m250......audiobooks revsited

forewarning…this is long. 

there has been discussion with regard to the m250 and its inability to properly handle audiobooks.  here’s another thread in which its spoken. 

 http://forums.sandisk.com/sansa/board/message?board.id=m200&message.id=984#M984

some background and other info…

I have other sandisk players, but my 2 m250 players with firmware v4.1.08a frustrated me with its skipping/looping on large files (> 15 min) to the point I gave them to the kids to listen to music with and went back to the older e140 (1gig expandable to 3gig)…it has accelerated scrolling but DOES NOT have a bookmarking feature…a big weakness for audiobooks IMO. 

after the e140 and because of sandisk’s (non)response to the m250’s shortcomings for audiobooks, I tried and have been fairly happy with a completely different brand…the Panasonic SV-MP020.  this is a 2gig flash memory unit that is smaller than the m250, and uses the simple folder/file system of organization rather than ID3 tags.  it also uses a AA battery which gives it a claimed 75-80 hour time per battery.  I haven’t measured, but its gotta be close to that.  I also prefer the folder/file system…especially for audiobooks.  this is a very simple unit with no FM radio or voice recorder and only pre-set equalizer settings.  the downside with this unit for me is it doesn’t have a sleep mode that automatically shuts the player off after a pre-determined time…i like this feature because i like to listen to audiobooks while laying in bed and most of the time i fall off before turning the player off…this uses battery and I have missed my place by hours instead of 30min that i set the sleep mode to.

OK still not having found the perfect player for my audiobooks, i decided to re-visit the m250 today…to see if there’s a way around the skipping/looping problem.  i believe i have a solution.  before i started, i ran the updater program on one of my m250s.  i rip and encode my own audiobook files and prefer WMA encoding because you can get roughly the same quality @ half the bit rate…and thus half the file size.  so i loaded audiobooks in both MP3 & WMA formats which were composed of either long (> 60min) and short files (< 10min).  

what i found with MP3 files…there is now no problem with skipping/looping regardless of file run time.  WOW, didn’t expect that and I think I sampled enough books to confirm.

what i found with WMA files…skipping/looping still exists on files > 11 min of run time.  files <  11 min of run time worked without issue.

so, what to do?  i found a freeware program that will slice up MP3 files into minute increments you can specify…you can take an audiobook composed say of (10) 60min files and slice that up into (60) 10min files.  the only downside is the program only works on MP3 files and NOT WMA files.  so, if you’re like me and prefer WMA encoding, just file slice before you re-code your MP3 files to WMA.  slicing also removes certain tag info as well…so a tag editor program can re-insert that info.  tag editor function is available with the paid version of this program.

here’s a link to the audiobook file slicer…

   http://www.bestfreewaredownload.com/freeware/t-free-audiobook-cutter-freeware-izozgtvh.html

anyway, i hope this helps those who have been suffering with the skipping/looping problem with audiobooks associated with the m250 v4.1.08a

Message Edited by jjrphs on 05-20-2008 06:03 PM

I’ve been using an m250 (4.108 firmware) for a few months now and usually listen to ~3 hour MP3s and have experienced no looping, skipping or any of that. I’m wondering if you are using variable bitrate files. I make a habit of recording my MP3s with constant bitrate, which is less apt to generate difficulties in at least some portable players. I record my MP3s using Total Recorder Standard Edition, a very handy utility that now costs around $18 to register. I record my files using 128 kb bitrate and 32 khz sampling rate, constant bitrate.

My beef with the m250 in regards to long files is what you have mentioned, the lack of convenience for accelerating FF/Rew (FF is very slow) and the lack of bookmarking capabilities. The Sandisk programmers have been fairly cavalier in their attitude. The first m250 I had was firmware 2.x and it did support accelerated FF, and I fully expected that my replacement would as well (I had to RMA the first m250 because it wouldn’t retain any settings after powering down). When I found out I’d lost that one feature with my replacement m250 I realized how flaky the Sandisk developers could be. There are caveats galore.

Message Edited by Muse on 05-21-2008 07:07 PM

Message Edited by Muse on 05-21-2008 07:08 PM

Curious.  Never had issues with the accelerated FF/Rew either of my m250s with firmware v4.1.08a.  Book marking not an issue with the m250 either…….the e140 I used for a while did not have book marking (bad for audiobooks) but it too also had accelerated FF/Rew.   

The Panasonic unit I use now is reminiscent of the old Sandisk DAP models in that it utilizes Folder/Files rather than ID3 tags………but with the capacity to hold 10+ books the way I encode. 

WRT the skipping/looping issues, I always encode @ a constant bitrate, so that is not the issue.  Typically I’ll recode to 32kbps WMA and more rarely to 64kbps MP3.  IMO, voice just doesn’t require the higher bitrates to sound good.  At 32kbps WMA, I can load 4x the content onto the player than say 128kbps MP3…….and still have a high quality playback. 

