"A fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun" — that was the slogan of the late, lamented suck.com. The fish: mobiBLU's B153 (formerly the DAH-1900) music player. The barrel: The manufacturer's claim of 153 hours of playback per charge. The smoking gun: I was all too eager to supply this myself. But when I ran the player continuously, it expired at 169 hours, or seven days and one hour, exceeding the spec by 10% — not sucky at all.
OK, there are qualifiers. mobiBLU's spec requires a volume setting of two-thirds maximum, not enough for some headphones, and a bit rate of 128 kilobits per second (the de facto online standard for MP3s), not enough for some ears. I left the player undisturbed, so it didn't have to run its sweet blue-and-yellow OLED display while it played. That would account for the 10% headroom. Even so, compliments to the chef.
Another surprise is its sound, which leaves a clean taste on the palate. The midrange is smooth, not harsh — and detailed, not veiled. Bass is conspicuously weak, probably to save the battery the rigors of making big ripples in earphone diaphragms. The SRS enhancement setting bends good recordings out of shape but makes weaker ones more lively.
At 1.75 x 2.5 x 0.75 inches, with a cylindrical bulge that surely must be the battery, the mobiBLU is shorter but thicker than an iPod nano. The player shows up as a USB drive on Windows PCs, so bumping music couldn't be simpler. Extra features include FM radio, line-in recording, and voice recording through a built-in microphone. The designers got lots of mileage out of four buttons and a joystick.
The downside is an intricate user interface with difficult album/folder navigation and no artist or song menus. Steve Jobs and his design team can still sleep at night — ergonomically, mobiBLEW it.
But if you can climb the steep learning curve, the mobiBLU B153 will deliver a clean signal for a solid month with five hours of daily use. Let's see Apple top that.