How is the UI on the iRiver H-120? Will it play mp3s and .oggs? Will it record?
October 12, 2004 8:04 PM   Subscribe

I'm getting ready to buy an iRiver H-120, but I'd like clarification on a few issues [MI]

The iRiver is looking good to me becuase OGG playback is essential for my needs. Also, FM is a nice bonus feature. From my research this far, I'm not considering any other options. Have I overlooked anything?

In the technical specifications it indicates that it has OGG playpack, but then under CD System it only includes WMA, MP3 and WAV. What's "CD System" all about?

How's the interface? Will I be able to grow to love it?

Can I plug a mic into it and make high quality recordings?

Can I play all of my pirated mp3s and OGGs on it?

What's the procedure (if any) for recording CDs directly onto it?
posted by TurkishGolds to Technology (12 answers total)
TurkishGolds, I've never used an H-120 but I have an iRiver 350 CD/MP3 player and the interface is *very* clunky/complicated. In fact, I used it for about 6 months and never got used to it and then switched to an iPod. (I loved everything else aboout the iRiver.) All of the reviews I read about the H-120 singled out the interface as being bad (take a look thru cnet's reviews). I would recommend against buying any MP3 player until you can actually play with it,
posted by dobbs at 8:13 PM on October 12, 2004

PLEASE tell me what your reactions are when you get one, I am on the verge of buying but need more info. THANKS
posted by ac at 8:21 PM on October 12, 2004

I'd like to play with it, but it doesn't look like they carry it at Best Buy, Circuit City or Tweeter. Any thoughts on where I get my hands on one (western ma)?
posted by TurkishGolds at 8:21 PM on October 12, 2004

>>How's the interface? Will I be able to grow to love it?
I *heart* my H120. The interface, admittedly, is not as slick as the iPod's - but it's logical enough, and you get the hang of it pretty quickly. One HUGE interface advantage with the H120, though, is the included remote, which has a nifty screen and can control all the functionality of the main unit. You don't have to ever take the main unit out of your pocket, if you don't want to.

>>Can I play all of my pirated mp3s and OGGs on it?
Yes, but the opposite is not true: the H120 doesn't support any secure formats, so you can't play music from any of the iTunes clones.

>>Can I plug a mic into it and make high quality recordings?
There is a microphone input, a built in mic as well, and the unit can record a variety of bitrates in real-time. I've generally heard positive things about this functionality - but I've never used it personally.

>>What's the procedure (if any) for recording CDs directly onto it?
Hmm, well, I guess you could hook up a CD player to the line-in (either with regular analog, or with optical if you're trying to be all fancy-shmancy), and then the H120 could record that CD as you played it. If you wanted to break the resulting files into tracks, or edit/title them in any way, you'd have to upload the files to a PC (or mac!) and do it there.

On edit: ac, if there's anything you want to know, I could help you out.
posted by kickingtheground at 8:27 PM on October 12, 2004

Cant comment on the OGG, because I havnt tried to use it, but for the other things:

First and formost, iriver has been a little haphazard with their upgrades, and there are a few things that irk some people, like the random function isnt truly random. Check the forums at and you can find the newest firmware and see a few complaints with it.

I, on the other hand, have no complaints with it. I have used it everyday, usually for several hours a day for about a year now, the sound quality is excellent the battery lasts at least 12 hours, and recharges quickly. There are a few optional pieces of software, but nothing is required, no drivers. It works with PCs, Macs and linux, provided they have USB. The player shows up as a regular hard drive, and can be read from and written to with no restrictions.

The interface on the main player is easy enough, but you should take a quick look through the manuals. But the remote control for it is fantastic, almost everything that can be done on the main interface can also be done on the remote, which is very convenient.

The unit ships with a pair of ear bud headphones, and a small clip on mic, which works decently well for voice only recordings, but there is also a small built in mic, which is surprisingly sensitve and easy to use a voice recorder.

The system has a regular headphone out and a switchable analog/optical line in and out. I have used it several times recording live performances or dj sets by either connecting directly to a mixing board or placement of a mic directly in to the unit. It can record a 74 minute WAV or about 5 hours on mp3 at any bitrate.

It has also been compatible with all of the mp3s I have tried it with, as well as WAV and WMAs. Generally I listen to CD-rips all the way through, and the recording features clinched it for me. I think its perfect, but if there are different features that you have to have, you should definitely check around.
posted by lkc at 8:28 PM on October 12, 2004

I have the 20 gig version. I was pretty skeptical about dropping $300 (they've gone down now a bit) on it, but in retrospect it was a great purchase. Oggs and recording capabilities made it the only player available to me at the time. I considered the Rio Karma, but they seem to have bad problems with hard drive failure.

