Archos Jukebox Recorder
A miracle of the
computer age, this easy to operate unit gives you up to 300
hrs of high quality music for $250 or less.
Once a strange technology for
geeks and gadget lovers, MP3 players are now user friendly and
functional, suitable and affordable for all of us to use as a
wonderfully convenient way of taking our music with us when we
Note - this review was written
in April 2002. Since that time 'state of the art' has
evolved amazingly and what was impressive back then is now of
historical interest and amusement only. See our new review
(Feb 2007) of the Archos 504
portable multimedia player for an amazing example of how far
the industry has moved in not quite five years.
Archos continue to be one of
the leaders in the portable music player market and you'd be
well advised to consider their current models when deciding what
type of player to purchase.
Intro to the Archos unit
The Archos Jukebox Recorder
20 is basically a 20 GB micro-hard disk drive surrounded by
batteries, a display, controls and some electronics. The hard
disk drive stores music that has been converted to 'MP3' format
and the electronics enables you to record or play back music as
you wish. A LCD screen and simple controls makes it as easy as a
CD player to operate, and the rechargeable NiMH batteries give
you close to ten hours of playing between charges.
A typical CD uses almost 10
MB to store one minute of music. MP3 is a clever way of
compressing the music so that a minute of music requires only
about 1 MB of storage, while still sounding almost as good as
the uncompressed original music.
The Archos Jukebox comes
with software that you can run on any PC or Mac that will enable
you to convert your CDs into MP3 format and then copy onto the
Archos unit. In addition, you can also record directly from the
output of a CD player or tape deck or any other audio source
into the Archos Jukebox without the need to use a computer.
See our related article for
more about MP3 and how to get the best
quality recordings for your Jukebox.
Batteries - and much else -
The Archos Jukebox Recorder
20 comes packed in a sturdy box that looks well able to protect
it from the worst extremes during shipping. The unit comes
complete with a generous collection of extras.
A pair of headphones are
supplied - it took me quite a while to work out how to fit them
onto my head (the headphone band should be worn on the back of
the head rather than on top of the head). The headphones are
small, foldable, lightweight, and comfortable to wear, but are
not very high quality. I quickly switched to using my
Plane Quiet Noise Reducing Headphones
A soft padded carrying case
is also provided, but the case is too small to hold both the
unit and its headphones. When traveling, I store the unit plus a
spare set of batteries in the carrying case, and the headphones
The Archos player measures
4.4" x 2.8" x 1.4" and weighs 12.9 oz.
The unit also comes with a
USB cord and a stereo audio cord, plus not one but two sets of
four AA sized NiMH rechargeable batteries. One set was already in the
unit and charged up, the other is a spare. NiMH (Nickel Metal
Hydride) batteries are much superior to Ni-Cad (Nickel Cadmium)
batteries - they hold more charge, have less of a 'memory
effect' and can be recharged more times before eventually
wearing out (note that Li-Ion (Lithium Ion) batteries are the
best type of all but are not available with this unit).
Archos is to be commended
for fitting this player with standard batteries. In
contrast, Apple's iPod uses a custom battery that can only be
replaced by sending the unit back to Apple and paying a $99 fee.
Archos claim the unit plays
for 10 hours on a single battery charge, and although this
varies a bit depending on the quality settings and typical
playing usage, I have generally experienced about ten hours of
life - enough for all but the longest trips.
Suggestion : The
supplied batteries seem to have about a 1500 mAh rating.
Replace them with a set of
2100 mAh batteries; this will give you a 40% increase in
playing time (eg from 10 to 14 hours).
A recharger/AC adapter is
also supplied, and it takes approximately 6 hours for the
batteries to be recharged. Opening the battery compartment to
swap batteries was a bit tricky and I got the feeling that
Archos don't expect you to change batteries all the time, but
rather prefer you to leave one set in the unit until they wear
A five language manual (the
English version being obviously written by a non-native
speaker!), a CDrom with software and drivers, and a warranty
card complete the contents of the box. The warranty offers a
miserly 90 days only, but when I called Archos, the service
representative said that they actually provide a full one year
The unit can also be used as
an extra hard disk for your computer (especially with its very
fast USB 2.0 capability). If your laptop's hard disk is starting
to overflow, this is a great way to take more of your data with
you when you travel.
All I needed to do was to
plug the player into my computer and the XP operating system
automatically recognised it - no need to load any drivers at
all. It was easy to create MP3 files using the Archos supplied
software (industry leading 'MusicMatch' software is included)
and to then copy them, via USB cable, to the Archos unit.
Playing music on the Archos
unit is very simple, with clear helpful menus appearing on the
LCD screen to guide you around your player. Sound quality
depends on the 'encoding rate' you set (more on this in next
week's article) but at high encoding rates will suit even the
most discerning ear. I calculated that at a 160k encoding rate
the unit will hold 283 hours of music! If you guess that the
average CD has just under an hour of music on it, this
represents 300 CDs, all stored in a compact little unit and
It is possible to sort the
music many different ways, and to create 'play lists' that allow
you to program the order in which music is played, rather than
just copying the order of music on CDs.
Traveling with the Unit
I took the unit with me on
my latest long flight, and it made a wonderful change to have
the music of my choice conveniently available. A backlight comes
on to make it easy to read the screen and see the keys in a
darkened airplane cabin, too. I also brought their supplied
adapter cable with me and now have the unit connected up to the
tv in the hotel room so I can play music through the tv sound
system and speakers when in the hotel room, too!
Of course, on a plane, you
should use a set of noise reducing headphones for best sound
quality (eg the excellent $80 Plane
One important issue - if you
are traveling internationally, you should purchase their
international multi-voltage power supply so you can conveniently
recharge the batteries in foreign countries. It costs only $16.
Although this was a brand
new product, the first thing I did was go to the Archos website
and check for software/firmware upgrades. Sure enough, there
were upgrades waiting to be downloaded, with the new software
adding a new feature to the player!
Earlier Archos products have
seen substantial feature upgrades added to them, and this is a
very positive aspect of this software controlled unit - you can
hope for it to get 'better' with free software upgrades in the
How to Buy the Unit
Archos offer a range of
different units with different capacities and optionally the
ability to record as well as play back, and with various video
and other capabilities as well.
Most of the time you will
not need the record capability because you can do this on any PC
or Mac with a CDrom drive.
The units are for sale
website, of course. Units can also be bought through
many online discounters.
Should You Buy One?
Yes, you should! This 20GB
player costs under $250 - less than $1 per hour of music storage! In
return you get a very flexible and versatile product that will
give you hours of pleasure in return. You can take more music
with you when you travel, and in less space and weight than with
CDs or cassettes. It is simple and convenient to use.
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26 April 2002, last update
20 Jul 2020
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.