TrekStor vibez 8GB Review

TrekStor vibez 8GB

“Even with the stock headphones, the vibez produced great sounding audio.”
  • Great sound quality; plenty of features; mini-USB connector; doubles as a flash drive
  • No dedicated lock button; poor menu system; scroll wheel feels cheap and inaccurate
MSRP $19,999.00

Summary

If you’re in the market for a compact MP3 player, there are quite a number of options available. TrekStor, a German company known for flash drives and MP3 players, has brought another contender to the US market – the TrekStore “vibez”. Despite their egregious use of the letter “z” to feign hipster cred, TrekStor’s MP3 player genuinely offers a wide array of features that will appeal to many consumers. Don’t want an iPod? Check out this review of the vibez and see if it might suit your needs.

Features and Design
When the TrekStor Vibez MP3 player was first announced, it was wryly described by a journalist as “being shaped somewhat like J-Lo’s derriere”. In fact, TrekStor’s own website features the nude silhouette of a curvy woman next to the vibez. Does this sort of advertising mean that the vibez is as sexy as some unclad hottie? Perhaps it means that you too will have naked women standing next to you if you buy the vibez. One can ponder the many messages.
Seriously though, the vibez is a sleek looking MP3 player that won the coveted 2007 “red dot design award” for its unusual shape and curves. Without a doubt, the vibez stands out amongst other MP3 players. There’s a particular quality about the vibez that makes it feel comfortable in the hand. A combination of the aforementioned curves, the unassuming 3.2oz. weight and the mixture of surface textures all seem to work well.
While the exterior of the vibez is unusual and breaks the mold in a good way, the functionality is hampered by confusing menus, difficult navigation, quirky configurations and the very poor ability to handle text and album art on the same screen.
On a more positive note, the TrekStor “vibez” has a huge list of features for a palm-sized MP3 player. Without a doubt, the feature-set goes way beyond common expectations. Here are just some of the things that the vibez brings to consumers:
· Playable file formats: MP3, WMA, WAV, OGG, FLAC
· Editable M3U and WMP playlists
· Crossfade or “gapless” playback between two songs
· Full-color TFT display with 176 x 132 pixels
· Maximum 12GB for tons of music and computer files
· Upwards of 20 hours battery life
· Integrated voice recorder an line-In recording from other audio devices (as WAV)
· Album art and ID3 tag display
· Fully parametric equalizer
· Shuffle and intro function
· On-the-fly adjustable pitch (play speed) of any song
· Files can be deleted directly on the player
· User-controlled backgrounds & themes
· Optional FM radio (activated by SIM card, sold separately)
I really like the fact that songs can be deleted directly from the vibez player without having to sync with a PC. This is something I would love to see on the iPod.
There are several superfluous features like the integrated stopwatch. Why someone would need a stopwatch in an MP3 player eludes me. Its size suggestions you would not want to run with this player.
The vibez comes with a sturdy but somewhat clunky-looking lanyard. The lanyard is a near-exact duplicate of the strap that was included with a point-and-shoot digital camera I bought years ago.
The vibez weighs about 3.2oz., so little strain is put on the lanyard or your neck. Speaking of weight, the vibez is about 2.5 times the mass and exactly twice the weight of the nano. Of course, the nano tops out at 8GB, whereas the vibez offers 8GB, 12GB and 15GB models.
I found two more simple but important things to like about the TrekStor vibez. First, the battery is easily replaced by any user. It’s about as easy to replace the battery in the vibez as it is to replace a cell phone battery. Just pop the back cover off and swap the proprietary battery. It took me about 15 seconds to do this. In fact, one could have several vibez batteries – one in use, and one or more spares ready at an instant.
The second feature that I really like is the mini-USB connection. The iPod uses a proprietary dock connector which means that users have to keep and carry a dedicated cable just for the iPod. The vibez mini-USB connection is universal – I can use any mini-USB cable to connect, charge and sync the vibez. I can then use the very same mini-USB cable to download photos from my camera, charge my cell phone, etc. Kudos to TrekStor for this smart move.
TrekStor vibez
Image Courtesy of TrekStor
Setup and Use
Setting up the TrekStor vibez for basic use is pretty simple. After unpacking the vibez, I pressed the power button and the player started right up. I connected the vibez to my laptop with the mini-USB cable and it quickly appeared on my desktop as an external drive. I selected some MP3 files and moved them directly onto the vibez in a matter of seconds. I was also able to move several JPG and PDF files, effectively making the vibez a dual-purpose unit – MP3 player and portable storage device.