What I found……as mentioned above……after the revisit is there were no issues of skipping/looping with any files encoded as MP3, regardless of length. 

WMA encoded files were a different matter.  Those files > 11 min of run time, had the problem of skipping/looping when using FF or Rew……those WMA files < 11 min of run time had no skipping/looping issues………so shorter run time WMA files work. 

Thinking back on my first experience with the m250, I could have been using WMA encoded files exclusively……and thus the problems.  You post stating you’ve had no problems running MP3 files just helps solidify my suspicion. There are many others out there having the skipping/looping problems……maybe they’re using WMA encoding as well…

I’ve been using MP3 files exclusively, almost always music (FM recording, mostly) and 128 kbps, 32 khz sampling rate.

Are you saying that you actually have accelerated FF with your 4.1.08 firmware m250? Interesting. Maybe I can get it working, then. I just bought another 4.1.08 m250 and haven’t tested it with files yet. 

Since I only use my player for audiobooks (voice), I pretty much always encode in WMA @ 32kbs…

Yes, both my m250 players have firmware v4.1.08a and both have accelerated FF/Rew and bookmarking.  Hope you find you have the same with the new player.

So, you just hold down the FF button and find that the FF is progressively faster and faster? My experiments with my first 4.1.08 were absolutely negative in that. I’ll fiddle around and see if I can get it working, and will surely check out the new one (to which I have not yet written a single audio file).

Uh, what to you do to set and retrieve bookmarks? Is that in the manual? I don’t remember seeing it. I remember some stuff about setting A<–>B loops, I believe, but haven’t experimented with that. 

Message Edited by Muse on 05-27-2008 07:27 PM

@muse wrote:

 

So, you just hold down the FF button and find that the FF is progressively faster and faster?

 

Yes.

@muse wrote:

 

Uh, what to you do to set and retrieve bookmarks? Is that in the manual? I don’t remember seeing it. I remember some stuff about setting A<–>B loops, I believe, but haven’t experimented with that. 

 

Bookmarking is simply retaining the place within a file when the player is powered off.  Some players do not do this (my e140 & e130) and after they’re shut off and powered back on…revert back to the beginning of the file.   

@jjrphs wrote:


@muse wrote:

 

So, you just hold down the FF button and find that the FF is progressively faster and faster?

 


Yes.

 


@muse wrote:

 

Uh, what to you do to set and retrieve bookmarks? Is that in the manual? I don’t remember seeing it. I remember some stuff about setting A<–>B loops, I believe, but haven’t experimented with that. 

 


Bookmarking is simply retaining the place within a file when the player is powered off.  Some players do not do this (my e140 & e130) and after they’re shut off and powered back on…revert back to the beginning of the file.   

My first m250 didn’t retain any settings whatsoever when switched off! I RMA’d it. It was firmware 2.x, though, and it did have accelerated FF. My next m250 is 4.1.08a and remembers where I was in a file (unless I change to FM, in which case it forgets). My experiments with FF indicated no accelerated FF, however I’ll revisit that and make sure and test my new m250. I think that sometimes a feature will start working later. For instance, with the m250 I’ve been using the last 3 months or so, the Stopwatch feature was absent until I enabled Smart Menus. Even after turning Smart Menus off, the Stopwatch feature was there in the menu! Odd behavior, and maybe something similar will happen with the accelerating FF/Rew. I would LOVE to have that feature because I usually listen to long MP3s, 65+ minutes to 180+ minutes.

@jjrphs wrote:


@muse wrote:

 

So, you just hold down the FF button and find that the FF is progressively faster and faster?

 


Yes.

 


@muse wrote:

 

Uh, what to you do to set and retrieve bookmarks? Is that in the manual? I don’t remember seeing it. I remember some stuff about setting A<–>B loops, I believe, but haven’t experimented with that.

 


Bookmarking is simply retaining the place within a file when the player is powered off. Some players do not do this (my e140 & e130) and after they’re shut off and powered back on…revert back to the beginning of the file.

I just realized that the reason FF acceleration doesn’t work on my currently used m250 is that it’s version 2.2.5a! My new one is 4.1.08a! That’s one reason I bought another, the chance I’d get a version of firmware that supports accelerated FF/Rew! Besides, the price was right. I got 3 at buy.com with a $25 off coupon, for ~67 shipped! Two are gifts. Mission accomplished! Fingers crossed the new one works OK and keeps on working.

Edit: I’m actually copying files from one m250 to the other right now. I have them both plugged into my PC. Then I’m going to test the 4.1.08a for the first time.

Edit2: Yes! Accelerated FF works great. Awesome!

Edit3: Ooo… I just had an idea. I’m wondering if I can do an RMA on the 2.2.5a. Hmmm.  :dizzy_face: 

Message Edited by Muse on 05-29-2008 07:36 AM

Message Edited by Muse on 05-29-2008 07:40 AM

Message Edited by Muse on 05-29-2008 07:43 AM