On the outside the Sony Atrac3Plus D-NE511 looks like any other CD player circa three years ago. There are numerous buttons on the front, a two-line LCD screen and the usual d-pad for playing skipping and stopping the tracks. For the fashion-conscious the player comes in three different colours; blue, red and silver and to the unaware, most people will believe that you are carrying around a slightly larger than usual CD Walkman.
Of course in reality this is far from the truth. The CD player not only has the capability to play the standard Compact Disc but also CD’s holding up to 490 music tracks that you’ve burnt using your PC and the provided software.
With this knowledge, the numerous buttons that looked like they were they to confuse spring into purpose offering access to album folders and individual track detail. The Walkman is powered by two AA batteries that sit snugly within the player and Sony’s anti-shock system - G-Protection saves on the skipping when you’re out and about.
Using Sony’s proprietary software - SonicStage Simple Burner - tracks can be burnt on the CD-R/RW in either Sony’s ATRAC3plus (Adaptive Transform Acoustic Coding3plus) or ATRAC3 (Adaptive Transform Acoustic Coding3) formats.
Taking either CD or MP3 files - you cannot burn any other formats - tracks can be compressed by up to 1/20th of their original size depending on the quality setting you chose. Music can be burned and compressed to 132, 105, 66, 64 or 48 kbps (kilobits per second) and compressing at 48 kbps, can record up to 490 songs on a 700Mb disc. Track information is provided via an internet connection to Gracenote CDDB before burning and this information will then appear on the LCD display when you play the track.
Overall this is a great idea that not only works, but beats the large storage MP3 players at their own game. With this player you can have an endless amount of CDs all with numerous tracks on them without the worry of running out of storage space. Sound obviously varies according to the level at which you record it. CD quality MP3s are normally recorded at 128kbps, and at this ratio you are still able to get some 170/180 tracks per CD, slightly more than the 13 or 14 you normally find.
So where's the catch? Sony, being Sony can't just deal with adopting anyone else's format technology or using anyone else's software and so all files that you record not have to be transferred using the Sony software included, but also have to be saved into the ATRAC3 format. Furthermore unless the files are in the MP3 format or on a CD you've put in your burner you won't be able to add them to the track listing to record them.
While this reliance on Sony will be annoying to some, it doesn't take away the fact that you've got a great music player that produces very good music for a very affordable price.