: 5mW max (L + R at 16ohm)
Rechargeable Battery: 3.7V Lithium Polymer
Power Consumption: Operational: 25 mA, Standby: 20mA, Power Off: 0.2mA
Play Time: Up to 8 hours
Supported OS: Windows 2000/XP + 98 SE/ME with drivers, Mac OS X Version 10.2 &
Operating Temperature Range: +5º C to 35º
The opposite side of the MP3 player houses the 3.5mm headphone jack.
There is a metal belt-clip built into the back side of the Victorinox
housing; this clip will fit up to a 1" belt or strap.
If the non-Flight version is chosen, the Victorinox housing will include a
set of scissors, a nail file and a very sharp 1.75" pointy blade.
Before its first use, the MP3 player should be charged for four hours by
either plugging the player directly into a computer’s USB port or by using the
AC adapter. The MP3 player is removed from the knife by pressing the base
opposite from the side housing the knife. The MP3 player is held in place by its
USB end, and it can be inserted in the housing facing either direction.
The model I reviewed included a nifty multi-country charger…
…which accepts the USB cord to charge directly from a wall outlet.
Charging is complete when the player’s display turns on and shows the charged
Before loading and using the s.beat for the first time, it is a good idea to
check with the Swissbit site and see if there are any
firmware upgrades available for the player or
OS updates necessary for your computer. I found that there was a new
firmware version available (1.001.007), so after downloading it I was ready to
explore the functions of the player.
When plugged into an available USB port, the player will display that it is
connected to the PC. It is not possible to listen to music when the player is
While plugged in, the player will charge and show up as a removable storage
The files located on the s.beat include Audio Book, Music, Data and Record.
There is one sample song included with the player.
Transferring files is a simple matter of dragging & dropping. The player does
support folder hierarchy, so music that is filed according to artist and album
will be recognized as such.
The approximately 1" x 0.3" LCD display shows a surprising amount of
information, as shown in this diagram.
user guide for the s.beat may be read online, but I’ll go through most of
its features here. The player is turned on by pressing and holding the joystick
for a couple of seconds. If a song was playing when the player was last on, the
player will start at the beginning of that song. Music is paused by tapping the
center joystick button once, and it is resumed by tapping again. Pressing and
holding the joystick center button for approximately three seconds will shut the
player down, giving the user a "Bye Bye" message as it exits.
The menu is accessed by quickly tapping the center joystick button twice. The
first option is Music, and all menu choices are accessed by moving the joystick
up or down, right to enter and left to back out.
Playlist displays a list of all songs on the device, the user can press the
joystick button to select those that he or she wants so that when the Playlist
option is chosen only those songs will play. Likewise Artist builds a list of
songs by artist which may be played exclusively, and CD does the same. There are
also options to play music by Style, or to play from the list of All songs on
Record is the next major menu setting, and through it the user is able to
either make .WAV voice recordings by speaking in the general vicinity of the
joystick, which also houses and integrated microphone. Line-In recordings can
also be made by plugging the source into the earphone jack.
The result can be played back over the device, or removed from the PC files.
The Book menu setting is where audiobook specific files are stored.
The next major menu setting is FM Radio. The s.beat allows the user to listen
to any FM station between 87.5 – 108 MHz, set up to 15 preset stations, and
record content in .WAV format by pressing and holding the joystick.
The Files setting on the menu allows the user to view and select any file
stored on the device from its hierarchal folder, and it gives the option to
delete any file on the device from its folder. This will come in handy for those
that need to create more room by erasing some of their recorded "notes to self".
Settings allows the user to tinker with play modes, sound effects, the
display and various system features, shown in the following screens.
There are six equalizer presets, including normal, classic, jazz, rock, pop,
and bass. The s.beat has a good, clear sound, which is comparable to other flash
based MP3 players I have reviewed.
Song settings include normal play through, repeat one and repeat all.
The system option under the Setting menu allows the user to see the player’s
free memory, firmware version and rest to default settings.
There are really an amazing number of options available for such a small
player; in my opinion just having an LCD display on the player makes it
preferable to any of the players available that shuffle through songs without
giving any information.
The features already listed make the s.beat a nifty little package, but as
the late night TV guys say, "wait, there’s more…!"
A Victorinox remote control is included along with the included set of
earbuds allows the system to be worn like a necklace. Although this is a handy
arrangement, and although the included earbuds sound "all right", using a
premium set of earphones will obviously give the user a better fit and overall
The red aluminum remote control has a clip on its back for attaching to the
There are two headphone jacks built into the bottom point of the remote, one
3.5mm and the other 2.5mm for the included headset. This diagram outlines the
functions of the remote.
Also included in the package is a stretchy Velcro strap for holding the knife
and player combo as the wearer exercises.
The rubber holder keeps the knife housing upright, while cutouts on the side
allow access to the controls on the MP3 player and the headphone jack.
For times when the Victorinox knife housing is not needed, and the smallest
form factor is desired, the tiny 2.5" (including the USB stem) long x 0.7" wide
x 0.6" player can be removed from its aluminum housing and capped with the
included black USB cover.
Now the s.beat is one of the smallest portable MP3 players available.
I found the battery life of the s.beat to be pretty good, especially
considering its small size. On a full charge I got 7 hours 15 minutes, and that
included plenty of fooling with the settings and backlit LCD.
If you have been wanting a feature-packed yet miniscule MP3 player, then the
Swiss Memory s.beat
MP3 Digital Audio Player definitely deserves a second look. Where else can
one find a combination MP3 player, voice recorder, FM radio, FM radio recorder
and mass storage device that also serves as a functional pocket knife?
MSRP for the 1GB full version is approximately $213.00, and the Flight
version is $200. The 2GB full version is approximately $313.00, and the Flight
version is $301.00.