Samsung’s “Big Thing” with the Muse is its purported ability to remove computers from the equation when transferring music files to and from the MP3 player. All users have to do is download the free Muse Sync app from the Google Play store and hook up the Muse to their phone, provided that it’s compatible and running Android 3.0 and higher. Music can then be imported on the player, and the Muse can, ahem, sing, all without ever needing to go through a whole boot up process.
In theory, such a feature has the potential to set the standard for how many listeners compartmentalize their tunes in an increasingly mobile world. But in actuality, the Muse’s “PC-free” features don’t always work as advertised.
For one, Samsung is currently listing the Galaxy S III, Galaxy Note II, Galaxy S II, Galaxy Note, and Galaxy S II Skyrocket as the only compatible devices with the Muse. So, while those devices are plenty popular, the majority of smartphone owners aren’t going to be able to properly use the Muse Sync program in the first place. TechnologyGuide’s testing held true to this, as attempting to sync songs with an LG Optimus G, HTC One V, and Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 (just to see if tablets would work) only yielded a big red “Connect muse” message, even when the player was hooked in.
But when TG could get things to work with a Galaxy Note II, the process wasn’t entirely smooth. See, the Muse can only read downloaded and locally stored song files on any compatible smartphone, so attempting to sync any songs from Google Play Music — or any other cloud service, including Samsung’s own Music Hub — won’t work. That might be more the fault of Google and the way it stores music on Androids than Samsung, but it’s annoying either way, and it limits the accessibility of the touted feature even further. Anyone who wishes to actually use Muse Sync will have to make sure their files are appropriately stored on their handsets.
The ironic part of this all? The only way to get those Google Play Music files onto the Muse is to download them to a computer, and then copy and paste as one would with any other MP3 player.
When Muse Sync does work, the process is quick and easy, merely requiring a few taps for users to decide which songs (although it will only list files by song, not album or artist) they want to send to their Muse. This is good. But it’d be difficult to understand why moderate-to-heavy music listeners would want to risk the headache that could come with what should be a thoughtless process, so most will be better off just dragging-and-dropping from a PC like normal.
Connecting the Muse to a computer will require an installation of Samsung’s Kies media center, which is barebones compared to the likes of iTunes, but is simplistic and clean enough to not get in the way while toying with the player.
Speaking of iTunes, it’s worth mentioning that the Muse is not compatible with Apple’s AAC files. That means a manual conversion to MP3 will be needed, which is disappointing. Besides MP3, the Muse also supports WMA, FLAC, and OGG files.
And… well, that’s about it. The Muse has no support for subscription or streaming music services like Spotify, no radio tuner, no “voiceover” feature that announces the song being played, no video playback (obviously), no microSD slot, and no discernible playlist support. Audiobooks and podcasts can also be downloaded, but they are treated just like any other “song,” so they get no special designation or placeholding support.
Now, the Muse probably isn’t expected to carry a load of features when it costs just $49. And really, not many listeners are going to care about added goodies when they just want to listen to some tracks on a run. But when fellow mini-MP3 players like the iPod Shuffle, Sony W Series Walkman, and SanDisk Sansa Clip Zip are offering these kinds of abilities at the same price (or sometimes, even less), it’s hard not to be a little disappointed in the Muse’s lacking feature set.
Thankfully, the Muse makes up for its barebones nature by providing great sound quality for a player of its kind. Nobody should expect top-of-the-line noises here, but even through a pair of mid-range headphones like the Bose AE2s, sounds were crisp, clear, and surprisingly loud. If the Muse is aiming to be a “purely music” player, as it appears to be, then it’s done well for its price.
The music is made even richer by turning on Samsung’s optional SoundAlive tech. This EQ essentially pumps the bass and other rhythm sections, which enhances hip-hop and electro tracks in particular. It does lessen the treble in the process, so more vocal-or-guitar-heavy songs can sometimes sound a bit brash, although this isn’t always the case.
The Muse comes with just 4GB of space, however, and only 3.6GB of that will be usable from the get-go. Samsung also rates the Muse as having 6 hours of battery life, which was just a little less than TechnologyGuide‘s testing time of 6 hours and 20 minutes. Again, those who need something for exercising or a moderately long car ride every now and again will see the Muse suit them just fine, but with competing players offering around the same space and almost triple the battery life, feeling a little letdown by these specs is justifiable.