facebook rss twitter

Review: Rio Karma 20Gb MP3 Player

by Jo Shields on 24 April 2004, 00:00

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qaxo

Add to My Vault: x


The term MP3 no longer covers a file format, but a concept. Even the average Joe on the street will have heard of MP3, usually in news stories about on-line piracy, and be able to equate it with CD-comparable audio files stored on a computer, and played back with an iPod. Motion Picture Experts Group Layer 3 Audio has, thanks to no small effort from Napster and the iPod, become firmly wedged in the public eye. People are waking up to the idea of a small player that doesn't skip, that can store large amounts of music, that can play tracks downloaded (legally, from an on-line music store, of course) from the Internet, that can finally lay the Discman to rest.

To really see how the MP3 craze was kicked off, you have to go back roughly six years, to late 1998. MP3 playback had been around for a short while, with Winamp 2.05 and the Xing MP3 ripper released not much further back. However, the real innovation came in the form of the Riô PMP300 32Mb MP3 player. About the size of a cassette tape, this was the first time people could carry their music around in a form which couldn't skip. The people behind these humble beginnings were Diamond MM, praised at the time for their quality line of 56K modems. A few years down the line, we have literally hundreds of portable MP3 player on the market, but back then it was a novelty. I jumped aboard the MP3 player revolution myself when Archos released a hard disk based player with an inordinate 6Gb of storage. My music, carefully ripped at 96KBit with RealJukeBox, took up barely half that.

So what happened to Riô whilst the MP3 market was erupting? Quite a bit, actually. First, graphics chip manufacturer S3 bought Diamond in mid 1999, renaming itself to SonicBlue in late 2000. SonicBlue's reputation faltered somewhat on the back of bad customer relations, and around the same time they sold their graphics division to motherboard chipset company VIA. SonicBlue filed for bankruptcy in early 2003, shifting all of its brands to assorted places.

The Riô brand went to a company named D&M Holdings, well versed in the ways of audio. Rather than releasing Riô products under its (D)enon or (M)arantz brands, a new brand was formed to handle the SonicBlue products, named Digital Networks North America.

Which brings us conveniently to today. DNNA's current product line includes a little from all the different types of player - the Eigen to compete with the Apple iPod Mini, the Fuse to compete with the Creative Muvo NX, the Chiba and Cali for the old-style flash player market they created in 1998. And, of course, the 20Gb Riô Karma.