I’ve been looking at MP3 players for quite a while now. While intrigued by the gadget value of them I don’t really have enough use for one to justify an expensive one so I’ve been keeping an eye on a couple of cheap ones with the intention of picking one up eventually. Well, my oppurtunity came recently when CompUSA had a sale on the eBlitz Shuttle MP3 player.
This particular MP3 player was only $30 to begin with but was on special with a $10 instant rebate and a $20 mail in rebate that made the thing free other than a couple of bucks in sales tax! Free is pretty good so I jumped on it.
So what can you get for free these days? Let’s find out…
In trying to research this product I came up surprisingly dry when I tried to find out some information about eBlitz Audio Labs. I found a fair bit of listings of their soundboards and MP3 players for sale but couldn’t track down a corporate web site anywhere. Lacking that, I used the CompUSA webpage as a resource since that’s where I bought the thing at.
The model I got was the SHB3108 and it’s listed as having the following features:
- 8 MB of Built-in Flash Memory
- Expandable up to 160 MB with Optional Multimedia Cards (MMC)
- Digital EQ (5 Presets)
- Free Software
- USB Port Connector for High-Speed Downloads (5x Faster than Parallel Port)
That didn’t sound too bad to me for free, or even for $30 without the rebates. The device itself is a smallish device made of a translucent blue plastic. It’s rather streamlined as it lacks any sort of belt clip and has only a few small, recessed buttons on the top and side of the unit. As noted above the Shuttle is expandable with MMC memory cards and this puzzled me at first as there doesn’t appear to be any expansion slot anywhere on the device. Popping the back panel off to access the batteries revealed an internal memory slot however. Not as convenient as a slot accessible memory port but I suppose it does the job.
All in all this really wasn’t a bad layout for the money. It lacks some of the amenities of pricier models like an easily accessible memory port and an LCD display but that didn’t really matter too much to me. It was small, light, simple and expandable. So far so good…
Packaging and Contents:
The Shuttle SHB3108 came packaged in a box that more resembled a software box than one for an MP3 player. In fact both my wife and I looked past it on the shelf a couple of times before we realized that it was the item we were looking for. After doing a bit of research I found out why: The Shuttle MP3 player was marketed as more of a freebie when you buy Magix Music Maker and MP3 Maker software than it was a standalone MP3 player! It was a promotional package from the software company although CompUSA advertises it as the other way around, as an MP3 player with free music software.
The box contains a copy of Magix’s MusicMaker and MP3 Maker software, a USB cable, a set of earbud headphones, a very brief quick start pamphlet and the MP3 player itself.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly:
Let’s start with the good, this won’t take long. The device is fairly small and light and pockets easily. It seems fairly reliable and skip free as a digital device should be. The controls are very simple and pretty easy to use. The USB connection allows easy connection to your PC. It all started going down hill from here.
This might take a bit longer. Right away it was apparent that there was a distinct lack of documentation with this device. The quick start guide was very rudimentary and there was no other manual provided in hardcopy form or on the driver CD. There was enough there to get you hooked up and going but not without a little guesswork on your part.
Aside from that there were a number of items with this unit that left a little to be desired. Let’s take a quick look:
- Lack of a pocket/belt clip or any other way of carrying it other than just dropping it in your pocket
- Really crappy headphones. These things came with foam pads unattached and they were a pain to put on. After having my wife fight with them for a while (because she has more patience than me!) I’m not sure it was worth the time it took to get them on. The sound on them was generally pretty poor and they’re kind of uncomfortable to wear as well!
- There seems to be a steady background hum present while tracks are playing.
- The Magix MP3 Maker software was a bit clunky and tedious to transfer songs to the device. The interface seemed cluttered and I had to hunt around for buttons that should have been obvious and would be used frequently. Like the close button. You have to use the software to put songs on the MP3 player so you’re stuck with it. It wasn’t horrible I guess but I’d have rather not had to use proprietary software to load up the player.
- The 8MB if onboard memory is only enough for 3 or 4 songs max, and that’s if they’re short ones. Figure more like 2 to 3 avergae length songs. For this thing to be useful you have to buy an MMC memory card and this is where it gets really ugly…
I did a fair bit of Net trolling trying to find something out about these units. Between what I found from some personal reviews and from Magix’s support website and forums the situation isn’t looking good.
Let’s start with the fact that it looks like eBlitz may be out of business. After finally tracking down their website it seems it’s no longer in operation. From reading various sources around the Net noone else can get a hold of them either including Magix so there is absolutely no factory support for the Shuttle at the moment. Magix doesn’t support the devices either despite the fact that they sold them as part of their software bundle. They have some info on their tech support page but it’s dated and mostly says “we didn’t make it so it’s not our problem”. In fairness I guess it’s not, it’s your’s as the consumer if you just bought their software package with this lemon inside it.
If the Shuttle worked as it should right out of the box the support wouldn’t be a big issue but it doesn’t. While advertised as being expandable up to 160MB in reality it looks like its expandable to 40MB. Sometimes. The most anyone has been able to get to work with the Shuttle player has been a 32MB MMC card and that seems hit or miss depending on brand and individual luck.
Oh, did I mention that that even that 32MB card only works after you patch the software? Magix has the patch available from their website after a convoluted registration process and it seems to help some people in getting the Shuttle to recognize MMC expansion cards. As long as they aren’t bigger than 32MB and of certain undetermined brands anyway. There’s also a German site that has a patch for these critters as well and again it seems to help some folks get at least a 32MB card working but not all. The success rate of these patches seems real hit or miss. Common symptoms are the ability to format the card but failure of the card to accept any music transfers or lock ups of the software and/or your computer when you try to transfer music to the card.
Oh yeah, one more thing: the software also apparently isn’t designed for Windows XP and while some people have gotten it to run many have experienced more lockups and problems under that OS.
I hate to say it but this really looks like a case of getting what you pay for. In this case I payed nothing and I still feel a little shafted! I didn’t expect much out of the eBlitz Shuttle but I got even less than I bargained for. The software doesn’t do anything for me that I couldn’t get with other better applications IMO and the hardware, while having potential, seems doomed by lack of support.
A cheap upgradeable MP3 player with simple controls seemed like just the ticket for my limited use and I could even deal with the proprietary software if everything else would have worked as it should have. However due to the trial and error approach to finding expandable memory that will work with the device, lower memory expandibility than was advertised (due to driver issues) and complete and utter lack of support from anyone in the sales chain I’m going to have to give the eShuttle MP3 player by far my lowest hardware score to date and the Bjorn3d Stinker award! I’ll likely still play with this thing a bit more since I have it already but I couldn’t recommend it to anyone else in good conscience.
For product abandonment, poor shipped drivers, crappy headphones and a mediocre software interface I’m giving the eBlitz Shuttle MP3 player an all time low of 3 out of 10 and the Bjorn3d Stinker Award!