To answer your questions:

"CD system." I have no idea whatsoever. Maybe something to do with the software they provide? I never loaded the software, as I don't use windows. Maybe they have some sort of CD ripping thing that will rip a CD straight to the player, and their software doesn't support oggs.

Interface : It's alright. Not great, but very usable. Not nearly as clever as the iPod's interface, certainly. I do all my navigation via the filesystem, so if you're ok with netsted folders and stuff you'll be just fine.

Yes, it takes an external mic, via a 1/8" plug. It also has a digital input, and an internal mic. Quality is very, very good. It can record in mp3 format in various bitrates, or uncompressed.

It's played every mp3 and ogg I've loaded on it. Some I bought, some I got through dubious russian websites, some off newsgroups, etc.

To record a CD on it? I don't think I'd do that. I'd rip the CD and copy the files to it, personally. I guess you could just plug your CD player into it and hit "record." You'd get one giant file with the whole CD. Again, this may be some feature of their software.

As far as nice bonus features, I like the following:
1. The remote is pretty cool, and depending on how you use your iriver, can be very handy. (The FM tuner won't work without it, by the way.)
2. A sleep timer. Maybe they all have that, but it's nice.
3. No software required, so I can access it via linux just by mounting /dev/sda1 (or whatever). Also I can plug it into anyone's XP or win2k box and access it.
4. It comes with pretty much every accesory they make for it : carying case, remote, various cables, charger, a mic.
5. The batter life really is as good as they say. I'm sure I've had a charge last 12 hours or more.

Bad stuff:
1. The included headphones were not to my liking.
2. The little joystick thing isn't the ideal interface.
3. The display doesn't scroll smoothly. Makes it a pain to read long titles.

In preview, I see that lkc covered most of this before I did.
posted by mragreeable at 8:43 PM on October 12, 2004

It's worth mentioning that the Rockbox open source firmware project has chosen the H-1xx as a new target for a port. So in the future I think it's fair to expect the availability of high quality third party replacement firmware.
posted by Galvatron at 9:44 PM on October 12, 2004

The interface is fine. Maybe the people who wrote those reviews can't deal with multi-function buttons or something, but honestly, I can't play Xbox (too many buttons) and I can do everything on my iHP 120.

OGG support is good. There are two ways you can organize music on the player: In folders or using the "organizing" software (currently MoodMatch). The organizing software breaks it down like on the iPod - by artist, by album, genre, etc. The default folder mode treats the iRiver just like a little harddrive that you're queuing up songs from, with whatever directory structure you build on the player. Until recent versions (MoodMatch), the organizer didn't recognize OGG tracks, so that may be what they mean. It's fine now with or without MoodMatch.

I hate the organizer because I have lots of multi-artist compilation cds and if I sort by artist, I end up with thousands of artists who are each only in the player once. I go by folders which is the same way my mp3s are organised on the PC - I just drag and drop to copy folders onto the player.

It's a great player and I haven't had any trouble. I use it ~9 hours / day at work.

The only thing to warn you about is that iRiver doesn't do any repairing or anything, despite what the warranty says, so if you break it, they'll tell you to get it fixed at an electronics repair shop near you (they don't even have recommendations). I cracked the hard case of my player (no damage; just cosmetic) and they won't even sell me a new hard case or put me in touch with anyone who can help me out.
posted by some chick at 9:47 PM on October 12, 2004

I've been using Rockboxx for my Archos player for a while now. I love it and would consider that a major selling point.
posted by Manjusri at 10:48 PM on October 12, 2004

OGG playback is essential for my needs

What needs are these that are available only in Ogg format? I'd imagine that anyone who puts something out in Ogg format also puts it out in another format, so that people can listen to it.
posted by kindall at 11:44 PM on October 12, 2004

Kindall, OGG files account for the large majority of my music collection. I don't want to have to convert them to some other format.
posted by TurkishGolds at 7:14 AM on October 13, 2004

As long as your music is in Ogg format, you'll be forced to buy devices that can play Ogg, seriously limiting your options. It's no better than having all your music in WMA or AAC. Getting it out of Ogg should therefore be a priority. The longer you wait to do it, the more of a pain it'll be.
posted by kindall at 5:03 PM on October 13, 2004

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