I've just come back from a preview of the second generation Rio player and I'm still drooling with lust. The Rio 500 is the first MP3 player I've seen that actually looks like a proper piece of audio equipment rather than a gimmicky gadget for tech heads.
I reckon Creative has got its work cut out to compete with this little baby, especially as it doesn't even seem to be able to commit to a UK launch date.
It's encased in a sexy silver casing, as opposed to the rather tacky black plastic casing of its predecessor, and that horrible control wheel has thankfully been disposed of. You clock the quality from the moment you switch it on -- using a real on/off switch -- with the sound clearer, deeper and, some would say more importantly, louder. The volume is controlled via a rubber ratchet wheel, which also give you access to the menu controls. You still have those pretty ineffectual equaliser options, jazz, pop, rock etc, but now you also have the choice to customise the bass and treble settings. The LCD display is back-lit and displays the song title and artist name.
If you're a Mac user you may be starting to feel a bit jealous by now. Well don't worry, because the Rio 500 is now fully compatible with Macs, and ships with Casady and Greene's SoundJam MP digital audio system software.
The Audio Manager software has also had a makeover, with a much friendlier user interface, and speedier downloads, which are also aided by the USB connection.
The internal memory has been bumped up to 64MB, it is compatible with Windows Media Player in addition to MP3, and is designed specially for spoken audio playback. The 500 can hold up to 16,000 hours of spoken word content and there's a bookmark control to let you stop playback and pick up where you left off.
If you're thinking about investing in a MP3 player, do yourself a favour and wait until you can get a look at one of these. It'll be in the shops at the end of September for £229.