EZ-AV – Xen EMP-500 review

good value MP3 player with video features
Photo of EZ-AV – Xen EMP-500
£130 for 256MB version

The lines are beginning to blur between high-end MP3 players and low-end multimedia devices. This mirror-finish, multi-format player, produced by the Korean EZ-AV Corporation, has a number of excellent features which make it a real contender when measured against some bigger-name alternatives.

The lozenge-shaped Xen EMP-500 is about the size of a non-flipping mobile phone and although it has a beautiful mirror finish to its front face, the back is white plastic, which is a bit of a disappointment. There are two sockets at the top, for line input and headphones, as well as a miniature USB 2 connector to link to a PC.

The full-colour LCD display is 96 x 64 pixels, which is enough for barebones video and for the device’s menu system. This is a bit gaudy, with a lot of bright colours, but is fairly easy to fathom. It can display a proper directory tree, so you can organise the storage of music and other files, as well as all the configuration and playback options.

Control is from a thumb-joystick, mounted in the centre of the front panel, augmented by a series of thin buttons around the player’s edge. These are pretty easy to use and you soon get to know your way around the device.

The Xen is a versatile player with multiple codecs and can play MP3, WMA, ASF and OGG Vorbis sound files. As well as downloading these from a PC, you can record through the device’s built-in microphone or its line in socket and encode on-the-fly to MP3. There’s also a built-in FM tuner with 20 presets and the ability to set up timed recording, so you can record a show and play it back later.

Playback quality is better than many, with good presence, a strong bass line and a low level of noise. There are several equaliser presets, adjusted for different music types, but even on the normal, flat setting, the sound is good through the supplied ear-buds.

Software supplied with the Xen EMP-500 covers all the usual organisational and downloading functions. In addition, though, there’s a specialist application which will grab video directly off your desktop. By positioning a small movable frame over a piece of running video, you can capture the action in a window the right size to fit your player. Just the thing for cutting your own music videos and something we haven’t seen elsewhere.

Company: EZ-AV

Contact: 0131 273 4388

The Xen EMP-500 may not cost much, but it has an excellent feature-set and a strong performance to match. The full-colour TFT screen is well used and although the processor is a little slow for full-speed digital video, custom-made music videos make a useful supplement to the player's superb sound quality.