Saturday, March 12, 2005

TH Audio VS. Nomad Jukebox 3, and some little known facts about the TH audio system.

A collection of well known facts, and some not quite so well known, for those with questions...

Audio on the TH, VZ, and UX Sony PDAs.

This is going to be a short review of the audio capabilities of the Sony TH-55 pda (It applies to the UX and VZ as well, though not regarding the interface of these other devices).

Firstly, I will say that I am comparing it to my Creative Nomad Jukebox 3. This audio player is top of the line, and doesnt sacrifice quality and capabilities for a smaller size as most of the newer players do. Ill give a quick feature list:
· 20 gb HD (its been out a little while)
· optical and analog line in
· Along with the line in, it has the ability to encode line in to MP3 on the fly
· IR port
· Headphone out w/ remote capabilities
· 2 line out ports for stereo connections
· firewire and USB 1 port
· 2 lithium ion battery bays (only one battery is required for operation)
· WMA, MP3, and WAV support
· Also has the ability to dock with a base station for a stereo system connection.
· Dont forget, 98db rating
In practical terms, its the Humvee (H1, not one of those wanna be H2 cars) of portable audio players. Its the reference player for my test.

My reference song is Missing Person, by Michael W. Smith. It is encoded in MP3 at 44khz, and 128kbps.

My reference headphones are Sony MDR-Q55, around the ear type.

I have already established that the J3 is a great player. It has numerous modes of play w/ its EAX technology, which includes time shifting, an equalizer, and environment modes, even a mode for airplanes. However, I will not be using any of these modes for the test.
After listening to each song on the different devices I have concluded that for listening to MP3s in the unaltered sound state, the TH-55 is as good as or better than my Nomad J3. This doesnt take into account the many EAX modes the Nomad supports, with which it can make just about any song sound good. The TH Audioplayer does have a Bass boost feature, which is a nice addition. This review is on the total audio experience, and the TH is lacking in this regard. Although the sound quality is great, Sony neglected to add an adequate interface to make the TH a good audio contender. The interface is the same as what is found in older Clies, "Audioplayer". The main problem I have with Audioplayer is album support. To use AP, you must have all of your audio files in a folder titled MSAudio, in the programs file. They can be no deeper than directly in that file. The avid programmer who we know as Cliepet has created a workaround for this called "Albumswap". This program swaps album files (prefixed with "Album_") in the programs folder with the MSAudio folder, allowing you to have multiple separate albums. I myself run a modified version of Albumswap that reads files prefixed with "ZALBM_", so that they appear at the end of the file list, and not the beginning. If anyone wants a player with an equalizer and other audio capabilities, there are alternatives, such as the popular Pocket Tunes, or the fairly new Busker player. The unfortunate side effect of all third party players is that they lack the ability to access the DSP (Digital Signal Processor) that is present on the TH, UX, and VZ pdas. None of the companies have tried to reverse engineer the DSP. (This would be required as Sony never released the required programming info) The unfortunate side effect is a detrimental hit on two aspects of the system. Because the DSP is separate from the main processor, and is optimized for media, there is a significant processor hit when using another player, and the battery life is greatly diminished, while using the built in player is said to be able to play continuously for over a day in hold mode.
Note: Albumswap is available at

[Offtopic]If Cliepet is listening, what I think alot of us would like is a simple audio player that has album (and maybe playlist) support built in. The absolute coolest thing would be if it could be skinned, but I wouldnt consider that a necessity. Maybe in the future, a media player could be developed that would allow photo, audio, and video w/in one program, in landscape and portrait. (Im quite greedy regarding Clie functionality)[/Offtopic]

Part 2 (Video on Clie)

Coming Soon.... (To entice, i'm comparing to a P-2000, you all know what that is)


Blogger Tam Hanna said...

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4:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree, a good article, and deserving of more exposure.


7:40 PM  
Blogger Ashley said...

Hey, cool comparison jesusfreak.

Some additional stats on the battery life would be neat.

But either way, it's great to know that the audio quality is comparable.

11:22 AM  
Blogger Brad Green said...

There isnt much to say about the battery life. Because the TH-55 uses a DSP to decode audio, it is going to have much better battery life than anything in this category. Its like comparing an XBox to a PC for gaming. The XBox doesnt have a processor anywhere near as fast as your PC, but its chipset makes it able to display video as fast. In the same way, since the purpose of a DSP is to be able to decode audio, it is infinitely better for this purpose.

For your information, there is a new media player titled TCPMP that may eventually have the ability to use the DSP. Right now, it already takes advantage of the graphics acceleration.

6:20 PM  
Blogger Ashley said...

Yah, I was hoping that that was true.

The thing that I would assume, however, is that dedicated MP3 players would also make use of some kind of hardware decoding. It would only make sense.

In theory, it makes sense. However, I was wondering about it's performance in practice.

Another thing I just realized is that hard drive MP3 players have moving parts. Hence, probably more power drain?

Either way. I am quite pleased with my UX40's MP3 battery longevity (with respect to what kind of device this is).

I've heard about TCPMP, and think that it's really cool. However, until they can get it fully using the DSP (not just acceleration), I will probably stick to CliePet's FullMoviePlayer.

MP4 files aren't that nasty anymore since the ffmpeg people have added support for it.

3:55 PM  
Blogger Brad Green said...

Well Ashley, it would make sense, however, it was only very recently that Mobile Stream reverse engineered the GE2D (Graphics Chip Library) to accelerate the video playback. TCPMP is right now the only one which supports it. I personally worked with the developer to get this done. In theory, the video playback should be at the same level of the built in player. Unfortunately, the audio is the bottleneck. Not using the DSP, it takes raw processor power to decode the audio, which slows playback.

As of now, there are two ways that theoretically the DSP could be accessed. There is what is called a library in the device which the audio player uses to access the DSP. There are commands sent to the system, and it can access the hardware. Mobile Stream is working on reverse engineering this library. What this would allow would be MP3 decoding along with the video in TCPMP.

The second method is more complex. A programmer named Dmitry Grinberg has some of the programming documents for the processor. He is working on a second method to re-program the DSP. This would essentially allow TCPMP to use it to playback any audio format, if it could be programmed to do so. This would be the ultimate goal, though many videos use MP3 for audio, and so it would be enough to make TCPMP audio and video playback at least as good as the playback of the built in player (that is, FMP, AudioPlayer, MoviePlayer, or MediaLauncher).

5:41 PM  
Anonymous beej said...

OK Mister, I just stopped in to say thanks for visiting my blog but now I see you just like to take pictures of all yer fancy pants gadgets and what-not.

Well I might just have to pen you as a #2 type Most Annoying Blogger, if'n you don't quit all that dern rootin' tootin' "Lookie what I got maw, it's a Blackberry Razzmatazz Doohickie Mabobber Dealio V 2.0!"

11:23 PM  
Blogger Brad Green said...

Sorry it looks like that, but as I have posted, this is not a working blog. Had it been my primary blog, I would update it, and those pictures are only there for the free hosting by google. You may notice I later created a photo blog for the same purpose.

7:36 AM  

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