Category Archives: Consumer electronics

Panasonic CQ-RDP153N Car MP3 CD Player

Panasonic CQ-RDP153N Car MP3 CD Player

I’d mail-ordered this one a couple of years ago on a friend’s recommendation who was very enthusiastic about it. I’d long since waited for a decent car cd player to support MP3 and so I ordered it after only a quick browse of the product page verifying it wasn’t one of those with a tacky old VFD nor a fancy and bloated animated display. Since my car just had been broken into and my good old Kenwood CD player (no MP3 support) stolen I was anxious to get a replacement soon. And since a pause and a mute button on the same device seemed almost too good to be true I even resigned myself to paying the Micro$oft tax for support of their crappy WMA format.

Unfortunately this was a bit premature cause the device came with a serious flaw:

the display’s scroll speed is sloooooow.

No biggy? Well, if you consider what distance you travel in a few seconds at certain speeds I’d say the amount of time reading a display is better spent on keeping your eyes on the road. But see for yourself, and don’t be discouraged by the time it takes the player to read an unfinalised multi-session disc:

That’s 20 seconds to read the disc and 42 seconds into the song to scroll through the full title! That’s slow. Or lame actually considering further minor flaws.

For example, I never would have expected a nice thing like a dot matrix display to be far too bright. I could go Corey Hart on it and wear my sunglasses at night cause as you might have guessed there’s no dim button (remember those? They’ve been on tape decks for ages). I’ve actually heard from people using foil (like from those tinted glass for cars) to tone down the brightness of their displays.

And what’s the point of supporting ID3v2-tags when the title field is limited to 30 chars? Speaking of which, I’ve not yet figured out what kinda charset is supported. I mean, ampersand, slash and colon are but other special chars (and german umlauts of course) are not. As you can see in the clip above, when there’s a special char that’s not supported it’s replaced by an asterisk that even swallows the following regular char! Here’s what the playlist looks like:

  • Queens Of The Stone Age – The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret becomes The Lost Art of Keeping a Secr
  • Tool – Forty Six & 2 – Ænima becomes Tool – Forty Six & 2 – *nima
  • Ill Niño – I Am Loco becomes Ill Ni* – I Am Loco

And finally, what about MP3 CDs? As you know, they can hold about 8 hours of music on a decent bitrate (LAME -aps) but when you switch to audiobooks that usually are smaller and you wanna listen to track no. 153, how many times do you have to press ‘skip’? Any guesses? It’s as if those 10+ buttons CD players already had in the 80’s never existed.

Thus I made a mental note for future purchases: to check out products myself instead of relying on others who might be slow readers or something. And I did, sort of. More on this next time…

Philips MCM393 Micro Hi-Fi System with USB Direct Playback

Philips MCM393 Micro Hi-Fi System with USB Direct playback
I’ve recently bought the Philips MCM393 Micro Hi-Fi System with USB Direct playback. My father is not so well so I planned on ripping all his CDs as mp3 to an external USB HDD so he’d have access to all his songs using the remote eliminating the need of getting up from his chair and switching CDs. Or so I thought.

As it turns out the device is limited by a serious flaw:

500 songs max!

Any song above this limit isn’t listed and therefore not playable. There was NO mention of this

  • in the retail chain’s flyer that initially caught my attention
  • on the product website at philips.de
  • at the retail store where I bought it
  • on the product’s wrapping

It is however mentioned on page 19 of the manual albeit not too specific:

  • Number of albums/folders: maximum 99
  • Number of tracks/titles: maximum 500

When I first read this after setting up the system (I usually don’t read any manuals prior to purchase) I thought it meant 99 folders with 500 songs each but sadly I was mistaken. While I wasn’t exactly planning on hooking up a 500 GB drive with tens of thousands of songs to it, I wasn’t expecting my cheap 2 GB USB stick filled with Audiobooks on 64 kbit/s to exceed any limit whatsoever. Certainly not after all the fuss Philips made on having a device with USB Direct playback like the prominently placed USB slot which also glows when selected as source.

Since I’m so used to companies selling hardware that never even left the beta stage of development I hoped it might be fixed by applying a firmware update. So I contacted Philips support which due to their staggering incompetence resulted in a to and fro of mails I’m reproducing here in summary:

Me:
I’ve just realized there’s a limit on songs playable by this system which is easily exceeded by my cheap 2 GB USB stick filled with Audiobooks on 64 kbit/s. Is there a firmware update to bypass this limit?

Philips:
You asked about a firmware update, there’s non available right now. Please explain what seems to be the problem (this mail has a full quote of what I’ve written above so what they are asking of me is already in there!).

Me:
Like I said in my first mail, I can only play 500 songs which wasn’t mentioned anywhere on the product’s website or wrapping. What am I supposed to do with a device that’s seriously limited?

Philips:
This microsystem is designed for home users/end users and therefore not equipped to process large amounts of data from HDDs.

Me:
So why isn’t this mentioned anywhere and why such a fuss over an USB slot?

Philips:
You can use an USB stick with your system (followed by a large quote on external sources from the manual, which wrongly mentions a limit of 1000 songs).

Me:
If you insist on quoting from a manual that I do own myself please use the correct one. This system plays _500_ songs max which is easily exceeded by cheap USB sticks.

Philips:
The system has an USB slot which allows USB sticks with 500 songs max which is within model specs as mentioned in the manual. If you’re not satisfied with your product please contact your retailer for a replacement or return.

Me:
I did. The retailer doesn’t care either so I’m stuck with it. Of course I won’t buy there nor from Philips in the future.

Philips:
We’re sorry about your decision but still advise you to inform yourself next time prior to purchase.

So there you have it, the flaw isn’t a flaw but a feature! Though I was clear on it from the moment they said there’d be no firmware updates I still engaged in this discussion just to see how Philips would try to weasel their way out of it. And this is the kicker: they don’t! It’s my fault I didn’t anticipate this kind of limitation and I should have informed myself better in advance! Way to go!

The question remains to be answered though: why knowingly produce such a limited device? Of course you can’t foresee all possible devices out there that come with an USB connector but by the time of their product’s inital release 8 or 16 GB USB sticks were affordable not to mention cheap and capatious HDDs. And seriously, how much cents did Philips save by using a chip with such a puny amount of RAM?

Philips MCM 393 – The new classic… NOT!