David A. Hensley (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I bought Sony's new player MZ-E40 this past Thursday at Best Buy for $189. Here's a review.
My MD perspective--I have a used R2, and I do most of my MD listening in the car, during my work commute. I'll be comparing the E40 to the R2.
I have about 20 "classical" and "rock and roll" premastered MDs, and I've recorded about 20-30 MDs from CD and videotape using the R2's analog in. I got the E40 so that my R2 would last longer.
What you get for $189--A player, a protective case, cheesy headphones, and instructions. You don't get an AC adapter or a rechargeable battery. The protective case slips tightly over the unit, and a clear plastic flap wraps around the front and has a velcro attachment on the top. I didn't bother trying the headphones, since I plan to use the unit almost exclusively in the car--I'll use my MDR-V6's when I'm in the mood for headphone listening.
OK, it's plastic--My initial impression was, "I'm paying $189 for a box of air!" The unit without batteries is incredibly light; however, the R2 is built like a tank, and it's heavy. I think that if I exercise care, the E40 will last a long time. (In other words, I'm not planning to drop the thing any time soon!) In the pictures I've seen on the net and in Stereo Review, the E40 appears to be black; however,the body is silver painted plastic.
Controls--The forward/reverse, play, and stop/charge controls are on the front, whilst the play mode, display, bass boost, AVLS, and hold controls are on the bottom. The volume controls are on the top front. The play mode, display, and AVLS controls are buttons, just like the R2's. The bass boost control is not a button; it is a three-position switch. The hold control is a switch, just like the R2's. I like the controls and their placement, but it is a drag to have to remove the protective case to get at the hold switch. (The hold switch on the R2 is accessible from the outside when the R2's protective case lid is lifted.)
Display--The E40 has fewer display features than the R2. The display shows the track elapsed time, disc title, track title, and disc total time. (When you insert the MD, it tells you the disc's title, the disc's total elapsed time, and then it shows the elapsed time on track 1.) The display shows a disc icon when the title is displayed; it shows a note icon when the track is displayed. There is no clock, no time remaining on track or disc, and no date recorded. The best thing about the display is that it's on the edge of the unit, which means I can stuff it into my VW Golf's center console nook and the display is visible.
Battery Life--The battery life is indeed over four hours. I played out a set of alkaline AA's and they lasted about 4.5 hours. The R2's battery life is significantly shorter, so this is good news. The battery door appears to be really flimsy--this is one reason why I decided to get the rechargeable batteries. (The batteries charge inside the unit. I'm on my third set of AA's until the rechargeables arrive.)
Skipping--I've not heard the unit skip. As I previously posted, my R2 skips every once in a while during the 60-80 minutes of interstate that I drive each day, but the E40 has not skipped once yet.
Sound quality--it sounds just fine. Some people on the list have all ready mentioned that the output "thumps" at the beginning of play or when manually changing a track. I'm not sure what this is, but you can hear it if you turn up the volume really high. The "thump" is worse when bass boost is engaged. I've heard it using my car's speakers, my good headphones, and my computer speakers. The "thump" is not terrible, but it's there.
While performing intensive double-blind listening tests in my car at speeds approaching 65 mph, I noted that the E40 has better stereo imaging, tighter bass, and is in general much more transparent sounding than the R2. The E40 has that how do you say it--"Je ne sais quoi."