Busker MP3 for Palm OS

Reviewed by: Howard Carson, January 2005, send e-mail
Published by: Electric Pocket, go to the web site
Requires: Any Palm OS PDA with full audio support, Treo Smartphone, color OS version enhances use but not necessary
MSRP: $19.95

With the advent of inexpensive Secure Digital (SD) cards in the 256MB and 512MB range, and the improvements in Palm OS 4 & 5 allowing program access to data files stored on storage cards, PDA owners have lots and lots of space to play with. Toss in good quality audio subsystems in most of the PDAs on the market, and it's only a matter of time before people get the idea that they can use their PDAs to listen to music as well as doing all the other things for which PDAs are designed. Busker is a music player for Palm OS and is fully compatible with MP3, Ogg Vorbis and WAV files.

As PC, Mac and Linux users have discovered over the years, all music players are not created equal. So it goes with music players for Palm OS. Storing music that you like is a simple matter of copying or syncing what you want to the storage card. With the music onboard, all you have to do is start a player. All a player does is send the correct audio information to the sound hardware built into the PDA. The quality of music reproduction then depends on three things:

  • The accuracy of the file loader and codec used to send music data to the audio subsystem
  • The quality of the audio hardware subsystem
  • The quality of the headphones or speakers being used

With those three things well taken care of, only the choice of music determines whether or not you keep listening. It also helps if your music player a) provides fast access to the music files stored on your external card, b) organizes music files intuitively, and c) plays your favorite formats.

The major features in Busker are easy to use. QuickMix is a simple, one-step method of playing a mix of songs. All you do is tap the QuickMix icon and Busker will do a random reorganization of your music files then start playing them in the revised order. Favorites offers a list of preferred songs that can be played with a single tap of the stylus. Selecting songs for inclusion in the Favorites list is done by accessing the full song list in Artist View and then either tapping selections or using a /F command. You can edit the Favorites list by adding and removing songs at any time.

Busker also makes good use of the high resolution color displays on newer PDAs by displaying JPEGs and Album Art for MP3 tracks (Album Art is a Portable Network Graphics (PNG) picture format which can be embedded in MP3 tag information). Busker will display any compatible image which has been downloaded and stored in the music folder you're using on the PDA's storage card. As far as we know as of this writing, Busker is the only Palm OS music player that can display Album Art images onscreen while playing a song file.

We also used Busker to listen to the hottest new information exchange thing going on right now: Podcasts. Busker can place bookmarks in any Podcast and can also be set to exclude Podcasts from QuickMix. If you're new to Podcasts, they're just the next logical extension of Blogs, but in voice/MP3 format so that they can be downloaded to any music player (they were originated by iPod users, which is where the name comes from). Podcasts now cover everything from the bizarre and weird to op-ed, science and technology, music shows and you-name-it. There are some really interesting people doing Podcasts on every topic and idea under the sun, so the Podcast 'scene' is well worth checking out. In any event, Busker is great for listening to Podcasts and definitely trumps AM radio during my morning drive these days.

Cons: We'd like to see the next version include some method of creating Playlists and music categories, as well as being able to create a QuickMix out of a single category instead of the entire song list on the PDA. Removing songs from the Favorites list is not an obvious or intuitive procedure: tap Favorites, tap the song to remove, tap the Stop button, use the /F command. If you then go back to Artist View or Playlist and return to Favorites, the selected song will no longer be there. QED, but it's a bit cumbersome.

Pros: Simple design with quick-hit controls that are easy to understand and use. Very good sound quality, rivaling that of the best competing players. We tried Busker on a Sony TH55 with it's reasonably good audio hardware and everything sounded good enough. Busker on the PalmOne Zire 72 was another matter however because the Zire's audio hardware is better than Sony's and music listening was just great. With Busker, your favorite PDA and a 256MB or even 512MB or larger SD card makes a great music and Podcast player. Use all Busker controls by stylus tap, finger tap (the on-screen control buttons are large enough) or by Graffiti commands. Did a great job of playing MP3 files with odd headers or corrupt ID3 tags which other players either ignored or deemed corrupt. Good control layout in an intuitive user interface. Recommended.

Letters to the Editor are welcome and occasionally abused in public. Send e-mail to: whine@kickstartnews.com





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