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Busker MP3 Player

Wed Feb 8, 2006 - 11:05 PM EST - By Harv Laser

Overview

Busker MP3 player for Palm OS is the latest offering from Electric Pocket, the Welsh company that brought you BugMe! and Ringo. Busker MP3 promises a fun and uncomplicated user interface while providing some unique features that other Palm music players don't. The Treo 650 comes with a barebones tiny version of RealPlayer in ROM. It works, but if you listen to a lot of music, you’ll want something better.


Usability


While I may not use my Treo as an iPod replacement, there are times when the Treo is with me and a dedicated music/MP3 player isn’t. Busker does an admirable job of organizing your favorite tunes onto a Treo, allowing you to create personalized music lists and even uses the wireless capabilities of the phone to go out and automatically find Album Art that corresponds with the music tracks you’ve loaded

It has an interesting feature set, and is not overwhelmingly complicated to use, like some players. At the same time, it’s missing a very important feature I’ll get to shortly.

How does it work? After Busker is installed on your Treo, eating up about half a Meg of internal memory (it didn’t seem to want to run correctly from an SD card), music files (in MP3 or Wav format) need to be transferred from your PC to an SD card.

Music files MUST be on an SD card or Busker won’t find them. Besides, the average four minute song, encoded into MP3 at 128k or 160k (FM and CD quality, respectively) are about three to five Meg in size, and given the Treo’s paltry internal memory, you wouldn’t want to load them internally anyway. (This is where I get down on my knees and beg Palm to give us a Treo with a hard drive or MUCH more memory in it).

There are lots of ways to put your music on an SD card: use a PC card reader, or if you don't have one, Electric Pocket suggests using 'Softick Card Export II,' a program that quickly installs Palm OS applications, music or video to an SD card during the HotSync process. Another method is to use Palm's (pre-loaded) 'Quick Install' tool, which also transfers files during the HotSync operation - easy and free - but also slow. Or, check out the hot new SanDisk Ultra II Plus USB card in my review, a cutting edge SD card that plugs right into your USB 2.0 port, so you can literally drag and drop MP3 files into it with no need for a card reader or any HotSyncing or installing software at all.

Once the SD card is loaded with music, just pop in it into your Treo. Run Busker, which will scan it, build a tune index, match up tracks with artists, sort those tracks into albums, and you're ready to play.

Busker's screen is clean and appealing with large, easy to read controls that let you select music with a fingertip, eliminating the need to fish out that stylus, making things quick and straightforward. No painfully tiny buttons and squinting required here.

You’ll have several options when it comes to song play, including:

  • the ability to play tracks sequentially from the SD card
  • selecting and playing individual songs by tapping on an artist's folder and choosing the appropriate track
  • a one-tap QuickMix feature which plays 15 random tunes
  • a shuffle function that mixes up the songs in a currently playing list
  • or customized playlist song play that lets you mark specific songs as favorites by tapping the star icon in the upper right-hand corner of the screen.

    Another nifty feature of Busker is its ability to display MP3 embedded Album Art during song play. If embedded art isn't already included with your music files, a simple tap will send Busker on an Internet search and find mission to retrieve the art and store it on your SD card.

    If Busker is unable to locate art for a specific track, you have the option of choosing any JPEG file to load in its place. This is done by transferring your selected image into the same folder as the music file. Don’t expect to find album art for every track you play. One of my favorite artists is guitar god Steve Hackett, who has cranked out twenty solo albums since he left Genesis in the 1970s. I have a bunch of tracks from his “Live Archive 04” album on my SD card. Busker couldn’t find the matching album art, although it found the art for the follow-up “Live Archive 05” and plenty of his other albums when using its artist lookup feature. So you can substitute a JPEG if Busker can’t find the right cover art when you ask it to, or you can hide the album art entirely with a menu selection.

    If you enjoy downloading and listening to podcasts while you’re on-the-go, Busker lets you do it, and set bookmarks to stop and start them as necessary.

    Busker also has an alarm clock feature that’ll rouse you in the morning to your favorite tunes; it’ll play music in the background while other applications are in use, and an auto off option that conserves battery power.

    There’s one glaring omission that bothered me about Busker: it doesn’t have a graphic equalizer or even basic treble and bass tone controls, just a volume slider. Hey, call me an audio snob (I won’t mind), and this may or may not be important to you, but it is to me. I like to EQ my music, no matter what kind of home device, portable, or software I’m using, and different kinds of music don’t all sound their best when played “flat” with no EQ tweaking. If all you have with you is your Treo and a pair of headphones, then tone controls or a multi-band graphic equalizer are a must. If you pump your Treo’s audio out to a decent speaker system or your car stereo through a cassette adaptor or a FM transmitter, then you can massage the output with their controls. Busker really needs an equalizer to take it from cool to awesome.


    Next Page: Conclusion >>



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