Audiorequest – Review

 

The unit allows you to record your existing CD's into a MP3 format, which are held on an internal 20.4 GB Quantum hard drive. According to the manufacturer, at 160 Kps, you should be able to record approximately 280 hours or 5600 songs. This I have found to be a bit optimistic. Using the 160 Kps, I expect to hold about 4500 songs, still a lot of music.

Installing the ARQ was very easy. This is a product that despite being from the States acts more like a multi-system. The power supply is auto sensing 220V/110V and the video output is VGA, Composite Video or S-Video (PAL or NTSC). RCA cables in the back allow you to plug it in as any other audio component.

You can use the internal encoder to record your CD or transfer your existing MP3 database onto the drive itself. This can be done via a parallel port with you PC (paint dries faster), Ethernet (much better) or on a CDR disk. The later is the route that I used. Being able to put about 9 CD's worth of MP3 files on a single CDR made the transfer very easy. Some users have complained a bit about the audio, I found it to be very good (must get my hearing checked). I compared a few songs to the CD's and could not notice a difference. The recording rate can be changed between 64-320 Kps or Variable Bit Rate (VBR).

There are 2 USB ports on the back of the unit to transfer music to a limited number of portable MP3 players. The Ethernet allows you to maintain a database of music on your PC that the ARQ can access. This can also be used in retrieving ID3 tagging information from the Internet.

The interface is graphical via your television. There is also a LCD screen on the front, but has very limited use. The graphical user interface is convenient and well organized. Music is sorted initially by artist, album or song titles. You can also make your own play lists and select "shuffle" to have hours of music and never hear the same song for days. The remote is a bit cumbersome to use, as it tends to be somewhat slow in its response time. This used to be worse, but a recent software upgrade this was improved. This unit is about 1 month old and there have been 2 software upgrades from the manufacturer. Each of these of upgrades have been very easy to install and beneficial for the user.

There is room for improvement in the system. There is currently no way of sorting albums by artist. The output volume is a bit low, a common complaint. Cross fade and normalization features would be nice. There is an equalizer button on the remote, but it does nothing at this point. In cases where it is difficult to have the ARQ connected to the PC for software upgrades and Internet connection, a modem would be convenient, via the existing USB ports.

The web site has a message board that is very helpful in answering most questions. Customer service is excellent, they are very receptive to suggestions and queries. For music enthusiasts who like to have convenient access to their music collection, this is great system. Having a large variety of music playing with no commercials has been very nice.

Approximate Price 799 (US Dollars)

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