The advent of smartphones has killed many devices over the years -- from the wristwatch to the voice recorder to the GPS -- but perhaps no gadget has been affected more than the MP3 player. Once the device of choice for any music lover, the MP3 player has had to adapt to survive, either by imitating smartphones (like Apple's iPod Touch) or by becoming even more portable than it already was.
It's that latter option that Samsung is going for with its new Muse MP3 player. Saying that the Muse is tiny is an understatement, as it weighs in at 13.8 grams and measures at just 1.7 x 1.25 x 0.5-inches. With so little real estate, the Muse is light on features, but it does sport special connectivity with various entries in Samsung's own Galaxy line of smartphones in an attempt to make music file transfers a computer-free experience. It's priced at an attractive $49 too, but then again so are many other competitors in the "mini-MP3" market -- including Apple's iPod Shuffle.
So how does the Muse stack up? Well, for any Galaxy phone owner that also wants a dedicated music machine for the gym, mowing the lawn, or any other time when a smartphone could be just too cumbersome, this clip-on player will be ideal. But for most others, the Muse will be a solid device, yet one that underwhelms too much of the time.
Build and Design
The Muse was known as the "S-Pebble" once upon a time, and its design shows why. Its smooth and rounded oval shape looks just like -- surprise, surprise -- a pebble, one coated in a hyper glaze coloring that can be had in navy blue or white to match with its Galaxy S III and Galaxy Note II smartphone cousins.
The front of the device is almost completely flat, with five basic touch buttons for volume up, volume down, fast forward/next, rewind/back, and play/pause. Above the volume up button sits a small LED light that indicates when a button has been pressed and battery power. As one would expect, no touchscreens or LCD displays will be found here, so there's no way of actually seeing what's being played, what the volume level is, and the like.
The Muse's sides are similarly simplistic. Three small slider switches line the edges - one for locking the device and one for toggling shuffle mode on the left, and one on/off switch that also houses Samsung's SoundAlive EQ (more on that in a sec) on the right. The top has a 3.5mm headphone jack, and the bottom has a system reset button in case of any oopsies.
On the back, there's a sturdy clip that works well for the kind of hands-free listening for which the Muse was ostensibly designed. It helps the player stay on just fine when out for a jog, and, combined with just how light this thing is, makes it so the device is barely noticeable when wearing it.
Joining the Muse in the box are a 3.5mm MicroUSB adaptor for connecting to smartphones, a 3.5mm-USB adaptor for doing the same with computers, and a pair of white earbuds that sound a bit better than the Apple EarPods that they're knocking off, but still aren't worth the time of anyone who wants to get the most out of their music.
Like any MP3 player of its size, the Muse's miniscule shape may turn off many people by default. It's easy to lose when zoning out to the music unless it's clipped on, and those with large fingers may wind up repeatedly hitting multiple buttons at once if they're not careful. Moving one of the switches to shuffle songs or turn on SoundAlive will frequently result in hitting a forward/reverse button by accident, if only because everything is so naturally crammed together. This can get frustrating, especially when in the middle of a 10 minute jam or a 90 minute podcast (the Muse doesn't save users' places in songs upon switching). And just in general, the lack of raised, physical buttons with any sort of feedback will likely cause many to look at the device while pressing anything on it, which sort of defeats the purpose of a supposed "hands-free experience" in the first place.
However, the Muse is probably the sexiest looking pebble out there, it's comfortable in the hand, the touch buttons are mostly responsive, and the hardware itself is put together well for something this tiny. Those who just like to start up an album and put it on autopilot for a while will find that the Muse suits them fine. But for more fidgety listeners who need to constantly switch songs and monitor their music, it might be best to look for something less basic.
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