The MP3 audio file format has become so popular these days that the portable MP3 player market is saturated beyond all expectations. Manufacturers are finding it more and more difficult to get the attention of buyers. Even with decreases in price competition is fierce. So in order to entice consumers into making that portable MP3 purchase, manufacturers are ‘pumping up’ their players with more and more features as with the irock! Bling (the MP3, CD, FM ‘All inOne’ Digital Audio Player) from First Digital International.
Not much larger than a CD itself, the irock! Bling packs a lot of digital entertainment into one package. First and foremost it is an audio CD player. Pop a CD into the unit, press play, and you’re listening to your favorite tunes in seconds. Mounted on the face of the unit itself are controls for playback (play/pause, stop, forward, rewind), EQ (equalizer), volume up and down, and various control buttons for controlling the functionality of the unit. There’s also a 3-line digital LCD display that allows you to interact with the Bling and get feedback while manipulating its various features. As your audio CD plays, you’ll see left and right audio signal indicators shown in the LCD along with track number, playing time, battery level and playback mode.
As with most CD players, the Bling can be programmed for various modes of play: Normal, Repeat 1, Repeat Album, Repeat All, Intro, and Random. Normal plays all of the tracks on a CD once. Repeat 1 plays the current track over and over. Repeat Album is used for MP3 playback, which I’ll talk about shortly. Repeat All plays all tracks on a CD over and over. Intro plays the first 10 seconds of each track on a CD for quick song sampling. And Random plays all of the tracks on a CD in random order once. Of course, you can also program your own playlist to play the tracks in the order you desire.
To MP3s on the Bling, you need to first burn some MP3 files onto a CD in data format. You can separate the files into folders if you’d like and have each folder played like a separate album using the Repeat Album mode I mentioned earlier. By using an MP3 CD instead of an audio CD, you can play up to 150 songs (depending on the size of each MP3 file) in one sitting. And unlike other MP3 players that use expensive memory cards, you can just burn multiple MP3 CDs for use with the Bling. Very cost effective. Some additional functions available when using MP3 CDs with the Bling are being able to navigate file directories, search for files by title or artist and see song information shown in the LCD.
Included with the Bling is a small remote control attachment that doubles as an FM radio. Isn’t that cool? You can manually choose stations for listening or use the scan feature to automatically search for any clear radio signals in your area. The remote control mimics the controls on the Bling so you can manipulate the device even if it’s tucked away in a backpack. Personally, however, I found the remote to be a bit too small. The controls were difficult to manipulate because their small size, and my hands are not overly large. Anyone with larger hands probably wouldn’t be able to use the remote effectively or at all. That’s pretty much my only gripe with the Bling.
Additional features provided by the Bling include ESP (Electronic Shock Protection) and a built-in battery charger. With the ESP feature activated, you can move or jostle the Bling without any playback interruption. This is accomplished with a small amount of built-in memory that holds a certain number of seconds of audio (45 seconds for CD playback, 120 seconds for MP3 CD playback) and uses this memory for playback whenever movement of the unit is detected. The built-in battery charger is very cool. Why? Because you can use standard rechargeable batteries with the Bling. There’s no need for a special battery pack. Just pop your rechargeable batteries into the unit, plug in the AC adapter and your batteries will be charged and ready for your next playback session. The Bling supports up to 15 hours of continuous playback on one charge, depending on the quality of the batteries.
The irock! Bling package includes the player itself, the remote control, a set of in-ear stereo earphones, and AC/DC power adapter, 2 AA batteries, and an informative 75-page owner’s manual. For the price, the Bling provides one of the best values in MP3 players on the market. Not only does it include a multitude of features, but it also saves you money by using a standard CD for MP3 storage and a built-in battery charger for standard batteries. If I had one wish, it would be to make the remote control truly remote using RF or IR so that it could be used both as a portable unit and a home playback unit that could be controlled from across the room. Other than that, First Digital International has thought of everything one could want in a portable audio player.