With my music files transferred, I disconnected the vibez from my computer and plugged in the headphones. Even though the menus on the vibez are different from other MP3 players, I was able to quickly select and play some sample music.
The included headphones are made by Sennheiser, though they must be on the lower-end of Sennheiser’s product list. The headphones looked pudgy and inexpensive. The foam pads made the earbuds fit tightly, but removing the pads made them fit better (the included black Sennheiser headphones are noticebly larger than the headphones included with the new line of iPods.)
Recording Audio
The vibez has a built-in audio recorder and TrekStor makes a very good point that the iPod does not have such a feature. Of course, the iPod “can” record high quality audio, but only with one of many optional microphones. The vibez records in WAV format, DVI ADPCM, mono 16.000 kHz, and at about 64kbits/sec. A 23 second recording produced a relatively small 182KB WAV file. The recording, when transferred onto a PC, sounds just fine. It’s good for in-class note taking, easy in-the-field interviewing and my favorite, “note to self”. I also like how easy it is to transfer the vibez recordings to my computer – just plug in the vibez by USB, open the “My Recordings” folder and transfer the desired file(s). Nice and easy.
On two of my six recordings I heard some slight mechanical noises, like high-pitched whirring. I couldn’t reproduce the sound with subsequent recordings.
Surprising Playback Quality
When playing my music, I was very pleased to discover that the playback quality was excellent. I am a picky and critical person when it comes to audio quality, and surprisingly, the vibez/Sennheiser combo didn’t disappoint. Bass is deep and free from distortion or “boominess”, mids were clear and highs were bright and accurate.
I switched back and forth between my iPod and the vibez (playing the same music) to test for irregularities, but I didn’t notice any. The vibez sounded just as good.
To give the vibez another shot at some positive comments, I plugged in my beloved Bose and Sony studio headphones. The vibez provided excellent sound quality with both professional headsets.
TrekStor vibez
The TrekStor vibez
Setting up Advanced Features
While I was satisfied with the basic “default” use of the vibez, I began to get frustrated with the more advanced features. Album art, for example, is displayed on the vibez screen in such a way that song names and other screen text is almost illegible. Fonts look sickly and fade into the background images. It wasn’t a problem with the LCD screen itself (which looked fine) – it’s a problem with the way the vibez renders text over images.
I found that setting up things like the EQ, brightness, cross-fade and the audio recorder added to my frustration. The click wheel felt bulbous and inaccurate, and the menu controls are too complex. I found myself having to constantly go back into the settings menus to see if the vibez actually accepted my changes.
After half an hour of hunt-and-peck with advanced setup, I decided to read the included instructions. (This was a clue that the vibez User Interface may have been created strictly by engineers, not by an artistic UI team. I almost NEVER have to read instructions in order to conquer a tech gadget.) While the vibez instruction manual is pretty thorough, it includes several gaffes such as “…Click [the desired MP3 files] with your right mouse button, and select “Paste” to start copying.” Oops.
Having read the rest of the instruction manual, I found myself more willing to navigate the depth of menus in order to customize the vibez interface and features, but it still felt awkward and a little too complex.
Backing away from the bevy of options, I found comfort in just playing my MP3s.
Conclusion
The cramped and sometimes messy display and aggravating trouble with navigating the hierarchy of menus left unwelcome feelings of disappointment. The vibez is also so replete with random features that it seems like TrekStor may have been trying hard to out-produce itself and win points on complexity and depth. In the MP3 player market, sometimes brilliant simplicity trumps all.
I found that the physical design of the vibez player is unique and certainly maintains a strong level of appeal. It’s not a run-of-the-mill rectangular or round MP3 player. It has personality, which is one of the best things about it.
The audio quality was excellent, a finding that left me very surprised. Even with the stock headphones, the vibez produced great sounding audio. With higher-end headphones, the vibez sounds even better.
If you are looking for a unique digital audio player that gives you excellent sound quality and a lot of freedom, dollar-for-dollar the vibez is a worthwhile option. It’s not the best MP3 player on the market, but it has certainly earned some respect.
Pros:
· Very pleasing sound quality
· Great price range for feature set
· Nice 12GB size (8GB and 15GB models, too)
· Doubles as flash drive
· Mini-USB connector
· Recorder function is appreciated
Cons:
· No dedicated lock button
· Truly arcane menus
· Scroll wheel felt cheap & inaccurate

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