Hi-fi recording: Creative Zen Neeon vs Samsung Yepp YP-T7
March 5, 2012
The final entry for this blog is a review of Hi-fi recording with two portable MP3 recorders, the Creative Zen Neeon and the Samsung Yepp YP-T7. The devices are examined from the perspectives of both an audio enthusiast and a long distance FM radio hobbyist. It’s a pleasure to share the joy of using these impressive devices to record audio.
Origin of manufacture
|Aluminium||Plastic front, aluminium rear|
|65,000 colours||Colour backlights|
|Flash drive||Mini Hard Disk drive|
Battery life on playback
|10 hours||16 hours|
Navigating the menus with the Yepp maybe difficult for those with big fingers. The larger Creative Zen Neeon is clearly easier to navigate the menus and find specific functions quickly.
Yepp recorders were expensive. This may explain why on the secondhand market, the recorders are in relatively scarce supply compared to the Creative Zen models. The results of a brief Ebay search seems to indicate that the Yepp series of recorders have maintained their value. A virtually identical predecessor to the YP-T7, the Samsung YP-MT6 256 MB is currently listed on Ebay for $65 Australian dollars. That is a competitive price for one of these models in a new, unopened condition.
Unattended timer recording
The Yepp can encode from line-in using the built-in Auto Sleep timer. If one wants to record for two hours, simply set Auto Sleep for 120 minutes, then hit record. When the time has elapsed, the recording will finalize and the device will switch off. This function is similar to the timers found on many cassette decks. According to the manual, the Yepp records to a maximum of 16 hours when connected to AC power or up to nine hours with the battery.
An entry level 256 megabyte Samsung YP-T7 model permits recording over two hours of MPEG2 Layer III (MP3) audio at the highest quality. The largest T7 Yepp has a capacity of one gigabyte. The bitrate is 192 kbps MP3 using the lauded Xing (Old) encoder. This encoder had its birth in 1999 and was consistently improved under ownership by Real Networks, according to the Hydrogenaudio Knowledgebase. Using headphones, no obvious digital artifacting, clipping or distortion was detected on recordings made from a commercially released music compilation.
The largest Creative Zen Neeon offers over six gigabytes of free space. Unfortunately, the Zen recording is performed at a bitrate of 160 kbps using the Plugger (Old) encoder. Newer Creative recorders such as the Zen V use the Windows Media 9 encoding which offers twice the compression of MP3. Plugger is a free MP3 encoder written by Alberto Demichelis in 1998. MP3 enthusiasts rate the sound quality of the encoder poorly in their listening tests. One user of the Neeon shares this observation:
Line in Encoding does sound alright, but it uses Plugger at 96, 128 or 160kbps, and at any bitrate [it is] not that great.
Recording level control
Neither device allows the line-in volume to be reduced. This seems unlikely to pose a problem the vast majority of the time. When using components that have an unusually high line level output (such as the Sony XDR-F1HD when tuned to highly modulated local stations) a line level attenuator may be needed to prevent clipping and distortion in the recording. The writers of the Samsung manual include this caution:
Adjust the volume of the external audio source to a suitable level and record it. If the volume level is too high, the [recorded] sound quality may be poor.
Both recorders allow the option to split files in the instance of a few seconds of silence during recording. Tested with a compilation, the Samsung recorder did not consistently split the tracks (even when set to a one second gap detection) whilst the Zen did.
Using software Audacity in combination with MP3Splt is one easy and effective way to split up a long MP3 recording. It is ideal for a recording made from an analogue source such as a cassette deck or turntable, where there is a three second gap between songs. Transfer the intact (unsplit) recording to a computer. Analyze the MP3 file in Audacity using the Silence Finder feature. This software enables one to export the split data so that MP3Splt can perform the split without any re-encoding causing loss of quality.
MP3 encoder Plugger version 0.4 and the accompanying Plugger Shell version 1.3 can be downloaded from the Slovak Antivirus Center. Is it as terrible as the audiophiles suggest? Please comment!
EncSpot is a utility that will analyze MP3 files & rate the quality of the encoding used. For splitting, Audacity and Mp3Splt are highly recommended. Use these instructions. These free fully functional downloads comprise adandoned or open source software.
Review of recording with a Samsung Yepp by a DX enthusiast. Review of recording with a Samsung Yepp by a journalist. Review of recording with a Creative Zen by a programmer. Step-by-step instructions for line-in encoding from a CD player by Creative. Please be aware that these reviewers arenot using the specific models this blogger uses. Minor differences may apply. Line level attenuators cost $10 from Jaycar Electronics.
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